HSS-683 Research Paper
“China and Sudan Bilateral Relations: It’s the Oil!”
By: Asmaa Bin Yamani
Date: April 6th 2014
Official diplomatic relations have been established between Sudan and China in 1959 , and the two country’s bilateral relations have witnessed a tremendous growth since then in all fields, particularly economy and trade. By 1996, China’s National Petroleum Company (CNPC) took control of most of Sudan’s oil , and since then China has been heavily involved in managing Sudan’s oil production and operations. Nowadays, China is Sudan's top biggest trade partner . There are speculations over China’s driving interest in Africa and specifically Sudan, and several views and arguments. However, if we focus on the driving force behind China’s interest in Sudan, we’ll find that it’s mostly driven by oil. Without oil, there would be no strong bilateral relations between the two countries. That is evident because, first of all, international relations are driven by national interest, which is oil in China’s case. Second, China has invested billions of dollars in Sudan’s oil industry including oil’s infrastructure. Third, China has ignored all of Sudan’s oppressive government acts and non-humanitarian activities in Darfur, and has always protected their economic ties and oil operations there. Those three reasons, which will be detailed below, are the apparent evident that China’s main interest in Sudan is oil.
2. Argument 1#: National interest is the driving force of international relations
“The main point of foreign policy is to protect and defend the interests of the state in world politics…All states must be prepared to sacrifice their international obligations on the altar of their own self-interest...” Historically, states relations were derived by national interest and national security. According to classical Realism theory of international relations; the most important thing for a state is its own interest and international relations are merely expedient arrangements which can and will be set aside if they conflict with the vital interests of the state. According to Machiavelli’s advice in The Prince; “the only fundamental responsibility of states people is to advance and defend the national interests.” According to him, if leaders and states want to prosper and accumulate power and wealth they should recognize and exploit opportunities. Thus, according to this approach; which is the dominant adopted approach by governments the practices of diplomacy and bilateral relations are merely instrumental activities based on the intelligent calculation of one’s power and interests against the power and interests of other states, rivals and competitors. Using this theory and approach, when we look at a third world country like Sudan, one must think from a Chinese perspective; what would make China interested in Sudan, what is in it for China, and what’s making China spend billions on another country? As...