All nations share in the responsibility to do all they can to help bring an end to the genocide in Darfur, and, after five years of conflict, to help bring peace and security to the people of Sudan. China, though, has a special obligation to respond. China also, more than any other government except Khartoum itself, has the ability to help bring peace and security to the people of Sudan.
China’s responsibility and leverage stem from its intricate economic, military, and diplomatic relationship with Sudan. China is Sudan’s largest trade partner, major military provider, and consistent defender of Sudan’s interests in the United Nations.
This responsibility and leverage also stems from its influence in the world, especially this year. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and as acting President when the UNAMID peacekeeping approach was adopted (for which China took much credit), China is uniquely positioned to see that the role of the UN is effective. And as host of the Olympics this year, and thus temporary custodian of the universal values the Olympics represent, such as peace and cooperation, China has a special duty to ensure that the actions it takes worldwide are consistent with those values.
China did take some helpful actions last year, appointing a special envoy to Sudan, providing military engineers in Darfur, helping with the passage of UNAMID. Yet, at the same time, China’s ties to Khartoum grew closer than ever last year, with a doubling in trade just one example.
Of greatest importance, China’s modest helpful steps have not improved conditions on the ground in Darfur. In fact, the humanitarian and security situation has deteriorated dramatically in recent months, and Sudan has obstructed the deployment of UNAMID to such a degree that it is now entirely unclear whether it can ever be successful. Beyond that, China has been silent while Khartoum has resisted implementing key provisions of the North-South peace agreement, provided support to the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, and contributed to the recent attempt to overthrow the Chadian government by arming and supporting Chadian rebels.
The time for patience with Khartoum is long past gone. Ongoing violence in Sudan and the region, and the fate of millions of displaced Darfurians, demand otherwise.
In particular, given the unparalleled influence China has to affect Sudan’s behavior, we will hold China to a “results-based” test. China should use all the influence at its disposal to press the Sudanese government to a) permit the swift, full and effective deployment of UNAMID; b) implement the North-South peace deal and participate constructively in the Darfur peace process; and c) allow the unfettered delivery of humanitarian aid in Darfur and Eastern Chad. China will only pass this test once Sudan has acted accordingly in all three areas.
To move Sudan, behind-the-scenes pressure by China is appropriate, and is consistent with how the Chinese government prefers to operate. But in addition to private pressure, these other steps should also be taken by China to change the approach of Khartoum and move towards peace and security in Darfur. China should:
1. Immediately provide half of the transport helicopters that UNAMID requires, with support from Europe and the United States for maintenance and contracting arrangements.
2. Support punitive measures, such as UN Security Council targeted sanctions, against Khartoum officials, until peace and security for Darfur is achieved. UN targeted sanctions should be imposed immediately against government, rebel, or militia officials who are responsible for undermining UNAMID’s deployment, the North-South peace deal, or regional stability, such as attempting to overthrow the government in neighboring Chad.
3. Verifiably suspend all military cooperation with the Khartoum regime, including weapons transfers, until peace and security for Darfur is achieved.
4. Work with the United States, France, and the United Kingdom in a quartet supporting UN and African Union initiatives in Darfur, Southern Sudan, and Chad. This cooperative work on the peace process needs to be comprehensive. The problems of Darfur, Southern Sudan, and Chad are intertwined, so unless peace is advanced on all of these fronts it will be unlikely to be achieved on any of these fronts.
Joint Statement on China and Darfur