China can play role in revitalizing South Sudan

China can play a positive role in revitalizing southern Sudan after voters there overwhelmingly decided to establish Africa’s newest country, analysts said.

The South Sudan Referendum Commission on Monday announced the final results of a Jan 9-15 referendum saying that 98.83 percent of the voters had supported separation.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said his government would accept the result, setting the stage for the creation of the world’s newest country this July.

Sudan had endured decades of civil war until 2005, when a peace agreement was signed, leading to this January’s referendum.

The world has generally welcomed the peaceful settlement of the lasting dispute.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that “China respects the choice of the Sudanese people and hopes the two sides will continue to resolve controversial issues through dialogue and consultation in line with the principle of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation”.

“China expects full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as well as long-lasting peace and stability in Sudan,” said ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

The White House released a statement from President Barack Obama congratulating the people of southern Sudan and announcing “the intention of the US to formally recognize southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011”.

The US also offered to the government of Sudan, which it had earlier labeled a “sponsor of terrorism”, the prospect of improved ties. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday hailed the “historic moment for Sudan”.

South Sudan will now have to focus on the intricate process of formally disentangling itself from the north.

Citizenship, border issues and oil-revenue rights are among the matters that still remain unresolved between the two sides. Some of these lingering disputes may have an impact on China’s economic ties there.

Yet China had also established a good relationship with the southern Sudan government before the referendum, with major officials from the region having visited China.

China does not take sides in Sudan’s domestic affairs, and will not befriend one side at the expense of another, said Xia Yishan, an energy expert at China Institute of International Studies.

Analysts said that China can play a very constructive role in revitalizing southern Sudan.

As some Western countries promising aid to southern Sudan have become entangled in economic problems, the southern Sudan government will need partnerships that can ensure long-lasting cooperation instead of one-off donations, said He Wenping, chief of African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

He cautioned that China’s economic presence in southern Sudan will experience more competition as investment from other countries is expected to flow in.

China’s rich experience in working with Africa will help the nation’s firms win out in the economic competition, He said.

“Competition won’t be that fierce. After all, the conditions in the south are quite harsh and Chinese workers are known for their hard work and adaptability even when others find it difficult,” Xia said.

Sudan’s oil facilities and infrastructure, many of which were built with the help of Chinese companies, are now mostly based in the north.

The resource-rich south lacks fundamental economic supports, so the new government will likely welcome more Chinese investment, Xia said.

Xia also said that China encourages its firms to establish joint ventures with foreign companies which excel in technology and have abundant funds.

Original story by Wu Jiao and Ai Yang (China Daily)

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