Making sense of China’s Sudan policy

If there’s any sense to be made, that is.

In the same week that Amnesty International condemned China for selling arms to Sudan that are purportedly being used in Darfur by Janjaweed militias accused of genocide, China has announced that it is both sending a military detachment to support African Union peacekeepers in Darfur and appointing a special envoy to Africa who will focus on Darfur.

Will this policy change make any difference whatsoever in stopping genocide in Darfur, or will it simply be window dressing to distract observers from China’s unstinting support for unsavory regimes worldwide, including elsewhere in Africa? As James Kirchick wrote in the New York Sun this week, China has become the major supporter of Zimbabwe, even as the country’s total collapse continues.

For all the talk about how China wants no political trouble surrounding the Beijing Olympics, I strongly doubt that China will completely back away from support for regimes that provide it with critical resources, no matter how much pressure comes from abroad. China’s relations with authoritarian regimes is, after all, as much a part of the debate about who runs China as domestic policy, with this week’s announcements on Darfur showing that there may be more infighting behind the scenes between the PLA and the CCP than outsiders realize.

In light of this though, I have to ask: where is Japan? Why is Japan, with its self-defense forces now having international activities as one of its primary missions, not in Africa, helping to prevent genocide in Sudan? Seems like a perfect opportunity to show how Japan is willing to bear a greater burden globally.

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