China will continue to improve ties with Southern Sudan after a referendum in January in which the oil-rich semi-autonomous East African region will vote on secession.
A delegation of Communist Party of China officials met Southern Sudanese leaders today in Juba, the capital. China is the biggest importer of oil pumped in Sudan, where output of 490,000 barrels of oil per day ranks the country as sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer.
“China stands ready to provide help to the south within its capacity, no matter what the changes will be in the situation here,” Du Yanling, director-general in the international department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told reporters today in Juba.
Next year’s independence vote is a key component of a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of civil war between Sudan’s Muslim north and the south, where Christianity and traditional beliefs dominate. About 2 million people died in the conflict, and more than 4 million were displaced.
Southern Sudan will continue to respect China’s interests in the region, Anne Itto, the SPLM’s deputy secretary-general, said at the briefing. The two sides are discussing Chinese investment in energy, infrastructure, agriculture and services, she said.
“This could be done through partnership, but also by allowing Chinese companies to invest in those respective areas,” said Itto, who led an SPLM delegation that visited China in August.
China National Petroleum Corp., the nation’s largest oil company, operates several concessions along the border between Sudan and Southern Sudan. The country signed oil contracts with Sudan’s national government in Khartoum.
Southern Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Chinese Communist Party “have very good political mutual trust, and we will continue to enhance this relationship in the future, to the mutual benefit of both sides,” Du said. The two parties established relations in 2007, he said.