As China is marching up its Pac, into Africa, (Rotberg, 2008) since the new century, its relations with some, fragile states, in Africa are increasingly coming under the international attention. Given the remarkable internal weakness of those countries, an obvious spread of widespread conflicts, and that includes, lack of social integration and ineffective institution, China’s engagement not only brings risks to herself but also exercise far-reaching implications to the efforts of international community to tackle,, state fragility,, in the African continent.
Chinas South Sudan relation is right a case from the point. As the youngest nation in Africa, South Sudan gained formal independence from Sudan on July 2011 through a referendum, after more than 22 years of bloodstained civil war with the North.
Nevertheless, China established diplomatic relations with South Sudan the same day when the latter gained formal independence. As the most important bilateral relations outside Africa for South Sudan, – China-South Sudan relations witnessed both warmth and schisms in the past seven years. Though mainly constructive, this relationship also experienced difficult times as a result of different standpoints, misunderstandings and interest conflict between both sides.
China-South Sudan Relations: From Margin to the Spotlight
According to the Chinese embassy in the capital Juba, China began friendly exchange relations with Southern Sudan in the 1970s when China decided to send the first medical team of agricultural experts in order to provide assistance for the South Sudanese people. In January 2005, China was one of the eyewitnesses to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the north and the south of Sudan, which ended the 22-years of the civil war and pronounced the formation of the self-governing which is the government of South Sudan. Since then, China has started official friendly relations with South Sudan and the bilateral cooperation in numerous fields has increased progressively.
Nevertheless, the bilateral cooperation never ended there but In February 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao made his first visit to Sudan and met in Khartoum with the First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit who was also President of the southern autonomous government. Then Kiir visited China twice in March 2005 and July 2007.
In September 2008, China opened the Consulate General in Juba. In February 2011, the Chinese government proclaimed its recognition of the referendum results in Southern Sudan and China was one of the world’s first countries to recognize the results. On July 9, 2011, when the Republic of South Sudan was established, China Housing and Urban-Rural Development Minister Jiang Weixin were invited as a special envoy of Hu to participate in the independence celebrations. On behalf of the Chinese government, Jiang signed the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the two countries with South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Deng AlorKol, meaning on the founding day of South Sudan, China established official diplomatic relations with the new country and became one of the first countries to establish such relation with South Sudan.
In addition, the government of South Sudan states in the Joint Communiqué that there is only one China in the world, which is the government of the People’s Republic of China and it’s the sole legitimate government representing China and Taiwan and it is an inalienable part of China. Correspondingly On the same day, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan opened the embassy. From April 23 to 26 in 2012, South Sudan’s President Kiir made a state visit to China honoring the invitation of President Hu. During the visit, Hu held talks with Kiir, alongside with Other Chinese leaders, including Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Wu Bangguo, and Vice Premier, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee Li Keqiang respectively.
In conclusions, China-South Sudan relations represent a typical unequal relationship, which is structured by an outstanding capacity asymmetry between two sides. Capacity differences between China and South Sudan predetermine their respective perspectives towards each other, laying in mutual misperception and interest conflicts in their last interaction. What’s more, capacity asymmetry is a structural factor in china-south Sudan relationship, meaning that it cannot be overcome by the chosen action of the two countries. As intensely demonstrated by the evaluation of both China-South Sudan relationships the efforts of both sides to manage their unequal relationship only served to prevent a total breakdown of the relationship. In the foreseeable future, China-South Sudan relationship will continue to be structured by capacity asymmetry and plagued by resulting different perspectives, misunderstanding and interest conflict. Consequently how to properly manage their asymmetrical relationship will continue to be an important task for both China and South Sudan. On the one hand, China should continue to devote equal attention and resources to the needs of South Sudan, It’s also in China’s interest to actively mediate South Sudan disputes and South Sudan’s peace process, either individually or coordinately with other regional or international actors. On the other hand, Juba should continue to pursue its strategy to buffer its relationship with Beijing. To make this strategy more effective, however, Juba needs to improve the security on the ground as well as its human rights record, both of which can hardly be achieved in the future.
Furthermore, both Beijing and Juba should be more sensitive to the asymmetry nature of their bilateral relations. Both sides should be more sensitive to the perspective from the other side. Beijing should understand the fact that Juba is more exposed to the bilateral relationship between them and Juba’s high expectation on, it is reasonably comprehensible since this bilateral relationship weights more to Juba. In dissimilarity, Juba should be vibrant that its relationship with Beijing is not a priority for the batter and any idealistic demands will be turned back by Beijing. For Juba, how to manage its expectation on Beijing will be a delicate issue in the years to come, but basing on the legacy records between the both countries China and South Sudan will remain stable in only one condition which is enhancement of both bilateral ties and that should lay on mutual respect, mutual benefit and mutual understanding.