Nicholas Kristof: China and Sudan

Poor Nicholas Kristof. When will he learn, Americans remain blissfully and intentionally ignorant of the horrors of Sudan, just as they did about Rwanda in the 90s; they simply don’t want to hear about it. Just look at how often the story is on cabler news: it’s a guaranteed ratings killer in a world titillated by endless stories of pretty white damsels in distress. So, China’s underwriting Sudan’s genocide. Who cares? China is rising fast, and we won’t let depressing stories of subsidizing human butchery distract us from the dazzling spectacle of a China’s ascension.

China and Sudan, Blood and Oil
Published: April 23, 2006

It’s hypocritical of us to scream at President Hu Jintao, as we did during his visit last week, about China’s undervalued currency. Sure, that’s a problem for the world economy — but not nearly as much as our own budget deficits, caused by tax cuts we couldn’t afford.

We’re now addicted to capital from China and other foreign countries, and that should be a concern. But our deficits aren’t China’s fault, and junkies like us don’t have any basis to complain about the moral turpitude of those who supply cheap capital or other narcotics.

But there are two good reasons to complain to President Hu. First, he has presided over a broad clampdown on freedom of expression in China, including the imprisonment for 19 months of my colleague Zhao Yan, an employee of The New York Times.

Second, China is now underwriting its second genocide in three decades. The first was in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and the second is in Darfur, Sudan. Chinese oil purchases have financed Sudan’s pillage of Darfur, Chinese-made AK-47’s have been the main weapons used to slaughter several hundred thousand people in Darfur so far, and China has protected Sudan in the U.N. Security Council.

Indeed, it’s because of China’s support that Sudan felt it could get away this month with sending a proxy army to invade neighboring Chad.

For more than two years now, I’ve been holding President Bush’s feet to the fire over his refusal to make the Darfur genocide a priority for his administration. But Mr. Bush has taken half-steps in the right direction — including pushing President Hu to cooperate on Darfur — and that’s more than can be said of the leaders of most other countries. Europe has snored through this genocide. Then there’s the Arab League, which met last month in Sudan, in effect legitimizing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Muslims (almost all the victims in Darfur are Muslim).

As Fatema Abdul Rasul wrote in The Daily Star of Lebanon this month: “For the entire Muslim and Arab world to remain silent when thousands of people in Darfur continue to be killed is shameful and hypocritical.” Do you hear that, Hosni?

And where’s the Arab press? Isn’t the murder of 300,000 or more Muslims almost as offensive as a Danish cartoon?

The biggest obstacle to forceful action is China. The latest outrage came a few days ago when the U.S. and Britain tried to impose the most feeble possible sanctions — targeting just four people, including a midlevel Sudanese official. China and Russia blocked even that pathetic action.

Why is China soft on genocide?

The essential reason is oil. China traditionally was self-sufficient in oil, but since 1993 it has been a net oil importer and it is increasingly worried about this vulnerability.

So China has been bustling around the globe trying to ensure oil supplies from as many sources as possible. And partly because most of the major oil fields are already taken, China has ended up with the world’s thugs: Sudan, Iran and Myanmar. China has been particularly active in Africa.

About 60 percent of Sudan’s oil flows to China, and Beijing has a close economic and even military relationship with Khartoum. A recent Council on Foreign Relations report on Africa notes that China has supplied Sudan with small arms, anti-personnel mines, howitzers, tanks, helicopters and ammunition. China has even established three arms factories in Sudan, and you see Chinese-made AK-47’s, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns all over Darfur.

Last month in a village on the Chad-Sudan border, I interviewed a man who told how a Sudanese militia had grabbed his baby boy, Ahmed Haroun, thrown Ahmed to the ground and shot him in the chest. The odds are overwhelming that that gun and those bullets came from China.

Likewise, the women and children I’ve seen torn apart by bullets in Darfur and Chad — that lead and steel was molded in Chinese factories. When women are raped and mutilated in Darfur, the gun barrels pointed at their heads are Made in China.

Let’s hope China’s 13 million bloggers take up this issue, for this has received very little attention in China but it is not so sensitive that discussion of it will get anyone arrested.

One of the central questions for the 21st century will be whether China’s rise will be accompanied by increasingly responsible behavior in its international relations. Darfur is a test, and for now China is failing.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

I thought there were rebels who kept attacking Sudan government too?

Why people never talk about them, who are they, where do they get their weapons and money?

Is this a civil war or simply Sudan government killing civilians?

Yes there are people dying. But if China did contribute to this tragedy, it would be too naive to not believe that US and other western countries have Sudanese blood on their hands too.

Oil, again, oil.

Having watched Constant Gardener, you just can’t help having a second thought on the propaganda from western media about africa.

April 23, 2006 @ 10:46 pm | Comment

There’s actually very little western propaganda about Africa. Most news services simply ignore it. Kristof is a lone voice in the wilderness. Don’t talk yourself into believing the Western media are hyping this issue. They aren’t. They couldn’t care less.

April 23, 2006 @ 10:58 pm | Comment

no. western media is blissfully ignoring tragedies that’s taking place every single day around the globe. unless their government has a strategic interest in that particular place.

April 24, 2006 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

Richard this is not a civil war it’s an ethnic cleansing not that dissimilar from what happened in Bosnia in the 90s, specifically because most of the people being killed are Muslims, and the people doing the killing are Muslims as well. There’s a large racial component tied up in this conflict. Ethnically Arab militiamen rape Black women with the idea of breeding out the Black population.

The rebels have little or no direct connection to the people (women and children) being displaced, murdered and raped every day in the Darfur region.

Basically it’s a case of the strong preying upon the week as retribution for rebel attacks. The government can’t defeat the rebels so they attack a section of the populace who they view as outsiders.

Actually there’s plenty of media coverage out there especially in the print media, all you have to do is look for it.

April 25, 2006 @ 5:44 am | Comment

Richard’s post, Iraqi forces crush American-led villains, demonstrates an enormous difference in the results between China and America’s strategies for securing oil. America takes the noble road (noble at least in the minds of many Republicans) and fights a war in Iraq. China takes the easy road and funds a genocide in Sudan.

What are the results? People all over the world increasingly hate America, while people all over the world increasingly admire China. Would it have been better for America’s international relations to have just ignored the horrors of Saddam’s regime and signed a lucrative oil contract with him instead of fighting him?

April 25, 2006 @ 7:39 pm | Comment


America already did that, being the primary supporter and funder of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s.

America itself here there’s ge responsibility for all the killings perpetrated by Hussein and his people.

We knew exactly what Saddam Hussein was, were willing to make a deal with this murderer as lon as long as he would help keep cheap oil flowing, and help suppress Iran.

Our hands are by no means clean.

April 26, 2006 @ 1:23 pm | Comment


America already did that, being the primary supporter and funder of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s.

America itself bears a huge responsibility for all the killings perpetrated by Hussein and his people.

We knew exactly what Saddam Hussein was, but we were willing to make a deal with this murderer as long as he would help keep cheap oil flowing, and help suppress Iran.

Our hands are by no means clean.

April 26, 2006 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

Notes the site owner, your posting system is flawed, you must continually reinput new numbers whenever you move from preview into posting. It’s rather annoying and redundant. And leads to people accidentally posting the same comment more than once, as just occurred.

April 26, 2006 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

That’s quite a good point, Aaron. What was the general response of the international community towards America in reaction to America’s support of Saddam in the 80’s?

Was America blamed for Saddam’s transgressions? If so, then did the Gulf War help to ease that blame? If not, then did the Gulf War do more harm towards America’s reputation then good?

I was only a wee lad back in the 80’s and early 90’s and honestly don’t know the answers to these questions.

Jon D. Markman has a relevant article on MSN Money, How China is winning the oil race.

April 26, 2006 @ 4:26 pm | Comment

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