China is deploying 700 soldiers to South Sudan to protect the only oil fields “still under control of the central government in Juba.” The soldiers will also protect “Chinese workers and installations.”
The soldiers join a United Nations peacekeeping force and “will operate under UN command.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, this “deployment marks the first time Beijing has contributed a battalion to a U.N. peacekeeping force.” But the stakes are high. China’s National Petroleum Corporation has “a 40 percent stake in a joint venture that operates South Sudan’s vast oil fields,” and that venture is threatened by the current conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those “loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar.”
The rebels fighting under Machar seek the overthrow of Kiir’s government, and the conflict has resulted in the deaths of “more than 10,000 people” since December 2013 alone.
China was getting five percent of its annual crude supply from the South Sudan oil fields prior to the outbreak of fighting. But “output has…[now] plummeted by a third.” The 700 Chinese soldiers are being sent to prevent a further decline. They are “combat-ready and can fight back.”
It should be noted that China has undertaken greater involvement in African affairs prior to deploying these soldiers for peacekeeping purposes. For example, on May 23 Breitbart News reported China’s launch of a $2 billion multi-lateral African development fund. The fund, together with other Chinese investments, marks a 3000 percent increase in Chinese investment in Africa over the last decade.
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