The Real Reason China Opposes Indicting Bashir

The Real Reason China Opposes Indicting Bashir

Here’s a surprise — China opposes indicting Bashir:

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Beijing maintains friendly relations with Sudan and is deeply concerned and worried about the charges.

He says the situation in the Darfur region is at a sensitive and critical moment. He says China hopes all sides can resolve their differences through consultation and avoid adding complications that could interfere with or harm the atmosphere of cooperation.


Liu says China is consulting with other U.N. Security Council members to see if the court could be blocked from issuing a warrant for Mr. Bashir.

It’s particularly ironic that China wants the Security Council to intervene, given the BBC report this week that Beijing has been systematically violating the Council’s arms embargo on Darfur:

The BBC has found the first evidence that China is currently helping Sudan’s government militarily in Darfur.

The Panorama TV programme tracked down Chinese army lorries in the Sudanese province that came from a batch exported from China to Sudan in 2005.

The BBC was also told that China was training fighter pilots who fly Chinese A5 Fantan fighter jets in Darfur.


Panorama traced the first lorry by travelling deep into the remote deserts of West Darfur.

They found a Chinese Dong Feng army lorry in the hands of one of Darfur’s rebel groups.

The BBC established through independent eyewitness testimony that the rebels had captured it from Sudanese government forces in December.

The rebels filmed a second lorry with the BBC’s camera. Both vehicles had been carrying anti-aircraft guns, one a Chinese gun.

Markings showed that they were from a batch of 212 Dong Feng army lorries that the UN had traced as having arrived in Sudan after the arms embargo was put in place.

The lorries came straight from the factory in China to Sudan and were consigned to Sudan’s defence ministry. The guns were mounted after the lorries were imported from China.

China’s response?  First, that the BBC has "ulterior motives" for the allegations.  (What they are the Chinese government expects us to guess.)  And second — this is my favorite — that China has told Sudan not to use Chinese weapons in Darfur.  (An instruction that the Sudanese government has rejected from the beginning.)

I wrote a few days ago that Bashir’s indictment can only succeed if it leads to increased international pressure on Sudan’s major supporters, China and Russia.  To some extent, the indictment already seems to be paying dividends: China is now finding itself in the uncomfortable position of having to defend its military support for a regime whose leader has been publicly accused of genocide.  Will the uncomfortable glare of the ICC’s spotlight lead Beijing to cut Sudan loose?  Probably not in the short term.  In the long-run, though, who knows?  China is notoriously averse to bad publicity, and the charges against Bashir mean that the Sudanese government’s genocidal policies are going to be in the headlines around the world for months, if not years, to come.  Perhaps the realist streak in China’s foreign policy will ultimately lead it to decide that it needs to disentangle itself from the Sudan or, more likely, decide that a Sudan without Bashir would be better for everyone.  If so, Bashir may well find himself out of a job — and no French Foreign Legion or battalion of US Marines will be required.

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Africa, Asia-Pacific, Foreign Relations Law, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights Law, Trade & Economic Law
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Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

Agreed – upping the ante on the Chinese it what is needed. Like all powers – they respond to power both soft and hard – especially in this period as we run up to the Olympics. The Chinese telling the Sudanese not to use the weapons reminds me a great deal of the US relying on verbal assurances from Syria that they will not torture. This “wink-wink’ game is really quite sickening.

Diplomatic Gunboat
Diplomatic Gunboat

This occurs in the context of broader themes for China. One is China’s consistent criticism of human rights interventionism anywhere (such as the conflicts in the former-Yugoslavia), not unrelated to their own vulnerability on the subject as well as the arms exports noted. Another theme is China’s growing involvement in the entire continent of Africa. This article ( is interesting on the latter point, with photos of Presidents Hu and Mugabe.

Diplomatic Gunboat
Diplomatic Gunboat

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