When one of your big oil suppliers splits into rival states, that’s a problem for any country. When you’re China, with its huge appetite for energy and a tradition of never wanting to take sides, it becomes a foreign policy migraine.
China’s balancing act between South Sudan and Sudan will take centre stage when the South’s president visits Beijing on Monday, seeking political and economic backing amid escalating tensions with its northern neighbour.
President Salva Kiir’s six-day trip comes days after he ordered troops to withdraw from the oil-rich Heglig region after seizing it from Sudan, a move that brought the two countries to the brink of all-out war.
For China, invested in the oil sector of both nations, the standoff shows how its economic expansion abroad has at times forced Beijing to deal with distant quarrels it would like to avoid. South Sudan gained independence from Khartoum last year.
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