Al Jazeera asked me on 21 June 2014 to comment on the decision by China to send an infantry battalion of 850 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. I explained that these additional troops would join some 350 non-combat Chinese troops who have been part of the UN peacekeeping operation for the past several years. The Chinese contingent is part of an authorized UN force of 12,500 troops from many other nations.
This decision by China underscores that it is taking an increasingly robust role in protecting its security interests in Africa. The China National Petroleum Corporation controls 40 percent of the oil production in Sudan and South Sudan and Chinese companies built most of the oil infrastructure. Several hundred Chinese nationals work in South Sudan; some 300 have already been evacuated. When the oil fields in both Sudan and South Sudan are operating at full capacity, they provide about 5 percent of China’s imported oil.