[Ed. – Just what we all need. Notably, China is doing it in a most Chinese manner: by suddenly, uncharacteristically speaking up — at first only to agree with all the high-status parties, and simply be part of the diplomatic give-and-take. Pressing a uniquely Chinese policy line will come later. China did the same thing when she was breaking into the ranks of the antipiracy coalition off Somalia. Next thing we knew, China was setting Asia-centric policies for how the operations would be run, and then sending antipiracy warships to the Med for show-the-flag visits, and then ostentatiously participating in the removal by sea of chemical weapons from Syria.]
China is swapping its reserved diplomacy for a hands-on approach to help resolve a more than five-month-old rebellion in South Sudan that threatens Beijing’s oil investments.
The subtle change has been evident in months of faltering peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, where Chinese officials have been in regular contact with Western diplomats to help regional African mediators push for a halt to fighting.
Diplomats say the permanent Chinese presence at the Addis Ababa talks and their frequent lobby chats and closed-door consultations with diplomats from the United States, Britain and Norway – the main Western backers of newly independent South Sudan – shows China’s more proactive approach.
When a first ceasefire deal was reached on Jan. 23, a month after fighting erupted, a senior Western diplomat said China’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Xie Xiaoyan, joined other envoys by giving a speech at the signing that set the tone for Beijing’s involvement.
“What’s very striking is that … he was given the floor and did not vary one bit from what everyone else was saying, which was basically (telling the South Sudanese factions to) ‘Get your act together’,” said the diplomat.
The new line does not mean China plans to abandon its oft stated policy of steering clear of Africa’s internal politics, but it is an indication of a gradual shift by Beijing as its stake in Africa’s stability grows with expanding investments.