China Inks Deal To Build A Bridge Connecting South Sudan and Sudan

Chinese and South Sudanese officials sign agreement
Credit: CGTN Africa

Amid a prolonged global pandemic that has destructed the economies of many countries, Beijing remains relentless in its infrastructural cooperation with African countries. China and South Sudan have signed a deal for the renovation of the Jur River Bridge linking Juba to the Bahr el Ghazal region and its northern neighbor Sudan. 

Speaking at the deal-signing ceremony, Simon Mijok Mijak, Minister of Roads and Bridges said “this is a great day for the people of South Sudan and Greater Bahr El Ghazal and Western Bahr El Ghazal in particular, today we have signed a supplementary agreement on the implementation of Jur River bridge in Wau. This was one of the pledges of President Salva Kiir during his visit in October 2013 to Western Bahr El Ghazal,” CGTN Africa reported

Mijok Mijak further commented that “the signing of today is a cornerstone of our strong and unshakeable relationship between South Sudan and China. This is another tremendous achievement of the government for the people of South Sudan.”

On his part, Hua Ning, Chinese ambassador to South Sudan, said “today, I am very pleased to join the signing ceremony of the Jur River Bridge Project, which demonstrates the Chinese government’s firm commitment to the future development of our cooperation, friendship and our support for the long-term development of South Sudan.”

Further pledging China’s unflinching economic and humanitarian support to South Sudan, Ambassador Hua remarked that “we are glad to see the South Sudanese government has established an economic crisis management committee, and China is happy to extend her helping hand for the economic recovery and we are also mobilizing necessary resources for the future development of South Sudan’s economy.”

The Ambassador underscored the importance of the bridge to South Sudan’s’ development while touting China’s achievement in infrastructure. Thus “China is now boasting the largest highway network and we have built a lot of great bridges. We very much wish to share our knowledge and expertise with our South Sudanese counterparts. We hope that the roads and bridges will bring more benefits to the local people while we continue to advance the peace process,” Hua said. 

The initial agreement to renovate Jur River Bridge Project was signed in August 2019. 

China’s Relations With ‘Unstable’ South Sudan 

Despite its separation from Sudan, South Sudan has been in the news for incessant political and ethnic tensions owing to rivalry between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition. Irrespective of the volatile nature of peace and stability in this country, China’s interest remains intact. 

Experts say, “China wants to retain its substantial petroleum investment in South Sudan to take advantage of current oil production and on the assumption that better days will come… when that happens, Chinese companies will be well placed to develop new oil fields in the country. This is part of China’s long-term strategy even if it means tolerating short-term losses.” It has been established that “even before South Sudan became independent in 2011, China had a monopoly on the oil sector in Sudan.” China first decided to enter the petroleum industry in Sudan in 1995, 16 years before South Sudan gained independence and right in the middle of the Second Sudanese Civil War, The Diplomat noted in a 2019 article. 

Commenting on relations between China and South Sudan, the editor of China in Africa: Strategic Motives and Economic Interests said that the lack of “political stability is undermining China’s strategic objectives. China will only stay invested in South Sudan as long as operations there continue to make economic sense. Moreover, the safety of local Chinese workers cannot be guaranteed.”

Until now, China has been criticized for not being ‘active’ in the peace process of South Sudan. Are these criticisms founded, and what should be China’s role in ensuring lasting peace and stability in South Sudan?

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