A Foot in Two Camps? South Sudan’s Relations with China in a Historical Perspective


  • Sara de Simone Università di Trento



Parole chiave:

South Sudan, China, Agency, Oil, Aid


Relations between South Sudan and China are not a new phenomenon. However, since 2011 they have been steadily growing in terms of trade and investments, cultural exchanges, development and humanitarian aid. The breakout of the civil war in December 2013 has contributed to this trend. Amidst the disenchantment of traditional Western partners of South Sudan, massive shifts of aid flows from development to humanitarian response, and the flight of foreign capitals scared by the war, not only did China keep its presence in the country, it also took a more active stance by sending its first combat troops ever in the framework of the UN Mission, and engaging in the peace negotiations. What consequences has China’s growing presence had on South Sudan’s capacity of determining its own political agenda? This article argues that it has provided an opportunity of expanding the space for agency of the South Sudanese governing elite to make choices in opposition to the requests of traditional donors. At the same time, since relations with China are bound to pragmatic considerations from both sides, there is evidence that China’s will to partner with the country is only as strong as the potential benefits accruing from this partnership.

Biografia autore

Sara de Simone, Università di Trento

Assegnista di ricerca

Riferimenti bibliografici

Daniel Large, China’s Sudan Engagement: Changing Northern and Southern Political Trajectories in Peace and War, in The China Quarterly, No. 199, 2009.

Daniel Large, Sudan and South Sudan: A Testing Ground for Beijing’s Peace and Security Engagement, in Chris Alden, Abiodum Alao, Zhang Chun, Laura Barber (eds), China and Africa. Building Peace and Security Cooperation on the Continent, Palgrave McMillan, 2018.

Leben Nelson Moro, China, Sudan and South Sudan Relations, in Global Review (Shanghai Institute for International Studies, Winter 2012

Sara de Simone, Playing the ‘Fragile State’ Card: The SPLM and State Extraversion in South Sudan, in The Journal of Modern African Studies, No. 56, 2018

Johanna Malm, China-powered’ African Agency and its Limits: The Case of the DRC 2007–2019, Policy Insights (South African Institute of International Affairs, 2020).