From a Policy of Non-Interference to Proactive Engagement: How the Securitisation of Oil Supply Chains Has Challenged China’s Non-Intervention Principle in the Cases of Sudan and South Sudan
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For half a century, the ‘Five Principles of Coexistence’, which emphasise respect for territorial sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of other nations, were treated as customary in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) foreign policy. However, in recent years, China has engaged in actions inconsistent with its non-intervention standard. Such a shift is well observed in the PRC’s relationships with Sudan and South Sudan. Since 1989, Chinese National Oil Companies (NOCs) have played a pivotal role in developing the region’s oil infrastructure and refining capabilities. As China’s relations have developed – through the oil industry, trade, security, diplomatic cooperation, and infrastructure projects – the boundaries of Beijing’s national commitment to non-intervention has strained. Focusing on China’s oil interests in the region, this paper aims to understand how and why Chinese foreign policy has shifted from non-interference to pro-intervention in the case studies of Sudan and South Sudan using the analytical frameworks of securitisation theory and fragmented authoritarianism. Through document analysis, evidence was collated to answer the following research question: How has the securitisation of oil supply chains contributed to the PRC’s transition from a traditional policy of non-interference in domestic sovereign affairs to one of proactive engagement in the case studies of Sudan and South Sudan between 1989 and 2020? From a theoretical perspective, securitisation in authoritarian contexts has been underdeveloped conceptually, and greater emphasis needs to be put on the fragmentation of decision-making in the PRC. On an empirical level, this paper may provide valuable insights as to how the PRC might navigate its foreign policy in similar crisis diplomacy incidents in future.