Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Realpolitik drove Chad into China's embrace: experts

AFP , N'DJAMENA

Chad's decision to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan and reestablish links with Beijing is motivated by financial self-interest and the advantages of a relationship with a major global force, observers said on Sunday.

"The interest of the state outweighs all other considerations," said a senior Chadian diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.

Chad, a desperately poor country, menaced by rebellions, in conflict in different ways with neighboring Sudan and the World Bank, broke off relations with China after 25 years in favor of Taipei in 1997.

"For N'Djamena and [President Idriss] Deby [Itno], in view of the general situation it's better to have Beijing with you than against you," said a French specialist, who found nothing surprising about Chad's change of heart, other than its rapidity.

"Apparently the Chadian delegation sent to Khartoum in July [to repair links damaged by Chad's accusations against Sudan of backing rebels] got in touch with the Chinese ambassador in Sudan," he said.

Chad's chief preoccupation is financial, he said.

"Chad will have a lot to gain economically with Beijing, besides the resumption of all the projects left behind by Taiwan," the diplomat said.

Taiwan has provided Chad with major financial and technical aid in several areas -- including roads, water supply, and education -- but "one can imagine that this U-turn will be accompanied by Chinese financial backing greater than that of Taiwan," the French specialist said.

The alliance with Beijing "which appears as the anti-World Bank" strengthens Chad's hand in dealing with the bank, he said.

Chad and the bank have been at loggerheads since January over the spending of oil revenues and the bank suspended payments until an agreement was signed last month.

From now on "if the World Bank imposes too many conditions, N'Djamena will tell it it has a ready alternative: Beijing," he said.

Oil is a major factor in the resumption of ties between Beijing and N'Djamena. Chinese companies are interested in several blocs in Chad but have so far not been present except indirectly through participation in companies holding exploitation rights.

Now they can establish a direct presence and should rapidly take over from Taiwan's Chinese Petroleum Corp, which was granted a major exploration authorization in January.

In the longer term Chad could see an extension of the oil pipeline built in Sudan by China so it can send oil to Port Sudan, giving it a bargaining chip in its dispute with the consortium transporting Chadian crude to Cameroon.

A further important factor in Chad's switch is the right of veto in the UN Security Council held by China as one of the five permanent members. Chad faces internal upheavals from the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan which has seen 200,000 refugees arrive on its soil and created tensions with Khartoum, a traditional ally of China.

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