China, Sudan, and the British Empire

As the opening of the Olympics in Beijing nears, NPR is running a few series on the foundations and future of China’s global power within the context of the country’s history and economic position.  Today’s installment, “China and Sudan: A Marriage Sealed in Oil, History,” is the first of stories that will outline China’s influence in Africa.  The story recounts the tale of Major General Charles Gordon of Great Britain.  He worked to secure trading lines with China, and later to manage Britain’s colonial possession at the time, Sudan.

The relationship between Sudan and China is widely believed to be a marriage anointed in oil: China needs it and Sudan has it, and the two have been in business for years. But the Sudanese say their bond with China runs deeper than any oil well and goes back more than 100 years — to a man who proved the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

This is a history that is perhaps less familiar to those of us schooled in North America, but it’s a story screaming to be used as an illustrative case of imperial extension, international trade, and economic alliance.  NPR’s series on China’s Rising Power in Africa will continue in four more parts, all surely as fascinating as the first.  Also not to be missed is the seven part series about China’s growing influence in all regions of the globe.

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