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Chad chooses realism, cash and China over Taiwan

by Staff Writers
N'Djamena, Aug 6, 2006
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 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 neighbouring Sudan and the World Bank, broke off relations with China after 25 years in favour 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," said the diplomat.

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 by 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 the Taiwanese CPC company which was granted a major exploration authorisation 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 United Nations 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.

"As China has a veto we have to have it by our side so the draft (UN resolution) on the presence of UN forces (in Darfur) goes through without difficulty," the Chadian diplomat said.

He also suggested that N'Djamena could hope that arms supplies to rebel movements operating in Chad and using Chinese weapons might be cut back. "It is a moment of grand diplomatic manoeuvres between N'Djamena and Khartoum. Beijing could act as an intermediary and appear as a stablising element between the two countries, " said the French specialist.

At a weekend news conference, a Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesman hit out at Beijing, accusing China of providing arms to Chad's rebels through Sudan in order to overthrow the Chadian government.

He also said the Chadian government needed Beijing's financial assistance because the World Bank had put a freeze on income from its oil sales.

"We've noticed the challenges of the Taiwan-Chad ties since the onset of this year and tried everything we could to rescue the ties, but to no avail," he said.

He condemned Beijing "for benefiting from Chad's difficult times and undermining Taiwan's diplomatic base".

"We regret that the Chadian leader and government bowed to the pressure of 'the evil force'," he said.

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