Relations between Chad and China have expanded and deepened since diplomatic ties were resumed in August 2006. Growing links have been underpinned by Chinese oil development operations, epitomised by the Rônier refinery project. This symbolises China's ascendancy in Chad following N'Djamena's rejection of its relations with the World Bankled Chad–Cameroon pipeline project. Despite recent turbulence, oil investment looks set to play the key part in China's continuing engagement in Chad and enhance the potential for stimulating economic growth, despite severe constraints and ongoing challenges. By investing in a refinery, and dealing with N'Djamena in a different way from the conditionality heavy approach of recent Western engagement, China has embarked on an innovative intervention of increasing importance in Chad. This is seen in the appropriation of China by the Chadian leadership under President Idriss Déby as a means to promote a range of social goals related to the domestic political objectives of his regime. However, tensions remain within the terms of the newly forged partnership. Whether China can follow through on and sustain its present engagement, and enable Chad to escape its historical confinement amidst chronic underdevelopment and protracted insecurity, remains to be seen.
SAIIA Occasional Paper by Romain Dittgen and Daniel Large