Based on the Chinese historic attitude against the secession of Taiwan and its firm and explicit stance against the secession of Kosovo in 2009, it might be that the Chinese rejecting stance towards secession applies to all cases of secession, both domestic and foreign. However, on July 6th, 2011, China was one of the first countries to recognize South Sudan after its secession from Sudan.

This went against China’s former anti-secessionist attitude and its general approach towards its foreign relations. Meanwhile, not far from South Sudan in the Horn of Africa, another strong case for international recognition has remained unanswered for more than two decades: In 1991, Somaliland has withdrawn itself from its former union with Somalia, created in July 1960 after both countries gained independence from their former colonies, Britain and Italy respectively.

Despite Somaliland’s attainments in its democratic and economic development of the last two decades and the seemingly present basic elements of statehood, it still does not enjoy China’s recognition to this day. Even when a constitutional referendum in 2001 reaffirmed the support of ninety-seven percent of the population in favor of independence, China did not react. Therefore, the question of this thesis is: What factors explain the Chinese shift in attitude towards secession in the most recent example of South Sudan, whilst not recognizing the previous secession of Somaliland ?

Type: Master thesis
Title: The fine line of Chinese recognition: A case study on Somaliland and South Sudan
Author: Coebergh, Lara
Issue Date: 2014
Keywords: China’s foreign policy
Supervisor: Spirova, Maria
Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Department: Political Science (Master)
Specialization: Political Science (Master)


AAA               Addis Ababa Agreement

AU                  African Union

CDB                China Development Bank

CNPC             China National Petroleum Company

CPA                Comprehensive Peace Agreement

CPC                Communist Party of China

CPR                Chinese People’s Republic

EU                   European Union

Exim bank       China Export-Import Bank

FOCAC          Forum of Chinese and African Cooperation

GoS                 Government of Sudan

GoSS              Government of South Sudan

ICJ                  International Court of Justice

IMF                 International Monetary Fund

IGAD             Inter-Governmental Authority on Development

LAS                League of Arab States

NATO             North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NIF                 National Islamic Front

OAU               Organization of African Unity

PLA                People’s Liberation Army

PRC                 People’s Republic of China

ROC             Republic of China

SNM           Somali National Movement

SPLA              Sudan People’s Liberation Army

SPLM              Sudan People’s Liberation Movement

SOE                State-Owned Enterprises

SRC                 Supreme Revolutionary Council

TNG                Somali Transitional Government

UDI                Unilateral Declaration of Independence

UN                  United Nations

UNSC             United Nations Security Council

US                   United States

WTO               World Trade Organization


1. Introduction   

2. Literature Study   

2.1. China’s current view on secessionism

      • China’s Domestic Situation
      • Principles under Discussion

2.2. China’s role in Africa

      • History
      • Current situation
    • China’s peaceful rise

3. Methodology and Research Design         

    • Variables
    • Research Design
    • Case Selection
    • Data Collection and methods

4. Case study  

4.1. Somaliland

      • History
      • China’s attitude towards the secession process
      • China’s involvement
      • China’s growing power
      • Conclusion

4.2. South Sudan        

      • History
      • China’s attitude towards the secession process
      • China’s involvement
      • China’s growing power
      • Conclusion

5. Discussion and Conclusion 



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