China, which gets nearly a third of its imported crude oil from Africa, has invested billions of dollars in the past 15 years to pump crude from this war-scarred land. But the division of what until five months ago was a united country has pushed Beijing into a political minefield in defence of its assets.
China's involvement revolves largely around the interests of a single company, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), a state-owned giant that has dragged the usually risk-averse Chinese diplomats into one of Africa's most poisonous feuds.
CNPC straddles both sides of a murderously volatile fault line: between Muslim Arabs in the north and black, often Christian Africans in the south.
Most of the oil lies in the landlocked south, but the only way to get it to market is through Chinese-built pipelines that pass through the north to a Chinese-built terminal on the Red Sea.