Without getting too optimistic, it may well be that China has changed its tune. The Washington Post reports that China was instrumental in pressuring Sudan to accept a cease-fire and perhaps further foreign intervention:
The U.S. special envoy to Sudan said Friday that China has pushed the Sudanese government recently to help resolve the bloody Darfur conflict and ease the plight of the region's nearly 3 million refugees.
The Chinese intervention marked a shift from past policy under which Beijing seemed reluctant to use its influence in Sudan, according to the envoy, Andrew S. Natsios. "I think they're engaging much more aggressively," Natsios said at a news briefing after four days of talks here with Chinese officials.
There are reasons to be skeptical. China has engaged in bait-and-switches regarding Darfur before, simultaneously pledging and undermining efforts for peace in the region. And of course, it would be quite fair to say too little, too late. But assuming this act is genuine and lasting, what is the upshot?
Well, obviously I'd be pleased that China is using its considerable influence for good instead of evil, for once. But why the shift? It's possible that China thinks that America's weakening hold on the mantle of human rights (in the wake of Abu Gharib, Guantanamo Bay, and other quasi-police-state moves of the Bush administration), offers an opportunity for them to gobble up legitimacy in the respect. The world is probably better off if China begins to consider human rights implications in its foreign policy. But it's probably worse off if China supplants the US as the go-to state on human rights concerns. It would be unforgivable if the US ceded that position on President Bush's watch.