Here is another sign of China’s growing influence and activity in Africa. China’s biggest oil company CNPC has reached a deal with Sudan to search for oil and gas in the north of the country on the coast of the Red Sea.

Although China has been under pressure from Western countries to reduce its investment in Sudan because of the humanitarian crisis there, it has done exactly the opposite. China is now Sudan’s top foreign investor and also supplies it with weapons. This latest move will also anger the hawks in Washington.

China though, has repeatedly argued against taking sanctions against Sudan, saying that what is needed is measures to address poverty, which it sees as the cause of the violence in Darfur.

The agreement calls for six years of exploration and 20 years of shared production. The exploration rights cover about 3.8 square kilometres of shallow water on the Red Sea. The exploration will be carried out jointly with the Indonesian state oil and gas company PT Pertamina.