The New Kings of Crude

China, India, and the Global Struggle for Oil in Sudan and South Sudan

January 2014 9781849042949 356pp


The need for oil in Asia’s new industrial powers, China and India, has grown dramatically. The New Kings of Crude takes the reader from the dusty streets of an African capital to Asia’s glistening corporate towers to provide a first look at how the world’s rising economies established new international oil empires in Sudan, amid one of Africa’s longest-running and deadliest civil wars.

For over a decade, Sudan fuelled the international rise of Chinese and Indian national oil companies. But the political turmoil surrounding the historic division of Africa’s largest country, with the birth of South Sudan, challenged Asia’s oil giants to chart a new course. Luke Patey weaves together the stories of hardened oilmen, powerful politicians, rebel fighters, and human rights activists to show how the lure of oil brought China and India into Sudan—only later to ensnare both in the messy politics of a divided country. His book also introduces the reader to the Chinese and Indian oilmen and politicians who were willing to become entangled in an African civil war in the pursuit of the world’s most coveted resource. It offers a portrait of the challenges China and India are increasingly facing as emerging powers in the world.


‘As Mr Patey writes, despite worsening returns and growing unease, Sudan remains the “largest overseas achievement” of the state-owned oil companies of both China and India. […] Patey’s book has pen-portraits of the individuals who spearheaded and maintained exploration programmes in Sudan, … the “new kings of crude” [who] may yet have a role in trying to quell the violence in the two Sudans.’ — The Economist

‘An important, rigorously researched and fully documented book …[that] will undoubtedly become the standard reference text for those interested in the history and evolution of the oil industry in Sudan and South Sudan and the implications it has for the political economy of those countries… the latter part of the book reads more like a thriller [than] a detailed history book, engaging and absorbing the reader in the complexities it illuminates.’ —Pádraig Carmody, China Quarterly

‘…an intricately researched book … Patey’s mastery of the subject is clear, and this long-form analysis is a welcome addition to a surprisingly empty bookshelf on the subject. … The New Kings of Crude is written in a personable and character-driven style, making it accessible to the general reader and those with an academic interest. Its greatest strength, however, is that it provides a comprehensive history to the never-ending complexities of Sudanese politics which continue to dictate events to this day.’ — Think Africa Press

‘Rather than describing a passive engagement with external actors that so often is used to define African countries’ policies, this book offers a refreshing look at Africa’s direct engagement and influence through its civil wars, rebellions, trade, and resources—proving an indispensable read for a clear understanding of the issues surrounding Sudan and South Sudan’s current crisis.’ — LSE Review of Books

‘Patey’s book is meticulously researched, mixing knowledge and in-depth analysis of the oil industry in both Sudans in the context in the countries’ conflicts… a must for Sudan watchers, China watchers and those who watch the twists and turns of the global oil and energy industries.’ — Keith Somerville, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

‘Over thirty-five years, Sudan has been a crucible for both American and Asian oil policies: not only have Sudan’s war and government been deeply influenced by the politics and finance of oil, but the battles over Sudan’s oil production have had a remarkable influence on the global petroleum business. Luke Patey’s remarkable book— an indispensable and comprehensive account of the encounter between big oil and Sudan — includes important new material on China’s strategy of internationalizing oil production and India’s seminal but under-recognized entry into the global oil business.’ — Alex de Waal, Executive Director, The World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School, Tufts University

‘Luke Patey has written a thoroughly engaging book on the impact of Africa’s longest-running civil wars in Sudan on the global ambitions of Chinese and Indian national oil companies. He lucidly explores how this now divided country shaped and constrained the aspirations of these oil giants, and explains excellently the influence and limitations of Asia’s two powerful countries, particularly China, on their national oil companies.’ — Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director, International Crisis Group

‘To grasp the new world of oil, you must plumb China’s role in Africa. Only, no one has penetrated it — until Luke Patey in his very welcome new book.’ — Steve LeVine, author, The Oil and the Glory

‘Patey tells a complex story very well. Incredibly well researched and grounded in a prodigious number of newspapers and journal articles, industry publications, interviews and other sources, the book successfully combines the stories of various actors, highlighting the importance of non-state forces in international politics. … The New Kings of Crude makes several major contributions to the understanding of the Chinese and Indian NOCs and their role in the rise of the two emerging powers.’ — Cambridge Review of International Affairs

The New Kings of Crude is an authoritative narrative of the role of Chinese and Indian oil companies in the “new” global scramble for oil in Africa, drawing on the case of Sudan and South Sudan. It is well-researched, comprehensive and compelling, providing the most detailed analysis of the oil-conflict nexus, and the scope and limits of oil diplomacy involving Asia’s emerging powers and both countries.’ — The Journal of Modern African Studies

‘[Patey] presents a solid, exhaustive account of how Sudan, while allowing China
and India to expand their international footprints, proved a coming-of-age for both. The scholarship is obvious, but Patey also tells a cracking tale.’ — Anthea Pitt, Petroleum Economist

The New Kings of Crude is a clear-eyed account of the machinations of the newest players in the global oil business… Patey sketches deft portraits of the principal personalities and institutions that shaped the development of the petroleum sector in Sudan, China and India.’ — Business Standard

‘This is a readable book, … Patey’s core message is surely a sound one: “China” and “India” are not monolithic actors; even state corporations have their own internal dynamics, and their own interests, and have limited leverage over the sovereign governments with which they deal. The new “kings of crude” rest uneasily on their thrones.’ — Justin Willis, Durham University, African Affairs.


Luke Patey is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. He has written for The Guardian and The Hindu, and is co-editor of Sudan Looks East: China, India, and the Politics of Asian Alternatives.

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