China is due to host the 2008 Olympics, and activists are campaigning for a boycott of the Games if China does not use its economic and political clout to put pressure on Sudan to end the violence.
 
'Neo-colonial'
 
Hu is under pressure to use China's
economic clout over Sudan [AFP]
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2.5 million more chased from their homes since 2003, when rebels stemming from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central government.
 
Sudan has refused demands to allow UN peacekeepers into the region and has rejected as "neo-colonial" a Security Council plan to replace an overwhelmed African Union force in the region with some 22,000 UN peacekeepers.
 
But there is speculation that Hu’s visit could see Sudan agreeing to a compromise deal allowing a joint UN and African peacekeeping force into Darfur.
 
In a brief statement read after landing in Khartoum, Hu said he was "extremely happy to visit Sudan at the invitation of President Omar al-Bashir."
 
He added: "Although the distance between China and Sudan is great, the friendship between the two people is deeply rooted."
 
In his own comments on the visit al-Bashir said Hu’s arrival would be "a great boost for the distinguished Sudanese-Chinese relations in various fields."
 
Investor
 
China and Darfur

Critics accuse China of abetting Darfur violence by using its Security Council veto power to stall UN attempts to halt the conflict.

In September 2004 China was one of four countries to abstain from Security Council vote on sanctions against Sudan

In July 2004 China and Russia abstained from vote threatening actions if Khartoum failed to disarm and prosecute the Janjaweed.

China says it does not believe
sanctions are the best way to resolve international crises and should be resolved through peaceful negotiation

China is the biggest foreign investor in Sudan and buys two-thirds of the country's oil exports.
 
It is also Sudan’s staunchest diplomatic ally and has used its veto-wielding status at the Security Council to prevent harsh measures against Sudan over the Darfur conflict.
 
Other members of the Security Council have accused Khartoum of indiscriminate killings by unleashing the janjaweed militias of Arab nomads blamed for the worst atrocities in Darfur.
 
The Bush administration and others have labelled the situation in Darfur as genocide.
 
As a result the US has imposed heavy sanctions on Sudan, increasing Kharoum's reliance on China to buy its oil and build key infrastructure like dams and roads.
 
Last week Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, urged China to help persuade Sudan to accept UN peacekeepers in Darfur.
 
Ahead of Hu’s visit, Chinese officials took the unusual step of highlighting human rights in Sudan as an area of concern and urged the government there to cooperate in finding a solution in Darfur.
 
Such comments by Beijing are extremely rare as China's traditionally refuses to interfere in what it considers other countries' internal affairs.