China has developed a more consequential role in Sudan over the past two decades, during which it has become bound up in the combination of enduring violent internal instability and protracted external adversity that has characterized the politics of the central state since the 1989 Islamist revolution. Two inter-related political trajectories of China’s Sudan engagement are examined here. The first concerns Beijing’s relations with the ruling National Congress party in incorporating China into its domestic politics and foreign relations amidst war in Darfur, to which Beijing has responded through a more engaged political role. The second confronts the practical limitations of China’s sovereignty doctrine and exclusive reliance upon relations with the central state. Following the peace agreement of 2005 that ended the North–South war, and motivated by political imperatives linked to investment protection concerns, China has developed new relations with the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, thus seeking to position itself to navigate Sudan’s uncertain political future.