It’s most likely a token force:

China will send a military engineering unit to help strengthen the overtaxed African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, the Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday.

A spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, did not say how many Chinese soldiers would be dispatched or what their duties would be, describing them as “multifunctional” military engineers. U.S. officials in Washington estimated the number at around 300, the Reuters news agency reported.

The decision to help bolster the 7,000 African Union peacekeepers was seen mainly as a gesture to underline Chinese support for a U.N.-administered solution to the four-year-old conflict in western Sudan’s Darfur region. Since an armed secessionist revolt began there in 2003, an estimated 200,000 people have been killed and nearly 2.5 million have been driven from their homes.

In recent weeks, the Darfur crisis has become particularly sensitive in China because of suggestions in the United States and Europe that people should boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics to demonstrate opposition to Chinese policies in Sudan. China, which has deep economic and military ties there, has been widely criticized for failing to bring strong pressure on the government to persuade it to accept a large force of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.

Or, the force dispatch could be a distraction from bad news coming from Amnesty International, which is accusing China and Russia of violating the UN’s 2005 arms embargo against Sudan.

This report describes the arming process and its effects on the people of Darfur and neighbouring eastern Chad, many of whom have been forcibly displaced. It provides details of violations of the United Nations arms embargo on Darfur that occurred during January to March 2007. Amongst other things, it shows how the Government of Sudan violates the UN arms embargo and disguises some of its military logistics operations in Darfur, and what arms supplied to Sudan from China and Russia – two Permanent Members of the Security Council – have been used for violations of the Security Council’s own mandatory arms embargo…

Sudan imported $24 million worth of arms and ammunition from the People’s Republic of China, as well as nearly $57 million worth of parts and aircraft equipment and $2 million worth of parts of helicopters and aeroplanes from China, according to the data from Sudan for 2005, the last available trade figures. During a meeting in Beijing, the Defence Minister of China reportedly told Sudan’s joint chief of staff that military relations had been “developing smoothly” and said: “[We] are willing to further develop military co-operation between our two countries in all areas.”(17)

Check the report for more details. It’s thorough.

Both China and Russia deny that they have been violating the arms embargo, but note the language of the denial as rendered by al Jazeera:

In Moscow, a foreign ministry spokesman rejected the report, saying: “None of our arms are being supplied to Darfur.”

“We rigorously observe the provisions of the UN resolution banning deliveries of arms to Darfur,” he said.

In Beijing, Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, called the report “a groundless accusation”.

“The Chinese government takes a responsible attitude and a strict management policy on arms exports,” she said.

None of that precludes middlemen working with the Sudanese government, which as the Amnesty report indicates, the PRC is happy to do.

So what are our takeaways from this? Well, the most obvious is that you can’t trust the PRC or the Russians to live up to their stated word. They won’t do it. They were undermining the sanctions against Saddam’s Iraq, they’ve undermined the war there ever since, and they’re undermining anti-nuke efforts vis a vis Iran, and they’re undermining the admittedly pitiful effort to halt the violence in Darfur.

Additionally, Bill Richardson’s pledge to “engage” Russia and China on Darfur is bound to fail. We’re hoping for justice and an end to the bloodshed; Russia and China are interested in oil and arms contracts. Our interests just don’t match up with theirs. They will continue to play games while the region burns. Back to the WaPo article linked above:

Rejecting the criticism from abroad, Jiang said China also has “a positive attitude” toward getting the full-strength U.N. force to Darfur. Throughout the struggle, however, the Chinese government has insisted that whatever the United Nations does should first be approved by Bashir’s government. Citing that stand, it abstained when the Security Council voted in August to send 20,000 peacekeepers.

Bashir isn’t going to approve anything effective. China is in effect giving a veto to one of the belligerents but not the other, and they’re basing that decision on access to Sudan’s oil, which is controlled by Bashir’s government.