China’s forays into developing countries around the world have long been associated with well-known tactics such as debt traps, shifting of hazardous industries, unfair trade and dumping, and so on.
However, some significant aspects of China’s growing dominance have received little international attention, reports Geo-Politik. These include the Chinese firms’ strategy and business practices when operating in foreign lands.
However, the practises merit closer examination due to the potential long-term impact on the cultural landscapes of host countries.
The use of Chinese security apparatus and human resources is a peculiar feature of Chinese companies operating in African countries.
This includes only Chinese agencies placing personnel and security equipment on various construction or other project sites.
According to some estimates, the rapid expansion of Chinese operations has resulted in the deployment of approximately a million Chinese nationals with over 10,000 Chinese companies in Africa.
Only Chinese security firms have been entrusted with the safety of these assets and nationals, as well as the security of the sea routes.
The practise appears to have ideological roots in the colonial era when companies supported private armies deployed in their colonies.
The justification for Beijing’s massive use of the Chinese security setup is based on its large infrastructure projects in Africa.
Aside from infrastructure, the country has significant stakes in mining projects throughout the continent. Furthermore, the growing Chinese interest in Africa is thought to be fueled by the continent’s vast natural resources.
Since the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa, the market for Chinese security services has grown significantly.
However, the Chinese government provided official support for the practise in the form of security regulations for companies operating in other countries in 2018.
The regulations outline the training requirements, security assessments, and risk mitigation procedures for Chinese companies, institutions, and personnel operating abroad.
They also cover data-sharing procedures and reporting on local security developments.
These guidelines have given a boost to Chinese private security firms operating in various African countries.
Prior to the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa, several Chinese companies operating in Africa were suspected of employing armed militia.
They were established to protect Chinese interests from criminal or political violence. Since then, the system has made way for better-organized and more powerful agencies that collaborate with local institutions.
While most Chinese companies provide traditional security services, many have developed sophisticated capabilities for gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance against potential threats.
Some of them are also seen cooperating closely with local institutions, including the armed forces.
However, their growing clout and intervention in local issues are causing many law and order issues in host countries.
In 2018, two Chinese security contractors were arrested in Zambia for allegedly providing illegal training and supplying a local security company with uniforms and military equipment.
Three countries in particular, Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan, are thought to be facing law and order issues as a result of Chinese agency activities.
As many Chinese firms attempt to establish security partnerships in Mali, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Tanzania, the problem may spread to other countries.
The exploitative attitude of Chinese companies, as well as their engulfment of African security apparatus, is gradually turning locals against them.
The vast majority of African citizens regard them as extensions of the Chinese government rather than independent entities.
As they advertise and sell security equipment to local partners, security contractors appear to be promoting China’s larger arms marketing push.
Representatives from these companies or their parents/clients have been seen at international arms shows alongside Chinese defence suppliers.
Though Chinese security agencies have gained significant influence in African countries and made inroads into their institutions, acceptance among the local population remains a long way off.
Their continued exploitation of local people, as well as their disregard for the environment and culture of these countries, are major roadblocks in Chinese corporations’ journey.