A long opinion piece in the 30 June issue of Di-Yi Caijing Ribao (First Financial Daily) by Zhang Ke describes the controversy around the Gibe 3 dam in Ethiopia, which the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), according to reports, agreed to finance. The article describes the opposition of environemntal and local human rights groups, with several quotes from Peter Bosshard (policy director of International Rivers who has been actively lobbying Chinese companies and banks), and then quotes an ICBC official as denying that the financing has been committed and stating that ICBC will not finance any environmentally damaging projects, either inside or outside China.
The author then refers to a 21 May article in People’s Daily 《尼罗河水资源纷争再起 上下游国家矛盾加剧》, which suggests that Ethiopia’s efforts at becoming a regional hydropower exporter are likely to generate conflict with downstream countries on the Nile. It further quotes at length 2008 and 2009 reports, respectively by a coalition of Chinese environmental organisations on the environmental performance of major Chinese banks, and by the school of environmental planning attached to the Ministry of the Environment on the environmental performance of Chinese projects overseas. The general tone is that there are improvements, but more progress is needed. The opinions of foreign NGOs, Chinese organisations, banks and governments are described in a non-confrontational way.
It is hard to say to what extent International Rivers’ lobbying has impacted this discursive shift, but the shift is very marked even compared to 2-3 years ago.