NGO workshop on China’s investments in Southeast Asia

June 30, 2010

A Bangkok-based NGO is organising a workshop on to discuss NGO strategy towards Chinese investments overseas. Both Chinese and Southeast Asian NGOs that have experience monitoring overseas investments of their countries, or Chinese investments in Southeast Asia, are invited, and discussion will focus on how Chinese and Southeast Asian NGOs can cooperate to promote good governance in these projects. The workshop will be by invitation only, presumably with the intention to keep a low profile and avoid stirring up negative reactions in China that would be adverse for the participating organisations. (I have deleted the name of the NGO and the dates of the meeting at the organisers’ request, presumably reflecting the same concern.)

It is notable that the initiative is clearly geared at direct bilateral civil society contacts without the mediation of Western organisations (the only reference to anything Western in the meeting brief is one to the “destructive effects of investment experiences from Western companies”). This is an approach that has been suggested by many activists and scholars writing on the “China in Africa” topic as well and promoted in the Southeast Asian context by Oxfam Hong Kong and International Rivers. So far I have not seen evidence of mainland Chinese organisations directly working with Southeast Asian NGOs. This would certainly be an interesting development.

Chinese and US companies meet on Africa policy

March 25, 2010

According to a press release,

the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation announced that it is partnering with the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brenthurst Foundation of South Africa and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and organizing a conference to discuss how companies can contribute to economic and social development in Africa.

The meeting, which will take place in Monrovia, Liberia. on February 24-25, will include representatives from Chevron Corporation, the CocaCola Companies, Marathon Oil, DeBeers
Debswana (Pty) Ltd., Fina Bank, Rwanda, the China
Export-Import Bank, the China-Africa Development
Fund and the China Henan International Cooperation Group (CHICO).

The goal of the dialogue is to engage corporate leaders and analysts from Africa, China and the U.S. on lessons learned in corporate social responsibility and the best strategies to pursue accelerated economic development.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will address the conference.  Liberia is the first African nation to be validated by the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

One prominent African acedemic who writes on China-Africa issues reacted sharply to this news in private correspondence, rejecting the idea that Africa needs to be discussed as a patient by two doctors and expressing fears that corporations from both countries might wish to agree to avoid undercutting each other, with Africa getting a worse deal as a result.

Xinhua sees “great potential in Sino-Africa non-governmental cooperation”

December 2, 2009

According to a Xinhua report dated 14 October, which has only now been circulated on International Rivers’ mailing list, a “China-Africa NGO seminar” has been organised within the FOCAC framework, to which “20 persons in charge of NGOs and ambassadors from eight African countries and more than ten Chinese NGOs” had been invited. (According to People’s Daily, only diplomats from Ethiopia and Sudan actually attended, but there were officials from NGO councils of Botswana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia.)

The non-governmental communication is expected to be an important part of the Sino-African relations, and contribute to building the strategic partnership between the two sides, said Li Jinjun 李进军 [“Li March-in-the troops”], secretary-general of China NGO network for International Exchanges (CNIE), the organizer of the seminar.

The event confirms the shift towards greater social engagement in China’s African activities (whether cosmetic or substantive) that several authors — such as Chris Alden — have commented on. A number of international NGOs, such as Oxfam, have been banking on the strategy of bringing NGOs from China and the investment recipient countries together with the idea of sharing the latters’ concerns with the former.  The prominent liberal economist Qin Hui has similarly expressed hope that Chinese civil activists might learn from their counterparts in Africa and Southeast Asia, and press Chinese companies to operate more responsibly at home as well as abroad.

This was not quite the idea of the organisers of this seminar, though. On the contrary,

“I found the African NGOs have a strong will to learn from China,” said Jiang Bo, secretary-general of China Education Association for International Exchanges.

His view was echoed by Ntobeko Melvin Gotyana, president of South Africa National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO). (…)

Peter Oloishura Nkuraiyia, executive director of NGO Co-ordination Board of Kenya, said that both Kenya and China are developing countries and China is more developed so that Kenya NGOs would like to learn from China from many aspects, especially on how to regulate the funds and how to seek help from the governments.

A book named Africa NGOs Studies and Sino-African Relations [非洲非政府组织与中非关系] was launched at the seminar. The book was written by experts of Zhejiang Normal University [沈蓓莉  and 刘鸿武, apparently CNIE staff] as a result of a project launched by the Chinese government.

These individuals sound like important people within Africa’s NGO circles. I wonder whether this account does reflect the sentiments of African NGOs, which have so far been largely negative on the Chinese presence (if one is to go by Western reports, that is). I am also very curious about this new publication.

Yet another China in Africa book

September 4, 2009

Oh no… Amsterdam University Press has published yet another China in Africa book, The New Presence of China in Africa. The book is being launched at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague at 4 pm on 16 September.

According to the blurb, the book concludes

that China is in Africa for its own interests: selling Chinese products, assuring its supply of oil and other raw materials and enhancing its status as superpower. Interesting enough, most Africans appreciate China’s presence which they consider to be additional and an alternative for their dependency on Europa and the US.


I hope this really is the last book with this kind of title.

Conference panel on “The Rising Powers and the ‘new’ geographies of international development”

August 24, 2009

Giles Mohan and Marcus Power are organising a panel with this title at the Association of American Geographers annual meeting in Washington, DC, on 14-18 April 2010. The call for papers lists the following possible themes:

  • To what extent is there a new aid architecture and what does the emergence of the Rising Powers mean for established donors and questions of aid effectiveness?
  • Given that much of the interest of the Rising Powers in the developing world is resource access of various kinds how far are developing countries being ‘fixed’ into specific roles with the potential for a resource curse to deepen?
  • As the Rising Powers gain in economic power what impacts are they having, or likely to have, on institutions of global governance and the balance of world power?
  • Given the need to industrialise and urbanise what impacts are the Rising Powers having on the environment & climate change, as well as on the governance mechanisms to mitigate such change?
  • To what extent are we seeing genuine forms of ‘South-South’ cooperation and what policy space does the existence of the Rising Powers afford the poorest developing countries?
  • What does the existence of these the Rising Powers mean for normative debates about the very nature of ‘development’? 

Those interested in submitting a paper should contact Dr Giles Mohan (g.mohan [at], tel. +44 (0)1908 653654)  or Dr Marcus Power (marcus.power [at], tel. +44 (0)191 334 1828).

Conference on the global politics of China

August 23, 2009

The British Inter-University China Centre is organising a conference on the global politics of China in London and Manchester on 27-29 November. The call for papers is here.

The latest on the Baoding Villages

August 6, 2009

Today at the International Convention of Asia Scholars in Daejeon there was a panel on “Exporting China’s Development.” Yan Hairong and Barry Sautman presented a paper on their fieldwork at the Chambishi copper mine in Zambia, which I had much anticipated. In response to a question, they told me that they thought the Baoding Villages were a total hoax. Yan Hairong has visited Baoding and interviewed Liu Jianjun (the self-styled founder), and he repeated his story, but refused to share any contacts in Africa. In the ten African countries Yan and Sautman visited, no one has heard about Baoding villages.

Li Guangyi, a PhD student at UCLA, came to the same conclusion in his presentation. But he affirmed that the East Africa Trade Development Zone does exist, and Ugandan officials gave a press conference in Peking about it. The 518 square kilometers and the 99-year lease seem to be right, although it is less clear whether the legislative rights, the Chinese policing and judiciary structures will exist, or indeed if the zone has any investors. Liu Jianjun and the other main investors were, apparently, adamant that residents and workers of the zone will have to obey its rules, giving the specific example that three (sic) prayers a day for Muslims will not be allowed as they disrupt production. A flag of the zone has been circulating on the Internet, very similar to Hong Kong, with five red stars at the centre.

Li also discussed the reactions to this on Tianya. According to him, some expressed suspicions that this too was a hoax. Others wrote that China should be more equitable and fair in its dealings with Africa and not repeat Western colonialism and brutality. But most expressed satisfaction about the Chinese “concession,” saying it demonstrated that Chinese civilization has stood up again.

Exporting China’s Development: panel at ICAS

June 17, 2009

Several of this blog’s contributors are involved in the panel “Exporting China’s Development to Africa and Southeast Asia: Aid, Investment, Migration” at the upcoming International Convention of Asia Scholars in Daejeon, Korea, on 6 August. The aim of the panel is to bring together people who have done grounded research on the subject in these two regions.

The preliminary programme of the conference is now available here. Scroll down to find the panel.

Call for papers: Chinese in Africa/Africans in China, Johannesburg, 26-29 August 2009

May 19, 2009

Shortly after the International Convention of Asia Scholars in Taejon in early August, at which some of us will host a panel on ethnographic approaches to China’s development export, the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China International Research Working Group will organise its second mini-conference. Here is an excerpt from the call for papers:

Chinese people have become targets of increasing anti-Chinese sentiment, especially led by opposition political parties and civil society groups for different ends. In South Africa, perceptions that those who look Chinese carry on them large sums of cash appear to have resulted in a sort of racial profiling by South Africa’s criminal element as well as state patrols, exposing these individuals to robbery, blackmail, and personal violence. In spite of events and statistics being disclosed by researchers in the field, newspapers in Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa continue to under-report such political and social tensions while they remain critical of China’s seemingly unequal engagement with African nations and over-report the numbers of Chinese in these countries.

Simultaneously, African traders and other entrepreneurial business people have been making their way to China in increasing numbers over the last few years.  They are bypassing Chinese traders acting as middlemen in Africa and going directly to wholesalers as well as producers/manufacturers in China.  Over the years, some of these Africans have settled in Guangdong and other coastal provinces, and their numbers continue to grow. However, very little is also known about these transient and settler communities that are bridging the continents through exchange of goods and money, but also through dispersal of cultural knowledge.  

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 1 June 2009. Full papers must be received by 31 July 2009. Abstracts and queries should be directed to Yoon Jung Park at or +27 83 348 9241.

New China in Africa book launch

May 15, 2009

Less than three months after the  last China-in-Africa book launch, Washington, D.C., is hosting another, this one at the Jamestown Foundation. This China in Africa, released  last December, is edited by the respected China historian Arthur Waldron,  and the launch event features other well-known participants who are new to this debate, including the veteran Hong Kong journalist Willy Lam, the political scientists Edward Friedman and Yitzhak Shichor, two U.S. military analysts, and the keynote speaker, Victor Gao, Director of the China National Association of International Studies and former vice president at the China National Oil Corporation (interesting combination!)