Growing international investment puts focus on security

Updated: 2012-03-06 08:13

By Tan Yingzi and Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)

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Editor's note: There's no better time to raise questions than the NPC/CPPCC sessions, which bring together China's top policymakers. China Daily asks experts from different countries what they wish they could ask the members and delegates about topical issues. Reporters Tan Yingzi and Zhang Haizhou gather the answers.

Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, Zhu Zhiqun would like to ask how China can take measures to protect its expanding overseas interests as more and more Chinese companies invest in foreign countries.

China should strengthen cooperation with foreign governments to protect the security of its nationals, top foreign policymakers said on Monday.

But companies and individuals overseas need to take more responsibility for their own behavior, they added.

With a growing number of Chinese enterprises investing abroad, safeguarding personnel and assets has taken on an increasing urgency.

Recent high-profile kidnappings in the Middle East and Africa, areas where China has invested heavily, highlight the growing dangers faced by citizens in some regions.

Many members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference have expressed their concern about the issue and called for more concrete action to protect citizens working overseas.

Han Fangmin, executive director of TCL Corp, said that the majority of Chinese companies operating overseas are vulnerable to terrorist attack due to a lack of counter-terrorism training.

He suggested that Chinese security companies should be allowed to operate overseas, especially in risky areas and regions.Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun warned of the legal issues involved and cited as an example controversial incidents involving US security firms in Iraq. The security issue, he said, should be resolved through negotiations between governments.

"Our overseas consular protection is short of hands," he said. "Protecting Chinese nationals abroad is becoming difficult and posing a challenge for the Foreign Ministry."

More than 18,000 Chinese enterprises are operating businesses in about 170 countries. They employ about 1.2 million Chinese workers. In addition, there are about 1.2 million Chinese students worldwide, Zhang said.

On average, every Chinese consular protection official serves more than 12,000 nationals overseas.

He also raised a question about the allocation of resources to protect individual visitors traveling abroad in areas designated high-risk.

"Who is paying the bills for rescuing Chinese tourists who insist on traveling to a country where there is a risk of danger despite our warnings?" he asked.

"We need to make clear the responsibilities of the government, companies and individuals."

Wu Sike, Chinese special envoy to the Middle East, said companies need to be aware of the risks in the investment destinations and conduct proper evaluations in advance.

In addition to establishing a sound relationship with foreign governments, they should befriend local people and communities and respect their customs and traditions, he said.

Contributing to local communities, such as building hospitals and schools, is one way of making a positive impression, he added.

"China is seeking sustainable investment and a win-win game abroad," Wu said.

(China Daily 03/06/2012 page6)