Wednesday, April 10, 2013

[Sinohydro] Groups shrug off Africa criticisms

[Sinohydro] Groups shrug off Africa criticisms
Financial Times, 10 April 2013
By Leslie Hook

"Do we look like colonists? We haven�t killed any locals." The
remarks by Wang Zhiping, board secretary of Sinohydro, highlight the
debate about China's role in Africa, writes Leslie Hook.

"We use our actions and the things we do to show we are not
neocolonialists," he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Xi Jinping, Chinese president, during his first trip overseas as
head of state last month, countered a rising tide of criticism among
officials in Africa about China�s role there.

Mr Wang defended Sinohydro's work in Africa, where it has been
involved in more than 70 hydropower projects, as beneficial for all
parties. "A dam is a sign of social progress and civilisation," he said.
"You have resources. I have money, technology and management. We can
develop together."

Sinohydro and other engineering companies have been at the centre of
Chinese policies in Africa, where they have built highways, high-rises,
dams and football stadiums. On his visit to three African countries, Mr
Xi vowed to increase investment, highlighting the importance of Africa
to China�s foreign policy strategy.

The role of Chinese state-owned enterprises in Africa has been
controversial at times, because their projects are often funded by
government loans that the recipient nation repays with exports of resources.

Proponents say these infrastructure projects enable development in
places where western companies are unwilling to work because of
political risk or sanctions. Critics say they place overly heavy loan
burdens on the recipient countries and have a poor record of compliance
with local environmental and labour rules. Many such projects rely on
workers flown in from China.

The International Monetary Fund intervened in China's $9bn aid
package to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008 to force a rewrite
of the debt terms because the loans were deemed too expensive. Sinohydro
and China Railway Engineering received a majority stake in two large
copper and cobalt mines as part of the deal.

Other high-profile projects by Chinese companies in Africa, such as
the Merowe dam in Sudan, have been heavily criticised by environmental

Mr Wang said Sinohydro paid close attention to its environmental
rules, and denied that it selected projects to further China's foreign
policy aims.

"The reason we are going abroad is just to make money,� he said. �In
this process, we will protect the environment, assume social
responsibilities, help development and help alleviate local poverty."

** A longer piece based on the interview with Sinohydro's Wang Zhiping
titled "Chinese groups chastened by conflict zones" can be accessed at
(requires subscription)

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