CONTENTS: Posts: Beijing reports boom in foreign trade / Konflikte um das Südchinesische Meer // News: Courting the Bride Africa / Under Observation by the Regional Rival / Kämpfe entlang der Seidenstraßen / Webinar: China and the World // Reviews: Patrick Bond, China’s Role in Africa’s Development / Zeitschrift ‘Wissenschaft und Frieden’: Chinas Welt? – Konflikte und Kooperation.
CONTENTS: Blog post: Risks of labour unrest // News: „Greening“ Belt & Road / Beijings human rights offensive // Readings: Overseas investments and human rights / Public perceptions of BRI and sustainability.
“Who built the seven-gated Thebes?” asks Bertold Brecht’s ‘reading worker’, “in the books are the names of kings.” In the case of the Silk Roads, Chinese workers are at least mentioned, but in most cases with the comment that they were displacing local workers. Labour conditions and trade union rights, on the other hand, feature hardly at all in the debates on Chinese projects and companies. But here there are risks that could jeopardise the whole BRI venture.
The international exposure of Chinese NGOs is not a recent phenomenon. Starting in the late 1970s, China reopened its doors to INGOs and other international organisations, which have since supported the development of a large number of Chinese NGOs. What is new today is that we are starting to see Chinese NGOs branching out of China and acting as donors and partners to organisations in developing countries. However, there remain several key challenges.
Ethiopia has become one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. The rail link between Djibouti on the Red Sea and Addis Ababa, built with Chinese credit and by Chinese companies, provides the landlocked country with a connection to the ‚Maritime Silk Road’. An escalation of the civil war, which broke out in Ethiopia’s Tigray Province in early November, would be damaging to Beijing’s plans for Africa.
One of the prevalent complaints about the Belt&Road Initiative is that Chinese labour would provide the bulk of the workforce in many projects. This applies mainly to large construction projects, rather than to factories such as those in Ethiopia’s Special Economic Zones. But these claims, which have also translated into tangible protests as in Laos, Vietnam and Turkmenistan, are major scratches on the image of Silk Road projects and their promises of prosperity.
Hardly anyone outside Asia and academic circles is really looking at Southeast Asia – except just now, when the world’s largest free trade zone was agreed with RCEP. But this is a passing interest that is also mainly focused on the question: What does this mean for China, what games is Beijing playing? And in Europe it raises the anxious expectations: What does this mean for our economy, our companies, our exports?