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Chinese companies face increasing threat in Africa

By Jiang Jie (People's Daily Online)    14:00, July 04, 2016
Chinese companies face increasing threat in Africa
(Photo: PLA Daily)

As China continues to globalize, the imminent threat of terrorism will increasingly haunt the world’s second largest economy, especially in Africa, experts warned at a forum last weekend.

Addressing the Pacilution Forum for Counter-Terrorism, held on Saturday in Beijing, Wang Chuan, director of the Department of Counterterrorism and Overseas Security at the Hangzhou-based Knowfar Institute for Strategic & Defense Studies, pointed out that many of China’s overseas investment and construction projects fall within Africa’s arc of instability, which stretches across North Africa to Sub-Saharan Africa.

While the risks are lower in southern Africa, Wang said that threats of terrorism and propaganda do still haunt southern African countries, while those within the arc of instability face more direct threats from groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Citing figures from media reports, Wang said that some 54 percent of China's major overseas security incidents between 2014 and 2015 took place in Africa.

In Algeria, signs of possible attacks targeting Chinese businesses and nationals have been increasing since March, as the country has witnessed the rise of terrorist groups, according to Liu Xinlu, an associate professor with the Department of Arabic Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University. At the same time, a slump in oil prices has worsened the situation for the oil-rich country, leading to fiscal retrenchment and a growing income gap, which may result in instability, Liu told the forum.

While there is reportedly no direct foreign investment in Algeria, a great deal of Chinese money and many Chinese citizens were dispatched for construction projects. Of Algeria’s 48 provinces, 40 are known to be home to Chinese companies.

There are 70 state-owned enterprises in Algeria, but there are countless middle- and small-sized companies whose workers often possess only tourist visas, Liu said, adding that the estimated total number of Chinese nationals in Algeria may exceed 200,000.

“In the face of increased threats of instability and terrorism, our top priority should be getting a clearer picture of our citizens within the country. This can be done with the help of both the embassy and local business associations, which know the country better than some embassy officials,” Liu said.

“One key job is to prevent Chinese nationals from getting kidnapped by terrorist groups, who are now thirsty for money,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chinese security companies are not yet sufficiently prepared to protect overseas workers and business projects. “Many security companies choose to offer training at home. Few are sending troops to actually be stationed overseas. Even with training courses, most employees are inadequately prepared to handle the complicated situation overseas,” noted Wang, who is also a retired major with the People’s Liberation Army.

Besides the lack of defensive tactics and terrorism intelligence, little attention has been paid to the local culture and religion, which is also crucial in protecting national interests, according to Zhao Shuqing, honorary director at the Ethnic Minority Groups Development Research Institute under the State Council’s Development Research Center.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Jiang Jie,Bianji)

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