Geopolitics

China In Africa, A Risky Business

Analysis: Two recent kidnappings of Chinese workers - one in Sudan and the other in Egypt - have shown China that doing business in Africa comes at a price. But with their cultural insularity and tendency to carry cash, are Chinese businessmen exposing th

A Chinese welder in Sudan (antheap)
A Chinese welder in Sudan (antheap)

BEIJING - Two recent cases of group kidnappings of Chinese workers, in Sudan and Egypt, shook China out of the glad tidings of its New Year's festivities.

The kidnapping in Sudan occurred on Jan. 28 near the town of Aba, 620 kilometers south of the capital of Khartoum. The targeted Chinese employees were working on the south Kordofan highway project. Out of 47 Chinese workers present, 29 were kidnapped by gunmen. Seventeen of them escaped and were rescued. One was shot in the head.

The incident in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula occurred three days later. Twenty-five Chinese laborers at the Lehfen cement plant were attacked on their way to work. The hijackers were local Bedouins belonging to the Svalbard Turk Tribes. Fortunately, through the mediation of the Egyptian administration, all 25 Chinese employees were released safely.

The two incidents occurring so close together raised concerns that Chinese were becoming particular targets of kidnappers in Africa. A closer look shows that other factors were involved in these cases, though the bigger picture is indeed rather worrisome.

The perpetrators of the attack in Sudan are from the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement-Northern Office (SPLM-N), which was formerly a branch of the southern Sudan ruling party. It is composed mainly of people from Northern Sudan. After the independence of Southern Sudan, they feel excluded for religious, geographical and other reasons from being Southern Sudan citizens. Refusing to lay down their arms, they became anti-government militants active in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

According to their spokesman, the reason they kidnapped the Chinese workers was to protect themselves by using the Chinese hostages as shields from constant suppression. It was a "spur of the moment" decision. It may also be that they wanted to use the case to extend their political influence and arouse international attention to their plight. Naturally, the economic objective of obtaining high ransoms is not excluded as a motive either.

Yasir Arman, the secretary general of the SPLM-N, insisted to the foreign media that they have "no anti-Chinese intention" and that "the hostages are safe." The Chinese hostages will be released "when the situation is secure," he said.

The Sinai Peninsula case is more complex. Some members of the Svalbard tribes had been charged of "suspected complicity in terrorist attacks' for the Taba Hilton bombings of 2004, which killed 34 and injured 105.

Five of those involved are still imprisoned, though reports say that after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian authorities had promised to release them. A local mediator said the motive of the kidnapping was to trade the hostages for their arrested clansmen as well as to send an "outcry against injustice" to the international community.

A wave of Chinese expat workers

According to data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, more than 800,000 Chinese work overseas. This number is expected to double by the end of 2012. Non-financial sector foreign investment is $60 billion.

This kind of scale brings increasing risk to overseas operations. China is the biggest trade partner and most important investor in Africa. More than 2,000 Chinese companies engage in business on the continent. The total Sino-African trade volume has reached $150-160 billion. The increasingly large numbers of staff and new projects are likely to raise the probability that Chinese workers are exposed to dangers.

Africa is a place full of opportunities. But there are certainly risks involved with doing business there. Various tribes, religions, politics, economics, urban and rural realities, as well as divisions of the rich and the poor, make Africa a particularly complex place full of contradictions.

Even the French, British, Turkish and Lebanese who have been there for years are often involved in unexpected calamities. The Chinese are "latecomers," but ones who are entering quickly and in large numbers, which means they are ever more likely to stumble into already existing disputes.

Chinese enterprises and individuals, whether in Africa or elsewhere, have particular habits. They keep lots of cash on hand, hire mostly fellow Chinese, have a very closed management style, and use money as a solution whenever encountering unexpected problems.

For all of these reasons, Chinese workers are easy targets in foreign lands. Chinese enterprises and individuals are increasingly aware and vigilant about the dangers; and have carried out several large-scale evacuations in danger zones. Nevertheless, the events of the last few days remind us that with the expanding Chinese presence in certain places, even if we don't look for trouble, trouble can still find us.

Read the original article in Chinese

photo - antheap

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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