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Beijing Urges Libya to Protect Chinese Investments

  • Stephanie Ho

A paramilitary policeman stands guard at the entrance of the Libyan Embassy in Beijing, August 23, 2011

A paramilitary policeman stands guard at the entrance of the Libyan Embassy in Beijing, August 23, 2011

China is urging Libya to protect Beijing's oil investments in the country, saying they benefit both nations.

Chinese Commerce Ministry official Wen Zhongliang says Beijing is especially concerned with the safety of its investments in Libya.

Wen said after Libya returns to stability, Beijing hopes the new government will continue to protect the interests and rights of Chinese investors there. He said China also hopes to continue investment and economic cooperation with Libya in the future.

The Chinese spokesman was responding to a question about comments by an official at a rebel-run Libyan oil firm, who said China and Russia could lose out on oil contracts for failing to fully back the rebellion against Moammar Gadhafi.

Moscow and Beijing abstained when the U.N. Security Council voted in March for a resolution authorizing air strikes against Gadhafi’s forces to protect civilians in Libya. Chinese officials later complained the air strikes exceeded the U.N. mandate and called for a ceasefire.

But Beijing also has reached out to the Libyan rebels by hosting their leaders and sending envoys for talks.

State-run media say China is involved in 50 projects in Libya, mostly building roads, buildings and infrastructure, worth nearly $20 billion. Libya provided about three percent of China’s imported crude last year.

Since the start of this week’s turmoil in Tripoli, the Chinese government has said only that it respects the will of the Libyan people and is ready to play a proactive role in Libya’s future reconstruction. A commentary in the Global Times newspaper Tuesday stressed that position, by saying one lesson from the situation in Libya is “never underestimate the power of the people.”

At the same time, China’s largest oil and gas producer, Great Wall Drilling Company, shut down six major projects in Libya, Syria, Niger and Algeria because of political instability.

There are no details about the specific projects, but a report on state media Monday said the closures would cost the company nearly $200 million in lost revenue. Great Wall Drilling Company is a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

Chinese Internet users discussed the unfolding events in Libya on Tuesday. One wrote that an exciting and strange story attracts people’s attention, another said Libya will become an American puppet. One user discussed the economic concerns from the rebellion, saying the situation in Libya is likely to lead to higher domestic oil prices in China.