News / Asia

China’s Massive Appetite for Commodities Sparks Concern

Chinese woman talk business  with local women at a shop in Lagos, Nigeria, June 16, 2007. (file photo)
Chinese woman talk business with local women at a shop in Lagos, Nigeria, June 16, 2007. (file photo)

Multimedia

Nico Colombant

China’s massive appetite for commodities is creating concerns for the global economy, the environment and workers in other countries.

In a series of reports, VOA is looking at the economic power modern China wields. Correspondent Nico Colombant reports from Washington.

Chinese government and company officials are signing agreements at a dizzying pace around the world, including in places where few other foreigners invest.

China's Zhonghui Mining Group this year signed a copper mining deal in Zambia valued at $3.6 billion.

And Chinese firms are signing other deals in Africa and other parts of the world for access to oil and other commodities to fuel China's growing economy.

J. Peter Pham, an Africa expert with the Atlantic Council in Washington, thinks Chinese officials have been astute during their commodities buying spree.

“Much of the money is actually tied up in credits or soft loans for infrastructure or for other products which are linked to Chinese firms," he says. "So the amount of cash that governments receive often is much lower than the billion dollar figures that are thrown about.”

When Chinese companies use infrastructure projects as a payment, for example, as is the case in Sudan, they often use equipment, materials and workers from China.

Former U.S. Ambassador David Shinn, who studies China’s relationship with Africa, warns that many deals lack transparency.

"One does not always know what they are being paid nor does one know how clean all of the deals are."

Images of Chinese business interests across the developing world

Environmental concerns

Environmental advocacy groups are also raising questions.

In many parts of Southeast Asia, including here in Indonesia, the environmental group Greenpeace says China’s purchases of palm oil, timber and paper contribute to deforestation.  

Greenpeace activist Bustar Maitar is trying to make sure Chinese companies do not break laws aimed at protecting the forest.

“What I am seeing now is they are much more careful with their operation here in Indonesia, to try to stop being exposed by the non-governmental organization for example.”

Worker's rights

People who work for Chinese companies are also wary.  

In Liberia, where China has overtaken the United States as the leading business partner, many workers complain of mistreatment and low pay from Chinese bosses.

One woman, who would not be named, took part in a protest in the capital, Monrovia.

“They have no care," she says. "They are always laughing at us, beating us up on the job site. They are abusing our parents, abusing ourselves. If you are doing a job and you make a little mistake a Chinese man will come and kick you.”

Chinese officials reject these accusations. They also say that unlike Western investors, Chinese investors do not meddle in internal politics.

In rural Senegal, the Chinese owner of a sesame seed processing plant, Riping Ouyang, defends his work.

“It is not about exploiting the country and taking its money." he says. "No, on the contrary, we come to help the country and the rural areas, so that they can work and have their own earnings.”

Most commodity prices have risen sharply since the turn of the new century, coinciding with growing Chinese needs.

Economists say the commodity price boom could continue over the next decade or so, while China’s enormous commodity appetite will last much longer and its effects will only deepen.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid