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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs