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How to Hold Chinese Corporations Accountable

Photo by Joan Campderrós-i-Canas

China has become a major global investor since the beginning of the 21st century. Chinese investment is reaching all corners of the globe, with Chinese companies and financial institutions active in both developed and developing countries on every continent. Chinese companies play various roles in overseas projects, from research and design to construction, development and operation. Chinese banks, investment funds and insurers make overseas projects possible by providing loans, foreign currency, insurance and equity investments.

Chinese capital is flowing into many sectors, including energy, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, real estate, construction and trade. This investment brings with it potential benefits, but also human rights, social and environmental risks. Communities that have been harmed by these investments, and the civil society advocates who seek to support those communities, often encounter difficulties obtaining project information and engaging developers and financiers, making it challenging to influence project designs, prevent damaging investments or seek redress for harms.

In response to these issues, an increasing number of Chinese companies and financiers have begun to adopt environmental and social policies for their overseas investments. Chinese state institutions and industry associations have also issued general policies as well as voluntary standards that apply to specific sectors and types of actors operating overseas.

The aim of this guide is to help community advocates understand how Chinese investors operate, the standards that apply to their overseas operations, and strategies for holding Chinese companies accountable to their environmental and social responsibilities and commitments.

In this guide, you will find:

  • A background on Chinese overseas investment and finance over the past two decades, from the “Going Out” strategy to the Belt and Road Initiative and China’s aid program.
  • An overview of the key actors involved in Chinese overseas investment, including state-owned and private enterprises, financiers and investors, as well as regulators and industry associations.
  • An overview of Chinese social and environmental policies and guidelines.
  • A deeper examination of particular sectors of Chinese investment and the standards that apply specifically to mining, agriculture and forestry, energy, finance and contracting.
  • A set of practical resources and quick reference guides, including tips for finding information on Chinese projects and stakeholders, tips for effectively engaging Chinese stakeholders, and a compilation of standards, policies and guidelines that apply to Chinese overseas investment.