Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
After all, Chinese companies are arguably more embedded than ever: they were born and
grew to prominence as state-owned enterprises; they rely on the government to provide de-
velopment permits for domestic projects, often by skirting around the laws that mandate
social and environmental reviews; and they increasingly depend on the Chinese govern-
ment to smooth their entry into foreign markets through bilateral diplomatic relationships
and the provision of favorable financing terms. But they are utterly disembedded in other
ways, showing little accountability to local people affected by domestic projects and owing
little or nothing to the citizens of the foreign countries where they work, beyond whatever
resource-trading agreement has been brokered. If we wish to apply a term to this new ar-
rangement, perhaps an appropriate one would be neosocialism , which Frank Pieke uses to
refer to a “combination of centralization, strengthening, and selective retreat of the state”
(2009:10). In short, the government pulls back in some areas—particularly in exercising
regulatory oversight or in providing social services—while continuing to actively facilitate
marketization and privatization.
There is nothing novel or unique about this model of public-private cooperation, of
course. Critics of international financial institutions and of bilateral aid agencies have long
observed a common pattern by which a given development agency secures a contract with
a foreign government, favors its own companies or NGOs in the provision of subcontracts,
and thereby ensures that many of the long-term benefits of development projects remain
insular. In the near term, the key question will be how committed Chinese firms are to
abiding by internationally established practices for environmental and social safeguards.
that it would adopt World Bank displacement and resettlement safeguards as its minimum
standards (International Rivers 2012:21). These guidelines require consultation with affec-
ted parties and full disclosure of development plans as well as the completion of an EIA
prior to the beginning of construction. They also set basic standards for enacting resettle-
ment plans and compensating displaced people, managing the long-term effects on the cul-
tural heritage of vulnerable groups, and establishing clear mechanisms to hear and address
grievances. Although there is reason for skepticism about how well these policies will be
implemented over the long term, International Rivers has optimistically called Sinohydro's
announcement “the first time a Chinese hydropower construction company has articulated
its policy commitments at this level of detail” (2012:22).
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