Bradley J. Murg, Director of Research
This week we kick things off with a link to an excellent piece by Elizabeth Economy, the foremost expert on Chinese environmental policy, on that very topic. We highly recommend her book on the issue, The River Runs Black. A particularly relevant quote from today's article:
"Whatever positive steps China is taking at home are not being replicated in its behavior abroad. China is the world’s largest exporter of coal-fired power plant finance and technology. Even as Xi is calling for an “international coalition for green development on the Belt and Road” (his comprehensive new trade and development initiative involving 65 countries), Beijing is backing more than 100 new coal-fired power projects in the Belt and Road countries. China’s much-touted Belt and Road deals in Pakistan, for example, include plans for as many as 12 coal-fired power plants—even in areas recognized for their superior solar energy potential. In addition, China is actively pushing coal-to-chemical plants abroad. The Paris accords don’t account for countries’ actions outside their own borders, so China is not breaking the letter of its Paris commitments, but these Belt and Road investments are certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the agreement."
So let's all stop assuming One Belt/One Road is consistent with China's purported "global environmental leadership," which sounds very much like the many years Beijing trotted out its actions during the Asian Financial Crisis to depict itself as a "responsible" (a word uttered ad nauseam by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) power. [politico]
But to get back to the neighborhood, here are a few things that caught our eye this week ...
- It's difficult to get a read on the total number of Chinese migrants in Cambodia - but anecdotally - the number appears to be growing and Cambodian immigration appears to be cracking down with 143 PRC citizens arrested for immigration violations.
- In One Belt, One Road news - China Shenzhou Great Wall International Construction signed a MOU for the development of future PPPs concerning bridge, school, and industrial park construction in Cambodia, continuing the influx of PRC construction firms. So we'll be seeing even more "安全第一!" (Safety first - it's more theoretical than practical) signs around the country.
- Of the 100 or so buses which we noted in an earlier post were donated by Beijing to assist in the development of Phnom Penh's nascent public transit system, 57 are now in operation. So that traffic problem is solved then.
- FDI figures in the financial sector are out for the first half of 2017, a respectable USD 439 million. Breakdowns are not available but the initial data seems to indicate the increases are not China-related and that Chinese capital controls are holding steady.
- The Hainanese community in Phnom Penh recently elected a new chair at a celebratory banquet highlighting the history of the Hainese community in Cambodia (congratulations!). At the same time, down the road the Guangdong Province and Hong Kong SAR economic representation offices/chambers of commerce held various events to highlight new potential areas of economic opportunity/investment in Cambodia (time to step up your game a bit AmCham/EuroCham!)
- Here's the big news of the week - China is now Cambodia's largest external creditor, holding 45% of Cambodian external debt, with the bulk of these loans (88%) going to infrastructure projects in Cambodia. While the process is extremely efficient, we remain wary of Beijing's approach to lending in light of comparative experiences in Latin America.
- Lastly, efforts continue to expand Chinese language education in Cambodia in order to meet the needs of Chinese firms in country and further facilitate Chinese investment in the country. At last we have some solid numbers - according to the Director of Chinese-Cambodian education there are at present 230 Chinese language schools in Cambodia and (as we have noted previously) it is Yunnan province (Gateway to Cambodia - sort of!) where the action is, with various Yunnanese institutions providing teacher training and the Yunnan Province Office of External Affairs increasingly leading the way in this and other areas Cambodia-related.
That's all for this week, as always: 谢谢您的注意!