Right approach needed to investing in hot spots

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2007, 12:00am

China's economic expansion and rising international importance is taking it to increasingly dangerous parts of the world. No matter how good diplomatic relations are with those nations, it is inevitable that Chinese nationals will get unwittingly caught up in conflicts as they go about their work. Such was the case last week with those killed and kidnapped by separatist rebels in a raid on a mainland oil company operating in eastern Ethiopia.

The target was Ethiopian soldiers guarding the premises, but the workers and their Ethiopian counterparts became victims. Thankfully, seven kidnapped workers were released by their captors on Sunday.

This is not the first time Chinese have been caught in foreign crossfire, nor will it be the last; among cases in recent years were the shooting of mainland United Nations peacekeepers patrolling southern Lebanon during fighting between Israel's military and Hezbollah guerillas, and workers in Iraq and Afghanistan taken by insurgents. Diplomatically, Beijing is also doing business with politically sensitive countries such as Iran, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Myanmar. As much as state leaders argue such dealings are based purely on economics and the domestic affairs of these nations are not its concern, Beijing cannot shy away from the fact that issues like nuclear proliferation and human rights are international matters.

In the wake of last Tuesday's attack in Ethiopia, the government called on mainland companies based overseas to fully assess the risks to their employees and operations and improve security. These are sensible measures. Beijing certainly needs to be perceptive about the circumstances on the ground in the countries where its nationals are based and the risks they face.

Equally importantly, however, it needs a balanced approach to investment and humanitarian work. Appearing to be yet another power seeking natural resources in return for little for the host country's people will create enemies, not friends. With careful planning and a measured approach, China's rise can be beneficial for the whole world.