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Tianjin’s Questions for the Emerging World

, August 18, 2015, 0 Comments

china-tianjin-emerging-world-marketexpress-inThe Chinese are buying copper mines in Afghanistan. The Chinese are re-directing the flow of rivers in Ecuador. Even as ISIS continues to tear Iraq apart 38% of foreign investment comes from China. Moreover, a whopping 98% of foreign money powering the secretive and mysterious North Korean economy is Chinese. Even as Argentina refuses to pay international creditors Chinese are busy building dams and railways there. Not to forget their proposed $45bn investment in terror-infested Pakistan, a part of their grand Silk Road ambition.

Back home, fatal industrial accidents continue to wreck havoc on Chinese lives and the environment. In 2012, according to an article in The Economist, industrial accidents killed 200 Chinese daily, roughly 70,000 deaths that year! The nuke-like explosion in the port city of Tianjin is the latest and perhaps the deadliest episode of industrial accidents in the history of China. The incident has already claimed over 100 lives (a grossly manipulated and underestimated figure) with a telling effect on air and water quality in the city. Unsurprisingly, this is China’s Chernobyl moment! Despite of its intimidating financial war chest is China investing enough in safeguarding its workers?

Risks of an “Unreformed World”

China has an unequivocal disregard for transparency, governance, environment, and a taste for censorship. As China expands its reach in much of the known world’s failed states and underdeveloped nations we face a risk of an unreformed world. Most Chinese friends are either military despots or failed states with little regards for democracy and transparency. Fully aware of its own disregard for safety and a taste for censorship, interestingly, China majorly invests in countries where media’s powers are curbed or presence non-existent. Industrial accidents are common in much of the coal, energy, and power projects run by China in Africa and Latin America. Under those jaw- dropping headlines of Chinese investments overseas are the hidden risks in the form of disrespect for labor rights, governance, and the environment.

Questions from Tianjin

As much of the Emerging world shares some, if not all, the Chinese features of disregard for governance, labor rights, and the environment, events in Tianjin should concern the exponents of democracy in every emerging nation. At Tianjin residential buildings were a less than a km away from the blast scene. This raises questions on how the govts in the emerging world are dealing with the issue of rapid urbanisation. Tianjin also raises some tough questions on the powers businesses exert to override safety norms. While job creation is important for emerging nations disregard for labor rights and safety norms isn’t desireable. Is there a need to reinstate the labor union system to ensure better representation of labor rights and safety concerns?

The emerging world’s obsession with growth and GDP at-all-costs has created a world that lacks sensitivity to human and climatic issues. Is this sustainable? Should the definition of “growth” per se be widened to accommodate human and climatic issues? Does reforms only mean “Economic” reforms? Can we equate negligence with corruption? Should our business dailies and magazines only prioritise GDP and investment figures over labor and safety matters?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MarketExpress Media Company.

Image Credits: www.news.cn, en.people.cn