Chinese Private Security Companies go abroad, especially Africa

Source: Global Times

Chinese enterprises’ demand for security overseas is rapidly increasing, but the efforts of private security companies (PSCs) to go abroad are being hindered by insufficient policy support.

According to a report issued by the non-governmental Chahar Institute think tank, the number of Chinese companies going abroad exceeds 40,000 and over 1 million Chinese nationals are working overseas for those companies.

Huge market

The task of protecting Chinese enterprises overseas is daunting, especially as the current sources of security – such as seeking consular protection and the authorities taking military action – are insufficient, read the Chahar report.

Zhai Leiming, deputy director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in April that Chinese consulates are understaffed. “Each employee is responsible for protecting 200,000 citizens. No nation in the world has ever dealt with such a huge task,” Zhai said.

“Chinese embassies in high-risk areas could offer limited help and sometimes State support may come at a high political cost. It is necessary that private companies fill the gap, organizing rescue operations and providing everyday security,” Zhang Yan, deputy general manager from Zhongjun Yingji Management of Risk GmbH, a PSC, told the Global Times. Chinese enterprises spent $8 billion on overseas security in 2014 based on conservative estimates, according to the report, which added that many Chinese PSCs want to tackle this huge market.

“The demand is huge especially as more Chinese enterprises will go abroad inspired by the Belt and Road initiative. We are now trying to expand our business to more countries, including Pakistan and Bhutan,” Tao Dexi, a manager from the Beijing-based Ding Tai An Yuan Security Technology Research Institute, a PSC, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

According to Tao, their major clients are firms working in Iraq involved with construction, railways, petroleum and chemical industries and they usually offer risk assessment services to these enterprises, provide security training advisers and organize counter-terrorism training.

Staff shortage

“Although the market is promising, domestic PSCs need to do more if they want a slice of the cake,” Tao said.

“Our company has been doing business in Nigeria for more than 10 years, and usually hire Western PSCs,” an anonymous employee from a Chinese enterprise based in the West African country told the Global Times.

Compared with Western PSCs, Chinese companies started late and have not built a standard operating procedure for their overseas business, said Zhang, adding that employees of PSCs in developed countries may also have language and experience advantages.

According to Tao, Chinese PSCs usually recruit ex-special forces soldiers. The companies give them language training before deploying them abroad. “Chinese PSCs also need more management staff with a good command of English and knowledge of security. These people could communicate better with different circles in local countries, clients and employees, and promote the business,” said Tao.

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