Overpopulation, want of more resources, fuel desire for land in overseas territories
China’s obsession with getting its hands on valued commodities in vulnerable and underdeveloped countries is still under the microscope in this week’s article.
Daily, China’s insatiable appetite for valuable commodities is highlighted in its modus operandi. Its favourite targets include land, gold, diamond, timber and oil.
The world power’s penchant for land is today’s focus
An environmental research paper written by J.W Seaquist, Emma Li Johansson and Kimberly Nicholas highlights the fact that China is the world’s number one country for taking ownership of land outside its jurisdiction. China exercises ownership of land in 33 of 195 countries.
Land is generally valued in any country. However there are three main reasons why land acquisition has become so important to China. These reasons are: China’s growing population, the need for food security, and its thirst for land rich in valuable natural resources.
Let us examine these three reasons.
China has close to 1.4 billion people. The country has been deemed so over populated that its authorities, since 1979, imposed a one child policy. The policy began to phase out in 2015 and has since been reconsidered to two children per family. Because of overpopulation, and in some cases, because of business, Chinese nationals have begun to spread out.
Some countries are used as a hub for Chinese nationals. However, if they spot good opportunities they may opt to spend a little more time there. Most countries have a Chinese diaspora. Born and bred citizens of Sri Lanka are beginning to complain. The Colombo Port City in Sri Lanka is actually being referred to as China City because of the population of Chinese in that country. The City is said to be 585,000 acres https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrAf_LVtbaI.
Further, China’s economic ambitions have forced it to seek land outside of its territory in order to sustain its food security. China has approximately 20 per cent of the world’s population and only seven per cent of arable land. With its expanding industries, the country is running out of available land for agricultural purposes.
According to the Financial Times, Chinese companies are encouraged to buy farmland abroad, particularly in Africa and South America to boost its food security.
By the end of 2014, Chinese investors attained 240,000 hectares of farmland in Africa. Countries which experienced some of the largest investments were Mozambique, Cameroon and Ethiopia. It was also reported that China purchased a significant amount of farmland in the Congo.
Outside of Africa, in 2013, China leased three million hectares of land in Ukraine at a cost of £1.7 billion. This agreement is valid for 50 years. The land is supposed to be used for growing crops and rearing pigs.
Additionally, as of October 2015, Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin Group bought a total of 29 farms through local subsidiaries in New Zealand. However, the New Zealand government became concerned about the land-grabbing and rejected the company’s bid to purchase another farm at a cost £36M which measured 13,800 hectares.
While land in itself is a major resource, there are plots that can also be rich with other resources; land with thick vegetation (timber), land rich in gold and diamond and land that covers oil, has always been China’s preference.
China is in love with accumulating resource rich lands. While greater focus will be placed on the country’s appetite for gold, timber and oil in other articles, consider this a preview.
China’s access to the natural resources of countries has been made relatively easy through a strategy it developed which has become so popular it has attracted its own name—‘The Angola Model.’ The strategy got its name since it was first executed in Angola. It has since been used on many countries in the African continent.
The ‘Angola Model’ is the process where Chinese financing is given to countries. These loan agreements are associated with acquiring the country’s natural resources. Acquiring natural resources translates to exercising control over land rich in commodities such as gold, oil and timber.
Many of the African countries where China has a strong presence usually find it difficult to access funding from the international market. Since China provides loans at low interest rates, Africa’s vulnerable nations gravitate to accessing Chinese financing. China grants loans to these countries that rely heavily on their natural resources as collateral.
Here in Guyana, we have had our own share of experiences with Chinese occupation of prime land for housing, farming and for the taking of our resources.
Baishanlin Forest Developers Inc., as a prime example, is linked to the government of China, since China Longjiang Forest Industry (group), which has a 55 per cent hold on Baishanlin, is owned by the State.
Baishanlin and other Chinese companies were given massive logging concessions covering almost 1,000,000 hectares (3,681 sq. mi) which is about 4.5 per cent of Guyana (More on this in articles to come).
The Central Housing and Planning Authority has filed legal action against Baishanlin. The Authority is seeking to reclaim just about 100 acres of land currently in the hands of the company. This is so, since the company has failed to live up to the terms and conditions contained within the agreement of sale which calls for the development of the land.
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