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PSCs because

Postprzez tujue » 12 lip 2018, o 08:16

A police officer stands guard at the security perimeter around the scene of an explosion on March 14 Justin Bailey Womens Jersey , 2016, after a car bomb went off in central Ankara, Turkey. Photo: CFP
As the government encourages State-owned companies to go abroad under the "One Belt and One Road" initiative, keeping Chinese workers safe abroad is becoming more important than ever.

The regular bursts of gunfire on the mountains rang in the workers' ears. Two kilometers away from the shooting, about 600 Chinese citizens continued their construction work.

Some of them were so afraid that they wanted to talk about it with Li Xin, the project's security consultant.

"Don't worry. It's just a military drill, not a real battle. You will be safe," Li told the workers.

But the 37-year-old knew exactly what was going on. The Turkish army was skirmishing with the PKK, a militant left-wing Kurdish political party that has been fighting the Turkish government since the late 1970s. But he didn't want to scare the workers.

"I felt a bit worried, but I didn't feel afraid. I've got a backup plan for the worst-case scenario, if the PKK breach the army's defenses," Li told the Global Times. If that happened, workers will take shelter in a bullet-proof structure built for this purpose.

Li was entrusted with this security mission right after three of the project's workers were kidnapped by the PKK in 2014. The Chinese State-owned enterprise responsible for the project hired one of China's leading private security companies (PSCs) VSS Security Group - of which Li is an employee.

The company - which Li declined to name - stopped work for about four months after the kidnapping. During that time, Li went to the construction site in Turkey to help them upgrade their security.

As Chinese companies increasingly go abroad, especially given the government's current enthusiasm for infrastructure projects across Eurasia, Li is just one of many thousands of security workers that have been paid to protect workers in dangerous environments.

Liu Xinping, deputy director of the China Overseas Security and Defense Research Center, estimated that the China National Petroleum Corporation, the Sinopec Group and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, together spend about $2 billion a year in overseas security.

"Many Chinese companies want to use Chinese PSCs. But the problem is that there is a lack of qualified PSCs that can provide complete security services," Liu told the Global Times.

On duty

Before Li went to the site, the place was guarded by Turkish security staff.

"There were many loopholes," he recalled. After his arrival, CCTV cameras were installed; the barbed wire surrounding the campsite was replaced by a reinforced concrete wall; and electronic alarms were set up.

Later the three hostages were released due to the efforts of the Chinese and Turkish governments.

Li served in the People's Liberation Army special forces for five years before joining VSS. He used to give lectures to workers on what they can do to stay safe if they face a terrorist attack. In 2009, the company began to send its staff overseas with Chinese companies.

His first mission was to Sudan. One night, a worker was kidnapped by armed locals. They said they would release the Chinese national only if the Sudanese government released their leader's brother, who had been imprisoned for smuggling ammunition.

"This got the attention of the then Sudanese president. On the day of the negotiations, the tribe was surrounded by Sudan's army. Eventually, they released our hostage," Li said.

According to him, Chinese private security workers are forbidden from carrying guns under national law, even when overseas. So when there are terrorist attacks and people are kidnapped, they would immediately contact their local embassy to help deal with those issues.

"This [being unable to carry a gun] poses a hurdle for us," said he. "But I can use what I learned in the army to give security suggestions and make advanced plans, and I also supervise foreign security staff."

Rising market

Zhai Leiming, deputy director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in April 2015 that Chinese consulates are chronically short of staff. "Each employee has to protect 200,000 citizens. No nation in the world has ever dealt with such a huge task," Zhai said, referring to the disparity between the total number of Chinese consulate staff and the total number of Chinese going abroad every year.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of Chinese investment abroad. In 2015, it reached about 735.1 billion yuan ($111 billion). And Chinese investors are often seen in countries which are less popular with Western investors, due to their political instability or controversial governments, reported news portal NetEase.

So private PSCs are filling the gap. Zhe Meijie, founder of the VSS Security Group, told the Global Times that the "One Belt and One Road" initiative has been a boon to his business.

"Under the initiative, how to protect Chinese people and companies' interests overseas has become a national focus. Also, as more and more Chinese companies and citizens go abroad, many have encountered terrorist attacks and need protection," he said.

Last year, three Chinese executives from a State-owned railway company were killed in a hotel attack in the West African nation of Mali.

Most of Zhe's clients are State-owned companies. "There are also some big private enterprises and few international organizations," he said.

Zhe noted that State-owned companies prefer Chinese PSCs because - aside from language and cultural factors - they feel they can trust them and that they will safeguard any confidential State secrets that they learn.

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