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Accepted Paper:

Contention, CSR practices, and change? Examining Chinese mining investments in Africa  
Jan Sändig (University of Bayreuth) Jana Hönke (Universityät Bayreuth) Claude Kabemba (Southern Africa Resource Watch)

Paper short abstract:

Since Chinese investors are often criticized for lacking social engagement, we examine the circumstances under which Chinese miners in Guinea and the DRC pursue corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions. Also, we discuss whether CSR contributes to structural transformation.

Paper long abstract:

Chinese companies have been at the forefront of the recent investment wave in Africa. Yet, critics complain that the Chinese investors pursue neocolonialism, thus exploiting natural resources while shirking social commitments. We challenge this stereotypic claim by examining the circumstances under which Chinese mining companies adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. We are particularly interested, along the lines of social movement research, in the link between contentious actions and CSR. Our cases comprise major investments from two mining hotspots: Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As sources, we rely on interviews, company publications, and media and NGO reports. Tracing the processes of CSR adoption, we find that contentious actions indeed contribute to CSR practices by the Chinese miners. Especially broad-based and potentially violent local protest matters, alongside attention from international NGOs which creates supply chain pressure. However, regulation and industry standards matter too: the Chinese state and the governments of Guinea and the DRC have been pushing for CSR through increased regulation; at the same time, Chinese mining companies that cater global markets have strong economic incentives to respect the CSR standards of the mining industry. Hence, we find that diverse factors – many of which are familiar from Western investments – contribute to CSR adoption. In terms of structural transformation, however, we argue that CSR – as also familiar from Western cases – tends to reproduce rather than overcome existing political structures and inequalities.

Panel Econ25
Diversifying dependence or structural transformation: China's engagement in Africa
  Session 1 Saturday 3 June, 2023, -