In Peru, workers at China’s Shougang-owned Hierro Peru mine have protested unsafe labor and environmental standards and watched their incomes decline, even as the mine has posted record profits. In Myanmar, where Chinese military assistance props up a brutal dictatorship, Chinese logging companies are ravaging old-growth forests and exploiting mineral resources with little benefit to the Burmese people.
Brazil’s ambassador to the United States, Manuel Rocha, has also noted that while Brazil granted China much-desired recognition as a market economy, China has yet to deliver the huge infrastructure investment or seat among the UN powers that Brazil anticipated in return.
China gets away with this because it has matched its growing economic prowess with an attractive political tag line. Its leaders skate through Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America striking trade and aid deals, outlining grand bargains on infrastructure development, promoting military exchange and cooperation and building hospitals, palaces and sports stadiums. In the process, they pitch their “peaceful rise” diplomacy – China is the rising tide that lifts all economic boats – and portray China as a “kinder, softer, gentler” rising power that doesn’t exploit others’ resources in pursuit of economic gain and doesn’t mix business with politics.