21 February 2012

Enter China’s Security Firms

Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, Enter China’s Security Firms,” The Diplomat, 21 February 2012.

Chinese private security companies are seeing an opportunity as the U.S. withdraws troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But plenty of complications await them.

A security vacuum is developing around Chinese workers overseas. The recent kidnapping of 29 Chinese workers in Sudan (where another worker was shot dead during the abduction) and 25 workers in Egypt has sparked a strong reaction in China. As a result, Beijing is looking to bolster consular services and protection for Chinese citizens working and travelling overseas. On the corporate side, private analysts are urging companies to do a better job of training employees before they are sent abroad. Yet with at least 847,000 Chinese citizen workers and 16,000 companies scattered around the globe, some of them in active conflict zones such as Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, key projects and their workers are likely to require more than just an expanded consular staff to keep them safe.

It’s with an eye on this growing danger that new Chinese private security providers see a business opportunity. Shandong Huawei Security Group appears to be a leader among Chinese security providers, which thus far have predominantly focused on the country’s robust internal market for bodyguard and protective services. Huawei provides internal services, but in October 2010, opened an “Overseas Service Center” in Beijing. The company’s statement on the center’s opening explicitly cites the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and the potential for a security vacuum to result, as key drivers of its decision to target the Iraq market. …

For analysis of China’s evolving effort to protect its citizens following abductions in Sudan and Egypt, with implications for its workers in Iraq and Afghanistan, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “China’s New Challenge: Protecting Its Citizens Abroad,” China Real Time Report (中国事实报), Wall Street Journal, 10 February 2012.

For overall analysis of Beijing’s Libya evacuation operations, see Gabe Collins and Andrew S. Erickson, “Implications of China’s Military Evacuation of Citizens from Libya,” Jamestown China Brief, 11.4 (10 March 2011): 8-10.

For details on the air component of military support for China’s evacuation operations, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “The PLA Air Force’s First Overseas Operational Deployment: Analysis of China’s decision to deploy IL-76 transport aircraft to Libya,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 27 (1 March 2011).

For more details on Beijing’s dispatching of the frigate Xuzhou to escort ships transporting Chinese citizens from Libya, see:

–Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “Missile Frigate Xuzhou Transits Suez Canal, to Arrive off Libya ~Wednesday 2 March: China’s first operational deployment to Mediterranean addresses Libya’s evolving security situation,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 26 (27 February 2011).

–Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “China Dispatches Warship to Protect Libya Evacuation Mission: Marks the PRC’s first use of frontline military assets to protect an evacuation mission,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 25 (24 February 2011).

For analysis of Beijing’s interests in Gaddafi-era Libya and the surrounding region, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “Libya Looming: Key strategic implications for China of unrest in the Arab World and Iran,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 24 (22 February 2011).

For early projections regarding Chinese efforts to protect citizens overseas, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “Looking After China’s Own: Pressure to Protect PRC Citizens Working Overseas Likely to Rise,” China Signpost 洞察中国™, No. 2 (17 August 2010).