Leading article: Facing down the Chinese dragon

Share
Related Topics

These are uncertain times for western businesses which operate in China. The trial in Shanghai of four executives of the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, including one Australian citizen, on charges of bribery and commercial espionage ended yesterday. The verdict is not expected for several days but the trial has already exposed the opaqueness of the Chinese courts.

Foreign observers were barred from significant parts of the trial, despite strong representations from the Australian government. Few details of the allegations have been released. And there is a belief in some quarters that this is all revenge for Rio Tinto's decision to spurn an offer of Chinese investment last year when the mining giant was in financial difficulties.

Whatever the truth, the trial has fed a mood of concern among foreign businesses in the country. A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China this month found that 38 per cent of its members felt unwelcome in the country, up from 26 per cent last year. Their top concerns were inconsistent regulation and judicial treatment. Some newly introduced commercial rules stipulate that sellers of high-tech goods must contain Chinese intellectual property. There is a widespread belief that Beijing wants to squeeze foreign technology companies out of lucrative markets to sell computers and office equipment to government departments.

Meanwhile, Beijing's dispute with Google continues to rage. The internet search giant made good on its threat to pull out of mainland China this week. In return it is being accused by the authorities of being part of a US government plot to impose American values on China.

Google's defiance of Beijing makes for an interesting contrast with the behaviour of Rio Tinto. Despite the trial of his employees, Rio Tinto's chief executive, Tom Albanese, has said his company is still committed to strengthening ties with China. Rio Tinto even signed a new deal with the Chinese aluminium giant, Chinalco, last week. Mr Albanese and his shareholders seem prepared to put up with Beijing's behaviour for the sake of the bottom line. Google on the other hand is taking a firm line, despite the commercial opportunities it is likely to forgo.

Google's stance is certainly the more risky in the short term. But it might also prove wiser in the longer term. China has grown at an incredible rate these past two decades. The country's politically authoritarian model of state capitalism has not been the constraint on economic expansion that many predicted. But it does seem likely that China will, in the end, run into problems if it fails to bring transparency to its courts, or allow greater rights of free expression to its vast population. If radical political change does come to China, its population will remember those western interests which took their freedoms into consideration, and those which put such scruples to one side for the sake of profit.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world