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China’s Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation

What are the Guidelines?

In February 2013, pressured by complaints from around the world regarding Chinese companies’ lack of respect for local environments and communities, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Environment publicized the Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation (“the Guidelines”). The purpose of doing so, according to the two ministries, was “in order to direct enterprises in China to further regularize their environmental protection behaviors in foreign investment and cooperation, guide them to actively perform their social responsibilities of environmental protection, and promote the sustainable development of foreign investment and cooperation”.

How useful are the Guidelines?

Unfortunately, the Guidelines are still weak. For example, compliance is voluntary. Even if Chinese companies do not follow these guidelines, they will not face legal actions. It is also not clear where you can send a complaint when you think the Chinese company is not following the Guidelines. So, the Guidelines need to be strengthened much more. But to improve them, we should use them first and apply them to projects being developed by Chinese companies. We can then show Chinese authorities where and how they should be strengthened.

Also, these guidelines are not very long and community members can easily refer to them as a set of standards to request or demand Chinese companies to follow them and/or change their behavior. Like any rules, just having them is not enough. Though there is no enforcement mechanism for the Guidelines, they might be useful to indicate that Chinese government standards support your complaints.

How to use the Guidelines: A Community Guide

We have translated the Guidelines into Khmer and also made A Community Guide on China’s Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation (“The Community Guide”) in Khmer and English to help community members use the Guidelines.

Here are some ideas as to how you might want to use the Guidelines:

  1. When the Chinese company does not provide you with information, you can point out to them: (Article 20) “[E]nterprises…establish a way of communication and dialogue mechanism for enterprises’ environmental social responsibilities, take the initiative to strengthen their contacts and communications with their communities and relevant social groups.”*
  2. When Chinese workers damage a spirit house or important site in your community, you can point out to them: (Article 3) “[E]nterprises should respect the religious belief, cultural traditions and national customs of community residents of the host country.”
  3. When Chinese workers come to work in your community with no advance notice, you can point out to them: (Article 1) “[E]nterprises…actively perform their social responsibilities of environmental protection, set up good international images for Chinese enterprises.”

These are only some examples. Study the Guidelines and Community Guide for yourself and develop more ideas. We also welcome initiatives to have the Community Guide translated into other languages.


A scene from a community workshop to discuss the Guidelines (April 2014)

Not for conflict, but for compliance

Please remember, though, the purpose of the Community Guide is not to create conflicts between your community and the Chinese company. We would like Chinese companies to follow rules so that they can “promote the sustainable development of foreign investment and cooperation” as the Guidelines state at the beginning.

Related information:

中华人民共和国 商务部 环境保护部《对外投资合作环境保护指南》商合函[2013]74号 2013-02-18(Chinese original) 
http://www.mofcom.gov.cn/article/b/bf/201302/20130200039930.shtml

Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China, Shang He Han [2013] No. 74 February 18, 2013. Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation
(English translation by Hu Xiaoying) http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/article/policyrelease/bbb/201303/20130300043226.shtml
Khmer translation by Mekong Watch http://www.mekongwatch.org/PDF/ChinaENVguideline_KM20140326.pdf

A Community Guide on China’s Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation (by Mekong Watch & 3SPN)
English http://www.mekongwatch.org/PDF/ChinaENVguideline_CommunityGuideENG20140326.pdf
Khmer http://www.mekongwatch.org/PDF/ChinaENVguideline_CommunityGuideKM20140326.pdf
Lao http://www.mekongwatch.org/PDF/ChinaENVguideline_CommunityGuideLAO20140326.pdf

An announcement (in Chinese and English) by Global Environmental Institute, a Chinese NGO which “initiated” the Guidelines http://www.geichina.org/index.php?controller=News&action=View&nid=189

“Chinese Government Guidelines for Overseas Investment” by International Rivers
http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/chinese-government-guidelines-for-overseas-investment-7934


*All quotations of the Guidelines on this page are taken from the English translation of the original Chinese Guidelines.



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