Overseas expansion of Chinese firms boosts demand for security services

Updated 2018-01-24 09:54:01

Fu Chen, a former member of elite military unit the French Foreign Legion (FFL), is preparing to go on a business trip to Africa after opening a branch office there of his start-up - an international security firm.

Fu, who retired from the FFL in 2015, made the statement in an interview with the Global Times, adding that his main work is his overseas security business in addition to some security-related training sessions.

Fu's FFL experience has gained him nearly 900,000 followers on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, with many military enthusiasts asking him questions such as "How exactly do I join the FFL?" on an almost daily basis.

"Most of them are only being impulsive when they ask these questions, and few will actually make the trip," Fu told the media, recalling his overseas service from 2010, "In the first four months, more than 20 of the 50 men who joined the legion together with me just quit and left."

When he was a legionnaire, Fu's military journey brought him from French colonial islands in the Pacific Ocean to the deserts of West Africa.

"Some were even commissioned to fight in Afghanistan," he said, and the hands-on experience of real combat which almost took his fellow soldiers' lives now makes Fu reluctant to share FFL recruitment practices online. Even before his retirement from the FFL, Fu had high hopes for his start-up. "As more Chinese firms expand their business operations overseas, it could be a promising future for us veterans," Fu said of his idea of starting up an international security company.

Taking responsibility

On August 13, 2010, China's Ministry of Commerce, together with seven other ministries and agencies, released a special directive stipulating that Chinese companies should bear the main risks of doing business overseas, while underscoring the necessity for these companies to provide security training to their employees.

According to a Beijing-based international security company, also one of the first Chinese security firms to operate overseas in 2006, it was only after the release of this official document that the services offered by overseas security firms became a strict requirement for Chinese-backed companies overseas. The security firm's main customers are Chinese companies that carry out projects in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

A Chinese security officer, Wang Xiaoming (pseudonym), currently based in the Middle East, told the Global Times on Monday that his business carries out security assessments of locations before a company starts its overseas business, and also makes security plans and trains employees to respond to potential emergency situations.

Echoing Wang, Fu told the Chengdu Business Daily on January 16 that the first and most important duty for security companies is to put in place precautionary measures based on assessments made of the local risks, taking all factors, including the political situation and local militancy, into consideration.

Compared to those foreign security companies, they can more effectively coordinate with local Chinese embassies and Chinese peacekeeping forces, Wang said.

However, overseas security companies have problems recruiting qualified employees, as there is no college major addressing this field, Wang said. He adds that most companies prefer to hire people who have a military or police training background, but their lack of language proficiency often means they fail to meet the requirements for working in a foreign country.

Growing budget

As China's companies become more international, their security budgets are also growing.

Chinese oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation has put more than .3 billion of its total 0 billion overseas investment into meeting the company's security needs, China Economy Weekly reported.

To ensure the safety of the company, the security budget makes up a proportionately large amount of its investment, the Power China International Group Limited also told the media.

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