China must work more closely with the rest of the world to ensure its global hunt for resources to feed its ravenous economy does not wreck communities and ecosystems, conservation group WWF said on Wednesday.
BEIJING -- China must work more closely with the rest of the world to ensure its global hunt for resources to feed its ravenous economy does not wreck communities and ecosystems, conservation group WWF said on Wednesday.
Chinese companies are increasingly investing overseas in mines, oil fields and plantations, and many of these investments have resulted in environmental degradation or are made in countries with dubious human rights records, the group said.
"The global quest for natural resources is closely linked to questions to poverty alleviation, corruption, transparency, regulations of transnational corporations, and human rights," the report said.
"The degree to which the Chinese government and corporate sectors are supported by foreign governments and businesses as they engage in these issues will be of great importance," it added.
The world must act now, while China is still in the process of developing its investment policy and practices, the WWF said.
"This presents a window of opportunity to put in place a structure that ensures that both government and business policies in China support long-term sustainable development. This window will, however, close gradually over the next two decades," it said.
"China has a responsibility to ensure that its investments in countries that provide natural resources also assist these countries in achieving domestic, long-term sustainable development," the report added.
China's global search for resources has not been without controversy.
Its state-run companies have been accused of indiscriminate logging in virgin rain forests in Southeast Asia and its energy and mining companies of propping up dictatorial regimes across Africa in return for access to oil, gas and minerals.
"The fact that the country possesses so few natural resources has placed China in a position where the natural resources of other countries have become crucial to it's continued economic development," the WWF said.
China has had to turn to countries like Sudan and Myanmar, shunned in Europe and the U.S., as other, less controversial countries are already dominated by Western multinationals, it said.
The country could also play a leading role in raising environmental and work standards around the world should it seek to do so, the report added.
"China, with its growing acquisition of natural resources worldwide, ... has the opportunity to be one of the world's most influential voices for improving environmental governance on a global level," it said.
"China's role as the world's manufacturing 'factory' is now at a crossroad," the report said.
"China, and the rest of the world, can choose a development path that is less resource-intensive, or can continue to tread the current path, which is certain to lead to increasing global competition for natural resources," the WWF added.