In 2007, the central government came up with “Accelerating implementation of China’s agriculture going out ” strategy , giving full support to companies which export agricultural products in terms of brand registration in overseas market, organizing activities such as overseas market investigation and market planning From 2008 to 2013, China’s net outward foreign investment in agriculture increased from 170 million to 1.81 billion US dollars, with the percentage in net outward foreign investment increased from 0.31% to 1.7%.
As one of the major agricultural overseas investors, Chinese enterprises made positive contributions to host countries’ improvement of agricultural techniques, infrastructure construction and agricultural product market. Meanwhile, some enterprises exerted negative influence on host countries, for instance, local farmers lost their land or other resources; local employees were underpaid and overloaded; change of planting structure brought harm to soil quality and biodiversity.
Only by the foreign development strategy, ‘government sets up the stage and firms perform the show’, is difficult to effectively deal with the risks, challenges, social issues and environmental issues faced by firms during their overseas investment. International issues caused by globalization should be jointly solved by Chinese government, enterprises and host countries together with Chinese NGOs through supervision, advocacy and cooperation.
There is room for improvement of local NGOs to take action or pay attention on this issue
Domestically speaking, currently the international NGOs are playing primary role in encouraging the Chinese firms to make responsible investment whereas most of the local organizations have not participated in or paid attention to this issue. The reasons why they have not taken action or paid attention to this issue vary from organization to organization. On one hand they lack the willingness to participate or pay attention to the issue; on the other hand they are in shortage of funding, personnel and working partners.
However, the studies have revealed that there is room for improvement for the local NGO to be involved and focus on this issue in the future. ‘Non-agricultural’ ‘action focus’ NGO and ‘attention focus’ NGO have shown that there are great possibilities of paying attention or taking promoting actions in terms of overseas agricultural investment of the Chinese firms in the future. Although ‘no attention focus’ NGO said it is ‘uncertain’, there is still room for interference.
Compared with Chinese enterprises, Chinese NGOs “went out” much later. In our research, we divide Chinese NGO into three groups: action group, attention group and zero attention group; to promote more NGOs to join in advocating Chinese companies to make responsible investment in overseas agriculture, we select agriculture as our research field, explain about features, strategies and work mode of Chinese NGO of action group, based on experiences of Chinese local NGO and explore the reason why some NGO have paid no attention or taken any action in this regard, so as to find out a way to make change. Our research results and advises are presented as below.
Most of Action NGOs are in the phase of learning and exploration
According to the publics, ‘action focus’ NGOs generally form their own advocacy strategies which need for further improvement. Currently, ‘action focus’ NGO works for various objects with high level of convergence in work practices. They primarily conduct their work in the form such as research, seminars and report translation etc. Most of the organizations are still in the phase of learning and exploration phase in terms of promoting responsible overseas investment of Chinese firms. Due to the lack of information and knowledge, the research and communication have become the primarily way of working.
It can be seen from the examples that a few ‘action focus’ NGOs have made progress in promoting firms and policy, while they are still confronting challenges in terms of playing role in the firm level and making differences in the change of corporate behaviours. In order to explore effective working practices, learning practical experience and actions are needed.
Lacking foundation for cooperation between Government, firms and NGOs
Achieving the goal of responsible overseas investment for Chinese firms requires for the cooperation between Chinese government, firms and NGO. However, these three main players are lacking effective communication mechanism which makes it difficult to build trust and leads to the lack of foundation for cooperation.
On one hand, as Chinese government and firms have not recognized the divers positioning and functions of NGO, they are ‘maintaining constant vigilance’ against the NGO; on the other hand they have not realized the important role NGO plays and the value NGO has. From the perspective of NGO, because they do not understand the operation mode or the needs of government and firms, additionally, they ignore the complex environment in which government and firms are. These lead NGO tend to make moral criticism. Holding prejudices against each other, it is hard for the three players to establish an effective communication mechanism which leads to the cooperation.
NGOs play an essential role in promoting Chinese firms to make responsible overseas agricultural investment. Not only can they benefit the Chinese diplomacy but also they may build positive cooperation relationship between the Chinese firms and the local community. Moreover, they shared the important benefits in solving the global social issues. In accordance to the points above, the following recommendations are proposed.
Increasing participation and attention of local NGOs requires for meeting their different needs. Currently, many organizations have recognized the importance and value of the NGO in terms of promoting Chinese firms to invest overseas. Consequently, they have taken actions to encourage the participation and attention of NGO. However, different types of NGO call for different external support. For instance, ‘action focus’ NGO requires for ‘practical experience’, ‘attention focus’ NGO calls for ‘project funds’, ‘no attention focus’ NGO needs both ‘practical experience’ and ‘relevant information and knowledge’. Hence, promoting the involvement of the NGOs should provide appropriate support in accordance to their distinctive type.
Establishing an effective communication mechanism between NGOs, government and firms in China. Actions should be taken by Chinese government and firms such as recognizing the divers positioning and functions of NGO, having trust in NGO, realizing the importance and value of NGO, respecting their values and mission and establishing positive interaction with them. As for Chinese NGO, actions should be taken such as knowing more about the operation mode and needs of the government and firms, basing on respecting their goals and mission, making less moral criticism and providing constructive solutions to problems. On the basis of mutual understanding and trust, the effective communication mechanism can be made between Chinese NGO, government and firms.