Chinese multinational corporations’ obligations in the global anti-corruption arena Levelling the playing field in Africa

Qingxiu Bit

Both China and Africa confront a similar problem of corruption, which erodes the rule of law, and stifles economic development. Combatting bribery is a global challenge, which contributes primarily to social instability. The global community has taken a more streamlined and unified approach toward bribery', that is, objections to bribery' are commonly shared. China has also made a crusade against corruption an important rhetorical part of its globalization policy. This trend leads multinational corporations (MNCs) to reassess their anti-bribery’ programs to ensure adequate compliance. Many' questions arise as to whether Western MNCs would be disadvantaged in competing with their Chinese counterparts for the lucrative African markets, and whether China’s approaches in Africa would facilitate the anti-corruption sustainably. The chapter focuses on the role that China could play' in helping African countries curb corruption. It proceeds in seven sections below.

Section 1 posits that China has become one of Africa’s main trading partners and Chinese investment and aid in Africa outstrip those of all other countries. Section 2 moves to a theoretical discussion of demand-side anti-corruption and supply-side anti-bribery'. Section 3 examines the relationship between the Chinese custom of gift giving and an African practice of prevalent corruption which may provide a toxic mix. It analyzes the Chinese cultural practice of guanxi which may clash superficially’ with Western notions of corrupt practices. It is argued that Western networking serves the same role as that ofjtz/ in substance. Such a hypothesis may' complicate anti-bribery in Africa both in theory' and in practice. Section 4 discusses an uneven playing field in combating corruption between China and the West in Africa. Hypothetically, the uneven enforcement places Western MNCs in Africa at a competitively disadvantaged position, which argument is to be challenged dialectically. Section 5 explores the extraterritorial effect of China’s anti-bribery' law abroad, with particular regard to its potential spill over effect in Africa. It discusses the amendments made to Article 164 of


Jennifer Whitman, ‘Fighting the Natural Resource Curse in Sub-Saharan Africa with Supply-Side Anti-Bribery Laws: The Role of China’ (2014) 11 Manchester Journal of International Economic Law 121, 145.

the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Criminal Law, which criminalises briber}' beyond China’s borders, as well as the Ninth Amendment with a primary focus on the bribe suppliers. Section 6 further examines a role China could play in helping African countries curb corruption. This part challenges a hypothesis that the combination of these two factors, i.e., China’s anti-corruption campaign and its substantial economic engagement with Africa, will give a boost to anti-corruption efforts in Africa. It also presents a case study of China’s activities in Africa, illustrating how irregular enforcement of anti-corruption regulations combined with foreign engagement lacking sensitivity to the fragility of the rule of law, particularly in poorly-governed African states, can exacerbate corruption and its associated ills. Section 7 explores and proposes some feasible strategies to catalyse realistic changes. To mitigate the exposure to litigation risks requires a relentless focus on compliance. It is observed that a more sustainable shift to less corrupt governance is dependant primarily on the transformation of inner causes, instead of those external ones. A conclusion is given in summary of the above core arguments. Given that Africa’s corruption has become a scourge to sustainable development, China can advance anti-corruption initiatives on the continent, but incrementally. More comprehensive endeavours need to be undertaken in the longer run.

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