How to write to Chinese companies and institutions

How to write to Chinese companies and banks

Communication towards Chinese companies and banks requires a less blunt approach than you may be used to. The initial aim is to inform the bank of the risks it faces and to give it a chance to step back from a project without losing face.

In order to do this, while the problems with the project should be clearly and concisely listed, it is better to present the company or bank your concerns – bearing in mind that facts should be carefully checked first – and seek their clarification rather than making accusations. When initiating any contact, bear in mind that your goal is to establish formal communications which will serve your cause in the long run. The aim is to persuade rather than alienate if at all possible, and this will need to be done carefully.

This should also be taken into account when considering your media strategy – it may be better to contact the bank first and only later to alert the media to its role if your attempts at communication do not bring results. This does not mean that you should not alert the media to the issues around the project, but that the role played by the company or bank should not be at the centre of your media communications unless attempts to communicate fail.

In practical terms, once you have decided who in the bank to address your letter to, address them by their full name at the beginning of the letter. Also be aware that surnames are usually expressed first in China.

Then introduce your organisation or group. Make it clear that your aim is to inform the company or bank about the risks of a certain project, and then give a concise overview of the problems you wish to raise. If there is a lot to say, it may be better to write a relatively brief letter but then attach an annex with more detailed information about the issues. It may be useful to refer to the Green Credit Directive[link: section on Green Credit Directive] obligations in letters to banks, and to the Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation [link: section on Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation]in letters to companies.

When outlining problems with projects, it is highly recommended that you are well prepared to provide country-specific energy scenario projections by sector, and to give alternative fields that the company or bank could be interested in and to make clear that their investment is generally welcome. Emphasise common ground and common goals where possible.

Where possible, it is worth getting your letter translated into Mandarin, as it cannot be taken for granted that the company or bank representatives will speak either your language or English. If you need help with this, try contacting the following groups:
CEE Bankwatch Network (wawa.wang@bankwatch.org) and Friends of the Earth US (KLu@foe.org).

You should not expect to receive an answer quickly, if at all. This can be discouraging, however do not underestimate the impact of receiving letters from local groups or affected people. Chinese companies and banks have shown themselves to be quite sensitive to the criticism they have received in many parts of the world and compared to how long it took the multilateral development banks to implement environmental and social standards, they are changing quite quickly.

In order to increase the likelihood that someone reacts to your letter it may be useful to copy it to the Chinese Economic Attaché at the Chinese Embassy in your country and to the China Banking Regulatory Authority (CBRC) — see below for details.

Understanding and contacting Chinese government institutions

Who’s who in the regulation of China’s investments?

The first institution you may consider contacting is the Chinese Embassy in your country, and in particular the Economic Counselor, who is an employee of China’s Ministry of Commerce but attached to the Embassy. The Economic Counselor will be aware of and actively involved in developing relations between Chinese companies or banks and the host country’s government. The contacts for the Embassy are easily available online however for up-to-date information on Economic Counselors, contact Bankwatch (wawa.wang@bankwatch.org).

You may wish to simply introduce yourself and the organization you represent and inform them of the issues at first, or you may wish to ask for a meeting. If you receive a reply, be prepared that you may have to provide further information about yourself before receiving a concrete invitation. Present your group’s interests in learning more about the investment project in question, and the fact that you are keen to share with them your expertise and knowledge of the energy sector. Avoid any unnecessary expressions that may come across as antagonistic, and emphasise the positive aspects of your potential meeting.

Within China itself, there are several relevant institutions involved in the regulation of banks and companies. The highest body of the Chinese government is the State Council, and immediately below it are the the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), the Ministry and Commissions, and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC).

The State Council directly approves projects undertaken by the China Development Bank. It must approve very large (greater than USD 200 million) overseas projects and China Exim Bank loans greater than USD 100 million. However it is such a high level body that it is unlikely to be a good target for direct communication and may be counter-productive for the time being.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) is responsible for ensuring that banks comply with regulations such as the Green Credit Directive. There has been little interaction so far between civil society organisations and the CBRC and it is not really clear what kind of approach the CBRC takes in relation to its enforcement role. Therefore it may be a good idea to take the approach of expressing your concerns but asking questions and asking for interpretations and guidance rather than making too many assumptions about the methods and exact actions that the CBRC should undertake.

Mr. FAN Wenzhong (國際部范文仲負責人)
Department of International Affairs
China Banking Regulatory Commission (中國銀行與監督管理委員會)
Jia No.15 Financial Street, Xicheng District (北京市西城區金融大街甲15號郵政 編碼100140)
Beijing, 100140
CHINA
Tel:+86 10-6627 8907

Projects with a total investment of over USD 30 million or with over USD 10 million in foreign exchange must be approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Director MA Xin (外事司司長馬欣)
Division of European Affairs (歐洲處)
Department of International Co-operation (外事司)
cc. Department of Foreign Capital and Overseas Investment
NDRC – National Development and Reform Commission (中華人民共和國國家發展和改革委員會)

38 S.Yuetan Street,
Beijing 100824 (北京市西城區月壇南街38號 郵編100824)
CHINA
http://en.ndrc.gov.cn
wss@ndrc.gov.cn

Commissioner LIU Ning – Division of European Affairs (國際司歐洲處劉寧處長)
Department of International Cooperation – Division of European Affairs (國際合作司歐洲處)
Ministry of Environmental Protection (中華人民共和國環境保護部 )
cc. Director TONG Ding Ding of Department of International Cooperation
No.115 Xizhimennei Nanxiaojie
Beijing 100035 (北京市西城區西直門南小街115號 郵編:100035)
CHINA
Tel. +86 10 66556522
Fax: +86 10 66556010
http://english.mep.gov.cn/
E-mail: advice@mep.gov.cnmailbox@mep.gov.cn

Commissioner YANG Yue (對外投資合作促進楊越處長 )
Division for Foreign Investment and Cooperation Promotion Office (對外投資合作促進處)
Department of Outward Investment and Economic Co-operation (對外投資和經濟合作司)
Ministry of Commerce (中華人民共和國商務部)
cc. Department of European Affairs (歐洲司)
No.2 Dong Chang’an Avenue,
Beijing 100731 (北京市東長安街2號 郵編:100731)
CHINA
Tel. + 86 10-65197173/65197165
Fax. +86 10-65197992
http://english.mofcom.gov.cn
Online e-mail form (in English): http://gzly.mofcom.gov.cn/website/pubmail/send_mail_en.jsp
Online e-mail form (in Chinese): http://hzs.mofcom.gov.cn/article/gywm/201008/20100807090078.shtml

Secretary LU Zhi Jun ( 外事局局長)
Foreign Affairs Devision
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (國務院國有資產監督管理委員會)
No. 26, Xidajie, Xuanwumen,
Xicheng District,
Beijing, 100053
Tel: 86-10-63192000
http://www.sasac.gov.cn
Email: iecc@sasac.gov.cn
waishi@sasac.gov.cn

There is also an online interactive Q&A forum (in Simplified Chinese) which can be accessed via http://message.sasac.gov.cn/consult/