China is currently Africa's largest trading and investment partner. The rise of Chinese investment in Africa has seen a growing body of literature, which examines the diverse social, economic and political impact of these investments on the region. While some scholars believe Chinese investment has impacted positively, others argue that it has led to a weakening of local regulations, especially lax environmental and safety regulations. In this debate, African actors and agents are generally considered as passive objects, which neglects the subtle ways in which these local actors and institutions interact, resist and shape Chinese investment.
This thesis examines the regulation of Chinese investments in Zambia, focusing on the different ways in which local actors and institutions interact with Chinese investments in Zambia's copper mining sector. The thesis adopts a political economy approach, which examines how local actors in the host country may alter domestic institutions to counter the negative impacts of FDI. These responses are dependent on how FDI affects the group or actor's core interest and the position of the actor in the host country's political, economic and social institutional context. Utilising this framework, I examine how local actors interact with two state-owned Chinese mining companies in Zambia. Drawing on fieldwork-based interviews in Zambia and extensive desk research, I argue that Chinese investment has incentivised local actors to resist lax regulatory standards, demand for, and attain, tougher regulations. In turn, some Chinese companies operating in Zambia have improved their safety and environmental practices - suggesting a more nuanced and optimistic view of Chinese investment in Africa than has dominated the literature to date.
Beyongo Mukete is PhD candidate at the Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU. His research focuses on local response to growing Chinese outbound direct investment in Zambia. He completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Yaounde II-Soa, Cameroon, and the Cherkassy State Technological University, Ukraine.