Nachdem nun alles über Wagner und Söldner und Private Sicheheiheitsunternehmen recht unqualifiziert daher schwätzt zudem nach dem Prigoschinputschmarschversuch., erst mal ein realsatirisch- politischer Artikel aus War on the Rocks Rocks über Söldner. 2015 war Wagner aber noch recht jung und caterte der Chefkoch noch.
“How to Take Over a Small Country in 10 Easy Steps
May 13, 2015
Mercenaries are back! After a three-century hiatus, sensible people are once again realizing that renting an army is cheaper than owning one: the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin in Ukraine and Syria, even Nigeria against Boko Haram. It’s boom time, boys! But why work for someone when you could be king? Countries are ripe for the plucking these days, from the Crimea to the Gambia to large swaths of the Middle East. Just don’t be an amateur about it. Here are some tips to be a professional coup maker.
1. Choose your country. Select a country that has been consigned to the trash heap of history, preferably one without strong regional allies. The discerning mercenary looks for the following qualities in a potential selection: exploitable natural resources, corruptible and/or incompetent military, and at least one functional airstrip.
To facilitate recreational activities, make certain your target country has a good brewery, beautiful beaches, and women sans veils. Although this rules out central Africa, most of the Middle East, and some of Asia, you’ll have a much more enjoyable war with beer, bathing, and babes.
2. Find a warlord and co-opt him. Taking over a small country can be exhausting work, so don’t do it alone. Local knowledge (and muscle) is best. Win a native strong man to your side. This is the easiest part. He will handle the recruitment of local talent and interrogation of sources, and will generally keep trains running on time.
To make him dependent on you as the access agent, exploit his vulnerabilities. Common leverage points include: hookers, cocaine mountains, tankards of favorite libations (Chivas Regal for the English speakers and Hennessy XO for the French ones), chromed AK-47s, a supercar fleet, statues of himself, and excessive flattery to foster images of megalomaniacal grandeur.
3. Secure funding. Unless you’ve got oodles of cash in unmarked bills lying around the chateau, you’re going to have to find someone else to pay for your king-making enterprise. The U.S. government might bankroll your private army, and USAID will throw money at anything. Be sure to mention “capacity building” using “holistic modalities” that establishes the “rule of law” to “counter violent extremism” and deny “terrorist safe havens” in your proposal. List your strongman as an “implementing partner” with the highest respect for human rights. They won’t check, so it’s alright.
Another good bet are Big Oil companies, especially if you fabricate “third party” geological surveys indicating strategic-reserve levels of oil. If everything else fails, seek out the son of a former British Prime Minister who is politically connected, massively rich, galactically stupid, and fancies himself a latter-day Lawrence of Arabia. Or better yet, Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and now working for China.
4. Create a shell company. To get people to give you huge amounts of cash, you need the pretense of legitimacy. Have a look at the advertisements in the back of the Economist magazine. For $398 you can have your own offshore company in the Bahamas and go scuba diving too. Make sure your offshore company is located in a country with no extradition treaties. That will come in handy later.
Branding note: Don’t call your new company something obvious like Sharp End International. Choose something vague and dull using any combination of the following words: operations, options, strategy, group, global, international, solutions, or just use the name of your college alma mater or a famous statesman. Nifty combinations might include Harvard Operations Group (HOG) or Polk International Strategic Solutions (PISS).
5. Raise your mercenary army. More likely than not, there is a huge labor pool of raw talent in your country’s neighborhood. Don’t bother with a TV or radio recruitment campaign (they won’t have electricity), billboards (no roads), or posters in villages (they can’t read). Instead, lean on your local strongman to put the word out in the ungoverned countryside through the beer delivery trucks, who intrepidly venture where CIA agents don’t dare and are beloved by everyone.
Initially, you’re going to need some battle-hardened combatants, preferably from disenfranchised ethnic groups or tribes that used to be in power and are surly about it. Anyone identified by Human Rights Watch as a systematic violator of human rights is a sure bet for real talent. Offer $100 a rebel (in crisp U.S. greenbacks), an all-the-enemies-you-can-kill deal, and promise a massive keg party at the end of it. That should do the trick. A few hundred recruits will do in the beginning, and the rest will join at gunpoint later. If you have trouble making your numbers, children are easily pressed into service. Alternatively, you can always start your own cult.
You will soon learn that your new recruits have a great deal of shooting experience, but little ability to shoot accurately. You will have to break bad habits, such as: shooting with one hand over their eyes, shooting their legs off, shooting colleagues, and disco-shooting — a technique involving shooting AK-47s while dancing in the middle of a firefight. Expect to lose one quarter of your recruits during basic rifle marksmanship. Whatever you do, don’t give out the grenades until game-day. Remember — your army doesn’t have to be well trained, just better trained or crazier than your adversary’s army. If you’re lucky, you’ll be squaring off against an American trained force.
If you are operating in Africa, you will find that most of what you require can be purchased cheaply and easily at the village market. For example, an AK-47 should cost no more than $20 or a small goat. Other equipment to procure includes: ammo, RPGs, crew-served weapons, and the ubiquitous Toyota Hilux pickup truck with .50cal attachment (aka a “technical”). Avoid pistols, as they tend to be used against you by overly ambitious subordinates, typically once you have seized power.
If you have problems sourcing equipment, try the local United Nations mission, who spend months collecting weapons from former warring parties. For a little baksheesh, UN peacekeepers (especially those from South Asia or Nigeria) are often willing to under-report a few tons of weapons. If all else fails, go on a shopping spree in Eastern Europe. Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania are best. Avoid Russia. Ukraine is busy. Also, don’t bother with the middleman: go directly to the weapons factory. Expect to spend a lot of tush-time in dilapidated, four-prop AN-12 cargo planes flying with the aid of a Garmin suckered to the windshield. Bring earplugs. Pack a lunch, a few briefcases of cash, and some firepower in case the deal goes bad. While in flight, do not be alarmed by the drunken crew smoking on your live-ammo crates while drinking homemade slivovitz that tastes vaguely like distilled hydraulic fluid. This is normal, and you will be expected to participate.
6. Develop a propaganda campaign. You can count on the international press not caring about your country-to-be, unless white tourists are killed. However, noisome Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as Amnesty International, may raise a stink after your coup, so pre-empt them by offering a counter-narrative to the complacent press. Claim that you “nobly plan to restore hope to a beleaguered people, victimized by a serial human rights abusing, terrorist-loving tyrant.” Be sure to flash pictures of starving babies with flies on their faces to attract Hollywood celebrities to your cause. Include some combination of the following buzz-phrases in your press release: “local ownership,” “human security” and “good governance.”
For NGOs who fail to get the message, don’t order a “disappearance” of their staff, as they will only use this against you. Instead, arrange for a sex-scandal involving the NGO’s country director, small native boys, and YouTube. With luck, the entire NGO will be declared persona non grata, and kicked out of the country by dawn.
7. Stage your coup. Once you’ve passed out the hand grenades, fueled up the technicals, and verified that your army is high on dope (you can’t stop this so you might as well channel it for the cause), you are ready to stage your coup d’etat. Most fragile states are so accustomed to coups that all you really need to do is take over the radio station and the Presidential Palace to achieve local “buy-in.”
First, attack at dawn, when government forces will be hung-over and thus incapacitated.
Second, take out the cell-phone towers. You will find that this eliminates 99% of the government’s ability to communicate (the last 1% comprise of hand-signals and verbal abuse).
Third, drive madly down the main streets shooting into the sky and cursing wildly. This is standard coup-protocol, and signals to the citizens: “Armed coup in progress; please remain inside your homes.”
Fourth, expect a final stand of semi-sober, loyal government forces at the palace front gate. This will be a paltry but fearless force of the president’s “elite” inner-circle bodyguard. Usually this means about a hundred deranged child soldiers who worship the president as father and king. The best way to defeat these mini-monsters is to take cover and taunt them via bullhorn, calling them names (e.g., teeny squirt, virgin-boy, lil’ pecker, mini-me-men, etc.). Inevitably, they will become enraged and shoot all their ammo at you. When it runs out, crash down the gates and crack heads.
Fifth, go straight to the president’s bedroom and dig him out from under his pile of whores (caution: he may be dressed as one of them). He will appear much smaller in real life than on TV, so it might take a while to recognize him. Almost immediately (within the hour) conduct a “war crimes” trial followed by a good old-fashion hanging, Saddam Hussein-style. A minimal level of pageantry is important. For some reason, the international community respects this more than a bullet to the head.
Finish up with a national feast, involving free beer from the local brewery, indigenous dancing, and virginal sacrifice (if culturally appropriate).
8. Cement your position. To your surprise, you will find that the citizenry will continue on with “business as usual.” However, you will have to act immediately to establish your authority among pesky rivals by eliminating the opposition entirely and making a few examples of ambitious allies (e.g., your co-opted warlord). You must do this on the same day as the coup, which will send ripples through the countryside, contain most of the bloodshed to a single day, and make good press.
Avoid becoming a global pariah by joining a “coalition of the willing” and/or becoming a U.S. partner in the “War on Terror” or whatever they call that now. Instead, volunteer your country as a secret U.S. air base or CIA prison center in exchange for Washington’s political cover at the United Nations and lots of military aid (it worked for Pakistan and Egypt for years).
9. Do some nation building. In order to avoid a coup yourself, you will need more than repressive secret police — you will need to generate some Gross Domestic Product for your country. If you can grow them, poppies or coca leaves yield more revenue than, say, rice or whatever the World Bank is pushing these days. And then people will pay you not to grow them, so it’s “win-win.”
However, becoming a narco-state is so yesterday. Instead, consider turning your country into an offshore tax haven for hedge funds and oligarchs. As the British Virgin Islands shows, laundering billions of dollars will not only pay handsomely, it will also put you in tight with the Fortune 500 cocktail circuit, who will pay to develop ultra-posh scuba resorts on your beaches, right next to your banks. Of course, this will land your new nation on the Financial Action Task Force blacklist, but think of this as free advertising.
Lastly, shore up customer confidence by not signing quaint extradition treaties. Let them know that they always have a “home away from home,” if they must suddenly flee their country. You may have missed out on the Arab Spring wave but you might get lucky with an African Spring, Latin Spring or Asian Spring. You will soon realize that once you have a vote in the United Nations, you can do whatever you want — enjoy!
10. Bask in your victory. You will find that ruling a small country is akin to being a rock star. Give yourself a new name in the local language, like “Rooster Who Gets All the Hens,” and even name your new nation after yourself like Cecil Rhodes did. You will have hoes-a-plenty, drugs, money, a private jet, an entourage, and no responsibility. People will expect you to misbehave, so don’t let them down.
Sean McFate is the author of The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order.
Der Ex-Militärberater von Merkel General a. D Vad wollte das Thema eher in Richtung Putsch ansiedeln:
„Lieber Herr Ostner, der War on the rocks Artikel mit seinen 10 Prinzipien für einen erfolgreichen „ Coup d‘ Etat „ war prima. Edward Luttwak hat darüber ein Buch geschrieben und Uni-Seminare veranstaltet. Hatte auch mal am Rande mit dem Thema zu tun.
Das ist ein echt spannendes Thema, zumal der Blick hier sehr eng auf Wagner ausgerichtet ist. Aber es gibt auf der Welt viele Prigoschins und jede Menge Militärdienstleister, sprich Söldner. PMCs waren z.B. im Irakkrieg in einer Größenordnung von rund 50.000 beteiligt.“
Global Review dazu: „Ja ,Ihren Artikel und Luttwark hatten wir schon tiefe wahrgenommen, zumal wir selber zum Thema Militärputsch als Option, für was und welches Ziel, mit wem und besser nicht schon eigene Artikel geschrieben haben:
Demokratischer Militärputsch, wehrhafte Demokratie oder Barbarei?
Militärputsch in den USA und Israel und neue Verfassung als last resort im worst case?
Auch mal in Richtung AfD und ihrer Forderung eines „Aufstands der Generäle „ der Bundeswehr, um eine neue Wehrmacht zu fordern:
Reaktion auf AfD-Forderung eines“Aufstands der Generäle“ :Offener Brief von General a.D. Wittman an den neuen Hoffnungsträger der AfD, Generalleutnant a.D. Joachim Wundrak
Dazu eine Analyse des gescheiterten Militärputschs in der Türkei, der für Erdogan „ein Geschenk Gotttes „war, weswegen ja einige das Ergebnis wie bei Putin und dem Prigoninschen Putsch-Marschversuch als arbeitsteiliges Spiel oder eben von Erdogan und Putin selbstinszeniert behaupten, was totaler Bullshit ist.
Gegenputschversuch in der Türkei ein US-Putsch?
Es gibt Risse beim Russen im System Putin, aber (noch) nicht so, dass er momentan darüber stürzen würde. Aber neben praktischen Gebrauchsanleitungen fehlen uns da die strategischen Fragen und das sonstige politische Umfeld im Ausnahmezustand, auch wie Erdogan mittels Ergenekonprozeß, Aufrüstung und kurdischer Karte da die entscheidenden Attatürkgeneräle davon abhielt und die zufrieden und saturiert und appeasementmäßig vor sich hindämmerten und keinen Lockrufen mehr zugänglich waren. Naja, vielleicht war es doch Feto-Gülen-PKK- HDP- CHP Terrorismus.
Wie dem auch sei: Weicheier und Verschwörungsmythologier und Drohenkritische- EKD- Moralist*innen samt hielten gerade Vorträge über die PSCs der USA, Russlands und Chinas. Zum einen weniger darüber wie diese PSCs sich vom MPRI bis Blackwater bis Wagner, der Garpromtruppe und anderen 38 russischen PSCs ,die zwischen Wallensteinschen Warlords, Militärberater- und Strategieberatern wie MPRI wenngleich hochrangig , Personen- und Gebäudeschutz bis kämpfende Elite- Truppe so in diesen Begriff pauschal zusammengepresst werden, um mittels der Wörter „Söldner“, „Wagner“ da den größtmöglichen Thrill- und Empörungsfaktor vitalisieren, klitschkoen und iniitieren kann mit lauter moralischen Verdammungen. Also ein Überblick über geopolitische Interessen, strategische Ziele, militärische Ziele, kurz-mittel -und langfristig Rolle und Funktion in all diesem und Zauberlehrlingen. Wir recherchieren gerade über die PSCs und auch der Chinesen, wobei die Jamestown Foundation gerade den ersten Überblick über Zentralasien verfasst hat, jedoch ohne Verschiebungen innerhalb der SCO, wenngleich im Rahmen der BRI, Dr. Evan Ellis at uns heute seine neueste Materialsammlung über chinesische PSCs in Lateinamerika und deren geopolitische Bedeutung zugesandt (siehe Lesetip unten). .Wie gesagt: Noch Materialsammlung und Brainstorming, um dann zum Assessment, Überblick und Strategie zu kommen und Schlussfolgerungen zu ziehen.
Die alte Söldnercrew organisierte sich transatlantische nach Diem Bien Phu vor allem um das SöldnermHazin „Soldier of Dirtune“von Bob Briwn.Wenn man wissen wollte,welche „geheimen Kriege“die USA und ihrecCIA und Teile des Westens(Ausnahme Willy Brandt,Olaf Palme und die ganzen Regierungen im Zusammenhang mit der Sozialistischen Intrrnationale),führten,war das immer eine wertvolle Informationsquelle nebst der Waffenmesse in Las Vegas und Reagan-Contras , Todesschwadrone in Mittelamerika (die lateinamerikanischen Putschgeneräle waren noch in der Schpol of Americas auagebildet und brauchten keine Guerilla zu befürchten, außer aussichtslosen Stadtguerillas wie die Tupamaros oder Rosseff in Brasilien, die ja Vorbilder der RAF und RZ wurden. bestenfalls noch Granma, Moncada- Kasernensturm und die Filme mit Omar Sharif als Che Guevara als Anti- Trottel- Castro, nebst Dr. Schiwago,)und Oliver North-Irangeschichten. Aber das waren noch Kleinklitschen und sie fanden in Hollywoodfilmen nur selten und ganz klein neben Wehrmacht- Hollywoodnazis und tapferen GIs jemals eine Erwähnung außer in solch seltenen Söldnerfilmen wie „Die Windgänse fliegen“ (zumal mit Roger Moore) und damals erzählen einem auch noch Schulabbrecher und kleinkriminielle Existenzen, wenn sie auch noch Apokalypse Now gesehen hatten, dass Krieg geil sei und sie Kämpfer wären und Söldner würden.
Dass das gar jetzt eine andere Dimension, strategische Ausrichtung, geopolitische Konstellation samt eingehender Funktion, zumal in Konkurrenz, aber auch Kooperation mit dem US-und anderem Militär, wobei scheinbar noch keiner so richtig gefragt hat, wenn es in den USA zu dem Machtkampf und halben neuen Bürgerkriege käme, auf wessen Seite das US- Militär stehen würde oder auch noch ein US- Prigoschin möglich wäre, wenn es zum ersten Sturm auf Capitol Hill noch nicht reicht. Und wer dann dagegen steht im US- Militär. Erst mal die aktivsten Teile und dann runterdekliniert durch den MIK und Zulieferer, Think Tanks, den zwei Parteien, Milizen, Bürgerwehren, Reservisten und Veteranen wer wo stehen würde.
Und interessant an dem Artikel in War on the Rock über die Söldner und wie man einen kleinen Staat in 10 Schritten leicht übernehmen kann, ist auch das Detail des Wall Street Journals , dass der Mitgründer von Blackwater nun für China arbeiten würde. Soll er ein chinesisches Blackwater als Berater aufziehen, da wohl nicht anzunehmen ist, dass die US-Regierung einen „Verkauf von Blackwater an China erlauben würde. Ist Blackwater als PSC-Modell das dominante Ziel für zukünftige chinesische PSCs oder doch ein chinesisches Wagner beabsichtigt ( wenngleich man sich da an Goethes Zauberlehrling und
den zwei Maximen der KP China „Die Macht kommt aus den Gewehrläufen“, aber auch „Die Partei kontrolliert die Gewehre“ nach dem Prigoschinputschversuch vorerst noch folgt und Xi die Bedeutung der KP-Zellen in der VBA und deren Kontrolld erhöhen will) oder doch vielleicht ein Spektrum mit vorläufigen Try and Error-Versuchen?
Dr. Evan Ellis versuchte in einem früheren Artikel einmal die Global Security Initiative der KP China und Xis und ihre praktische Implementierung von regionalen Maßnahmen zur Militärverflechtung in ihre Einheitsfront, dazustellen wenngleich China noch nicht Bündnisabsicht oder Aktionen wie dem Zimmermanntelegramm an den Tag legt. .
What China’s Global Security Initiative Tells Us About Its Strategic Engagement with Latin America
Dennoch wäre es besser gewesen, er hätte das Ganze mehr ganzheitlich unter der strategischen Triade der KP China Global Development Initiative mit BRI, Global Security Initiative und Global Civilizational Initiative unter den Xi Jinping- Gedanken in der Verfassung und im der Parteiverfassung, die Xivilization, wie es auch in der Global Times genannt wurde.Nun aber wird die GSI auch noch auf die chinesischen PSC in Lateinamerika runtergebrochen:
“Chinese Private Security Companies in Latin America
The expanding presence of China-based companies in Latin America, and the security problems they have experienced there, creates an inherent demand for Chinese private security companies.
By Leland Lazarus and R. Evan Ellis
July 17, 2023
The enormous expansion of global engagement by China and its companies over the past two decades has generated a corresponding need to protect Chinese operations and personnel in the dangerous environments where they sometimes operate. Awareness of such needs for protection among the Chinese public was most obviously expressed in the “Wolf Warrior” movies, in which Chinese citizens working abroad are threatened by foreign mercenaries and must be rescued.
The need to evacuate Chinese citizens from Libya in 2011 and Yemen in 2015 due to political turmoil in those countries, as well as recent attacks against Chinese nationals in Pakistan, highlighted the imperative for Beijing to protect its people, as well as its growing military and other capabilities for doing so. It also illustrated how China’s desire to project itself as respectful of the sovereignty of other nations – reflected in its 2015 Military Strategy and 2019 Defense Strategy White Papers – restricts its options for official military action.
China-based companies have responded to these risks to their overseas operations through a combination of working with local authorities and contracting private security companies (PSCs). In recent years, private security companies have begun to form in China to support operations both at home and abroad. The proliferation of Chinese PSCs has arguably been based on the presumption that the cultural familiarity, common language, and relationships with fellow Chinese will give such companies an inside track with Chinese companies in need of protection.
The scope of Chinese private security companies is broad, encompassing everything from firms selling principally electronic surveillance systems, to consulting, to providing armed personnel on the ground to physically defend Chinese persons and assets. In general, Chinese deployment of private security companies has been most extensive in Asia, and to a lesser extent in Africa, where their familiarity with local cultural practices is strongest, and local governments are relatively malleable. In more developed countries and in Latin America and the Caribbean, PSCs have been more limited by their lack of experience, in competition with established and well-resourced companies with knowledge of working within (or around) local laws.
Despite such limitations, the expanding presence of China-based companies in Latin America, and the security problems they have experienced there creates an inherent demand for Chinese private security companies. Since 2000, according to the respected Latin America-China academic network, Chinese companies have invested over $184 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean across 600 projects.
China-based companies operating in the petroleum, mining, construction, and other sectors have been continually beset by security problems. Protesters took control of a Chinese-operated oilfield in January 2007 in Tarapoa, Ecuador. Attacks against the Emerald Energy oilfield in Colombia in 2011 resulted in the taking of Chinese hostages. In Peru, there has been regular violence linked to protests and criminal activity in Chinese-operated mines Shougang Hierro, Rio Blanco, and Las Bambas. Attacks forced Sinohydro to suspend construction on the Patuca III dam in Honduras; there have been numerous strikes against Chinese hydroelectric and road construction projects in Bolivia.
Most recently, violence this year in Colombia forced China-based Zijin to shut down operations in the Burtica gold mine and China-owned Emerald Energy to suspend its oil operations.
With the current deterioration of economic conditions, expanding violence and social protest across Latin America, on top of China’s expanding footprint there in the post-COVID-19 environment, security challenges to China-based operations in the region will likely continue to increase in the near future.
Official Chinese policy papers such as the 2016 China-Latin America Policy White Paper, the China-CELAC 2022-2024 plan, and the February 2023 white paper on China’s “Global Security Initiative” all acknowledge Beijing’s interest in multifaceted security cooperation with Latin America, but are notably silent on the issue of private security companies.
Although China-based private security companies have kept a low profile in Latin America and the Caribbean, a Chinese-language internet search on websites such as Baidu reveals multiple Chinese private security companies operating or seeking opportunities in the region. In Peru, China Security Technology Group has a memorandum of cooperation with Grand Tai Peru, a company that provides security in the mining sector. Beijing Dujie Security Technology Company has an office in Argentina, and China Overseas Security Group claims to have conducted field research in search of opportunities in the country. Chinese security companies also operate in Uruguay and Venezuela, connected to the China-based conglomerate Tie Shen Bao Biao.
In Central America, Zhong Bao Hua An Security Company claims to have “strategic cooperation businesses” in Panama, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. Tie Shen Bao Biao advertises personal protection services in Panama. In Mexico, the “Mexico-Chinese Security Council,” formed in 2012 by former Chinese government official Feng Chengkang, has the mission of protecting Chinese business personnel based in Mexico from gang violence.
Other Chinese-language materials on Baidu hint at a network of Chinese security activities, with possible links to the government, that may go much deeper. In addition to 14 Chinese “overseas police stations” operating in eight LAC countries, China advertises “Chinese Aid Centers” operating in the region with missions that include “urgent lifesaving, integration training, legal assistance, and helping the poor.” A Chinese personnel recruiting website advertises security-related job opportunities in Latin America for projects in Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.
China-based companies have the right to contract Chinese nationals and entities, where consistent with local laws, to help protect their expanding operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Still, the lack of knowledge of this phenomenon in the region, fueled by Beijing’s efforts to keep a low profile and confine their interactions to Chinese-language media, demands more attention as a matter of public policy. Transparency is needed to ensure that such companies are properly registered and regulated, and that the sovereign interests of the host countries and the safety of their citizens are respected.
While China has published “Security Management Guidelines for Overseas Chinese Funded Companies, Institutions and Personnel,” China-based companies are notoriously lax in following government guidelines, and the Chinese state has little interest in enforcing them in the absence of compelling political or other self-interested motivations for doing so.
As Chinese interests in the region continue to grow, more Chinese PSCs may continue to proliferate throughout LAC. Authoritarian regimes like Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua would be most likely to host Chinese PSCs, along with countries with large Chinese diaspora populations, such as Peru and Panama. As has occurred in Africa and elsewhere, an increasing presence by armed Chinese nationals in the region prioritizing the interests of their operations and compatriots, and inexperienced in the nuances of social protests and criminal activity in Latin America, could easily lead to the death or injury of locals.
In addition, if more Chinese diaspora communities in LAC become victims of gang violence, extortion from local and Chinese criminal groups, or anti-Chinese hate crimes, they may push for Chinese PSCs to protect them. Jamaica is a case in point: In 2013, the Jamaican police increased protection for the local Chinese community after the Chinese government raised concerns to Jamaica about robberies and extortion occurring in the Chinese community.
Finally, China allegedly has 14 overseas police outposts in eight LAC countries, part of China’s global network of more than 100 police stations around the world. Several of them operate without local government approval. Since some of these Chinese PSCs already closely collaborate with Chinese police, the Chinese authorities could potentially task PSCs to capture fugitives as part of their global Fox Hunt and Sky Net anti-crime initiatives.
It is also important to note that many employees of China-based security companies have backgrounds in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or other security services. Surveillance system oriented companies are inherently tied to the proliferation of Chinese digital architectures in the region, with data accessible by the Chinese companies that deploy them, and by the Chinese state via China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law.
In an era in which Beijing has shown its increasing willingness to explicitly target the United States through intelligence and military operations in the Western Hemisphere – such as its “spy balloons,” upgraded electronic intelligence facility in Cuba, and negotiation of a “training base” there – the U.S. and the region must be sensitive to the opportunities that the proliferation of Chinese PSCs across the region provide for activities by Chinese intelligence operators and PLA special forces in the region.
Leland Lazarus is associate director of National Security at the Florida International University Jack Gordon Institute for Public Policy.
R. Evan Ellis
R. Evan Ellis is Latin America Research Professor at the U.S. Army War College. The views expressed by the authors are their own, and do not necessarily represent their institutions.
An Anatomy of the Chinese Private Security Contracting Industry
By: Sergey Sukhankin
January 3, 2023 03:53 PM Age: 7 months
- The re-emergence of the Chinese “security for hire” industry—which is deeply rooted in Chinese history and trade practices—is largely a result of the beginning of market reforms in the 1980s and China’s growing integration into global trade. Since 2013, after the inauguration of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), discussions on the use (and methods of use) of private security companies (PSCs) in protecting Chinese nationals and material assets abroad has increased. In the future, given China`s growing involvement in resource-rich but unstable regions, the role and use of PSCs is expected to increase.
- While China could boast the world`s largest PSC industry in terms of personnel employed, its level of preparedness and sophistication remains incomparably lower than that of its Western counterparts. This owes to a broad range of factors and pre-conditions, ranging from the hesitancy of the Chinese political elite to the lack of necessary skills and experience on the part of PSC operators.
- While development of land-based PSCs will remain a clear priority for the Chinese side, other types of PSCs and similar entities should be expected. Beijing could also make an attempt to connect development of its PSCs with United Nations–mandated missions as a way of improving China’s reputation and to gain access to regions prioritized by Beijing in a less-aggressive way.
- In the near future (five to 10 years), it is unlikely that Chinese PSCs will either transform into full-fledged private military and security companies (PM/SCs) or match, in terms of skills and competence, their Western counterparts.
The rapid growth of China’s outbound foreign direct investment (FDI) and expansion of trade ties with foreign countries and overseas regions (many of which are located in challenging areas from a security perspective) has resulted in a growing number of incidents involving Chinese nationals and property. Given the spread of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) BRI mega-project, to mitigate risks and concerns of large businesses and the state, the Chinese side has started strengthening its “security for hire” industry. That being said, despite several legislative decisions and practical steps, China’s PSCs have multiple structural weaknesses, which—unless addressed and overcome in an expeditious and decisive manner—are likely to continue rendering the Chinese PSC industry hardly competitive vis-à-vis its Western counterparts.
This second report in the “Guardians of the Belt and Road: The Role of Private Security Companies in Securing China’s Overseas Interests” series aims to discuss the anatomy of the Chinese PSC industry through the lens of its historical transformation. To achieve this, the report will first discuss key historical milestones of the Chinese PSC industry in conjunction with Beijing`s growing involvement in global trade. Second, it will explain key traits and distinctive characteristics of the Chinese PSC industry in contemporary times, paying special attention to the post-2013 period. Third, a brief SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis will be conducted of the Chinese PSC industry in its current and prospective forms.
While working on this article, I employed a broad range of secondary Chinese and English-language sources. In addition, I conducted an in-depth analysis of the websites of various Chinese PSCs. Furthermore, for primary data I conducted three interviews with renowned experts on China:
- Robert Spalding, Brigadier General, US Air Force (ret.) and the author of Stealth War: How China Took Over While the American Elite Slept;
- Helena Legarda, a lead analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and a co-author of the “Guardians of the Belt and Road” MERICS report;
- Alessandro Arduino, a Singapore-based author of numerous books, research articles and policy papers that discuss the Chinese PSC industry—arguably, the most well-known and best-informed Western expert on Chinese PSCs.
The Chinese PSC Industry: A Historical Perspective
The development of Chinese PSCs has a significant historical background, with some experts attributing the emergence of groups that could be roughly defined as proto-PSCs to the time of the Song Dynasty (宋朝) (960–1279), when the so-called culture of biaoju (标居; security/armed escort) started to develop. This trend continued during both the Yuan and Ming dynasties, reaching its peak under the Qing Dynasty. During the Great Ming Dynasty (大明) (1368–1644)—when foreign commercial ties boomed—these entities were primarily involved in services associated with providing armed escorts to merchants and ensuring safety of goods as well as property.
As noted by some experts, Chinese proto-PSCs were primarily employed in activities whose geography rarely went beyond imperial boundaries, primarily covering land-based operations; however, sometimes these proto-PSCs took part in anti-piracy raids as well. Later, following the economic, political and military stagnation of imperial China during the late Qing Dynasty (大清; 1644–1911), the need for these proto-PSCs decreased, making them de facto disappear from the scene by the early 1920s.
After a gap of several decades, the process of partial re-emergence of the “biaoju culture” began after Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 and the advent of the second stage of market reforms in 1984, when government controls were somewhat eased and some economic decentralization was introduced. Specifically, 1984 was marked by the emergence of what could be called the first Chinese PSC under the auspices of the Public Security Bureau (公安局; PSB) in the PRC’s first Special Economic Zone in Shenzhen, thereby paving the way for the formation of the security and guard services companies (SGSCs) in China.
Theoretically, this should have resulted in the emergence of a relatively independent PSC industry enjoying greater autonomy; yet, this did not happen. The Chinese state did—despite some economic liberalization—retain a de facto monopoly and completed oversight over the nascent PSC industry. As Chinese experts have argued, despite some traces of privatization, “the private security ‘industry’ is not really a private industry as such, as it is controlled entirely by a PSB monopoly.”
In addition to other reasons related to well-known “specificities” of the Chinese socioeconomic and political model, the PRC firmly upholds “the Party controls the gun” (党指挥枪) principle, which not only decreases the level of sophistication and professionalism of Chinese PSCs (through depriving them of firearms) but also de facto enables the state to retain a sole monopoly on power and violence.
Another major milestone in, and stimulus for, the development of the Chinese “security for hire” industry was related to China becoming an integral part of the global economy, reflected in Beijing’s “Go Out” policy (走出去战略; 1999). The country also saw a dramatic increase in outbound FDI, which, by 2004, made China one of the world leaders in terms of outbound investment. Meanwhile, Beijing`s rapid integration into the global supply chain network—undoubtedly positive from an economic and business perspective—exposed Chinese capital and assets to a range of security-related dilemmas faced by Chinese businesses abroad. This led to the further transformation of Beijing’s perception of the PSC industry, which occurred between 2004 and 2010 and can largely be attributed to two main episodes. First, 11 Chinese workers were assassinated in Afghanistan in 2004, which resulted in the attempt of a Ningbo-based businessman to create the first China-based, foreign-focused private security firm. The second major episode, directed against Chinese investors, happened in 2010 when separatists from the Baloch Liberation Army in Pakistan attacked the Zaver Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar. The group justified its attack with the assumption that “Chinese investment … is of little benefit to local people.”
Chinese sources provide the following sequence of chronological steps between 2008 and 2012 that marked key milestones in the evolution and development of a PRC legislative framework pertaining to the domestic security contracting industry:
- Creating the Center for Consular Assistance and Protection;
- Issuing investment guides and early warnings by categorization of countries and regions by the Ministry of Commerce;
- Launching the armed escort, patrol and evacuation mission of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as part of the international efforts to combat piracy off the Somali coast;
- Creating the overseas police liaison department of the Ministry of Public Security, which had further developed the capabilities to protect overseas Chinese security interests;
- De facto legalization of the PSC industry in September 2009, which ensued after the PRC State Council issued the “Regulation on the Administration of Security and Guarding Services” (保安服务管理条例).
This final measure introduced two main types of PSCs: “security companies” (保安服务公司) and “security companies engaged in armed escorting services” (从事武装守护押运服务的保安服务公司). The regulation provided a basic legal framework for PSCs operating domestically within China but made no clear reference to overseas activities—a point that will be discussed later in this report.
The need for further development of China’s own and more professional PSC industry was highlighted during the fifth session of the 11th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (中国人民政治协商会议; March 2012) when a proposal was presented calling for the need to establish “security companies similar to Blackwater.” Later, in December 2015, a non-governmental think tank published a report de facto proposing the same idea. However, due to numerous factors, Beijing did not move ahead with transforming its PSC sector into a PM/SC industry that would have matched its Western counterparts in professionalism and preparedness.
That being said, however, China’s growing involvement in, from a security point of view, unstable and perilous areas—a trend that became particularly visible after Beijing launched the BRI in 2013, which traverses some of the world’s most-dangerous areas—warrants strengthening protections for both material assets and Chinese nationals in these regions. This, in turn, brings the issue of strengthening the PSC sector to a new level. Notably, in the same year, then–Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝) clearly stated that protection of China’s overseas interests was a top priority for the Chinese leadership.
China’s Contemporary PSC Industry
Based on the type of end-user, two major reasons underline why Beijing is working to further develop and grow the Chinese security contracting industry.
The first factors are economic and business-related motifs that cater to both private and public interests, though these two aspects can hardly be separated given the specifics of the Chinese political system. From the start of its global economic expansion until 2016, China’s outward direct investment (ODI) skyrocketed from $915 million to $183.1 billion. In many ways, this is premised on investment initiatives that take place along and in the framework of the BRI. Once dubbed as “a Marshall Plan with Chinese characteristics,” the BRI includes projects in some 126 countries and 29 international organizations, and Chinese President Xi Jinping officially characterized it as “the project of the century.” However, multiple security concerns, divided by Chinese experts between “extraneous” and “endogenous” risks, could pose a certain challenge to Chinese economic expansion abroad.
In his analysis, Alessandro Arduino gave the following explanation to these two types of risks:
- Extraneous risks—those that do not have Chinese origins—are understood as “those that Chinese actors confront in the often-weak state [that include] criminality, extremism, terrorism, ethnic strife and separatism.” Two of the above-mentioned examples – attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan – that might have triggered the Chinese side to start seriously considering strengthening its PSC industry belong to this type of risks.
- Endogenous risks are those that are Chinese in origin. Specifically, these risks may arise “due to poor working conditions, the upset caused to the local economic status quo, a disregard for environmental degradations, a failure to engage fulsomely with local populations, and cultural insensitivity.”
According to China expert Martin Purbrick, other specific examples of risks associated with operations along the BRI (and the Indo-Pacific region in particular) include:
- Online fraud (including pyramid schemes) has become an issue of particular concern for Beijing due to its massive and rapidly expanding scale. In May 2021, Chinese state media published announcements on the subject. According to Chinese official data, in 2020, criminal activities of this type resulted in 322,000 cases, causing approximate economic damage of 187 billion yuan ($28.53 billion).
- Online gambling has resulted in 1 trillion yuan ($150 billion) in illicit proceeds flowing out of China annually.
- Human trafficking for slavery and prostitution is proliferating.
- Animal/animal parts trafficking is being carried out for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
- Money laundering of the proceeds of PRC crime is also becoming a concern.
To deal with these risks, China will not be able to engage its armed forces to protect its personnel and tangible assets primarily because many of these crimes occur outside China, where Beijing has no jurisdiction. In these cases—if an agreement with the domestic authorities is reached—Chinese PSCs could then be used to render necessary security services.
Furthermore, geopolitical and state interests, including surveillance and intelligence gathering, among other factors, are essential elements of China’s strategy in terms of expansion of its presence in strategically important regions. Another reason for the development of a stronger PSC industry can be found in the Chinese military reforms that took place in 2016, which, according to Niva Yau, a senior researcher at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Academy in Bishkek, “pushed a lot of former military personnel into the private security sector.”
While the second set of reasons for the development of China’s PSCs industry seems less pronounced—in many ways also due to the PRC’s concern over the negative implications that might ensue—in the future, especially in the case that Beijing’s rivalry with the Washington and its regional partners grows, these formations could be used for such purposes on a larger scale, though this might cause the endogenous risks to expand.
The Chinese PSC Industry Today: A General Outlook
China’s PSC industry presents a quite complex and, in many ways, still developing sector. While actual data on the industry’s size is not publicly revealed by Beijing (neither by the government nor by the PSCs themselves), available information suggests that, in 2018, the registered number of Chinese PSCs stood at 5,000, employing more than 4.3 million security personnel, with only 20 (employing 3,200 personnel) providing international services. In an interview, Arduino noted that, in mainland China, the number of firms involved in providing security services may stand at between 8,000 and 10,000, employing some 3.5 million employees. Yet, the number of professional PSCs operating outside of China is not above 20 companies. According to Helena Legarda, the absolute majority of Chinese PSCs are operating domestically with just a handful of operators engaged in overseas activities. Based on data from 2016–2018, the number of Chinese PSC employees working abroad did not exceed a few thousand contractors. At the same time, the most recent calculations from 2022 suggest that the number of these entities has increased dramatically, reaching a staggering 7,000.
However, these numbers are a bit deceiving, as the sheer size of the PSC industry does not correspond to neither the level of professionalism nor expertise. In addition to government-related factors and other objective hindrances, the development of the Chinese security contracting industry is strongly influenced by the needs of the end-users that procure their services. In practice, the absolute majority (up to 80 percent) of Chinese PSCs operating in China perform functions more commensurate with bodyguarding and consultancy rather than armed escort activities. Interestingly, the popularity of female bodyguards within the industry is quite notable. Thus, in terms of staffing practices, the absolute majority of Chinese PSCs heavily rely on the recruitment of personnel from diverse backgrounds and who sometimes are not even directly prepared for the task, such as martial arts practitioners and police veterans. Recent studies have shown that “Chinese PSCs that attempt to globalize are usually formed by and focus on hiring former soldiers.” Apparently, this background is viewed by the Chinese contractors as a key precondition for success and a sign of superior quality and combat readiness, since many of these potential recruits have had some operational experience in the PLA’s Special Operation Forces. According to retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Dennis J. Blasko, the Chinese Armed Forces had, at one time, approximately 20,000–30,000 of these contractors, which is by no means their maximum capacity. From his side, Arduino noted that, as a consequence of China`s growing economic expansion, as well as other factors, the Chinese PSC industry started to demonstrate signs of transformation reflected in the fact that “China’s private security companies are evolving from local security enterprises operating at the municipal level in China to international companies able to maneuver abroad in high-risk areas.”
According to Arduino, Chinese PSCs can be divided onto four macro groups:
The first group consists of domestic companies focused on basic personnel, close protection and credit recovery. This macro group involves “hundreds of companies that are benefiting from a cheap workforce, some municipal or provincial links to police and military police officials, and a favorable environment due to the lack of regulations in this line of business.”
The second cohort involves domestic companies that “have evolved from the first category, offering more specialized services ranging from intellectual property protection, corporate security, HR security management and logistic armored protection.” According to Arduino, this macro-group “is only marginally related to companies that are going on to evolve into a full PSC.”
The third macro group is made up of domestic companies that “cooperate with foreign ones to provide local bidding support on Chinese tenders for international security services, risk assessment and overseas support to Chinese insurance companies. They have a strong network of connections with big state-owned enterprises [SOEs: the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs] and the banking and insurance sectors.” The author notes that the main weakness of these operators is found not in the lack of suitable clients but is rather attributed to “inner weaknesses related to the scarcity of properly trained domestic human resources, especially the ones with skillsets ranging from risk assessment, logistical expertise, foreign cultures and languages, the lack of risk management and insurance coverage to their employee.”
The fourth and final group consists of Chinese companies “with a developed international background in security services that cooperate with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and large SOEs.” Such companies include VSS Security Group (involved with the security duties for the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation in Iraq and Afghanistan); Huawei Security Company; Dingtai Anyuan International Security & Defense (mainly in Iraq); and Shanghai Huaxin Securities. Overall, this segment of the Chinese PSC industry is also said to be experiencing growth, yet at a slower pace than that of the other three aforementioned macro groups of actors.
When dividing Chinese PSCs in accordance with their pertinence to certain operational areas (current, prospective and potential), this should be done through the lens of China’s security motives associated with the BRI. PRC legislation and officials divide the BRI into four main spaces: land, sea, cyber and space. Given the strategic importance of these areas, it makes sense to break down the analysis of current PSCs in accordance with these operational domains.
First, land-based operators—given that the BRI consists of rail and energy transmission corridors from China to the European Union (the “belt”) and a series of deep-water ports in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe (the “road”), which involve some 30,000 Chinese companies operating overseas—constitute the largest and most developed group within the Chinese PSC industry. The land-based part of the BRI and related projects covers much of the so-called “arc of crisis” area, a territory stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Horn of Africa, which explains the high level of security-related incidents involving Chinese nationals and assets in these areas. For instance, official reports show that between 2010 and 2015, the number of such incidents stood at no less than 350 cases causing over 1,000 casualties. Other studies suggest that between 2001 and 2017, over 77,000 terrorist attacks took place in more than 60 countries along BRI routes, of which about 8,600 were directed at businesses. According to open sources, Chinese businesses abroad encounter two fundamental types of risks: kidnappings and ambushes, with the most frequently targeted personnel being employed in sectors related to oil extraction, construction and mining. Table 1 summarizes the available information on key Chinese PSCs.
Table 1. Selected Chinese PSCs With International Outreach
|Company Name||Number of Employees||Top Leadership||Date Established||Areas of Operation|
|China Security and Protection Group (中安保实业有限公司)||+30,000||Liu Wei (刘伟)||1994||Focused on the BRI|
|Shandong Huawei Security Group (山东华威保安集团股份有限公司)||+6,000||Xun Jinqing (荀金庆)||1993||Africa|
|China Overseas Security Group (中国海外保安集团)||Unknown||Wang Guobao (长王国保)||2015||Argentina, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Laos, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Cambodia, Mozambique, South Africa and Thailand|
|HuaXin ZhongAn (华信中安（北京）保安服务有限公司)||+15,000||Yin Weihong (殷卫宏)||2004||Focus on the BRI|
|Beijing DeWe Security Services Limited Company (北京德威保安服务有限公司)||Unknown, +350 Based Abroad||Li Xiaopeng (李晓鹏||2011||Overseas Operations (up to 50 Countries)|
|Frontier Services Group (先丰服务集团)||Unknown, 432 at Headquarters||Chang Zhenming (常振明)||2014||Focuses on East Africa, Middle East and North Africa; Has Headquarters in Hong Kong and Beijing and Offices in Shanghai, Dubai, Nairobi, Boten, Malta and Johannesburg|
|Shanghai Zhongchengwei Security Service Group||Unknown||Unknown||2009||Nationwide; Focuses on the BRI|
|Beijing Security Service General Company||77,000+||Zhang Tao (理张涛)||1986||Focused on Chinese Market (33 Branches, a Security Training School and 12 Security Training Branches)|
|Shanghai Security Service Corporation (上海市保安服务（集团)||Reportedly, 700 Total Employees||Unknown||1985||China, France, Japan, Italy, Canada, South Africa, Thailand, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Columbia and Indonesia|
|The Zhongbao Huaan Group||Unknown||Unknown||2010||Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (the Cambodian coast)|
|VSS Security Group||Unknown||Unknown||2010||China, Iraq, Afghanistan Africa and South America|
|Huaxin Zhongan||15,000+||Unknown||2016||21 Countries in Total, Including Hong Kong, Malta, Sri Lanka and Malaysia|
|China Cityguard Security Service (集团主营安全相关服务)||Unknown||Yang Yong||2005||China, Dubai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Pretoria, Cape Town, Lahore and Milan|
The second operational domain is controlled by maritime operators. For most of its military history, China has remained a continental power, which was primarily related to the lack of threats and challenges emanating from the sea. From an economic point of view, the maritime domain was never considered to be the main source of economic livelihood. The situation started to change with the launch of market reforms in the early 1980s, when China’s dependency on maritime trade increased dramatically. This realm’s importance was highlighted in 2010, when the Chinese authorities started referring to the maritime domain as “blue national soil” (蓝色国土).
Chinese leader Xi Jinping also highlighted the strategic importance of the maritime domain for Beijing. In July 2013, he stated that China would “never abandon its legitimate maritime rights and interests.” That same year, a white paper was published that pointed to a potential role for the PLAN in protecting the BRI. Additionally, at a legislative level, this new reality was emphasized in the 2015 National Security Law (Article 17), which claimed that Beijing will increase “the construction of border defense, coastal defense and air defense, taking all necessary defense and control measures to defend the security of continental territory, internal waterbodies, territorial waters and airspace and to maintain national territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.” In many ways, the changing position of the Chinese authorities should be attributed to an integral part of China`s BRI: the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) (21世纪海上丝绸之路), which envisions reliance on sea lanes across the Mediterranean, the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Even though Chinese official legislation on the maritime domain is less developed than the land-based part of the BRI, the logic of international trade—up to 90 percent of the world’s trade depends on maritime transport—requires the Chinese side to ensure physical security when operating along the MSR. Due to some of the previously discussed challenges associated with the potential deployment of the regular armed forces, increasing exploitation of sea lanes could require the use of non-state actors and a reliance on “security for hire.” As one study argued, “If the protection of the MSR projects and trade falls to private maritime security companies, this helps the government avoid conflating its Belt and Road Initiative … with strategic military interests. It also helps free up navy resources.”
That said, however, achieving a qualitatively new level of professionalism in the realm of maritime private security would not seem like a realistic option for the Chinese side, at least over the next several years. In addition to the already-indicated general factors (shared by the entire Chinese PSC industry), development of the maritime side of the “security for hire” industry could be hindered by the low level of professionalism of operators that comprise the industry as well as excessively strong control from above. Specifically, this was visible during the standoff between a Vietnamese fisheries inspection vessel and Chinese state-owned commercial vessels in 2014, when the role of the China Coast Guard (中国人民武装警察部队海警总队) fell under direct military command of the Central Military Commission. The table here compiles some of the best-known Chinese PSC maritime operators.
Table 2. Selected Chinese PSCs (maritime operators).
|Company Name||Number of Employees||Top Leadership||Date Established||Areas of Operation|
|Hua Xin Security Services||Unreported||Unreported||Unreported||Unreported|
|Zhongjun Junhong Security Group “Sea Guards” (海卫队)||+6,000||Unreported||Unreported||Armed Escorts in the Indian Ocean and Along Africa’s West Coast; Unarmed Escorts in the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait; Overall, 16 Subsidiaries, 59 Branch Companies, 33 Professional Teams, 20 Operating Joint Ventures and 20 Labor Delivery Training Bases|
|Hanwei International Security Services||Unreported||Unreported||2014||Laos, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, South Africa and Papua New Guinea; Specializing in Oil Drilling Platform Guard Services|
|China Security Technology Group||Unreported; Has a History of Employing Foreign Personnel||Tan Feng (谭锋)||2016||Localized Branches or Subsidiaries in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kampuchea, Kenya, Algeria, Iraq and Angola|
|Hua Xin Zhong An||Unreported||Unreported||Unreported||Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Egypt and Somalia|
The third area of operational consideration includes the cyber, digital and space domains. For now, these have limited direct applicability to the PSC industry; yet, as mentioned by Peter Singer and Douglas Brooks in an interview, these are domains where PSCs have the potential to play a more notable role in the scope of the BRI. The strategic importance of these dimensions was underscored in the “Digital Silk Road China” white paper published in 2015, which argued that “outer space has become a commanding height in international strategic competition” and China will “deal with security threats and challenges in that domain and secure its space assets to serve its national economic and social development and maintain outer space security.” The paper went on to argue that “cyberspace has become a new pillar of economic and social development, and a new domain of national security,” arguing that China must respond by enhancing its cyber capabilities to “stem major cyber crises, ensure national network and information security, and maintain national security and social stability.”  The publication also proclaimed that “space and digital connectivity” are among the top agenda items in China`s development priorities.
Reflecting on the strategic importance of the cyber, digital and space domains as key pillars of the BRI, experts divide these into two macro segments. The first is “China’s Belt and Road Space Information Corridor,” which aims to “build China into a space power in all respects,” which will lead to “strong and sustained economic and social development [and] effectively and reliably guarantee national security.” Another white paper titled “China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System,” published in 2016, drew a clear parallel between China’s ability to develop its own navigation satellite system and strategic military national security interests and its ability to pursue uninterrupted economic growth. In truth, the Beidou system’s strategic importance goes well beyond its operational tasks per se, since the Chinese side views it as an indispensable element for securing “the needs of the country’s national security and economic and social development.”
The second macro segment is “China’s Digital Silk Road” (DSR), which was also announced in 2015 and is intended to “build the brand image of Chinese companies, thereby ‘winning people’s hearts.’ When they become market leaders, these companies will be (market) standard setters—benefiting also from the accompanying monopoly and customer lock-in advantage, similar to how European and American companies have profited for many decades already. Also, these companies—assisted by the Chinese government—will be well-positioned to push for the adoption of their technical standards in standard-setting bodies.” Importantly, speaking at the National Cybersecurity and Informatization Work Conference in April 2018, Xi Jinping paid special attention to the opening “historical opportunities of informational development” and to increasing China’s activities in cyberspace, which is, according to the PRC, using rhetoric similar to the Russian political leadership—heavily dominated by the US. Thus, based on the discourse of Chinese political leaders, one of Beijing’s key goals is to become a full-fledged cyber power.
While the possibility of admitting PSCs into the digital domain is a distant prospect, some of China’s partners have already done so by introducing quasi-state and non-state actors into the area. For instance, following the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict in 2014, Russia has been actively experimenting with granting more tasks and responsibilities for quasi-PM/SCs in the realms of information and cyber security.
Chinese PSC Industry: A SWOT Analysis
Given the fact that the key end-users of services rendered by Chinese PSCs will be domestic SOEs, the main relative competitive advantages of PSCs can be grouped into three main areas: language and culture, affordability and relations with the government.
First, in terms of linguistic, cultural and mentality-related specificities, Chinese PSCs that are expected to work mainly with Chinese clients have an undisputed advantage over any foreign security provider due to, among other factors, their better understanding of the needs and wants of their customers, as well as an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the Chinese corporate world.
Second is the affordability of Chinese PSCs, with advantageous pricing policies making the cost of services considerably lower than Western rates. Some studies have argued that the majority of Chinese businesses are simply unable to afford paying for services provided by Western PM/SCs. One article from 2012 claimed that “in terms of pricing, Chinese sources say the cost per man for a private security guard from China ranges from 3,000–6,000 RMB per month ($476–$952). A 12-man Chinese security detachment costs from $190–$381 per day … much more affordable than the rates that many Western providers would likely charge. Chinese firms would probably retain their cost advantage even if demand for experienced ex-tactical operators in China rises and wages increase.”
Third, relationships with the state could allow Chinese security contractors—if the Chinese political leadership deems it necessary—to use the large military and security-related resources wielded by Beijing. Conditional on the will of the government (as was discussed, Beijing has taken an extremely cautious approach toward PSCs), Chinese PSCs could depart from their somewhat inconsistent staffing policies and increase the intake of representatives of elite special forces veterans coming from, among other units, formations similar to the Snow Leopard Commando Unit (雪豹突击队). As was noted by Robert Spalding, if the Chinese authorities want more professional soldiers, including veterans of special military formations, to join PSCs, this will not be a problem, since the will of the CCP is the key element that truly matters. Moreover, if willing, the state could divert more resources to the training of Chinese PSCs as well as the elimination of legal and administrative barriers hindering the development of the Chinese PSC industry.
In 2016, following violence in South Sudan the previous summer, President Xi Jinping advocated for “improved safety risk evaluation, monitoring and pre-warning and the handling of emergencies” for companies in dangerous territories and called for measures to support investment in unstable countries. According to Helena Legarda, in terms of ownership structure, Chinese PSCs—based on current legislation framework as well as employees of these entities, many of whom come from the armed forces or military police—are, in one way or another, controlled by or linked to the Chinese state. This, however, may be a mixed blessing from their point of view. As noted by Legarda, there is certain reluctance from the Chinese authorities to allow PSCs to expand their overseas operations, since their activities and any potential incidents could taint China’s international image. Another reason is Xi`s concerns over alternative centers of power that could develop if PSCs continue to grow.
Given growing destabilization in resource-rich, but unstable countries—many of which constitute part of the sphere of China’s strategic geo-economic interests within the scope of the BRI—one of the opportunities Beijing could use to increase the use of its PSCs is within the scope of UN missions. As some experts have argued, the potential engagement of Chinese security providers in UN missions allows Beijing to build an image of a “responsible great power.” In fact, Spalding noted that one of the big trends in the development of Chinese PSCs is a potential tie-in with Chinese forces operating under the umbrella of UN-mandated missions. As it was rightfully stated in one paper, participation in UN peacekeeping initiatives (for instance, in Africa, where the largest part of all UN-mandated missions are conducted and an area strategically vital for Chinese economic and business initiatives) provides the Chinese with the unique opportunity to acquire regional intelligence; interact with other militaries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations; as well as hone its practices and procedures. As a RAND Corporation study in 2018 argued, peacekeeping “can help ensure the internal security necessary for China to conduct economic activity in a country.”
The second major opportunity is related to China`s growing competence and expertise in the realms of artificial intelligence (AI) and surveillance, where, in addition to Chinese corporations directly involved in these industries, PSCs (deployed in a country to protect corporate property) and similar entities could also be used. As noted by Alessandro Arduino, in the future, Chinese PSCs could expand their share of consultancy and services provided in such areas as drones (primarily, platform maintenance, training and consulting) as well as cybersecurity, where China is transforming into one of the world`s leading actors.
Both individual Chinese operators and the PSC industry in general share a number of weaknesses and limitations.
First, one fundamental problem inherent to the Chinese PSC industry is the government’s monopoly on firearms (党指挥枪), which drastically reduces the level of professionalism and spectrum of tasks and services that Chinese PSCs could render.
The second main limitation involves legislative challenges and loopholes in the realm of foreign operations. It is frequently pointed out that the Chinese legal framework on PSCs primarily covers only operations and activities on Chinese soil. At the same time, China`s nonparticipation (at a governmental level) in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers (ICoCA, 2013)—which includes 100 PM/SC members as well as seven governments (Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US)—also puts a hindrance on Chinese PSCs in expanding their operations abroad. While it was reported in 2017 that the China Security Association (中国保安协会)—consisting of 18 local security associations—was evaluating Chinese PSCs to prepare a “whitelist” of firms deemed suitable for overseas work; however, no further developments have taken place since. A visible gap in international participation creates a large gap in terms of overseas business experience, which curtails the ability of Chinese PSCs to operate effectively abroad. Namely, lacking foreign experience—in terms of lack of knowledge about local social-cultural, political and regulatory/legal environments—bereave Chinese PSCs from being able to arrange proper information and intelligence collection, establish proper (and locally fit) supply-chain management practices and develop a network of ties with local forces.
A third area of weakness is in the level of professionalism and an unbalanced approach to training and developing (narrow) professional skills. As stated, China’s staffing approach in the realm of PSCs is in many ways amateur. However, a practice of using army veterans—currently numbering more than 57 million—via enlisting them in PSCs’ rank-and-file is hardly a long-term sustainable solution. The key element missing is not the number of personnel but their quality and ability to meet standards of the contemporary PM/SC industry. As noted by Chinese experts, while PAP/PLA veterans are proficient in using firearms, they “struggle to write even a simple security report,” meaning that the level of literacy and training is extremely low. As rightfully argued by Arduino, to succeed “along BRI routes, China does not need more guards but efficient and flexible security managers. … The attitude of blind obedience exhibited by many former PLA soldiers, who are now employed by Chinese PSCs, is more a hindrance than an asset.” This means that to match norms, standards and requirements of the contemporary PSC industry, Chinese operators must restructure their entire command-and-control (C2) architecture. But the ability to do so is serious in question given Chinese norms and culture.
Another key aspect is related to a strategic gap in training and (re)education of personnel in line with tasks and responsibilities performed by contemporary PSCs. While more than 300 Western universities provide undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs in security, including from military academies, in China, only the People’s Public Security University of China, China University of Political Science and Law and the International Security Defense College are offering courses looking into the current domestic policies governing private security.
The fourth weak point for Chinese PSCs is intensifying competition. As argued by some Chinese experts, “Many security companies, both Chinese and foreign alike, attempt to out-price one another, thereby making business difficult for those that could otherwise provide better services if the clients would be willing to spend more.” While competition is good in the West, it is unclear how this would work in China, where everything is regulated by the state. Arduino has noted that Chinese SOEs—despite their public image of infinite financial resources—frequently tend to cut corners and spend less money on security, frequently choosing economic affordability of services over quality. In many ways, this hinders the development and professionalism of Chinese PSCs and security providers.
Perhaps the most vivid threat that comes with the use of Chinese PSCs overseas is related to the worsening of Beijing’s image as primarily an economic player—an image that the CCP is promoting through the BRI—as well as the rising specter of Sinophobia. As noted, one of China`s main concerns related to the use of PSCs overseas is bond to the fear of publicity (akin to several incidents that have involved US PM/SCs), which could have a further negative impact on China’s image. At the same time, speaking about plausible deniability—arguably one of the central elements standing behind the whole logic of using PM/SCs by the state and state-related bodies—in the Chinese case, this is unlikely to work. Rightly or wrongly, it is common knowledge that, in China, no major decisions are taken without approval from above, thus, PSCs will be viewed as an extension of the Chinese state (or the PLA)—not “private” entities operating at their behest.
Another threat—which, in another light, could be an opportunity in terms of optimizing the number of operators working in the Chinese PSCs industry—identified by Arduino is based on growing technological capabilities (AI and surveillance systems) that make the current massive size of the industry superfluous.
While Chinese PSCs are unlikely to attain the same level of professionalism and (international) recognition as their foreign (mainly Western) counterparts, a growing number of Chinese SOEs will be commissioning their services if China is to continue expanding operations along the BRI. That said, however, for the time being, the question of using PSCs by the Chinese side overseas will not be apparent mainly due to a range of news regarding the criminal activities of Russian quasi-PMCs in sub-Saharan Africa, G5 Sahel and Ukraine (following Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression). Yet, it does not seem probable that China will completely abandon the idea of using PSCs, since investments abroad will still be associated with security risks that must be mitigated.
Thus, in order to increase the level of competitiveness, experts argue that, in the next several years, Chinese PSCs will need to carry out reforms in (at least) the following four areas.
First, corporate culture and organizational behavior need to be modified—with “private” elements being strengthened—to ensure that Chinese PSCs can acquire greater flexibility and adaptability to the international operational environment. Specifically, in addition to budget and planning, Chinese PSCs (aspiring to higher levels) should “discard the unrealistic illusion that the government will always be there to come to the rescue.” As noted, however, the feasibility of such a transformation (at least in the short- to mid-term) does not seem realistic.
Second, existing loopholes and legal challenges could be addressed through more Chinese PSCs joining ICoCA—for now only HXZA (as a certified member) and Hanwei International Security Services (as a certified member) have joined—whereby complying with international norms of standardization could lead to the acquisition of skills and expertise similar to those wielded by Western PM/SCs.
Third, “the Chinese PSCs themselves” need to make serious qualitative progress in areas including corporate structure; recruitment of executives and staff; training; use of technology and strategic developments with well-defined goals in terms of time; types of services; and geographical reach. Spalding believes that, over time, the level of professionalism (as well as equipment and training) of Chinese PSCs will likely grow.
Fourth, more political will is needed among the Chinese political leadership to transform PSCs into more professional entities. Yet, as noted by Legarda, it seems quite unlikely that, in the next several years, Chinese PSCs will transition to PM/SCs or be able to dramatically increase the level of their professionalism, which primarily stems from the stubborn mentality and thinking of Beijing.
Thus, it would be fair to argue that, until large portions of these (and earlier mentioned) reforms have been implemented, Chinese PSCs will preserve their current shape and main limitations.
Wietere chinesische PSCs in Afrika und anderen Staaten hat die Jamestown Foundation auch noch ausfindig gemacht. Dazu noch als Lesetip: