Ying Yao is a PhD student from the Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University. She completed her BA in Burmese at Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2013. She has earned a full scholarship from the Developing Countries Studies PhD Program at Tsinghua University in 2013. She has previously served as an intern for Poly Technology Inc., the Beijing Municipal Education Commission the American Friends Service Committee, and China Radio International. From March to August, 2015, she worked as an intern at Gender and Development Initiative, a local NGO in Myanmar. She joined the Southeast Asian Studies Program, the Johns Hopkins University as a visiting student from August 2015 for a one-year graduate student exchange program.
“Corporate Social Responsibility: Tokenism or Social Responsibility? Case Studies on China’s Investments in Myanmar”
Following the “going out” strategy, Chinese state-owned enterprises have been investing in developing countries with great generosity. However, not all Chinese projects are embraced by local stakeholders. This article aims to understand in the context of a democratizing country like Myanmar, why Chinese companies are easily targeted as a foreign investor when this country is in desperate need of investment for development. Drawing evidence from case study on three major Chinese SOE invested projects in Myanmar and comparing them with other disputed investments from Japan and France, the article analyzes why corporate-community tension exists, how it evolves into confrontation, and why the companies fail to address the problems. The article is based on interviews with stakeholders from Chinese companies, international and local communities. I find out, in the Chinese SOEs operating in Myanmar, there is a wide belief that CSR projects, if well implemented and sustained, will ease the tension between the company and local stakeholders. I argue that CSR projects that are not based on a shared value, can not serve this purpose. There is fundamental collision in terms of perception on “development” between Chinese SOEs and Myanmar stakeholders, and it has been catalyzed by the democratization process. China SOEs’ discourse of “development” that aims to advance projects failed to serve the purpose, as it is re-constructed by the popular media and civil society organizations as destructive and exploitative. Furthermore, the “China” label on them is delineated as authoritarian and anti-democratic.