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Mapping Wild Cards

Inspired by: workshops/meetings » China’s investment and services “great wall”

version: 3 / updated: 2010-06-19
id: #812 / version id: #785
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Originally submitted by: Rafael Popper
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Source of inspiration


iKnow workshop country name

United Kingdom

Workshop date

February 2010

The source of the Wild Card is

Enviro-Tech Group of the iKNOW Workshop in Manchester: David Alexander (University of Florence), Alastair Brown (UK Climate Impacts Programme), Tony Diggle (SAMI Consulting), Pierre Rossel (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne), Anna Sacio (Institute for Sustainable Technologies), and John Turnpenny (University of East Anglia).

Uploaded reports, images or pictures related to the Wild Card

File name File type File size
iKNOW Policy Brief 009 - China’s investment and services great wall document 536654 open


(max. 9 words)

China’s investment and services “great wall”


(approx. 150 words)
Please describe the Wild Card (approx. 150 words)
While China’s OFDI is characterised by being politically unconditional, therefore highly welcomed, the predominance of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) investing in Africa and other developing countries could eventually become an “great wall” or major extension of China’s defence, security, science and technology policies. Such a pervasive OFDI strategy could sooner or later create natural market barriers for European and north-American firms to operate in some sectors and industries dominated by China (mainly in the tertiary and the manufacturing sectors, but also in energy and natural resources). With a steady GDP growth, nearly 2 trillion USD in foreign exchange reserves, and a healthy current account, it is not surprising to see the rapid growth of Chinese investments abroad. So the unexpected element of this wild card would be size and pervasiveness of China’s OFDI growth to the point that it becomes a serious challenge for global players. China’s thirst for natural resources and amazing capability to provide affordable and reliable solutions in the service industry may result in the capture and control of raw materials such as oil so that China could control prices and commodity markets. This leads to a major shift of global power and, possibly, to truly multi-polar world with environment-friendly and fair-trade policies driving competition. New political allegiances may arise in line with the new distribution of global investment and humanitarian aid. China could increase its political power becoming the dominant super power – or an idealistic power with production outsourced to Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the long run China-US conflicts could lead to new “cold war” situations but China’s new investment and services “great wall” successfully contains any coordinated effort to stop Chinese influence.


competition, globalisation, investment, natural resources, power, services, Africa


(max. 250 characters)

Aggressive Chinese outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) outstrips and halts European and US investments and services leadership in Africa and developing countries.


Closest timeframe for at least 50% likelihood
Please use one of the following options:

Type of event

Human planned (e.g. terrorist attack or funded scientific breakthrough)

Type of emergence

please select (if any) describe related trend or situation
An extreme extension of a trend/development/situation
(e.g. Increased global warming leads to a total ban on fossil fuels)

Type of systems affected

Human-built Systems - E.g. organisations, processes, technologies, etc.




please specify:
please select
Level 2: important for a particular world region Africa
Level 3: important for the European Union
Level 4: important for the whole world

Early indicators

(including weak signals)

There are many observables warning us about the probability of this wild card. For example: Western investors in Africa have either left or reduced their presence as a result of the recent economic and financial crises. Consequently, Chinese SOEs (practically unaffected by the global recession) have been able to take up abandoned businesses in Africa. According to the OECD, China’s accession to the WTO in 2001 has transformed the country’s trade, investment and financial regimes and the recent announcement of a “go global” policy has lead to an average annual OFDI growth rate of 116% from 2000 to 2006, which is certainly one the fastest in the world. And, since then, China has made even bigger investments in more than twenty African countries, including: Algeria, Angola, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, among others. The “aggressiveness” of Chinese investment is reflected in the large variety of investment areas, which include: services (mainly banking, construction, insurance and transport), oil and mining (including iron, ferrochrome, chromium ore, gold and copper, among others), telecommunications and manufacturing (e.g. electronic goods, automotive industry, etc.). Among the political signals we can see the government officials in Africa openly declaring that China is seen as a new strategic partner and that the fact that there is no colonial history between Africa and China makes the relationship extremely special. In addition, Chinese partnerships come without conditions as opposed to Western deals which typically impose a number of trade and aid policies often disguised with “human rights” labels.

Latent phase

Obstacles for early indentification

economic filters (business/market interests)
political filters (party or ideological interests)

Manifestation phase

Type of manifestation

In a probably enclosed way (e.g. geographically, sectorally)

Aftermath phase

Important implications
Transformation of a system (e.g. new applications, change in stakeholders relations/influence)


The impacts of China’s investment and services “great wall” could include: Manufacturing activities being reduced in China and outsourced or increasingly provided by Africa and developing countries. China could eventually control global CO2 policy, export media and culture as well as global poverty reduction solutions. Consequently, the EU and USA may get closer.

Relevance for Grand Challenges

where? please justify:
particularly relevant Europe world
Energy security/dynamics
Globalization vs. localization

Relevance for thematic research areas

please justify:
particularly relevant
Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology
ICT - Information & communication technologies
Social Sciences and Humanities
Regional development
International S&T Cooperation

Pan-European strategies potentially helping to deal with the wild card

please justify:
particularly relevant
Fostering and facilitating coherent international cooperation in science and technology

 Features of a research-friendly ecology contributing to deal with the wild card

For further information about 'research-friendly strategies' click here

please justify:
particularly relevant
Overcoming sub-criticality and systemic failures
To be subcritical means that the effort in a particular field or subfield lacks resources, equipment or a sufficient number of researchers to achieve a desired goal