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St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2018: Building a Trust Economy

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SPIEF 2018 was held under the slogan “Building a Trust Economy,” and this year reached new heights, both in terms of scale and results. With its numerous achievements, it would be fair to call it an innovative, technological, and indeed breakthrough event.

“In spite of the sanctions imposed by a number of countries, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum demonstrated that Russia is a land of opportunity. The 17,000-plus participants arriving from 143 countries is testament to that fact. Over the past few years, SPIEF has developed to become an international platform, with its main achievement being the creation of a space where the spirit of trust prevails. Trust is a key asset in the business world, and discussions at the Forum focused on this crucial aspect,” said Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee Anton Kobyakov at the event’s closing press conference.

Guests from every continent, and representatives from international organizations such as the UN, IMF, OPEC and others spoke ever more profusely on the need to operate in a single economic space and find new areas of common ground in a changing world. President of France Emmanuel Macron was one of the honoured guests at the Forum. He commented that “Russia must have a leading voice in the Council of Europe.” He also expressed the belief that Russia and the EU’s united approach to the inviolability of underlying multilateral agreements in international politics was a key factor for the world today.

Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe commented, “The slogan of our Forum this year is ‘Building a Trust Economy.’ It is my belief that we can deem Japan and Russia as together engaged in building this economy of trust… We now stand at a historical turning point; the path we should take and efforts we should make are all entirely clear. It is working for future generations in Japan and Russia. It is Japan and Russia becoming a major force for safeguarding and fostering regional and global prosperity for the Japanese and Russian peoples, further deepening their relationship, mutual trust, concluding the peace treaty and building up lasting peace and stability between our two nations.”

Speaking at the Forum plenary session, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, noted that “Russia has put in place an admirable macroeconomic framework – saving for a rainy day, letting the exchange rate float, introducing inflation targeting, and shoring up the banking system.”

“This year, the Forum has come to resemble a crossroads of civilizations. Only at SPIEF has everything been put in place to ensure that discussions are open, as opposed to politically charged. It is where participants from various countries and growing economies discuss economic issues. There is no place in the world other than SPIEF that provides such an opportunity, which is why we have seen the numbers of participants grow from year to year,” said Anton Kobyakov.

During this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, over 3,000 flights arrived at and departed from Pulkovo Airport, including over 800 private flights. By way of comparison, SPIEF 2017 saw over 2,500 flights, including over 700 private flights.

Business Programme

The main programme incorporated over 150 business events across the Forum’s numerous venues. These events were split into four distinct themes: “Technology for Leadership,” “Harnessing Russia’s Growth Potential,” “Human Capital in the Digital Economy,” and “The Global Economy in an Era of Change.”

The Forum’s central event was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. He commented: “Today what we need are not trade wars, or even temporary trade armistices, but rather a fully-fledged trading world. The slogan of this year’s Forum in St. Petersburg is ‘Building a Trust Economy’. I am convinced – and experience bears this out – that the role of trust as a factor affecting development will grow further.”

Events Held On the Eve of SPIEF 

In the run-up to the FIFA World Cup, SPIEF held a special event entitled “From the First to the Twenty-First” for officials and business figures from Latin America and the Caribbean. In a ceremony broadcast live on Russia 24, television presenter Sergey Brilev handed a capsule of earth from the Estadio Centenario to the government of St. Petersburg. The Estadio Centenario in Montevideo (Uruguay) has a special place in global football history as the stadium that hosted the first World Cup in 1930.

23 May also saw the “Australia–Russia Business Re-connection: How and Why?” business breakfast take place for the first time. The event was organized by the Roscongress Foundation’s partners in Australia: the Australia–Russia Dialogue Forum and the ADC Forum. Later on, a business lunch took place entitled “Development of Trade and Economic Cooperation between the EAEU and ASEAN. Russia’s Role in the Process.” The event was attended by business representatives from EAEU and ASEAN.

The discussion platforms Russian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Forum (SME Forum) organized by the Roscongress Foundation together with All-Russian Non-Governmental Organization of Small and Medium Business OPORA ROSSII and the SME Forum partner Russian Small and Medium Business Corporation saw lively debates on business practices, some of which were held in a new, interactive format. The topic of small and medium enterprise continued as part of the main SPIEF 2018 business programme.

This was the third year that issues related to women in business also took centre stage on the eve of SPIEF 2018. An international forum entitled “Increasing the Contribution of Women to Economic Growth and Prosperity: Creating an Enabling Environment” brought together around 200 female participants representing the Russian regions.

Elsewhere, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Leningrad Region’s “Women as Leaders” conference saw animated discussions on the involvement of women in a changing economy.

The initial discussions on these topics will continue in just a few months’ time, with St. Petersburg hosting the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum on 21–22 September.

Officical SPIEF Programme

The official opening ceremony took place on the first day of the Forum – 24 May. Welcoming addresses were given by Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko, and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Achim Steiner. Poltavchenko made assurances to Forum participants that Russia has been and will always remain a reliable partner.

In total, 68 business events took place that day in various formats. Topics under discussion included digitalization, the future of the labour market, energy, and a breakthrough in the Far East. Participants at the Valdai Discussion Club session focused on the effect the crisis in international relations is having on the global economy, and possible ways to resolve the standoff between Russia and the West. The first day ended with a discussion on smart cities.

Issues concerning international cooperation came under focus on the second day, which also saw a number of business dialogues between countries take place. Participants identified new opportunities for implementing joint projects, modern mechanisms by which to promote exports on overseas markets, and ways to cooperate on removing administrative barriers. The business programme for 25 May included 51 events. The highlight was the plenary session, featuring President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China Wang Qishan, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. Furthermore, country’s leaders conversed again during Russia–France and Russia–Japan bilateral dialogues. Additionally, Vladimir Putin met with the heads of world’s information agencies and a held a meeting with the leaders of international companies.

Events took place as panel sessions, roundtables, and business dialogues. They provided platforms by which leading specialists, experts, and politicians could discuss topics such as the resources and economy of the Global Ocean, the potential of the Arctic, and the in-demand technologies of the future.

The closing day of the Forum saw 41 events take place, including 22 events held as part of the International Youth Economic Forum – a permanent SPIEF fixture for the younger generation. The day began with a business breakfast for representatives of the IT industry. According to those present, as much as 20% of global GDP today is tied to digital transformation, making it perilous to underestimate its impact. On the same day, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia and EY unveiled the results of a joint study on trade and economic ties between Russia and the USA.

The B20 Regional Consultation Forum was a special event at SPIEF 2018, and saw participants discuss recommendations for G20 leaders for the forthcoming summit in Buenos Aires, which will take place this year from 30 November to 1 December.

In what has now become tradition, SPIEF hosted the presentation of the results of the Russian Regional Investment Climate Index for the fourth time. Tyumen Region climbed five places to convincingly take first position. Completing the top five were Moscow, Tatarstan, Leningrad Region, and Tula Region.

The Roscongress Foundation is a socially oriented non-financial   development institution that puts a special emphasis on the health care in the Russian Federation, including improving the quality of life (creating the system of long-term care for senior citizens, developing palliative care in Russia, promoting healthy life style, etc.).

SPIEF 2018 held a number of sessions and interviews on increasing life expectancy that brought in representatives of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as Russian and foreign experts.

Investing special effort in this area, the Roscongress Foundation strives to become the leading single platform for discussing national goals, objectives and priorities to improve the quality of life in Russia (in accordance with Executive Order of the President of the Russian Federation “On National Goals and Strategic Objectives for Development of the Russian Federation through to 2024” dated 7 May 2018).

Agreements

The global character of SPIEF was made even more apparent – and the communication platform even more attractive for talks – by the number of major projects and agreements that took shape. As of 30 May, 593 agreements had been signed at SPIEF, worth a total of RUB 2.625 trillion (counting agreements where the figures were not classified as commercial secrets).

The biggest of these were the following:

  • A strategic cooperation agreement between Rosneft, Vnesheconombank and VEB Leasing worth up to RUB 400 billion for financing projects and providing leasing services.
  • An agreement of intent between the Eurasian Development Bank and Belkomur Interregional Company to form a syndicated loan of up to RUB 278 billion to fund the construction of the Belkomur railway line.
  • Several long-term contracts with a total value of USD 2.1 billion between Rosneft and 12 importing companies based in Mongolia for the supply of petrol and diesel fuel.
  • An agreement worth USD 1.5 billion to construct a natural gas processing plant in the town of Ust-Luga (Leningrad Region), signed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the Japanese company Marubeni Corporation, the Baltic Gas Chemical Company, and Invasta Capital. The plant, which will convert natural gas to methanol, will have a capacity of 1.7 million tonnes per year.
  • An agreement between Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Deutsche Bank (Germany) to open a credit line of EUR 807 million, to be provided by a consortium of five European banks.

In addition, the Roscongress Foundation signed cooperation agreements with the Association of Lawyers of Russia and 21 Russian federal subjects: the Leningrad, Kaliningrad, Kirov, Murmansk, Novgorod, Penza, Pskov, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Saratov, Sverdlovsk, Tver, Tomsk, and Chelyabinsk Regions, and the Republics of Adygea, Altai, Buryatia, Karachaevo-Cherkess, Crimea, and Khakassia. The aim of the agreements is to build collaboration between the parties on raising the investment attractiveness and export potential of the regions.

The Roscongress Foundation’s international partner network is continuing to increase. SPIEF 2018 saw the signing of agreements with the Association of European Businesses; the Federation Of Pakistan Chambers Of Commerce & Industry; the Union of Chinese Entrepreneurs in Russia; the ASEAN Business Club, the Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce; the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology (COMCE); the General Confederation of Entrepreneurs of Argentina; the Croatian Chamber of Economy; the Israeli Russian Business Council; the Polish Investment and Trade Agency; the Ladies in the Frontline business association, MEDEF International; the Boao Forum for Asia; the Moscow Centre for International Cooperation; and the Centre for the Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship.

A number of agreements with charity and socially oriented organizations has been signed as part of a plan to develop the social platform launched by the Roscongress Foundation.

The agreements cover cooperation within the social development sphere.

Additionally, agreements have been signed with sports organizations, such as the Russian Golf Association and the Golf Estate Management Company. This cooperation will focus on running sporting programmes for economic forums, including golf tournaments held at Peterhof Golf Club under the aegis of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to promote sport, both in the corporate sphere and among the general public.

Other organizations to sign cooperation agreements with Roscongress were the Central Union of Consumer Societies of the Russian Federation; the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library; Rosconcert; Rostelecom; VSK; MZS and Partners; the Deposit Insurance Agency; the Water Supply and Treatment Cluster Management Company in St. Petersburg; SVEKO FSUE; and Electrificatciya PJC.

In 2019 under the auspices of the United Nations Organization Russia will host the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS). The event will take place at the INNOPROM venue in Yekaterinburg. The appropriate agreement has been signed during SPIEF 2018.

Importantly, an agreement was signed between the management of the Made in Russia national brand and Novgorod Region to work together on promoting the Novgorod Rus regional brand. An agreement with Zenden Group will result in the establishment of Made in Russia’s first regional office, also in Novgorod Region.

International Youth Economic Forum (IYEF)

Following the decree of the President of the Russian Federation on establishing an on-going youth platform during SPIEF, the Forum hosted the International Youth Economic Forum (IYEF) organized by the Roscongress Foundation and the Federal Agency on Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh). During the event young leaders of local and international business discussed contemporary challenges and awarded the winners of the All-Russia competition My Country – My Russia.

IYEF brought together graduate and post-graduate students from more than 15 Russian universities, including St. Petersburg State University, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Higher School of Economics, National University of Science and Technology MISIS, Russian Social University, People’s Friendship University of Russia, St. Petersburg State University of Economics, etc.

The youth platform created by the Roscongress Foundation together with partners allows future managers to take part in the forum with no participation fee. They get a chance to network with big business representatives and hear their success stories. Direct communication between different generations helps raise future entrepreneurs, foster international relations, and get acquainted with potential employers. Within the next five to ten years the entrepreneurs return to the Forum as new participants ready to share their experience, eager to represent their company on the international level, and take part in the international global processes.

A great example of SPIEF 2018 of the latter is presence of opinion leaders from academic, business and media environments from G20, BRICS and EEU invited by the Russian Centre for Promotion of Internal Initiatives supported by the Roscongress Foundation and the Government of St. Petersburg. Among them were the participants of the meeting of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with youth G20 leaders at SPIEF 2013. During this brief period they managed to find their way in politics and business and now they head various youth, research and civic organizations. Five years later young leaders meet in St. Petersburg again.

Youth agenda at SPIEF 2018 included meetings with officials, representatives of international companies, members of business communities, and experts. Young leaders of G20 and EEU held a series of brainstorms about the place Russian economy occupies in the global world, and about the future of digital economy. Additionally, they discussed creating a youth entrepreneurial network that would help develop horizontal interaction of G20 and EEU young leaders, as well promote business projects among the SME participants.

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EEU: An Irrelevant Anachronism or a Growing Digital Enterprise Dynamo?

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A commonwealth of interests

The search for a stable Eurasia depended on the effectiveness of a durable system for the post Soviet space which could easily descend into an arc of instability if was not properly managed. Moscow had to be careful not to view these ex Soviet countries as its natural hinterland to be taken for granted and to upgrade its relations with each of them to preserve a communality of interests that had eluded it in Ukraine. The world of the command economy centred on Moscow would be made over on an entirely new basis that reflected the fast moving 21st century digital economy. Where common standards and freedom of movement of people and capital was meant to create a climate of openness and facilitate cross border business not to seal off Eurasia from the outside world. The fragile nature of post Soviet identities meant that a sense of commonwealth and common citizenship rooted in an overarching Eurasian identity would be more appealing to a growing entrepreneurial class disillusioned with the results of narrow ethno- nationalism as a ruling idea. The danger was that the more the Eurasian Union grew in stature it would have to navigate roadblocks deliberately placed there by powerful nationalist interests who perceived it as threat to their power base. And by stoking tensions with Russia periodically these former Soviet states could remind the outside world that they were not tame satellites of Moscow or artificial constructs but were free to decide their own destinies.

The path to some kind of durable Eurasian concept was obstructed by the reluctance of many Eurasian states to give up on the idea that eventually find a place in the west. The Eurasian union might be a useful stopgap while they waited to the privileged world of the west where they felt they ultimately belonged. Even though the chances were slim that it would ever happen. The Russian view of the Eurasian Union was that it would be a modernizing force which would have the express aim of bringing the region closer to the world and transforming it into a forward thinking technological giant. It would not be a repeat of the “Soviet experiment” which was a parallel universe closed to outsiders with information tightly controlled. And with the official version vastly at variance with the grim reality. Its core vision this time around was to effectively connect the region to the outside world and be at the forefront of new innovation. It would not depart from international standards and go off on its own tangent or conduct its affairs with guarded secrecy. But happily embrace new ideas and fresh thinking. Russia’s objectives were to circumvent parochial state leaderships and local bureaucracies and create a global brand that would capture the imagination of high net worth investors and provide a real alternative to pro western orthodoxy. With first class transport, logistics and a digital economy that would be the envy of the world, it would be first and foremost technocratic and meritocratic and not so much ideological in nature.

The Russian leadership concentrated on achieving maximum consensus in decision making and adopting policy positions where the weaker states would not be unfairly disadvantaged. While Russia would be providing the bulk of the digital infrastructure and at its own expense it would be considered common property of the Eurasian economic union in many ways. Russia’s contribution was based on a more generous model than its Chinese partner which took the form of loans that could result in forfeiture of assets if loan payments were not met in time.

Digital future

Thus Russian prime minister Mihail Mishustin recommended at a meeting of the inter Government commission implementing a “digital project” across the whole Eurasian union. This would provide a “specialist information system” in the sphere of “migrant labour” that would better serve the needs of business and the migrant communities. These measures would seek to gradually phase out and replace the patchwork, confusing system of regulations with a common framework. So for example in future the EEU would receive powers that would promote standardization. The Eurasian commission adopted a new technology based system of labelling products that “would apply in future in relation to new categories of labelled products.” The prime ministers of the EEU states approved a document that would “establish a time limit by which member states would be notified of the intention to introduce labelling on their territory.” And would give them a “period of nine months to outlaw unlabelled products.”  The new system should eventually be incorporated fully at the national level so that business could “escape unnecessary burdens” caused by “different systems of control.” and gradually filter out bureaucratic anomalies.

The priority was to create a level playing field so that the EEU was not perceived as just an exclusive club for Government connected state companies. But that it would also create conditions for small and medium enterprises to thrive and expand and ease substantially the costs of doing business. As well as reversing the favouritism traditionally shown to large companies by making the ability of SME’s to operate in an environment that was transparent and equitable more concrete. For example the prime ministers of the EEU states agreed to a “unified ecosystem of digital transport corridors”. The total cost of the scheme would be around 10 billion roubles. The cost divided between the union and the member states. It would provide a “service for the access of electronic route maps, international transport charging rates” as well as electronic protocols that would give updated information on interior ministry regulations etc. This unified system was especially useful to SME sector who were often reliant on “outside platforms” which were often “not connected to each other” and ” the absence of coordination added to their logistical costs.”

Open banking

Similarly the five member states of the EEU have agreed to form a common financial market by 2025. A key role in this is played by financial technology which will be deployed to make financial services “more accessible, cost favourable and safer”. Private and business customers can expect “financial services of higher quality and greater choice to be available”. And with such a hi tech financial monitoring tool at the authorities disposal “credit and financial institutions will have to reveal the origin of their capital”. An important element was the Application Programming interface which gave the programme the capacity to conduct biometric identification and to connect IT systems together so “they can exchange information between themselves.” Also a pilot project was launched which the AFT system together with 13 Russian banks were undertaking. “The aim of it is to improve automated online credit lending for small and medium businesses.” And create a level playing field. This was another example of how the Eurasian Union was preparing the ground for a greater role for the more dynamic and innovative SME sector in anticipation for a shift from a resource based economic model to a more diverse demand and consumption one.

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Capitalism and the Fabrication of Food Insecurity

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Human security can be depicted as the notion through which the widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of individuals can be identified and protected. In simpler words, folks are protected against threats and situations that deem to violate their vital human rights. Thus, with human security, the protection and empowerment of people is promoted. With that said, under the umbrella of human security, food security holds immense significance; as, it is responsible for sustaining human life and health. In addition to that, it also stipulates individuals on the required energy for progression, resulting in the evolution of state institutions and its functioning. Henceforth, food security has a direct co-relation with the development of a state.

Notwithstanding, the lack of access to sufficient quality of affordable food results in food insecurity, which can be depicted in several states and communities across the globe. However, contrary to popular belief,this food insecurity is not a subsequent of scarcity; in fact, the annual production of food surpasses the benchmark of sustaining one and a half times more food for the world’s entire population. In reality, the scarcity narrative was produced by corporate food regimes to serve their interests through capitalism. Since, it can result in the incorporation of price increase and generation of maximum profit, indicating how the agricultural sector is influenced by the interests of elite companies. In fact, the top eight firms in agriculture hold 80% of the sector’s market share, and these particular institutions dictate the conditions and rules for our food system, while effectively setting the price of grain for the world subsequent to their benefits. As a result, several regions of the world experience food insecurity, which essentially tarnishes their road to progression.

Through capitalism, food has transformed from a necessity into a commodity, solely for the purpose of profiting from its high demand. This denotes the horrors of capitalism; because, profits are given priority over human needs. Due to this lust for profit, corporate food regimes initiated the “Green Revolution” in the 1950s and 1960s. On the surface level, the movement consisted of the development of new disease-resistant strains of food crops, primarily wheat and rice. The incentive was to increase crop yield in the developing world, through countries such as India and Mexico. Nevertheless, beneath the surface, this movement led to an increase in food insecurity and served the interests of the elite. The green revolution led to the introduction of subsistence farming systems, in the form of new technology. However, in order to adapt to this system, farmers required cash to buy seeds, fertilizers and equipment, along with the continuous supply of cash to maintain them. Meaning, the farmers could not rely on eating their own produce and selling the surplus. Instead, crops had to be traded with agricultural corporations, in order to continue to earn a living through farming. Thus, the green revolution did not lead to improving small-scale farmer productivity. In fact, it monopolized the agricultural sector and consolidated the profit in the hands of specific transnational corporations. The companies in turn influenced the agricultural market to their benefit, leading to food insecurity.

Furthermore, food insecurity is a result of the systematic failure of capitalism. One of the ways to attain maximum wealth for agricultural corporations and their shareholders, is through over production. Hence, these companies set a fix price for the farmers cost. In this manner, farmers cannot produce less crops despite declines in agricultural markets. As a result, crops are over produced and their market price declines. In order to cover the fixed costs, the farmers have to carry out more production, which puts them in perpetual debt. In addition, with over production, goods pile up unsold, workers are laid off, demand drops and prices of products increases, resulting in lack of access for poor people.

A country fighting against the influence of the corporate food regime is India; as, Indian farmers in Punjab and Haryana have carried out mass protests recently. Reason being that the Indian Parliament has passed three agriculture acts—Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Since Modi’s regime favors the interests of the elites and the corporate regimes, these laws have made farmers of India vulnerable to exploitation and the prevalence of food insecurity. Firstly, the laws aim to remove the agricultural produce market committee (APMC), which is the area that regulates the notified agricultural produce and livestock. Through the APMC, traders were provided with licenses and a minimum support price for crops was set. As a result, corporations could not dominate the agricultural sector; however, the new laws challenge that very concept. Even though the Indian government has argued the changes will give farmers additional freedom, the farmers claim that the new legislation shall eliminate the safeguards set to shield them against corporate takeovers and exploitation. Therefore, the monopolization of corporate regimes in the Indian food system shall further devastate the livelihoods of vulnerable communities, and the food insecurity will prevail.

As a solution to food insecurity arising from capitalism, a reappearance in the pre-capitalistic reality should occur, where food is not bought and sold to the highest bidder. Instead, food is sold outside exclusive markets as a basic right of all citizens of a state. This system can be regarded as the system of communal responsibility. The success of which can be traced back to the era of empires, where individuals did not experience food insecurity despite the rise and fall of empires. Proving how, co-operative production and fair distribution of food is possible. Hence, in conclusion, food insecurity is a fabrication of capitalism and the interests of corporations; where, wealth is saturated in the elite class. Accordingly, the solution is to return to the pre-capitalist reality and focus on communal responsibility. 

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China’s Emerging Diamond Industry

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Since the 1980s, China’s economy has been on the rise. With a prosperous manufacturing industry, China has a growing middle class and an ever-increasing demand for luxury goods. Compared to Russia, China does not have large diamond reserves. However, the country makes up for its lack of resources by gaining access to diamond reserves in Africa and producing affordable synthetic diamonds.

The Underdevelopment of China’s Diamond Industry

China’s diamond industry is underdeveloped due to lack of resources in diamond mines domestically and overseas. According to a report by Frost & Sullivan in 2014, China is still developing its overseas diamond market, and only a few companies have access to diamond mines.

According to the F&S, Chow Tai Fook, a Hong Kong-based jewelry chain is the only Chinese company that has obtained the DTC (The Diamond Trading Company) qualification of distributors. As a subsidiary company of De Beers, the DTC sorts, values and sells about 35% of the world’s rough diamonds. As a renowned company in the industry, Chow Tai Fook has its diamond polishing factories to source rough diamonds from mining companies directly. It also has supply agreements with Rio Tinto, Alrosa and De Beers. Chow Tai Fook has four diamond cutting and polishing factories—two in South Africa, one in Botswana, and another in China. However, for other renowned Chinese companies on diamond processing, such as Henan Yalong, or CR Gems, they cannot purchase rough diamonds directly from the market, so they mainly produce synthetic diamonds. Even if they are to process rough diamonds, they can only purchase raw materials from secondary markets, where the price of rough diamonds is high, leading to even higher production costs.

By contrast, India, the world’s largest diamond processor, has more than 60 companies with the DTC qualification of distributors. India also has access to a number of essential diamond mines. For a long time, India has relied on suppliers from Russia and Africa and diamond trading centres such as Antwerp, Tel Aviv and Dubai for rough diamonds. Most of the diamonds produced in the world are shipped to India for cutting and grinding and then go into the global retail market. In this way, India dominates the diamond processing industry.

China’s diamond processing industry and African mines

By securing deals with companies and governments that control diamond mines in Africa, China is breaking India’s monopoly on diamond processing through the Belt and Road Initiative. This had caused China’s diamond exports to increase by 72% by 2014, generating revenue of US$8.9 billion. Countries and regions that signed the Belt and Road Initiative in central and southern Africa, such as South Africa, Gambia, Zaire, Botswana, Zimbabwe and their surrounding areas are the most famous rough diamond sources and producing sites of the world. In recent years, Chinese company Anjin Investments, a joint venture between Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co. Ltd., and Matt Bronze Enterprises of the Zimbabwe Defense Ministry and the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, has been negotiating with the Zimbabwe government on mining resources. President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe has recently allocated fresh diamond mining claims to Anjin Investments in Chiadzwa in Manicaland province, four years after the company was evicted from the mineral-rich area alongside other miners on allegations of under-declaring proceed in 2016. Meanwhile, Russian company Alrosa also signed a number of agreements with Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) to establish a joint venture for Zimbabwe’s primary diamond deposits. It will be interesting to see whether China and Russia will cooperate in Zimbabwe for diamond mining in the future.

To summarize, combining Chinese craftsmanship and rough diamonds of high quality is bound to be a massive opportunity for the global market in the future. Besides, it is also crucial for China to strengthen workers’ vocational skills to improve the diamond processing industry’s overall efficiency and production level. As China begins to further invest in the BRI project, Chinese companies may find more opportunities in Africa in the future.

China’s synthetic diamond industry

According to the F&S report, the global market for rough diamonds will lead to a shortage of 248 million carats by 2050. Customers from China and India have significantly contributed to this number. By advancing its technology in producing synthetic diamonds, China finds another way to develop its diamond industry.

In recent years, China’s synthetic diamond industry has been expanding along with the increasing global demand for China’s synthetic diamonds. According to a report by Leadleo on China’s synthetic diamond industry, there were 8,278 diamond equipment, materials, micro-powder, composite sheet, diamond tools and diamond products companies in China’s diamond industry as of the end of 2018. The top five leading enterprises in the industry occupy about 80% of the market share and have high market concentration. In terms of the industry’s geographical distribution, large leading synthetic diamond enterprises are mainly located in the Henan Province due to the local government’s policy preferences. By contrast, small diamond manufacturing enterprises concentrate in the Anhui Province. On a technical level, the low-end sectors of China’s synthetic diamond industry have developed their international market competency by improving their products’ quality to reach international standards. By contrast, Chinese enterprises that manufacture high-end diamonds with special functions still have a long way to go. There is a significant gap between them and leading global manufacturers such as the UK’s Element Six, one of the world’s best manufacturers for high-end synthetic diamonds. Therefore, many artificial diamond companies in China are currently working on enhancing their technology, striving for breakthroughs to meet global customers’ various demands, and obtaining more significant profit margins.

To conclude, China’s diamond industry is emerging. With the development of the synthetic diamond industry and more access to African mines, China is hoping to make more breakthroughs in the diamond industry in the near future.

From our partner RIAC

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