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US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, ““The 88 Queensway Group: A Case Study in Chinese Investors’ Operations in Angola and Beyond,” July 10, 2009
The 88 Queensway Group
An initial search for Chinese firms operating in Angola resulted in a list of several companies with their headquarters located at the same Hong Kong address. Further investigation revealed that a handful of Chinese individuals control over thirty companies located at this address – 10/F Two Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong. Thus, for simplicity, this paper refers to this group of investors as the “88 Queensway Group.” The research presented in this paper is not a comprehensive overview of China’s involvement in Africa or Angola; rather, it is an in-depth study of this group of investors.
The 88 Queensway Group’s origins are imprecise and its power structure and relationship to the Chinese state remain unclear. Its subsidiaries and their operations have not been linked publicly in media reports. Although the Group’s companies often are classified as “private” and based in Hong Kong, there is evidence that several of its key personnel have ties to Chinese state-owned enterprises and government agencies, including China International Trust and Investment Company (CITIC), and China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec), and possibly China’s intelligence apparatus. The Group also has gained high-level access to the governments and national oil companies of the countries in which it invests. In the past five years, the 88 Queensway Group has established over thirty different holding companies and subsidiaries for the purpose of investing globally. In addition to Angola, the 88 Queensway Group has operations throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the United States.
The 88 Queensway Group: One of Two Main Vehicles for Chinese Financing and
Investment in Angola
The primary vehicle for official state-controlled lines of credit for the financing of construction and resource extraction projects in Angola is the Export Import Bank of China (China Ex-Im Bank). China Ex-Im Bank has extended several oil-backed loans worth at least $4.5 billion to Angola for reconstruction projects, which according to contract terms must be completed predominantly by Chinese construction companies. The funds for these projects are administered in a relatively transparent manner by the Angolan Ministry of Finance.
In addition to China’s official lines of credit, the 88 Queensway Group has provided a significant amount of financing and investment in Angola. These investments have been divided between two companies:
• China International Fund Limited (CIFL)
• China Sonangol International Holdings Limited (China Sonangol) CIFL is responsible for financing and managing the 88 Queensway Group’s construction projects, and has provided at least $2.9 billion to Angola for infrastructure reconstruction. These funds are administered by the Angolan government’s reconstruction office, Gabinete de Reonstrução Nacional, which is directly linked to the Presidency and has little transparency or accountability. China Sonangol is a joint venture between one of the 88 Queensway Group’s companies and Sonangol, Angola’s national oil company. China Sonangol is responsible for the management and operation of the Group’s energy sector projects, and has established a joint venture with Sinopec, one of China’s state-owned oil companies, for oil exploration in Angola.
The Global Scope of the 88 Queensway Group’s Operations
Although the majority of the 88 Queensway Group’s activities are concentrated in Angola, it also was active in Argentina, Congo-Brazzaville, and Venezuela by 2005. The Group steadily has expanded its global operations since 2007 and is now active in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the United States. Some of its recent operations include:
• the construction of an airport terminal in Tanzania and acquisition of 49 percent of Air Tanzania in 2008;
• the purchase of the JP Morgan Chase Building in Manhattan, 49 percent of the former New York Times Building, and 49 percent of the Clock Tower in Manhattan for $710 million in August 2008;
• the procurement of a $200 million stake in an oil and gas field in Indonesia in 2009; and
• the acquisition of 9.1 percent of a major construction and civil engineering firm in Singapore. Evidence also suggests that the Group could be active in Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Nigeria, North Korea, and Russia.
Although the 88 Queensway Group is portrayed to the public (and accepted publicly) as a private Hong Kong-based company with no government affiliation, some evidence suggests that several of the Group’s personnel are connected to the Ministry of Public Security or the Ministry of State Security.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) support for the 88 Queensway Group has been inconsistent, and recently the MFA has taken steps in its public statements to distance itself from the activities and companies associated with the 88 Queensway Group.
In the majority of the countries in which the Group is active, it has established and cultivated relationships with foreign entrepreneurs, businesspeople, or consultants who are already wellestablished in the target sector or market.
The paucity of public information about the professional and personal backgrounds of the 88 Queensway Group’s key personnel prior to 2003 prevents a solid conclusion about whether or not the Group is an operation controlled by the Chinese government.
The case of the 88 Queensway Group demonstrates that there is a diverse set of actors involved in China’s “going out” strategy. For example, in Angola, Chinese government agencies, stateowned enterprises, and private investors are active in Angola’s energy and infrastructure sectors. Angola has received delegations from various Chinese government agencies; loans from three Chinese policy banks; and investments from numerous Chinese state-owned companies. On top of this, the 88 Queensway Group has created a financing structure for projects in Angola’s construction sector which is comparable to, but separate from, the China Ex-Im Bank credit lines.
Often, analysts view China as a monolithic actor, with one strategy applying to all facets of its international relationships. However, the case of the 88 Queensway Group demonstrates that Chinese investments and relationships are far more complex, involving different layers of ministries, state-owned enterprises, and individual actors.
The lack of transparency and public accountability surrounding the 88 Queensway Group is a major concern for the United States. By posing as a private firm, the Group creates numerous companies within a complicated organizational structure to invest globally, thereby enabling the
Group to acquire assets unnoticed. The 88 Queensway Group’s purchase of high-profile real estate assets in the United States underscores the importance of identifying the extent of the Group’s connections to the Chinese intelligence community, the public security apparatus, and state-owned enterprises.
If U.S. efforts to promote development and democratization in Africa and Latin America are to advance, it is essential that the United States understands the complete narrative of Chinese investments in Africa and who is controlling these investments.
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