CCCC, Belt and Roads biggest builder, is besieged by allegations of corruption and environmental damage
Christopher Fernando knows the price of rapacious development. It has eaten his kitchen.
Only the sink remains along what was once an outer wall of Fernando’s seafront home near Negombo, about 20 miles north of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. Part of the thatched-roof house where the 55-year-old fisherman has lived for decades suddenly washed away last year. He blames the dredger, like a mythological sea monster ceaselessly devouring the seabed, visible in the distance as he speaks. Waves used to wash sand in, he says, but now they only wash it out. “From the taking of sand,” Fernando says, “everything is being destroyed.”
The sand is being dumped along the coast next to Colombo’s business district, where it’s become an expanse of land the size of 500 American football fields. It’s the foundation for a development known as Port City Colombo, being built by China Communications Construction Co., or CCCC. Plans envision a financial center between Singapore and Dubai—plus a marina, artificial beach, hospital, malls, and 90-story luxury towers. The project is part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative to build an estimated $1 trillion of infrastructure to support increased trade and economic ties that further China’s interests around the globe.
State-owned CCCC—one of the world’s largest companies, with revenue exceeding that of Procter & Gamble Co.—says its portfolio of 700 projects in more than 100 countries has a value of more than $100 billion. That makes it the largest Belt and Road contractor, according to RWR Advisory Group in Washington, which tracks Chinese investment abroad.
It’s also one of the most vexed. CCCC and two of its subsidiaries, China Harbour Engineering Co. and China Road and Bridge Corp., have left a trail of controversy around the world. The company was blacklisted by the World Bank for eight years for alleged fraudulent practices in the Philippines, charges CCCC denied. Malaysia halted two rail projects this year amid corruption investigations. There are allegations of mistreatment of railway workers in Kenya and bribery in Bangladesh. In Canada, CCCC was blocked from acquiring a construction company on national security grounds. And there have been calls in the U.S. Congress to sanction CCCC over its alleged role in building Chinese military bases in the disputed South China Sea—an issue that scuttled the company’s plans in 2015 to raise $1 billion by spinning offits dredging unit in a public offering in Hong Kong.
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