Beijing has now evacuated all Chinese nationals from the chaos of Libya, 35,860 people including Taiwanese, according to the foreign ministry. What is left behind is what looks like adding up to billions of yuan in business losses not just from the cost of evacuating staff but also from damaged property and disrupted contracts.
Most if not all of the 13 state-owned companies operating in the country have had facilities looted or destroyed. The commerce ministry has said 27 Chinese construction sites and work camps had been attacked in the first days of the unrest. Having evacuated all its employees, China Railway Construction Corp. has suspended its 28 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) of contracts, as has China State Construction Engineering Corp., which has 9 billion yuan of active construction contracts in Libya, and China Gezhouba Group which has 5.5 billion yuan of housing building contracts. China National Petroleum Corp., which has services and exploration but not extraction operations in Libya and whose facilities are among those that have come under attack, has also stopped all work there.
In all, 75 Chinese companies had been operating in Libya, mostly in the energy and construction industries. They signed a reported combined $1.8 billion of new contracts last year, which will be most at risk from disruption. The commerce ministry and the agency responsible for state-owned enterprises say the are toting up the losses incurred by the SOEs. With China’s off-shore construction and natural-resources businesses giving no indication that events in Libya are diminishing their intention to work in some of the most politically volatile parts of the world, these may be regarded as no more than a necessary, if hopefully infrequent, cost of doing business there.