If a corporation is too crooked and too big a polluter for China, and if it's likely that an African government won't put up with its guff . . . where do you open shop next?
Obviously, you go to Louisiana, where the governor is more than happy to throw tax incentives at you to pollute Cancer Alley just a little bit more -- or maybe a lot more -- and not create that many jobs in the process.
Ah, Louisiana. If it looks like a Third World country, and it smells like a Third World country, and it does business like a Third World country . . . it just may be a Third World country. Unfortunately, this one happens to be an American state whose governor aspires to be president.
Of the United States.
AL JAZEERA AMERICA tells us all about China's latest industrial investment in the Third World, right here in the United States. Here's how the series of three articles begins:
A prominent Chinese tycoon and politician — whose natural gas company's environmental and labor rights record recently started coming under fire in the Chinese press — is parking assets in a multibillion dollar methanol plant in a Louisiana town. And he appears to be doing it with help from the administration of likely GOP 2016 presidential ticket contender Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Not many locals in a predominantly black neighborhood of St. James Parish — halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — know that Wang Jinshu, the Communist Party Secretary for the northeastern Chinese village of Yuhuang and a delegate to the National People’s Congress, is the man at the helm of a $1.85 billion methanol plant to be built in their town over the next two years with a $9.5 million incentive package from the state. The details of the project are unclear, residents say, largely because they were not told about the project until local officials, amid discussions with state officials and Chinese diplomats, decided to move forward with the project in July 2014.
“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose, a 74-year-old black Vietnam War veteran who works at a nearby church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”
The Chinese company has filed for expedited permits to construct and operate a plant on a sprawling 1,100 acres — situated between a high school, two churches and an assisted living facility for senior citizens — from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which is set to study the impact on the local environment and deliver its decision on March 6, 2015.
The plant is part of a recent push by New Orleans–area officials to reach out to Asia’s growing economic powerhouse to redevelop communities still devastated by the effects of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Some of those projects, it appears, have since gone sour. In one instance, which Al Jazeera will explore in the third installment of this series, a company contracted by the city government stands accused of stealing millions of dollars from Chinese investors seeking U.S. citizenship in exchange for building businesses in an underserved neighborhood.
Local economic development authorities told Al Jazeera that St. James Parish is an ideal location for the methanol plant because of readily accessible deep water and cheap fuel from the shale oil boom that will help cut production costs. But it remains unclear what the impetus is behind a methanol plant that plans to send the lion’s share of its product back to China, which is struggling to find a market for the methanol already being produced.
What is clear is that there are links between Wang’s U.S. subsidiary — Houston-headquartered Yuhuang Chemical Inc. — and the Chinese government and the Jindal administration.
READ the whole three-part series -- here, here and here.
Apart from urging you to read the whole series -- which obviously is a non-assimilationist Islamic plot against Bobby the Truth Teller -- I have little to say about this thing. I'm talked out, written out and outraged out when it comes to my home state. To quote the Steve Taylor song from 1987, "Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better."
The reality of Louisiana is that Louisianians are basically incapable of effective self-government. The reality of Louisiana political life is that it's probably not too much worse than that of Guatemala, Honduras or some state in northern Mexico. The reality of the Louisiana economy and workforce is one where officials throw money at foreign companies to build plants that despoil the state's environment and poison adjacent communities (mostly poor and black ones, by the way) while state regulators look the other way and promises of many jobs become realities of not so much.
The reality of Louisiana is none of this is likely to change anytime soon. In fact, it's likely to get worse.
The reality is that Bobby Jindal's Louisiana -- just like Kathleen Blanco's Louisiana, Mike Foster's Louisiana and Edwin Edwards' Louisiana -- is that state government is likely to put up with a lot of Chinese corporate misbehavior that officials in . . . wait for it . . . Zambia brought to a swift and dramatic end:
Last year , Zambia's government seized control of a Chinese-run coal mine, saying Chinese managers had failed to address safety, health and environmental concerns.I THINK it is safe to say Louisiana will not be seizing control (or even much sanctioning) any industrial facility for failing to address pretty much anything. State government is much more accustomed to letting vested interests seize control of it. Billion dolla . . . cheap!
In 2010, two Chinese managers at the mine were accused of shooting miners during a labour dispute, and clashes in August reportedly saw one Chinese worker killed and two others injured.
I can't change that. You can't change that. Short of a military invasion, street-corner firing squads and scores of re-education camps, the United States government can't change that.
Worst of all, Louisianians cannot -- or, more accurately, will not -- change that. I guess Third World is as Third World doesn't.