Jingjing Zhang has been dubbed the “Erin Brokovich of China” for her work litigating against polluting companies on behalf of affected communities within the country. Now living in the U.S., she has switched her focus to Chinese companies operating overseas, many of them under the aegis of Beijing’s ambitious and far-reaching Belt and Road Initiative. But jurisdictional issues mean courts in China don’t yet hold Chinese companies accountable for their actions overseas. In an interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Zhang talks about her career, what strategies could lead the Chinese government to establish regulations governing overseas investment, and the influence of government policy on Chinese companies. Western corporations have been inflicting environmental damage overseas for generations, but the sharp rise in the scale of China’s international ambitions and operations in recent years has put a spotlight on the impact of Chinese companies abroad. The emergence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the foreign policy strategy put forth by Xi Jinping that aspires to invest trillions of dollars in infrastructure projects globally, has further ratcheted up the stakes. Within China, the central government has been emphasizing the importance of protecting the environment, including establishing nature reserves, promoting wind […]

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