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Why Chinese workers are getting kidnapped abroad

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Chinese companies employed 812,000 Chinese workers abroad at the end of 2011, according to Commerce Ministry figures.

This week’s kidnappings were only the most recent in a string of such incidents. A list compiled Wednesday by the business magazine Caixin recalled 13 hostage-taking attacks involving over 100 Chinese citizens in 10 countries over the past 5 years.  Fourteen of the victims died.

Targets of the kidnappers included chemical workers in Colombia, construction engineers in Afghanistan, telecommunication workers in Pakistan, miners in Indonesia, and oil workers in Nigeria.

The Chinese workers do not seem to have been targeted because of their nationality, but rather because their status as foreigners makes them more valuable as pawns in local conflicts. But a number of factors appear to make Chinese expatriates more vulnerable than their Western counterparts, experts say.

To start with, Chinese companies tend to invest and operate in risky places. “China needs more resources and that drives companies to resource-rich countries that tend also to be dangerous countries,” says Professor Shen.

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