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As Chinese private security companies mushroom outside, experts say it is important to study their ownership and structure

New Delhi, Nov 22: After Russia, focus is now shifting on the rapidly growing Chinese Private Security Companies (PSCs). As Beijing's dependence on its home grown and groomed PSCs is expected to rise exponentially with the changing geopolitical trends in Central Asia and Africa, it will be critical to understand the nature and structure of these outfits. The rising threats on projects under the multi-trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and recent spate of attacks on Chinese expatriates have also magnified the role of Chinese Private Security Companies (PSCs), experts said.

"The PSCs are growing in importance and numbers and now with the changing global scenario, their role will only get magnified," an analyst who did not wish to be quoted told India Narrative. "It is therefore important to understand the structure of these companies," he added.

The analyst said that an international framework is necessary to determine the scope of operations for any PSC-not just Chinese.

Estimates suggest there are about 7000 Chinese PSCs in operation currently.

A report by Modern Diplomacy, an opinions platform noted last year that with the number and prominence of these PSCs rise "it will become increasingly important to understand their ins and outs and monitor their relationship with the Chinese state."

It also said that it will also be interesting to consider how, if at all, the role of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) might change given the emergence of these new security actors though the PLA will remain the most immediate and the strongest projection of Chinese national power. "In such scenarios PSCs may become a viable replacement in low intensity missions," it said.

Though the Chinese PSCs do not feature among the top ranked ones globally, the growing number of these outfits and their expanding role have caught the attention.

China Security and Protection Group, Frontier Services Group, China Overseas Security Group, HuaXin ZhongAn are among a few of the prominent Chinese PSCs, which have operations outside the country.

Recently, a report published by the Voice of America revealed that as security threats to Chinese citizens and BRI initiatives rise, there is a growing trend among them to switch to their homegrown PSCs rather than local or Western private security companies.

Not just that. China is keen to invest in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. However, uncertainty pertaining to security issues has remained a cause for concern.

Meia Nouwens, Senior Fellow for Chinese Defence Policy and Military Modernisation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in a blog said that having watched US and NATO militaries operate in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, Beijing is unlikely to put PLA boots on the ground. "Rather, it is more likely that China will leverage a resource that is already active among the Belt and Road Initiative projects in high-risk environments - Chinese private-security companies (PSCs)," she wrote.

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