Erik Prince, the founder of private military contractor Blackwater, is bringing a new security and logistics outfit to western China. Although few details have been made public, in a recent interview with media outlet Global Times, Prince said the company he now chairs will soon expand its services to "include the northwest and southwest corridors of the One Belt and One Road initiative" — meaning Xinjiang and Yunnan.
Frontier Services Group (FSG) provides "logistical, operational and security" services to governmental and business enterprises, according to company literature. The firm announced in a December 2016 press release its intentions to, in the near future, "open forward operating bases" in both Yunnan and Xinjiang — a plan now confirmed by Global Times.
The Yunnan training facility is expected to open within the next several months, with the Xinjiang branch following suit in 2018. Frontier Services — incorporated in Bermuda and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange — predominately operates in Africa but is expanding into China in hopes of exploiting the dearth of equivalent security companies operating on the Mainland. This move comes at a time when China is increasingly encouraging domestic enterprises to move into what are often referred to in Chinese media as "frontier markets".
Currently the chairman of FSG, Prince is perhaps better known as co-founder of United States-based private military outfit Blackwater. That firm rose to prominence during the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and in 2006 signed contracts worth nearly US$600 million. During this period of spectacular growth, the company also developed a reputation for heavy-handed and ethically troublesome tactics.
However, in his conversation with Global Times, Prince was quick to distance his current firm from Blackwater — the latter of which was renamed and sold to a private investment group in 2011. "FSG employees do not carry guns and therefore do not provide any armed security services," he explained. That being said, few specifics have been released concerning what FSG will do, and with whom, once established in Yunnan. However, the 2016 FSG press release does supply some clues, reading in part that the firm will work to:
...better serve companies in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia [by providing] training, communications, risk mitigation, risk assessments, information gathering, medevac and joint operations centers that coordinate security, logistics and aviation services.
China's Belt and Road ambitions are vast, and have led to no small amount of tension with the Southeast Asian countries bordering Yunnan. Consequently, the decision by the province's Development and Reform Commission to cooperate with FSG may very well stem from recent violence against Chinese citizens and corporate interests in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
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