The Wire China-Sukanto Tanoto beamed as he shook Xi Jinping’s hand. It was 2015, and the fact that Tanoto — an Indonesian billionaire who was born to Chinese immigrants — had been invited to attend the conference in Hainan, China, was something of an honor. Only two other overseas Chinese entrepreneurs were reportedly included in the discussion, which centered on regional economic integration and financial cooperation around the then-novel Belt and Road Initiative.

Tanoto had worked hard for his invite. It was the culmination of years of relationship building in his heritage country, and a testament to the growing heft of his company, Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), which, at that time, was worth an estimated $10 billion and focused mostly on pulp and paper exporting.

“China is an absolutely critical country when it comes to the natural rubber industry, and there’s currently not enough of a conversation happening between Chinese companies and the GPSNR,” says Julian Oram , senior director for rubber at the U.S.-based non-profit Mighty Earth, one of the NGO members of GPSNR.

The question Oram and others don’t have an answer to, though, is how to engage these companies and how to address China’s central role in supply chains.

“We have little or no transparency about the Chinese companies who invest in Indonesia, and Chinese companies don’t respond to our requests for information,” says Zakki Amali, a research manager at Trend Asia, an Indonesian environmental NGO. “That makes doing advocacy much, much harder.”

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