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December 22, 2016

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Chinese capital’s journey to the world

SOME Chinese enterprises have suffered from unexpected “breakups” from their western “fiancees” recently, due to some western countries’ unfounded presumption or groundless fear.

In October, the German government announced, due to “security concerns,” to restart the investigation on the sale of the German semi-conductor maker Aixtron to a Chinese company, and to withdraw the clearance certificate it issued in September which confirmed the Chinese buyer’s credibility.

Under the pressure, the buyer, China’s Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund (FGC), announced to withdraw the takeover offer.

In August, Germany carried out an intensive review of Chinese electric appliance manufacturer Midea’s acquisition of German robot maker KUKA for intellectual property concerns.

In Australia, the partial lease of the Port of Darwin to China’s Landbridge Group in 2015 was regarded by some Australians as a threat to military and navigation security.

China’s largest pork producer Shuanghui’s acquisition of its US counterpart Smithfield Foods in 2013 was described as a “threat to food security.”

The Chinese capital has been suffering from different degrees of turbulence or hinderance in Germany, Australia and the US recently, yet at the same time, the Chinese capital is still marching to the world with amazing speed, bringing benefits to both Chinese enterprises and the locals.

Chinese capital phobia

It looks as if China’s investment activities abroad have frequently prompted fear in western media and among politicians, and the reason they have often cited against China-proposed business deals is “national security.”

“Arguments about national security are invariably protectionism with some fancy PR,” British business columnist Matthew Lynn commented on an almost customary use of “security concern” by developed economies to block the Chinese investment.

According to Lynn, as China’s economy expands, it is inevitable that its corporate powers would start to reach out to the world, just like what the South Koreans did 20 years ago, the Japanese 30 years ago.

Aside from citing hardly warranted security concerns, another trick those biased politicians often use to thwart incoming Chinese investment is to exaggerate the size of China’s investment: they seek to create a false impression that the Chinese investment has inundated their national economy or even the whole world.

For that, Chinese ambassador to Germany Shi Mingde published a signed article in the prestigious newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, clarifying that there are currently about 8,200 German companies operating in China, as opposed to 2,000 Chinese companies in Germany, and China’s investment in Germany is only 10 percent of Germany’s investment in China, and accounts for merely 0.2 percent of the total foreign investment in Germany.

Many observers have noted that some countries are showing baseless concern over the Chinese capital and seeing China’s normal business investment as a Trojan horse.

Hannes Dekeyser, an expert with the European Institute for Asian Studies, said the recent wave of European countries’ worry over the Chinese investment coincides with a protectionist trend and a surge in populism on the continent.

Win-win investment

Facing various versions of “China threat,” how should Chinese investors respond?

“The best way is to invest in foreign business in an honest and sincere manner,” said Huo Jianguo, former head of a trade policy body under China’s Commerce Ministry.

Only by showing their sincerity by investing and doing business overseas professionally, can Chinese investors erase their foreign counterparts’ unfounded suspicion and fear, and secure a win-win outcome for both parties, he explained.

Riding a train from London, it will only take 20 minutes to arrive in Reading, where China’s telecom equipment company Huawei’s headquarters are located.

Since 2015, Huawei Britain has literally become a big employer for locals — it owns 1100 full-time employees, 70 percent of which are hired locally.

According to reports of the Oxford Institute for Economic Research, from 2012 to 2014, Huawei had contributed US$1.2 billion to Britain’s economy. By 2014, Huawei had increased 7,300 new positions in Britain, and purchased products and service in Britain’s 15 regions.

That explains why the always-critical British media has been saying very few bad words about Huawei. Some British councilmen have presented Huawei as an example to prove that foreign investment can indeed bring real benefits to Britain.

The city of Dayton in America’s Ohio State is at the rustbelt of the country’s traditional manufacturing industry. After the financial crisis in 2008, General Motors Dayton factory closed down, leaving about 1,000 workers unemployed.

However, in October, the factory reopened and what’s more, became the world’s largest automotive glass facility, with more than 2,000 people working there.

Behind the change is China’s investor Fuyao Group. Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor said: “This is a win for Ohio and the community, and most importantly the families that will be impacted by these new jobs.”

In 2012, China’s Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd acquired its long time competitor, Germany’s prominent Putzmeister Group. At first some of its German employees protested in fear of losing their jobs.

However, after four years, the company’s employment in Germany has been steady as ever, and the brand intact, relationship with suppliers unchanged, and revenue increasing 30 percent.

Germans found out that the new parent enterprise didn’t take away Putzmeister’s vaunted technology and move its production back to China as they once feared.

On the contrary, Sany tried its best to keep the German crew intact and divide markets by selling its own pumps in China and Putzmeister pumps in the rest of the world. The German firm acts as the global distribution hub for the combined company.

“I think if it were an American company, it would be a lot worse for the workforce,” said Joerg Loeffler, head of the workers’ union at Putzmeister.

There are many other similar cases. More and more people are now realizing that the Chinese enterprises’ investment is not a monster as rumored, but eyes in the long run and seeks win-win results by cooperation and merger.

Investment boom

In 2002, one year after China joined the World Trade Organization, China’s direct overseas investment was US$2.7 billion. In 2015, that figure surged to US$145.67 billion, nearly 54 times more than the 2002 figure, with an annual increase of 33.6 percent.

It was also in 2015 that China for the first time became a capital export country. Its annual direct foreign investment volume accounted for 9.9 percent of the total global investment, ranking the second in the world.

In the first three quarters this year, Chinese companies have implemented 521 overseas mergers and acquisitions, involving 18 industries in 67 countries and regions, and real trade volume of US$67.44 billion.

Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung commented that Chinese enterprises’ antennae have reached amazingly broad areas — ports, airports, cars, tourism, film and the fashion industry.

According to HSBC chief China economist Qu Hongbin, besides in quantity, the quality of the Chinese foreign investment is also improving. From the initial investment in foreign natural resources such as oil and iron ore, to infrastructure and manufacture, to service, high-tech and culture industries, China’s foreign investment has been upgrading itself by years.

Many experts also pointed out that, China’s Belt and Road Initiative will become the core impetus for the next round of China’s foreign investment. Along with the functioning of financial institutions such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, the Chinese capital will be more frequently seen in Belt and Road countries and regions.

The Chinese capital’s overseas journey has just begun. More and more people will feel the Chinese enterprises’ confidence, amity, cooperation and open mind during the process.

Along with the capital, the Chinese economy will also continue its globalization journey, and help to bring prosperity to China and the rest of the world.


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