China's non-financial outbound direct investments, meanwhile, rose 1.8 percent in 2011 to $60.1 billion, taking the outstanding value of China's outbound investments to $322 billion by the end of the year, the Commerce Ministry said according to Reuters.

In 2011 alone, China invested in 1,392 overseas projects in 132 countries. "China's investments in Europe and Africa were particularly strong in 2011," Shen Danyang, the spokesman of Ministry of Commerce, told a regular news conference.That outward investment strength comes as inward investments cooled sharply in the closing months of 2011 -- a distinct difference to the situation in 2010.

China’s was the world’s fifth largest overseas investor in 2009 with such investments growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year. Chinese investment overseas topped $50 billion in 2010, with much of the money going into mining, energy and agriculture projects

In 2000, China had $28 billion in overseas investments; in 2011 it could break $200 billion. The $200 billion figure is still relatively small when compared to investments of smaller economies, such as Singapore's, Russia's and Brazil's. China has only invested $17 billion in rich countries, equivalent to the overseas assets of a single medium-ranked Fortune 500 company.

Chinese investment in other countries was $6.95 billion in 2006. China's investmnets are quite diverse. China is investing in the Suez Canal and cement factories in Egypt. In Venezuela, where China is the largest source of foreign investment, Beijing has offered to build homes and fiber-optic networks.

China has no laws against paying bribes to foreign countries or companies. Chinese firms have reportedly handed out millions worth of bribes to win contracts in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Some Chinese companies are investing in the United States. Haier spent $40 million in a factory in South Carolina. The Holley Group, China’s leading maker of utility meters, bought three U.S. firms. Chinese enterprises are investing heavily in Southeast Asia and are involved in projects all over the world. (See Trade and International). Chinese investment abroad is often difficult to gage because the money is often invested through Hong Kong or a third country.

In October 2010, during a two-day visit to Greece, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced that China was willing to buy Greek debt at a time when Greece was suffering severe economic problems and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Wen said, “China will undertake a great effort to support euro zone countries and Greece to overcome the crisis.”

Chinese Companies Doing Business Abroad

Chinese firms are increasingly investing and setting up shop abroad. Chinese auto plants have opened up in South Africa and Latin American. A car parts distributor has bought ailing companies in the rust belt of the United States. A Chinese-established commodity market has helped turn a down-on-its luck Swedish city around. Argentina’s economy is becoming increasingly dependent on exports to China.

More than 5,000 Chinese companies have invested in 172 foreign countries. Chinese companies invested more than $30 billion in foreign firms between 1996 and 2005 with a third of that in 2004-2005. In the United States and Canada, Chinese companies have 3,500 projects compared to 1,500 five years ago. Total China investments in the United States is estimated at between $5 billion and $7 billion.

Chinese companies are increasingly trying to sell products under their own brand names at much cheaper prices than non-Chinese companies, many of whom rely on the same Chinese companies to produce their goods. The Chinese are expected to make huge inroads — and in the process derive non-Chinese competitors — in sectors such as flat screen televisions, portable DVD players, medical technoloy and perhaps even automobiles. Chinese versions of these products are nearly as good and half the price as those produced by non-Chinese companies. Low labor cost also allow Chinese companies to add a lot of features that non-Chinese competitors can’t add because they re too costly.

Some Chinese businessmen are opening up factories in the United States. One Chinese entrepreneur who open up a printing plate factory in South Carolina, after finding out that land was one forth the cost of land in southern China and the electricity rates were 75percent lower and blackouts were infrequent. The $12 a n hour, labor costs compared to $2 an hour in China were softened somewhat by a $1,500 an employee tax break, offered by the South Carolina government. Others Chinese companies came to the United States during subprime mortgage crisis to “bottom-fish” and snap up undervalued assets.

Working for Chinese Companies Abroad

In Brazil many workers are not enamored with the Chinese work habits. A 20-year-old employee at the a Chinese grocery store told AP in 2011, "My bosses have never heard of a day off. Vacations? Forget it. They pay well and they pay for extra hours, but they don't understand that some things are more important to Brazilians than money...I've seen many workers walk in, see the Chinese way of doing things, and quit the very same day.” [Source: Bradley Brooks, Associated Press, May 29, 2011]

Brazil's strong independent labor movement also clashes with a centralized Chinese system of company unions without collective bargaining power."You're looking at a whole different model of how society operates," said Charles Kernaghan, the institute's director. "That means no rights to organize, virtually no labor protections." Chinese companies are attempting to export that model and, at least in Brazil, have been finding it difficult to retain workers, even in management positions. A survey of 500 Brazilian executives working for Chinese, North American and European companies recently conducted by the Michael Page International recruitment firm for the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo found that 42 percent of Brazilian executives working for Chinese companies left their jobs within a year, a 68 percent higher turnover rate than found in the other firms studied.

Brazilian workers complain that their Chinese employers don't understand the country's culture of developing personal relationships among co-workers. Brazilians also bristle against a centralized office hierarchy that puts little trust in local executives. The cultural misunderstandings are going to frustrate the development of Chinese business in Brazil," said Marcelo de Lucca, director of Michael Page's Brazil operations. "Multinational companies, when they arrive in Brazil or any country, have to adapt to the local culture. But the Chinese, with their old culture, being a country ruled by a strong Communist party with extreme levels of hierarchy, for them this process will take longer."

Global accounting firm KPMG, whose specialists help Chinese companies get started in Brazil, say about 30 of China's big state-run companies with annual revenues above $1 billion are now in the country, more than three times the number five years ago.

Sovereign Wealth Funds in China

The sovereign wealth fund has been part of China’s plan to diversify the money in its foreign reserves, relying on things other than U.S. Treasury bonds.

The sovereign wealth funds in China are: Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE),China Investment Corporation (CIC). There is also Citic, a state-controlled fund founded in 1979 under orders of Deng Xiapoing, controlling $127 billion; and 3) the China Development Bank (CDB), founded in 1994 and tightly controlled by the Chinese government, controlling $316 billion.

China’s biggest and most powerful companies are largely controlled by sovereign wealth funds, China National Petroleum Corporation, China Mobile and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are controlled by SASAC (Assets Supervision and Administration Commission).

China has been accused of using money in its sovereign wealth fund and foreign currency reserves for political purposes. American economist Larry Worsel said, “Rather than use this money for the benefit of its citizens — by funding pensions and erecting hospitals and schools, for example — China has been using the funds to seek political and economic influence over other nations.” He cited as an example the purchase of Costa Rican government bonds to get Costa Rica to severe ties with Taiwan.

The U.S. Congress plans to pass legislation in 2009 to pressure China to raise the value of the yuan and require Beijing’s sovereign wealth fund to disclose investments it is making in the United States.

China Investment Corporation

China Investment Corporation ( CIC) is $200 billion Chinese sovereign wealth fund. Created in October 2007 after acquiring a branch of the People’s Bank of China, it is in charge of investing China’s hurge foreign reserves. CDB has traditionally been involved in financing bing infrastructure projects like the Three Gorges Dam.

CIC is headed by Gao Xiqing, who possesses a law degree from Duke University and was head of China’s Securities Regulatory Commission for many years. After working as a lawyer and professor in China he went to Duke and was an associate in Richard Nixon’s former Wall Street law firm. He speaks fast, accented, colloquial English and works out a modern high-rise in Beijing in an office decorated with bonsai trees, a picture of Martin Luther King and shelves of Chinese and Western financial textbooks. He often works with Western classical music playing the background. [Source: James Fallows, the Atlantic Monthly, December 2008]

Gao is the son of a Red Army general who accompanied Mao on the Long March. During the Cultural Revolution he worked on railroad construction crew and in an ammunition factory. He has a crew cut and wears rimless glasses and open shirts.

Chinese Sovereign Wealth Fund Investments

In May 2007, CIC purchased a $3 billion stake in the private U.S. equity firm Blackstone Group. Many saw it as a first step for China to take as it invests it massive foreign reserves and some saw it as symbolizing things to come, with some speculating that China might next seek large stakes in companies like Google, Goldman Sachs or General Electric.

The Blackstone stake was purchased by the newly-created State Investment Company, which has more that $200 billion to spend. Many questioned the purchase. In the weeks after Blackstone went public in June 2007 its value went down. By the end of July 2007, China had lost $425 million on its investment. In November 2007, Blackstone joined China National Chemical to bid $2.8 billion for an Australian agricultural firm.

In July 2007, CDB bought a $3.2 billion (3.1 percent) stake in Barclays Bank. The investment will give a member of the Chinese cabinet a seat on the board of a British Bank and make it players in the struggle between Barclays and Royal Bank fo Scotland to win control of the Dutch bank ABN Amro.

In October 2007, Citic bought a 9.9 percent stake in Bear Stearns. It was the first time a Chinese firm had obtained a major stake in a Wall Street investment firm. According to agreement the two firms would invest about $1 billion in each other and launch a Hong Kong-bases joint venture. The deal helped China gain a foothold in Wall Street and helped Bear Stearns, whose stock had plummeted 28 percent before the deal in 2007 because of the American mortgage crisis, gain a foothold in the Chinese real estate market.

China bought a 9.9 percent stake in Morgan Stanley shortly before its share prices fell by half. In December 2007, CIC gave Morgan Stanley, the No. 2 investment bank in the United States, a $5 billion loan to help it meet its financial obligations after suffering billions of dollars of losses because of the bad debts related to mortgage crisis.

In January 2008, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), which controls China’s $1.4 trillion in assets, bought minority stakes in three Australian retail banks as part of its effort to diversify its holdings.

In April 2008, the Chinese sovereign wealth fund — China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange — bought large stakes in the French oil giant Total SA and BP PLC. According to one report it bought a 1.8 percent stake in Total for $3.14 billion and a 1 percent stake in BP and it did so to help China gain access to energy supplies.

As of 2009, SAFE had major stales in 40 important British firms including BP, National Grid, Shell and Prudential.

As of October 2008, the value of Blackstone had fallen 70 percent from what it was worth when the CIC paid $3 billion for its stake. Its $5 billion investment in Morgan Stanley had declined by 20 percent.

In September 2009, CIC bought a 14.5 percent stake in the trading firm Noble Group for $850 million, giving China greater access to trading and commodities expertise and helping it secure the raw materials it needs.

As economic crisis began to take hold in 2008, the head of one of China’s sovereign wealth funds said that it was considering shifting the focus of its investment to developing economies as opportunities in the developed world were becoming increasingly uncertain and risky.

Chinese Sovereign wealth funds snatched up stakes in foreign companies at bargain prices during the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. The chairman of CIS even boasted that it was thankful that protectionist measures kept it from investing in money losers before the crisis.

Global Investments by China During the Global Economic Crisis

China took advantage of the economic downturn to go on a major shopping spree, investing in energy and other natural resources that could give it an economic advantage it has never had before. Among the deals were an agreement that state-woned China Development Bank would lend the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras $10 billion in exchange for along-term commitment to send up to 160,000 barrels of oil a day at market prices. China signed similar deals with Russia and Venezuela. It also snatched up international mineral companies and financial houses.[Source: David Barboza, New York Times, February 20, 2009]

China was flush with cash — thanks to trillions of dollars from decades of selling goods to the West — at a time when credit markets are tight and collapsing commodity prices have left energy and natural resource companies desperate for cash.

The investments are China’s biggest moves since 2005, when a Chinese state-owned oil company made an unsuccessful bid for Unocal, the American oil company, prompting worries about whether fast-growing China was seeking to tie up global resources. Since then China’s leverage and strength has increased as its foreign reserves and access to cach have increased.

In many cases, China has struck deals in countries that have access to large supplies of oil and minerals but where American and European countries are not well positioned, like parts of Africa and the Middle East. In one of the deals struck this week, China made an alliance with the government of Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, who has denounced American leadership.

Worries Over Chinese Acquisitions Abroad

The Economist reported: “Chinese buyers — mostly opaque, often run by the Communist Party and sometimes driven by politics as well as profit — have accounted for a tenth of cross-border deals by value in 2010, bidding for everything from American gas and Brazilian electricity grids to a Swedish car company, Volvo. [Source: The Economist, November 11, 2010 ]

Chinese firms own just 6 percent of global investment in international business. Historically, top dogs have had a far bigger share than that. Both Britain and America peaked with a share of about 50 percent, in 1914 and 1967 respectively. China’s natural rise could be turbocharged by its vast pool of savings. Today this is largely invested in rich countries’ government bonds; tomorrow it could be used to buy companies and protect China against rich countries’ devaluations and possible defaults.

Chinese firms are going global for the usual reasons: to acquire raw materials, get technical know-how and gain access to foreign markets. But they are under the guidance of a state that many countries consider a strategic competitor, not an ally. China often appoints executives, directs deals and finances them through state banks. Once bought, natural-resource firms can become captive suppliers of the Middle Kingdom. Some believe China Inc can be more sinister than that: for example, America thinks that Chinese telecoms-equipment firms pose a threat to its national security.

Private companies have played a big part in delivering the benefits of globalization. They span the planet, allocating resources as they see fit and competing to win customers. The idea that an opaque government might come to dominate global capitalism is unappealing. Resources would be allocated by officials, not the market. Politics, not profit, might drive decisions. Such concerns are being voiced with increasing fervour. Australia and Canada, once open markets for takeovers, are creating hurdles for China’s state-backed firms, particularly in natural resources, and it is easy to see other countries becoming less welcoming too.

Positive Side of Chinese Acquisitions Abroad

The Economist reported: China is miles away from posing this kind of threat: most of its firms are only just finding their feet abroad. Even in natural resources, where it has been most active in dealmaking, it is not close to controlling enough supply to rig the market for most commodities. Nor is China’s system as monolithic as foreigners often assume. State companies compete at home and their decision-making is consensual rather than dictatorial. When abroad they may have mixed motives, and some sectors — defense and strategic infrastructure, for instance — are too sensitive to allow them in. But such areas are relatively few. [Source: The Economist, November 11, 2010 ]

What if Chinese state-owned companies run their acquisitions for politics, not profit? So long as other firms could satisfy consumers’ needs, it would not matter. Chinese companies could safely be allowed to own energy firms, for instance, in a competitive market where customers could turn to other suppliers. And if Chinese firms throw subsidised capital around the world, that’s fine. America and Europe could use the money. The danger that cheap Chinese capital might undermine rivals can be better dealt with by beefing up competition law than by keeping investment out.

Not all Chinese companies are state-directed. Some are largely independent and mainly interested in profits. Often these firms are making the running abroad. Take Volvo’s new owner, Geely. Volvo should now be able to sell more cars in China; without the deal its future was bleak.

Chinese firms can bring new energy and capital to flagging companies around the world; but influence will not just flow one way. To succeed abroad, Chinese companies will have to adapt. That means hiring local managers, investing in local research and placating local concerns — for example by listing subsidiaries locally. Indian and Brazilian firms have an advantage abroad thanks to their private-sector DNA and more open cultures. That has not been lost on Chinese managers.

China’s advance may bring benefits beyond the narrowly commercial. As it invests in the global economy, so its interests will become increasingly aligned with the rest of the world’s; and as that happens its enthusiasm for international co-operation may grow. To reject China’s advances would thus be a disservice to future generations, as well as a deeply pessimistic statement about capitalism’s confidence in itself.

Chinese Investment in the United States

It has become common place for American governors and mayors to got to China practically begging them to bring their money and business to their states. As of 2010, 33 American states, ports, and municipalities had sent representatives to China to get Chinese companies set up shop in the United States and lure jobs once lost to China back to the U.S.: Besides affordable land and reliable power, states and cities are offering tax credits and other incentives to woo Chinese manufacturers. Beijing, meanwhile, which has mandated that Chinese companies globalize by expanding to key markets around the world, is chipping in by offering to finance up to 30 percent of the initial investment costs, according to Chinese business sources. [Source: Sheridan Prasso, Fortune,, May 7, 2010]

The incentives are working. Chinese companies announced new direct investments in the U.S. of close to $5 billion in 2009 alone, according to New York City-based economic consultancy the Rhodium Group. That's well below Japanese investment in the U.S., which peaked at $148 billion in 1991, but a big jump from China's previous investments, which had been averaging around $500 million a year.

Chinese Companies in the United States

Chinese companies see plenty of opportunities in the United States. In 2010, they announced plans to build a wind-energy turbine plant and wind farm in Nevada that will create 1,000 American jobs; purchased the 400-employee Los Angeles Marriott Downtown out of foreclosure; and acquired a shuttered shopping center in Milwaukee, with plans to turn it into a mega-mall for 200 Chinese retailers. During the global economic crisis, Chinese companies snatched up properties at bargain prices in Wisconsin, California, Florida and Arizona.

Several Chinese companies such as Anshan Iron and Steel (Ansteel), China’s largest steelmaker, and Huawe technologies a global leader in manufacturing communications equipment, have big plans for their operations in the United States but are treading very carefully to avoid any backlash against their presence. Ansteel was allowed to have a 14 percent stake in joint ventured it formed with a U.S. steelmaker and Huawei was prevented from supplying Soruntm Nextel with telecommunications equipment because of concerns about security leaks.

Chinese Factories in the United States

Hundreds of Chinese companies have set up factories in the United States because they have found it is a better, less expensive place to do business. Among them are Yuncheng Gravure Cylinder, which opened a factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina to make cylinders used to print labels like the ones on plastic soda bottles. One of the reasons it came to the U.S. is because its cheap. The land Yuncheng purchased in Spartanburg, at $350,000 for 6.5 acres, cost one-fourth the price of land back in Shanghai or Dongguan, a gritty city near Hong Kong where the company already runs three plants. Electricity is cheaper too: Yungcheng pays up to 14¢ per kilowatt-hour in China at peak usage, and just 4¢ in South Carolina. This and other advantages outweigh the fact that skilled workers at Yuncheng earn $25 to $30 an hour, line operators $10 to $12 — considerably more than the $2 an hour that unskilled labor costs in China.[Source: Sheridan Prasso, Fortune,, May 7, 2010]

Corpus Christi is to become home to the largest-ever Chinese-built factory in the U.S., a $1 billion plant by Tianjin Pipe Group to manufacture seamless pipe for oil drilling. Tianjin Pipe expects to break ground in the autumn of 2010 and employ 600 Texans by 2012 and to provide an estimated $2.7 billion to the local economy over the next decade. Tianjin Pipe is the world's largest maker of steel pipe. One reason it is opening the factory in Texas is to avoid paying import duties of up to 99 percent on the type of seamless pipe that is to be manufactured that were imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department to satisfy demands made by U.S. steelworkers.

American Factories Brought Back to Life by Chinese Owners

In some cases Chinese companies are resuscitating American outfits that had been left for dead. In June 2009,Top-Eastern Group, a tool manufacturer based in China's coastal city of Dalian, acquired a factory in Seneca. South Carolina along with three other facilities from Kennametal, one of America's largest machine-tool makers, after the U.S. company, based in Latrobe, Pa., reported a $137 million loss (citing a slowdown in industrial activity) in the quarter before the sale.[Source: Sheridan Prasso, Fortune,, May 7, 2010]

The plant in Seneca makes drill bits. Top-Eastern bought it for $29 million, and invested another $10 million to upgrade machinery, built a $3 million logistics center, brought back Kennametal's furloughed workers, hired 120 more. Top-Eastern’s owner Jeff Chee started the company in 1994 with just $500. The company now has worldwide sales of more than $120 million, 4,000 employees, and factories in Germany and Brazil. He plans to make the drill bit factory profitable where Kennametal had struggled by increasing productivity with new equipment and cutting costs and forging his own steel, using mines he owns back in China that supply two of its more expensive components, tungsten and molybdenum. Being able to market his products as made in the U.S. give Top- Eastern to customers that have government contracts that have “made in U.S.A.” requirements.

On how employees at the factory to work for a Chinese employer, Scott Henderson, a 47-year-old manufacturing manager who had been furloughed but brought back to work fulltime by Top-Eastern told Fortune, “They're all happy to be working 40 hours a week.” They also have the opportunity for overtime. “I feel great about it,” says Sam Marcengill, a 24-year-old technician at the plant who had been laid off and now works overtime, 48 hours a week. “The work's a lot more steady. It's better. Personally I'm a lot better off. It's a great thing.”

Troubles for Haier in the United States

Appliance maker Haier was the first Chinese company to build a factory in the U.S. Employyes don’t mind working for a Chinese company. Brenda Missouri, a 43-year-old leaks tester who works for Haier told Fortune, “They're good business folks; they get the job done.” she says. As for communism? “Doesn't matter,” she shrugs. “It's money that makes the difference.” [Source: Sheridan Prasso, Fortune,, May 7, 2010]

In the mid 2000s, a caller to The Rush Limbaugh Show complained that as he was driving past the Haier plant in Camden, the Chinese flag was flying higher than the American flag and the South Carolina state flag out front. It was an easy mistake to make by anyone looking at the three equal-height flagpoles from an angle.

Conservative media joined in and called for protests, and the public rang the factory to complain. The Chinese executives at Haier had no idea flags were such a big deal, and it became their bugaboo. The complaints continued until 2008 ago when Haier America factory president Joseph Sexton, who was new to the job, decided to fix it. He had two of the poles lowered so that the U.S. flag looks highest from all angles.

It took Haier some time to work through other issues. “Having a Chinese manager didn't work. That's why they took all the Chinese managers out of here,” Haier's human resources director, Gerald Reeves told Fortune. Reeves was one of the first hired by Haier and guided the Chinese through the realities of American-style personnel management -- including convincing them that they needed to offer health insurance.

What is perhaps most startling about the Haier factory is that it is actually shipping goods back to China. Best known for its mini-fridges for dorm rooms and studio apartments, Haier's U.S. plant also makes large units, good for supersized American McMansions but too large for a typical Chinese household. Now a growing number of wealthy people in China want to supersize too, so Haier has realized it can ship a small number, maybe 4,000 a year, of its highest-end refrigerators home and sell them for $2,600 apiece.

Morgan Stanley's Land Scandal in China

Morgan Stanley was widely admired for huge profitable real estate deals it made in China, many of them engineered by Garth Peterson, an executive in the company’s China real estate division. A fluent Chinese speaker, he was regarded as a star deal maker and a powerful figure on the Shanghai investment scene. [Source: David Barboza, New York Times, March 1, 2009]

In February 2009, Peterson was fired after evidence was uncovered that he might have violated the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American business people from bribing foreign officials. Morgan Stanley sent both United States and Chinese officials documents indicating that Peterson, the bank’s highest-ranking real estate executive in China, may have secured some transactions by offering cash or gifts to Chinese officials. His partners in some deals were Chinese government investment funds.

The Shanghai Securities Daily, a government-controlled publication, said in an article on Friday that China was investigating a number of Morgan’s real estate deals here. These include the company’s purchase last year from Agile Property, a large developer, of a 30 percent stake in a Chinese resort development for $775 million.

Morgan Stanley was one of the first foreign investors to move into invest in China’s booming real estate market when it was soaring during the mid 2000s. It plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into Chinese real estate projects as early as 2004, when prices began a spectacular three-year ascent. The bank helped feed the real estate boom by helping to take Agile Property public in 2005, raising $460 million.

According to Agile’s public filings in Hong Kong, from February 2007 to June 6, 2008, Agile paid about $350 million for a vast plot of land in Clearwater Bay, Hainan, where it planned to build villas and luxury hotels. On June 27, 2008, a Morgan Stanley affiliate acquired a 30 percent stake in that project from Agile for about $775 million, valuing the project at more than $2.5 billion. Later Agile said it had booked a profit of about $600 million on the partial sale of the Hainan stake. The company said Friday that because of the Morgan Stanley deal last year, Agile gave shareholders a special dividend of $135 million — about $78 million of which went to the family that founded Agile. They collectively own about 58 percent of the company’s shares.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2012

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