Does China Dominate Global Investments?
Overseas investments offers China an opportunity to bolster its own economy, and to leverage its economic strength to increase its influence abroad. Beijing’s policies encourage investments in foreign markets and Chinese firms have actively expanded their overseas footprint in recent years.
Natural resource-extraction activities in Africa, Australia, Canada, and Latin America continue to dominate Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI), but Chinese companies have also begun acquiring strategic assets in American and European high-tech sectors.
For all of the talk of China’s growing FDI, it still represents a small share compared to investments from the more advanced economies of the United States and Europe, according to a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. China’s share of foreign investments in regions like Latin America and Africa are much smaller than its cohorts.
On the other hand, China could emerge as a world leader in international investment, according tot he report, if China’s leaders manage to rebalance the Chinese economy toward a consumer-driven and high-end manufacturing model.
Annual Chinese FDI into Latin America and the Caribbean has expanded dramatically over the last several years. Investments totaled $81.55 billion between 2005 and 2015, growing steadily from $430 million in 2006 to $4.87 billion in 2009 and peaking at $24.48 billion in 2010.
But the region accounted for only 10.5 percent of China’s total global FDI over the past decade, and China’s investment in the region pales in comparison to other actors. Chinese investments constitute one percent of total inflows from all investor countries. The Netherlands and the United States are the largest regional investors, accounting in 2014 for 20 percent and 17 percent of global investments.
In 2014, China was the fourth largest investor in Africa, making up 6.1 percent of global investments behind France (18.3 percent), Greece (10 percent), and the United States (nine percent).
But China’s investments in Africa may expand considerably over the next several years, according to the report. Global investments in Africa fell seven percent from 2014 to 2015, with Middle Africa feeling the biggest hit. But Chinese investment into Middle Africa nearly doubled from $350 billion in 2014 to $630 billion in 2015.
Chinese investment in Africa is motivated by resource extraction. Of the total $77.47 billion China invested in Africa between 2005 and 2015, 42 percent ($32.63 billion) was invested in metals and 35 percent ($27.31 billion) into energy. Natural resource contracts made up four out of the five largest investment deals.
China still trails behind other countries in Africa greenfield investments. China invested $6.42 billion in Africa from 2013 to 2014, while the United States and France led investments over that period with of $21 billion and $10.57 billion, respectively. “China’s greenfield investments suggest that Chinese firms are diversifying their interests in Africa,” said the report, “as there has been a marked increase in manufacturing projects.”
Europe, the United States, and Canada have become major destinations for Chinese foreign direct investment over the last decade, receiving 43.25 percent of China’s total global FDI for a total of $297.40 billion. But China’s share of foreign investment in North America and Europe between 2005 and 2014 was less than five percent.
The U.S. is the largest destination for Chinese FDI in the world, drawing $95.41 billion or 13.88 percent of all Chinese investment since 2005. But China accounted for less than one percent of FDI into the U.S. in 2014. The Netherlands and Japan constituted shares of 35.14 percent and 30.48 percent, respectively.
In recent years, China has expanded its investment focus from resources and raw materials to strategic acquisitions intended to increase the market competitiveness of Chinese products and companies. From 2011 to 2015, Chinese firms invested $22.49 billion in the European and North American transportation sectors.
Chinese pork producer Shuanghui acquired American pork producer Smithfield for $7.1 billion in 2013 to glean insight into the operational, managerial, and production aspects of Smithfield’s food-safety management system. “Such investments indicate,” the report concluded, “that Chinese firms are navigating overseas investment with strategic intent, as China aims to transition to an innovation-based economy.”