Rising trend of overseas investment 'to continue'

Updated: 2013-03-05 07:09

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

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Global investment by Chinese companies will grow rapidly "for quite a long time", Chen Jian, vice-minister of commerce, said on Monday.

At the same time, he said, Chinese companies need to standardize and improve their operations overseas.

"Chinese enterprises have been seizing the opportunity of investing abroad since the financial crisis erupted (in 2008)," Chen, also a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said at the sidelines of the annual session of the top advisory body.

Despite a worldwide drop in foreign direct investment since the outbreak of the global crisis, China's overseas direct investment has increased.

Last year, the world's second-largest economy saw its ODI rise about 30 percent to $77.2 billion.

"We have confidence that such growth momentum can be sustained over the long term. We expect a double-digit increase this year, probably as high as last year," Chen said.

Late last month, China National Offshore Oil Corp completed its acquisition of Canadian oil and gas company Nexen for $15.1 billion, China's largest overseas deal.

As part of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the government encourages companies to expand abroad, through mergers and acquisitions, especially in manufacturing, services and energy. China aims to let its ODI match the amount of foreign direct investment into the country by the end of 2015.

"The integration between China and the world strengthens", which makes it possible for Chinese outbound investment to grow into a "key part of the nation's economy", Chen said.

"The slowing world economy needs Chinese investment, and as a global manufacturing powerhouse, China needs to transfer its technology and manufacturing capacity to other nations," he said.

Last year, 60.2 percent of the Chinese mainland's ODI went to Hong Kong, 5.7 percent to Southeast Asia and 5.4 percent to the European Union. The three destinations were the top recipients.

But some countries, especially the United States, have placed restrictions on Chinese investment. A report from global business analysts the Rhodium Group in New York said European countries extended a warmer welcome to Chinese investment than their US counterparts, although Chinese investment has been rising rapidly in both the US and the European Union.

In a case that reflects rising US protectionism, a report in October by two members of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee argued that Chinese telecom equipment makers, Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp, pose a potential security threat to the US.

"There are restrictions in some nations and regions, but it's not a big issue as Chinese investment is welcomed in many, many nations," Chen said.

But he said political instability and investment risks are major problems facing Chinese investors.

As ODI surges, China's investment deals abroad are frequently targeted by critics over alleged environmental degradation and not creating enough employment for local communities.

"We attach great importance to complaints and look into the cases, and there has been merit in some criticism," Chen said.

But "facts show that Chinese companies are striving to learn and improve".

In 2011, Chinese companies paid taxes of more than $22 billion on their overseas operations and employed 1.22 million people globally.

The government also pledged to encourage and assist Chinese companies abroad in shouldering corporate social responsibility.

After launching culture-building guidelines for ODI last year, China issued guidelines to improve environmental protection for overseas business operations.

In a recent press briefing, Yao Jian, spokesman for the Commerce Ministry, said implementation of corporate social responsibility is of great significance to Chinese companies, as it helps strengthen competitiveness and boost soft power.