Infrastructure investment may provide opening for Sino-US ties

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | | Updated: 2017-01-20 13:46

As President-elect Donald Trump looks to rebuild American highways, bridges, tunnels and airports with a possible price tag of $1 trillion, there may be an opportunity for Chinese foreign direct investment to finance at least part of the effort, US experts said.

Peking University professor and former World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin said earlier this month that China and the US have common interests concerning infrastructure investment and suggested that both nations "should work together so that we have a truly global infrastructure initiative."

"On infrastructure, I do think this is a significant area of potential cooperation between the US and China," Edward Alden, the Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington wrote in an email. "China is facing a lot of US anger over its large trade surplus and a new president who has made it an explicit campaign promise to toughen trade policy towards China. Given that China is actively looking for US investment opportunities, infrastructure offers a similar opportunity."

Alden believes that Trump administration would be open to Chinese investment in US infrastructure projects because it would create good jobs in the US. He noted that for Chinese investors, the motivation for this foreign investment would be steady returns rather than a technology acquisition.

"This could help to reduce fears in the United States, and among those in the Trump administration, that the US-China economic relationship is a zero-sum competition," he added.

Lin said infrastructure projects represent an important driver of economic growth and noted that Donald Trump wants to " make America great again".

In the US, governments are short $1.4 trillion of the money needed to make necessary repairs to infrastructure — including drinking, wastewater and mass transit systems — through 2025, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Speaking at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong this week, Ding Xuedong, chairman of China's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp (CIC), saw a natural fit between Chinese investors and Trump's infrastructure plans.

"Over the past three decades, China's infrastructure has been growing very fast. It's one of the biggest successes China has achieved. We have lots of design, execution and management experiences that we can export," said Ding according to CNBC. "We hope the US will not have any double standards or bias, but have a level playing field for foreign investors, including China. If so, I see lots of opportunities in the US."

Sunny Wang is the general manager of Broad USA, the US arm of Hunan-based Broad Group.

Broad manufactures air conditioners powered by natural gas and heat waste and recently completed a power generation project used by the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center to lower emissions and lessen its carbon footprint that received recognition from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

"I would love to do similar projects at hospitals, schools and other facilities in the US," Wang said in an interview. Broad specializes in combined heat and power (CHP) systems which generate electricity in a single, integrated system, where heat that is normally wasted in regular power generation is converted into useful energy instead.

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