Investing overseas delivers dividends

Updated: 2011-11-09 08:01

By Diao Ying, Li Xiang and Lan Lan (China Daily)

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Rapid rise helps recipient nations tackle scourge of unemployment

BEIJING -China's overseas investment has increased rapidly, despite the global economic outlook, helping recipient countries tackle unemployment.

Outbound investment for 2010 was $67.8 billion, up 21.7 percent from 2009, according to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

More than $300 billion was invested abroad by 2010, the fifth-largest foreign investment in the world, said Li Jiping, vice-president of China Development Bank, the leading financier of overseas investment.

Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said rules are being drafted to regulate companies' foreign investment.

Financial support will be increased, and insurance firms will be more involved, to encourage companies to invest abroad, he said.

"While Chinese enterprises develop by investing in the international market, they also fulfill their social responsibilities and benefit local people, " Zhang said.

Chinese firms are employing more local staff in overseas branches, creating jobs as local companies cut their workforce, he said.

By the end of 2010, Chinese companies operating overseas had hired more than 1.1 million people, 800,000 of them foreign employees, he said in Beijing on Tuesday at the third China Overseas Investment Fair.

The world economy is faced with increasing uncertainty, Zhang said. His remarks were echoed by Richard Boucher, deputy secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"There are lots of downside risks and there are only a few upside possibilities," he said in an interview with China Daily on Tuesday. Growth in Europe remains weak and recession in the next two years is a possibility, while the United States is likely to grow under 2 percent this year and next, he said.

Despite the uncertainty, China's overseas investment is likely to grow 20 to 30 percent annually in the next two to three years, accounting firm Ernst & Young forecast in a report on Tuesday. China's solid economic growth, huge foreign exchange reserves and government encouragement of companies to go abroad will be key factors driving the country's overseas investment, the accounting firm said in the report.

China is the fastest growing source of foreign direct investment to the United States, said Barry Johnson, executive director at the Select USA Agency, a trade and investment promotion body under the US Department of Commerce.

From 2003 to 2011, Chinese firms invested in 172 green-field projects in the US with a total value of more than $7 billion, Johnson said in Beijing on Tuesday. While unemployment in the US is stubbornly high, these projects from China have created 44,000 jobs in the country, he said.

The main investment areas for Chinese enterprises are mining, energy, finance and manufacturing. These sectors account for nearly 90 percent of overall investment, according to Zhang.

Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Canada will remain top investment destinations, said Eleanor Wu, transaction advisory services partner at Ernst & Young. "China's private business is expected to play a bigger role and will get actively involved in the overseas mergers and acquisitions that used to be dominated by State-owned enterprises," Wu said.

Wei Tian contributed to this story.