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A logo sits on display at the Sinopec pavilion during the 21st World Petroleum Congress in Moscow in June. China has been actively acquiring foreign assets, particularly energy and resources, to power its economy. Bloomberg pic
A logo sits on display at the Sinopec pavilion during the 21st World Petroleum Congress in Moscow in June. China has been actively acquiring foreign assets, particularly energy and resources, to power its economy. Bloomberg pic

CHINA’S outbound investment more than doubled in August to US$12.62 billion (RM41 billion), data showed yesterday, far outstripping foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country, which fell to a four-year low.

China has been actively acquiring foreign assets, particularly energy and resources, to power its economy, with firms encouraged to “go out” and make overseas acquisitions to gain market access and international experience. Officials have said overseas direct investment (ODI) could exceed FDI this year.

The 112.1 per cent year-on-year increase in ODI announced by the Commerce Ministry was a dramatic contrast to the 14 per cent fall in FDI, which sank to US$7.2 billion. Both sets of figures exclude investment in financial sectors.

FDI was also less than July’s US$7.81 billion and was the lowest since July 2010, when it stood at US$6.92 billion.

Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang denied any link to Beijing’s multiple probes into foreign companies.

Chinese authorities have in recent months launched anti-monopoly, pricing and other inquiries into scores of foreign firms in sectors ranging from auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals to baby milk.

The investigations have raised concerns among investors that Beijing is targeting overseas companies.

But Shen denied any connection between the investigations and the fall in FDI. “They are not related,” he said, declining to comment further.

But Shen added that China plans to revise three laws governing overseas companies and Sino-foreign joint ventures.

“By revising the laws, we hope to create a more stable, transparent and predictable legal environment for foreign investment in China,” he said.

Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, the new European ambassador to China, said that he doubted whether it made sense to “judge this on the basis of one or two cases”.

But he added that it is not in
China’s interests to “single out foreign companies and scare them away”.

“Quite honestly, I think when you look at the policy objectives and the need to bring about ... a more balanced economy, it will not really make much sense to scare away foreign investors and foreign economic actors, which I think can make important contribution to achieving this change,” Schweisgut said.

For the first eight months of the year, China’s ODI was up 15.3 per cent at US$65.17 billion.

In that period, investment into the European Union (EU) soared 257.1 per cent, leaped 116.7 per cent into Japan, and increased 73.3 per cent into Russia, the ministry said.

It climbed 16 per cent into the United States (US), reaching US$3.26 billion.

Ministry officials were unable to explain immediately the huge monthly increase.

Also in the first eight months, FDI was down 1.8 per cent year-on-year at US$78.34 billion.

It slumped 43.3 per cent from Japan — which is embroiled in territorial and historic rows with Beijing — to US$3.16 billion, fell 17.9 per cent from the EU to US$4.20 billion, and dropped 16.9 per cent from the US to $2.08 billion.

But from South Korea — which has been enjoying closer diplomatic ties with China — it climbed 31.3 per cent to US$3.02 billion, and from Britain it rose 18.9 per cent to US$850 million. China’s economy expanded 7.7 per cent in 2013, the same as 2012 — the worst pace since 7.6 per cent in 1999. AFP

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