Business / Economy

US urged to be open to Chinese investors

By Wei Tian (China Daily) Updated: 2012-07-17 13:37

The United States should get rid of its "tinted glasses" and play a more active role in attracting Chinese investors to participate in infrastructure projects to revitalize its economy, a senior researcher said.

Chen Yongjie, deputy secretary of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said China has gradually changed its attitude toward foreign investment, and now it's time for the US to do the same.

"Thirty years ago when China first opened its doors to foreign investment, we wanted technology and capital, but not the market economy system. However, we've accepted them all eventually as we found they're beneficial for our development," Chen told China Daily on Friday.

"And now Chinese investors face many obstacles in the US, mainly out of 'sovereignty' or 'national security' concerns," Chen said.

He added that, to some extent, China is a more open market than the US, which is reflected in the unequal investment exchange between the two countries.

Compared with the US investment in China - which amounted to more than $70 billion last year - China's investment in the US was about $6 billion in the same period despite rapid growth in the last four to five years.

"Most private Chinese companies are relatively small, thus State-owned enterprises are still the main force in investing in the US, but they are often judged with different standards," Chen said.

SOEs have changed a lot from 30 years ago. Not only did they go through structural reforms and diversification of equities, but many overseas-listed SOEs even have shareholders in the US, Chen said.

"We got rid of the 'tinted glasses', I hope the US government can do the same," Chen said.

He added that some Chinese examples can even be used as references in the US, such as regarding the efficiency of the central government in implementing large projects.

The US government has recognized the importance of infrastructure investment in its economic recovery. President Barack Obama recently signed a bill, which allows $105 billion in funding for highways and transit programs through the 2014 fiscal year.

Chen said Chinese investment can play a positive role in infrastructure projects, which are expected to be the new growth engine for the US economy.

"After years of government-led infrastructure programs, China's infrastructure is developing fast, even better than the US in some areas. Some technologies such as high-speed railways can be a good fit for the US," Chen said.

"But we were told by experts from Harvard University that it will be very difficult for Chinese investors to be involved in such inter-states projects because of the gap between different states, and that it would take decades to just prepare the paperwork," he said.

"This is where you should introduce the forces of both the market and government. The federal government should play a more important role in coordinating between different states," Chen added.

While urging the US to be more open-minded toward Chinese investors, Chen said Chinese companies should also enhance their appeal to be accepted by the US market.

"In the Chinese market, private companies follow the motto of 'taking care of the government and everything else is all set'. But in the US there is much more to be taken care of, such as lawyers, accountants," Chen said.

Meanwhile, Chen said, concerns over the SOEs are not completely unreasonable.

"Many SOEs still receive government support, and get resources, such as land, mines and funding, at very low prices or even completely for free. They are often involved in non-core businesses such as real estate and tourism," he said.

He added that SOEs have to lessen the support they receive from the government and boost supervision if they want to have a better image in the US.

"The US may be protective ... but for our companies to be accepted there we should also do our homework to ease their minds," he said.

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