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The dark side of China's offshore investment

By Ed Zhang (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-02 10:55

The money used to buy resources at prices set a few years ago can still be regarded as an insurance of their supply. But if that money is expropriated by state leaders who don't want to honor their predecessors' treaties, they could be completely lost.

This year, as many Chinese are just beginning to realize, this loss of money may bring along not just bad financial results but humiliation to the State-owned enterprises and financial institutions in question.

More importantly perhaps, money shouldn't be seen only as money, especially when it comes from the public sector, either as investment by SOEs or as government-backed loans. The same money could have been diverted to support the domestic social security system, such as its still underdeveloped medical and retirement services, and education and job training programs. Poor overseas investment would inevitably cut into China's overall development.

Here officials may learn a serious lesson: Making the right investment decisions is not easy. Cross-border investment, which means putting money somewhere outside Chinese sovereignty, is particularly risky. The truly responsible type of investment is always to go to where there is a strong rule of law and a good system of credit.

Otherwise, however willingly China would like to offer its help to a country, it had better do it by playing a part in a group framework-such as to rely on the authority of an international treaty.

Now that the aftermath of the financial crisis may linger for a very long time, China should be all the more cautious about using its precious money.

The author is editor-at-large of China Daily.


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