BIZCHINA> Review & Analysis
On China's rapid growth in outward FDI
By Ken Davies (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-03 07:54

Accumulated FDI

The relative strengths of these motivations are reflected in the per-sector and geographical distribution of China 's accumulated FDI.

The latest figures published by China 's Ministry of Commerce in February show outward FDI totaled $118 billion at the end of 2007.

The tertiary sector predominated, with over 70 percent of the total.

Manufacturing remained modest at 8 percent, and construction even lower at 1.4 percent. So, with other items, the secondary sector contributed around 16 percent of outward FDI.

The remaining 14 percent is accounted for by mining, quarrying and oil production (13 percent) and agriculture, forestry and fisheries (1 percent).

While the per-sector composition tends to fluctuate with "lumpy" green field projects or M&A deals, the end-of-2007 figures give a fair representation.

Manufacturing outward FDI is small, although it might grow faster with the rise of domestic production costs.

Media reports focus on China's investments in Africa, but the continent that continues to absorb most of China's capital exports is Asia, which accounted for 67 percent of cumulated Chinese outward FDI at the end of 2007.

For that period, Latin America received 21 percent, Europe 4 percent, Africa 4 percent, North America 3 percent and Oceania 2 percent.

These figures are distorted by the use of tax havens, which obscures actual destinations.

China's investment in Latin America, for example, is mainly the 14 percent of China's outward FDI registered as going to the Cayman Islands and the 6 percent going to the British Virgin Islands.

Hong Kong

The bulk of China's FDI in Asia goes to Hong Kong, which accounted for 58 percent of outward FDI stock up to the end of 2007.

Even if the actual figures are higher because of routing via tax havens, China's FDI in the developed world, especially Europe and North America, is disproportionately small considering the high proportion of China's trade with these regions.

This probably results more from a lack of readiness to compete with global giants on their home territory than from protectionist pressures, although these have discouraged some large acquisitions.

An unknown proportion of investment in Hong Kong, Chinese mainland and the tax havens consists of "round-tripping" investments to take advantage of tax concessions in China.

Related readings:
On China's rapid growth in outward FDI China's used FDI down 17.9% in H1
On China's rapid growth in outward FDI Outbound investment unlikely to outstrip FDI
On China's rapid growth in outward FDI Exports, FDI plunge amid global slowdown

But this must now be falling since such incentives were abolished at the beginning of 2008, and Hong Kong is therefore unlikely to retain its dominant position.

Genuinely outward FDI is therefore likely to be growing even faster than shown by official statistics.

The coastal provinces and municipalities, heavily engaged in international trade, are the main sources of China's outward FDI.

Guangdong -the largest recipient of FDI - provided 20 percent of total outward FDI in 2008.

The second largest source was Zhejiang, with 8 percent of outward FDI. Shandong followed in third place with 8 percent.

How is the crisis affecting China's outward FDI?

As an open economy, China cannot escape the effects of the global financial crisis of 2008.

(For more biz stories, please visit Industries)