CNOOC's bid for Unocal tests US' China ties
That's a significant difference from Japan in the 1980s, when its economic rise also triggered a backlash in the United States. Many U.S. politicians complained that Japan's markets weren't open and Japanese companies weren't receptive to takeovers by foreigners, a pattern that persists today.
Many Chinese are eager to sell out or join up with a foreign partner. Just last week, American eye-care firm Bausch & Lomb Inc. said it had agreed to buy a 55% stake in Shandong Chia Tai Freda Pharmaceutical Group for $200 million in cash.
"We want to get money for other investments," said Stephen Tse Hsin, executive director of Sino Biopharmaceutical, which owns Shandong Chia.
What's in it for Bausch & Lomb? A known brand in China, hundreds of sales staff members familiar with eye products, distribution channels at 1,000 hospitals and shelf space at just about every major pharmacy in the country. "If they build their own, it might take them even 10 years" to establish a presence like that, Hsin said.
Chinese companies are now starting to venture abroad themselves. Recently, they have sought to buy established brands, illustrated by Lenovo Group Ltd.'s $1.25-billion purchase of IBM's personal computer business and appliance maker Haier Group's interest in buying Maytag Corp., reportedly for $1.3 billion.
"The trend is clear: The Chinese are going to buy more companies" in the U.S. and other countries, said Liu of Beijing's University of International Business and Economics.
Will that be met with resistance? "If there's a perception from the Chinese that they don't have the same opportunities abroad, that could create a backlash here," said Jeffrey Bernstein, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. The American economy can't afford that, he said.
"U.S. companies need to take a strong position in the Chinese market. It's
going to be a strong component of the economic engine."