News / Asia

    China Eyes US for Investment Opportunities

    China has been investing throughout the world in recent years, and the United States is an especially attractive destination for Chinese companies.

    As part of a VOA series on China’s economic role in the world, Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.

    The second largest city in the United States and home to Hollywood is an ideal place for companies and entrepreneurs from China to invest their money.

    Daniel Teng manages the Marriott Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

    “Number one is the entry point from China into the west and number two there’s a lot of Chinese population in California and Southern California,” he said. 

    It is one of two hotels in Los Angeles that Shenzhen New World has bought in the past year. Teng says the southern Chinese company plans to buy more hotels in the United States.

    “We are currently looking at all the major gateway cities. Basically we are very interested in the Washington, D.C., market, New York market and San Francisco," said Teng.

    Many investors from China see the U.S. as a stable place to put their money.

    A truck pulls a trailer loaded with a China Shipping container at the Port of Oakland August 16, 2010 in Oakland, California. (AFP)

    One industry of interest is green technology.

    Last year, Balqon Corporation, a Los Angeles maker of drive systems for electric buses and trucks, formed a partnership with a Chinese company that makes lithium batteries for electric vehicles.

    Balqon President Balwinder Samra says the partner in China has ordered 300 Balqon electric drive systems. Balqon expects the deal, worth nearly $16 million, to create about 150 new jobs in the company, and Samra says the head of the Chinese company has helped Balqon grow.

    “The knowledge he brings to the company related to battery technology, charging technology and the experience and the footprint he has in China is extremely valuable,” said Samra.

    An Asia Society report says that Chinese companies have invested more than $11 billion in the U.S. in recent years, although the amount is a small part of the $1.7 trillion in total foreign investment the U.S. government reported over the past decade.

    China Eyes US for Investment Opportunities
    China Eyes US for Investment Opportunities
    Orville Schell is the director of the society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.

    “Now we need it because we’ve had a financial collapse, our own capital market is not what it used to be. The new money is going to come from China,” Schell said.

    But China experts say some Chinese investments may pose a national security risk for the United States.  Clayton Dube is with the U.S. China Institute at the University of Southern California.

    “Everybody understands that the Chinese government has an extensive espionage operation in the United States, trying to acquire technology, trying to acquire key information,” Dube said.

    Gordon Chang, who has written extensively about China, says the U.S. should be especially careful when dealing with companies owned by the Chinese government.

    “We have to be concerned about China’s political considerations, its national security motivations for these types of purchases.”

    The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States investigates transactions for national security risks before allowing a foreign company to invest in the U.S.

    The Asia Society’s Orville Schell says that system is very "functional."

    But Shu Luomeii, the commercial officer at the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, says many Chinese investors think the committee is too strict.

    “America can be more open to welcome Chinese investment; to some extent some of the business or sectors are still very sensitive. So some of the big companies, when they think of investments in the United States, they’re still afraid of. Because they are still afraid of being, you know, denied," he said.

    Companies fear the committee will block their investments.

    However, University of California economics professor Peter Navarro says the committee is not strict enough.

    “It has a rather high threshold for what it constitutes a threat to national security. Secondly, it doesn’t do a very good job distinguishing threats that come from dual-use technologies meaning you can have a civilian company, seemingly civilian technology that can be bought by the Chinese, which actually turns out to have dual uses in terms of having significant military applications," said Navarro.

    While views on investments from China may be split in the United States, the Asia Society estimates Chinese businesses will invest $1 to $2 trillion worldwide in the next 10 years, and will continue to invest in the United States.  

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