BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese overseas investment surged past $100 billion for the first time last year, official figures showed Friday, but remained below investment into the country.
Overseas direct investment (ODI) rose 14.1 per cent to $102.9 billion in 2014, vice commerce minister Zhong Shan said at a briefing, as Chinese firms continued to buy up assets, particularly energy and resources, to power the world’s number two economy.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China rose to $119.6 billion, the second consecutive increase, although that is only 1.7 per cent higher, representing a marked deceleration.
Although the outbound figure did not overtake the incoming total, as some officials had expected early last year, Zhong said the long-term trend was clear.
“On current trends, China’s outward investment will continue to grow faster than its utilisation of foreign investment, which will make China a net investor in no time… making a historic turning point,” he said.
In 2013 Chinese ODI rose 16.8 per cent to $90.17 billion, while FDI rebounded 5.3 per cent to $117.59 billion after declining the previous year in the face of economic weakness in developed markets and a growth slowdown at home.
Both ODI and FDI exclude financial sectors.
The ministry did not provide complete country and regional breakdowns for Chinese investment destinations in 2014, other than saying – without giving totals – that investment to the European Union nearly tripled while that to the United States increased 23.9 per cent.
The slowdown in FDI growth came as Chinese authorities last year launched anti-monopoly, pricing and other inquiries into foreign firms – in sectors from auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals to baby milk – fuelling fears Beijing was targeting them. The commerce ministry has repeatedly denied the charges.
Recent years have seen China’s appeal as an investment destination decline owing to increasing land and labour costs and competition for investment from other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.
Officials have also blamed source country factors, such as Washington’s drive to move industrial production back to the United States.
Investment from the 28-member EU fell 5.3 per cent to $6.85 billion in 2014, the ministry said, while investment from the 10-member Asean group of Southeast Asian nations declined 23.8 per cent to $6.51 billion.
Investment from the United States also declined 20.6 per cent to $2.66 billion.
But South Korean investment into China jumped 29.8 per cent to $3.97 billion, while that from Britain rose 28 per cent to $1.35 billion.
Investment from Japan, meanwhile, slid 38.8 per cent to $4.33 billion as geopolitical tensions between the region’s top two economies continue.