Chinese investments into the US amounted to a record-breaking $15 billion in 2015, according to the 2016 updated report, New Neighbors: Chinese investment in the United States by Congressional District, published by the National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSCR) and the Rhodium Group. On April 12, a presentation on the updated report took place in Washington DC. Co-authors of New Neighbors, Daniel Rosen and Thilo Hanemann from the Rhodium Group, spoke on their research findings. Though the majority of Chinese investment comes in the form of acquisitions, 2015 showed strong growth in greenfield, or new operation, investments. In 2011, Chinese greenfield investments were $500-600 million and in 2015 that number rose to $1.8 billion. Nearly 85% of the United States’ 435 congressional districts have some Chinese investment and about 90,000 jobs were created by Chinese investment in the US in 2015, a figure which does include any indirect jobs created, or the roughly 10,000 additional jobs that will result from 2015 greenfield investments. Looking ahead, the Rhodium Group foresees that 2016 will be another record-breaking year in Chinese investment.
Mr. Hanemann said that changes in the Chinese economy and liberalization of Chinese investment policies are driving the investment increases. Mr. Rosen explained that Chinese firms are trying to move their operations closer to their global consumers as costs of production in China increase. Fellow discussant David Fagan, a lawyer at Covington & Burling, said that there is a lot of fear in China due to the domestic economy, spurring people to make overseas investments.
Fears among Americans, however, could hinder future economic relations with China. A snapshot survey capturing American perceptions of China was conducted by the Committee of 100, an international, non-partisan leadership organization, and Brunswick Insight. Released on April 13, the survey found that while favorable views of China among Americans are at an all-time high of 57%, China is still viewed by 75% of Americans as an economic threat and by 77% as a potential military threat. Though 70% of Americans agree that the US should encourage Chinese investment, 48% of Americans believe Chinese investments are politically motivated.
In addition, the report features a special section on the views held by Chinese Americans, 63% of whom see China as an economic threat to the US, a rate 12% below the general public. Some 84% of Chinese Americans believe the US should encourage Chinese investment, and only 30% (18% less than the general public) are suspicious of China’s motivations.
Melissa Newcomb is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.