Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Sizing up Chinese Investments in Europe"

Germany in particular is very sensitive about this. And if the target of Chinese affection is one of the family-owned Mittelstand companies, well, I get to channel the tabloids with headlines such as 2012's "The Invisible Hand Touches Germany in No-no Place: China Grabs Putzmeister"

From The Diplomat:

How can Europe strike the right balance between security and economic openness?
Chinese investments in the European Union have surged in recent years, giving rise to both great expectations and growing concerns. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Europe traced back to mainland China hit a record 65 billion euros ($79 billion) in 2017, compared with less than 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion) in 2010, according to data gathered by Baker McKenzie.
As China continues to grow, develop, and integrate into the global economy, its overseas investments increasingly reflect the growing sophistication of the Chinese economy and the broader commercial and policy goals being set in Beijing.
To better understand this phenomenon, the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) has recently published a report that brings together original analyses from 19 European countries on the economic but also the geopolitical dimensions of increased Chinese investment in Europe.
One important contribution of this report is to dispel the emerging narrative that Europe needs China more than the other way around. European economies have a wide range of assets and features that Chinese investors seek, such as cutting-edge technology, the world’s largest single market, vast corporate networks that stretch the globe, brand names, integrated regional and global value chains and a stable legal, regulatory, and political environment. The importance of these assets for Chinese companies both today and in the long run should not be underestimated.
Still, the importance of Chinese investors for Europe should not be overlooked, either. Since the onset of the economic and financial crisis in 2008, and still today, many capitals and economic centers across Europe have looked to China as a source of opportunity and growth. Indeed, promoting investment relations has risen to the top of many bilateral agendas.

Yet, the growing scale of Chinese investments has shed light on a number of underlying concerns. These relate to the role of the Chinese state in the economy; a lack of reciprocity and fair competition; China’s growing political and diplomatic influence and the intra-European competition that this investment potential is generating. Among many of Europe’s smaller economies, which have received fewer Chinese investments, there is also a growing “promise fatigue” vis-à-vis China.
Such concerns are not new but they have become more publicly voiced in European capitals and in Brussels as Chinese companies have begun to buy critical infrastructure across the continent. A series of (proposed) high-tech take-overs in Germany, including the buying of leading robotics firm Kuka, can be seen as a watershed moment in Europe. For the first time, parts of the German political class are denouncing that Chinese investments could elicit substantial security concerns and become a strategic threat to the country’s industrial leadership....MUCH MORE
 The German concern for their small and medium sized enterprises goes back quite a ways. Here's an old-timey pic via Wikipedia:
Representation of the supporting
role of the Mittelstand in Walter Wilhelms
„Mission des Mittelstandes“ (Mission of the Mittelstand, 1925)