Chinese investors spent four times as much on acquisitions in the EU last year as European companies did in China, according to new figures that will inflame an already heated debate about growing imbalances between the world’s two largest markets.
A report by Rhodium Group, a research firm, and the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a think-tank in Berlin, estimates that Chinese direct investment in the EU surged 76 per cent to ￠35.1bn in 2016. EU acquisitions in China, by contrast, fell for the second consecutive year, to ￠7.7bn.
“The growing gap in two-way investment flows is fuelling European perceptions of a fundamental lack of ‘reciprocity’ between the EU and China,” said Thilo Hanemann at Rhodium. “Chinese interest is growing rapidly in sectors that remain restricted to foreign investors in China, which has further amplified the political salience of unequal market access.”
The imbalance was particularly sharp in Germany, where Chinese acquisitions soared to ￠11bn from ￠1.2bn in 2015. German acquisitions in China totalled ￠3.5bn, making 2016 the first year in which Chinese acquisitions in Germany exceeded German M&A activity in China.
Last year’s figures — and the Sino-EU investment imbalance — would have been larger but for a growing European backlash against Chinese investment in sensitive sectors and Beijing’s efforts to slow capital outflows over recent months. Many experts believe these developments will prevent a similar surge in Chinese outbound investment this year.
“Chinese investment in Europe will drop but it won’t fall off a cliff,” said Cui Hongjian, a European expert at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing. “Chinese companies think highly of the EU’s investment environment and Europe needs them to boost the economy.”
Analysts believe the creation of a pan-European screening mechanism, similar to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (Cfius), is unlikely.
Additional reporting by Liu Xinning
研究公司荣鼎咨询(Rhodium Group)和柏林智库墨卡托中国研究中心(Mercator Institute for China Studies)发布的一份报告估计，2016年中国对欧盟直接投资激增76%，至351亿欧元。相比之下，欧盟在华并购交易额则连续第二年下滑，降至77亿欧元。
北京中国国际问题研究所(China Institute of International Studies)欧洲问题专家崔洪建表示：“中国对欧投资会下滑，但不会出现断崖式下滑。中国企业对欧盟的投资环境评价很高，欧洲也需要它们提振经济。”