Global agenda: The Chinese are coming

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend the Taiji and Yoga event at the Temple of Heaven park in Beijing, China on May 15 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend the Taiji and Yoga event at the Temple of Heaven park in Beijing, China on May 15
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It has long been feared that China has plans for world domination. The historical record, however, is that throughout China’s very long history, it has never sought to conquer the world – in sharp contradistinction to the paragons of Western culture, such as Greece, Rome and, later, the European colonial powers, led by Great Britain. There have been many Chinese empires, but none of their founders and builders conceived of an empire on which the sun never set.
The more recent obsession in the West, especially in America, over the emerging Chinese threat, has focused on simple demographics – the sheer number of Chinese would ensure that the world would fall under China’s sway. That was followed and amplified by the rise of China as an economic power, to the point that it already is (by some measures) or soon will be (by others) the largest economy in the world.
The inevitable conclusion was that although the previous generation’s obsession with Japan and the accompanying fear that the 21st century would be “the Japanese century” turned out to be baseless, with China it is the real deal. The Chinese have the clout to do the job and so – in the view of many – this century is destined to be “the Chinese century.”
Others disagree and the debate over whether that is indeed China’s and the world’s destiny is going strong. But there are also facts and hard data. The most important of these is that China’s demographic boom is already over – thanks to the one-child policy – and the country is set to enter demographic decline.
But meanwhile, China – like Japan before it, and thanks to the same mercantilist economic policy – has amassed huge surpluses in its trade with the rest of the world and these surpluses have to be invested overseas.
Furthermore, now that official Chinese policy has stopped encouraging massive over-investment at home, there is enormous excess capacity of equipment, know-how and manpower that is available to mine, extract, build, lay roads, etc. etc. all over the world.
That money, manpower, equipment and all the rest is now “conquering the world,” making many people and countries – not just the US – very nervous. But the extent of this trend will only increase for the foreseeable future, because all those financial, economic and human resources have to go somewhere.
Where that “somewhere” is has been pretty vague.
Numerous articles and analyses have traced the Chinese “invasion” of Africa, for example, generally presenting a critical approach. But now, at last, there is a serious and comprehensive “mapping” of the extent of Chinese investment across the globe. Whether it is exhaustive, I can’t say, but it is unquestionably the best and most accessible, clearest and most detailed effort to date.
Best of all, it is available for free at the site of the entity that compiled it – the South China Morning Post, one of the few quality newspapers left on earth (the chart is sourced to research done by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, but has more detail and clarity). Visit china-overseas-investments/ to see and be impressed by how it has been done, but also by the sheer scope, as expressed in the sub-heading: “Here we show all the overseas mergers and acquisitions (excluding bonds) with a value above US$100 million that Chinese companies attempted from 2005 to the first half of last year.”
Note that “attempted” – many proposed deals were not completed, for various reasons, but this chart displays the attempts along with those that were completed.
Of course, there is room for carping. Thus apropos Israel, the chart shows the 2010 purchase of 60 percent of ADAMA Agricultural Solutions Ltd. by Sinochem for $1.44 billion and lists it as a deal in the “agriculture” sector. Most people would not consider agrochemicals, the field in which ADAMA is an important global player, as “agriculture,” rather as chemicals – but let that be.
However, the other big Chinese purchase here, of Tnuva by Bright Foods on May 2014 (not completed until this year) for $960 million, is also labeled as “agriculture!” Clearly, the Morning Post has a very elastic definition of agriculture, if it can stretch from chemicals to processed foods...
But nitpicking aside, the chart is really thorough, including the big Chinese construction contracts in this country, which are a very different form of investment to buying shares, but arguably as important, if not more so. The chart shows the where, the what and the who of every important Chinese investment in what seems to be every country in the world, although there must surely be some that are missing. As interesting as the countries where there have been numerous and big Chinese investments, such as Kazakhstan, are the ones where they have been surprisingly quiescent – only one investment, of a piddling $100m., in the Czech Republic over 10 years? In any event, this site is a real resource and it is much to be hoped that the Morning Post devotes the resources needed to maintain it up-to-date. They can start with the deal announced Thursday, in which China’s XIO Group has offered to buy the Israeli company Lumenis, which develops surgical, ophthalmology and aesthetic applications, for $510m. in cash. The Chinese are not just coming, they are already here – and everywhere else, too.