At a time when many other countries are actively seeking Chinese outward foreign direct investment, and despite record Chinese FDI activity in the US in recent years, the American public continues to view closer US-China economic ties suspiciously, according to a survey by Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which suggests that future deals will have to deal with a potentially hostile public and political landscape.
Among the key findings:
• 51 percent of Americans believe China poses the greatest threat to the U.S. economy compared to several other countries and regions.
• 37 percent of the public believes closer ties to China would be harmful to the U.S. economy, compared to 30 percent who believe it would be beneficial for the US
• 34 percent of the American public is not comfortable with any investment by Chinese firms into American companies, regardless of the level of managerial control that would be exercised by the investor firm.
• Concern around Chinese foreign direct investment is consistent across a variety of industries, including oil and gas, coal, tech, manufacturing, infrastructure and real estate.
• A majority of the American public is aware of recent news reports about hackers with ties to the Chinese military engaging in cyber espionage against the US, and strong majorities are comfortable with placing certain restrictions on Chinese investment to address these cyber-theft concerns.
“We’re seeing countries like the UK and Canada basically say to China, ‘Come here. We want your business,’” said Ron Hutcheson, H+K Strategies senior vice president and head of the firm’s Washington, DC, corporate advisory practice. “In contrast, the US is sending a mixed message that reflects significant public suspicion toward China.”
Nancy McLernon, president and CEO of the Organization for International Investment, a business association representing global companies, says the findings are not surprising.
“Chinese investment provides some unique challenges. However, there are enormous stakes involved in getting the policy on this right. In fact, most governors are out there pounding the pavement for Chinese investment. It is imperative policymakers in Washington not slam the door on job-creating investment based on knee-jerk reactions. Our missteps in this area will be other countries’ gains.”