China’s investments in Europe and in other countries around the globe grow with the passing of each day. The country has brought billions of dollars’ worth of business deals and bank investments to different sectors in the European economy, thus, becoming an important partner for European countries, which were hard-hit by the financial crisis.
China is helping out Greek, Spanish and other downgraded government debt, as well as ports, highways and industries in troubled countries in Europe.
Lu Feng, researcher with the National School of Development at Beijing University, told the Asia Times that “if China had wanted to go into Greece in such a big way before, Greek politicians and the public may have objected, using the pretext of these standards and those requirements but because of the sovereign debt crisis the situation has changed.”
She explained that the crisis in Europe has created a number of excellent opportunities for Chinese investors. China’s active investment came at the same time as credit rating agencies were downgrading Greek bonds to junk status, which, however, created a new opportunity. The Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said Beijing would encourage companies in the country to invest in Greece.
Cosco, an important shipping group in China, plans to proceed with plans to build a new container-handling terminal at Piraeus port – Greece’s biggest. The company plans to change Piraeus, Athens’ port on the Aegean Sea, into a regional entry hub for Chinese goods and commodities, and has paid the state $4.1 billion to open a useful gateway for Chinese goods headed for Southern European markets.
“This is a strategic investment on our part and the sovereign debt crisis will not affect the project,” president of Cosco , Wei Jiafu, told China’s 21st Century Business Herald newspaper.
Some of the other countries that are hoping to lure Chinese investments are Ireland and Hungary. Recently, Irish authorities opened talks with Chinese promoters on developing a 240-hectare industrial park in central Ireland where Chinese manufacturers could operate inside the EU free of quotas and expensive tariffs. They are hoping that this cooperation with China will create thousands of new jobs. This could be the start of a completely new perspective for international economic cooperation.
In the case of the financial recession, positions and priorities are changing.
“Its good business,” says Vanessa Rossi, an authority on China at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. “There’s big mutual benefit here” he said.
According to a report on Newsweek, “Europe needs money; China needs markets.”
Countries such as Belgium, Romania and many others within Europe are also looking forward to attract Chinese investors. The Belgian trade mission was among the first to visit, hoping to persuade the Chinese car manufacturer Geely to add beleaguered Opel Antwerp to its collection of European acquisitions, such as Volvo, reported Asia Times.
Romanian business envoys have also discussed a series of projects to allow Chinese money to flow in and support the country’s struggling industries with Chinese bankers and investor, according to Asia Times.
“What is happening is that the Chinese are expanding in Europe as they did in Africa,” said François Godement, a senior policy fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But in Europe, they’re coming in through countries on the periphery, which is extraordinary,” reported the New York Times.
So generally, economic distress in Europe can be seen as an opportunity for China. Starting from 2009, figures show a 30 percent surge in Chinese projects in Europe. Several months ago, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang sealed 14 deals, and are said to be the largest Chinese investment package in Europe ever, and cover a range of sectors from construction to telecoms.