Foreign firms expand investment in China thanks to efforts to boost confidence
Support policies help boost confidence of multinationals: experts
Published: Feb 22, 2024 09:36 PM
Aerial view of Huizhou's petrochemical zone File photo: VCG

Aerial view of Huizhou's petrochemical zone File photo: VCG

In the past several working days since the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, construction work has started on many foreign-funded projects, while others are expanding, and yet other firms are planning to expand in the Chinese market, according to media reports on Thursday, underscoring growing interest and confidence among multinationals in China.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials at different levels have been stepping up their efforts to improve the local business environment for foreign businesses, including rolling out support policies and convening meetings to address the concerns of multinationals. The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), for example, announced on Thursday that it will hold a roundtable with foreign companies next week. 

With China's continued efforts to stabilize foreign investment and its steady economic recovery, more foreign businesses will expand their operations in the Chinese market in 2024 and beyond, foreign businesses and Chinese analysts said on Thursday.

On Sunday, the first working day after the Lunar New Year holidays, Sew-Eurodrive, a Germany-based manufacturing company, kicked off construction of a new factory in Shunde, South China's Guangdong Province, the Economic Information Daily reported on Thursday. The new plant, which will be built in two phases with a total investment of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.39 billion), will be the third plant in China for the German firm.

On Monday, construction started on the main complex of a joint-investment ethylene project between petrochemical giants Saudi Basic Industries Corp and Fujian Energy Petrochemical Group Co in Zhangzhou, East China's Fujian Province, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The project, the largest single Chinese-foreign joint venture, will have a total investment of 44.8 billion yuan and a maximum annual production capacity of 1.8 million tons of ethylene once completed in 2026.

These are just a few examples of foreign-funded projects on which work started after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays. Many foreign businesses are also moving swiftly to carry out existing investment plans or expedite future plans. Jean-Marc Taton, chairman of ExxonMobil China, said at a meeting in Shenzhen on Sunday that the US energy giant plans to invest 10 billion yuan in its Huizhou ethylene project this year, in addition to the 31 billion yuan already invested, and the project is scheduled to enter production at the end of the year. 

Other foreign businesses in fields such as banking are also expanding their operations in China. UK-based multinational bank Standard Chartered said in a statement it sent to the Global Times on Thursday that it plans to open a branch in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui Province in the first half of 2024. Preparations are underway after it was granted a license on January 25.

"The trend of foreign-funded enterprises increasing investment in China shows that the overall Chinese economy is gaining momentum," Yuan Gangming, a professor at the Center for International Economic Research at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that Chinese officials have stepped up policy measures to attract foreign investment.

China has announced numerous policy measures to boost foreign investment, including a 24-point guideline issued in August 2023 to support foreign businesses. The MOFCOM had also held 16 roundtable meetings with more than 400 foreign businesses as of the end of January to learn about their difficulties and help address them. The ministry said on Thursday that it plans to hold another roundtable meeting on February 28 to review progress of the 24-point guideline.

Various provincial-level governments have also held more than 140 such roundtable meetings with more than 2,200 foreign businesses.

"The convening of roundtable meetings with foreign businesses is aimed at further optimizing the environment for foreign investment and attracting foreign businesses to further increase their investment," Yuan said.

With such efforts and the stable recovery of the Chinese economy, more foreign companies are expected to invest or expand investment in the Chinese market, according foreign business leaders.

"We believe that China will remain on a positive trajectory in the long run, and its market will continue to attract multinational corporations as well as foster start-ups," Denis Depoux, global managing director of Roland Berger, a consulting firm, told the Global Times on Thursday. "There is also vast growth potential in technology-driven productivity improvement and consumer spending."

Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the China Association of International Trade, said that China's investment climate is stable, sustainable and predictable, which would help attract more foreign investment.

"As China's business environment continues to be optimized, high-quality opening-up continues to expand, and the advantages of economies of scale become more prominent, foreign enterprises not only seek China's huge market potential, but also integrate their development goals into China's economic development," Li told the Global Times on Thursday.