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'Treat us as a family', Chinese investors telling US

By Wang Naishui in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-06-15 11:40

NEW YORK - One can hardly tell what a New York high-rise building has to do with Fosun, one of China's largest private companies, until arriving at the 40-floor skyscraper on 28 Liberty Street in downtown Manhattan's Financial District.

The Chinese investment company bought the office building, formerly named One Chase Manhattan Plaza, from JPMorgan in October 2013 for $725 million. However, the renovation of the plaza helped Chinese investors understand better the ways of doing business in the US.

"There is actually a story about it," said Kate Zhao, director of the marketing & corporate communications of the Fosun Group.

"It is a landmark building, and we need to meet the requirements set out by US authorities in its renaming and renovation," said Zhao.

"Any changes to the facade of the building are prohibited, and many local families who have lived here for generations do not like too many changes either," she told Xinhua.

The acquisition of the skyscraper demonstrates the fact that following rules is a must for foreign investors.

"In the United States, you have to understand and respect the rules and play by the rules," Zhao said.

"Playing by the rules" is one of the major factors that have attracted Chinese companies to increase their investment here. Others include robust economic outlook, the large consumer end market and large base of technology and brand assets.

Fosun has made a total investment of $3 billion in the United States since 2012, supporting about 8,000 local jobs.

A new report jointly released by the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSCR) shows Chinese companies invested a record $46 billion in the United States in 2016, a tenfold increase compared to just five years ago.

As Chinese companies expand rapidly in the United States, long-term challenges and concerns remain for Chinese investors even though they are getting more and more adapted to the American ways of doing business.

The US trade protectionism, the rising labor costs, biases, and the lack of transparency of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) review process continued to pose threats to Chinese investment, said the China General Chamber of Commerce-USA (CGCC) in its 2016 annual Survey Report on Chinese Enterprises in the United States.

According to the survey, Chinese companies are facing a common challenge - the complex and unfamiliar US legal system that often leads to expensive legal, tax, and compliance costs.

In addition, new challenges have emerged such as the conflicts of laws between the two countries, the complex intellectual property rights system, and the high cost of exceeding compliance management, the survey said.

The US legal and regulatory system involves many different players at the federal and state levels, and this complexity makes the country's regulatory environment harder for Chinese companies to navigate.

"In 2014, we received only two supervisory inspections, but in 2016 we received eight, and in the first half of this year, the number already exceeded eight," said Xu Chen, Chairman of the CGCC, and also President & CEO of Bank of China USA, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"We know they are important, but if we do everything we can to deal with these inspections, do we have extra energy to do our businesses, and to support Chinese enterprises to invest in the United States?" Xu questioned.

Xu told Xinhua that both US and foreign enterprises have been calling for deregulation during last two years.

"Regulation is endless. There are businesses, there are risks. You have to find a balance between development and risk control. Overregulation will take a heavy toll on market efficiency and undermine the competitiveness of the U.S. investment market," Xu elaborated.

The Rhodium Group also warned that Chinese investors would face greater uncertainty and political risk in the United States.

One of the themes of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was the need for enhanced national security; therefore, it is highly likely that CFIUS reviews will become more stringent under the new administration.

Pin Ni, President of Wanxiang America Corporation, the Chicago-based arm of China's Wanxiang Group Company, called for a more transparent CFIUS review of merger and acquisition deals between American and Chinese enterprises.

Wanxiang's acquisition of A123, a bankrupt electric car battery maker with US federal backing, is seen as a major success story of Chinese investment in America, with Wanxiang turning the company around to profitability and increasing manufacturing capacity. Yet the path to close the deal was rocky because a CFIUS review was called after some lawmakers expressed concerns about taxpayer-funded technology being acquired by a foreign purchaser.

"It is right for any government to monitor foreign investors to ensure national security," Ni said, "However, the CFIUS review should be done through professional assessment without being politicized. Otherwise it would seriously undermine the confidence of foreign investors," Ni told Xinhua recently.

Lu Guanqiu, Chairman and Founder of Wanxiang Group Corporation, once said to former US president Barack Obama "we want to take the United States as our own home, and we also want to be treated as a family."

"For any company that wants to invest in a foreign country, the issue is not about money, instead it is about whether they feel comfortable," Ni said.

Daniel Rosen, Founding Partner of the Rhodium Group, believes China's investment in America will continue to grow.

"Those (capital) flows can happen without us having to make a sacrifice of national security. We don't have to make it, neither do you... The national security issues can be managed if there is political wisdom on both sides," he said.

Xu Jing in Chicago contributed to this story by Xinhua

(China Daily USA 06/15/2017 page2)

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