By Jutta Wolf
Germany is one of the most important countries for Chinese investors and ranks tenth in terms of Chinese foreign direct investments (FDI). Particularly the transport sector and the technology sector in Germany received a great number of investments from Chinese investors in recent years.
Although China has recently focused more than ever on geostrategic investments in countries of the “Belt and Road Initiative,” investments in Germany remain strategically important for Chinese investors to gain access to key technologies.
“The decisive change in favour of Germany as an investment destination country came from the Chinese government’s paradigm shift away from low-tech labour-intensive manufacturing activities towards innovation-driven economic growth and higher value-added production activities,” says Kiel Institute senior researcher Dr Wan-Hsin Liu.
Foreign direct investment in Germany is an important tool for China to gain access to know-how and advanced technologies from abroad, says Dr Wan-Hsin Liu in a policy paper just published in Intereconomics (Xia and Liu (2021), China’s Investments in Germany and the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic).
In terms of large-scale investment projects with transaction values of at least 100 million US dollars, the German transport sector and technology sector turned to be the main target industries of the Chinese investors in the recent past.
More than 21 billion US dollars have flowed into the transport sector over the past 15 years (up to 2019), nearly 6.5 billion US dollars of which came from state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Over 90 per cent of the money has been invested in the last five years, i.e., since the announcement of the Made in China Strategy 2025 in 2015.
Nearly 6 billion US dollars have flowed into the technology sector in Germany, mainly through investment projects by non-SOEs—also, nearly 90 per cent of the total in the last five years.
A total of 6.5 billion US dollars has been invested in the real estate sector since 2005, 5.8 billion US dollars of which came from SOEs. Different from the investments in the transport and technology sectors, investments in the real estate sector declined over the recent past. In the energy sector with Chinese investments of 3.6 billion US dollars since 2005, over 3 billion US dollars came from SOEs.
China is now the third-largest FDI investor worldwide, with a foreign capital stock of 2,100 billion US dollars at the end of 2019. In 2019 alone, 117 billion US dollars were invested abroad, compared to 0.9 billion US dollars in 2000. In terms of Chinese FDI stock, Germany ranks 10th among all overseas economies, behind the Netherlands (7) and the United Kingdom (8), but ahead of Luxembourg (12) and Sweden (15).
“Germany’s importance as a destination country for Chinese investments will continue to grow. The information available to date on the new five-year plan indicates that China will further strengthen its national innovation capabilities and technological know-how. To achieve this, it needs not least the transfer of knowledge and technology from abroad, including from Germany.”
A Kiel Institute survey of consulting firms in Germany, says the paper, also found that the COVID-19 pandemic had only a small and rather short-term negative impact on Germany’s attractiveness for Chinese investments.
The draft outline of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), the first five-year period after the country embarked on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country, charts the route for China’s development with 20 indicators in five categories covering economic development, innovation, the well-being of the people, green development, and security guarantee.
Like the country’s previous five-year plans for national economic and social development, the draft outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan, which was reviewed at the fourth session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, places indicators of economic development top on the list.
However, instead of setting specific anticipatory indicators for annual growth in the gross domestic product (GDP), the new five-year blueprint says the country will keep GDP growth within an appropriate range and set annual targets in light of actual circumstances.