Europe makes room for Chinese investment, but not without concern
China has signed a number of trade deals throughout Europe that could boost struggling economies, but some Europeans have misgivings about the possibility of a financial lifeline from China.
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Deep suspicions about China's intentions in Europe are because of cultural misunderstandings, says Huang Ning, executive manager of Wuhan Asia Heart Hospital in Wuhan. He visits Europe and the United States often for work and as part of overseas business programs organized by Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, one of China's most prestigious.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's a matter of different cultures that contribute to suspicion. American people and attitudes have changed a lot, and there is less suspicion. Europe does not have as much contact with China so they are more suspicious. It's understandable," he says in a phone interview from his home, speaking through a translator.
Diplomacy via the financial system
While only at the start of what is surely a years-long process, China's European landing illustrates the economic and geopolitical rise of one power – which may be on a "soft power" offensive – and the deline of another. A rising power is bargaining and a faltering one appears happy to negotiate.
Total Chinese investment in European bond purchases remains a mystery because neither China nor Europe report total amounts. It probably adds up to dozens of billions spread across several countries, an amount that is insignificant compared with China's $2.85 trillion in foreign reserves and to Europe's overall debt, analysts say.
So far Chinese bond purchases have had little effect in European economic recovery, other than offering a small and temporary psychological boost. Rather, China's financial rescue of Europe is in the form of direct private investment, a tempting scenario for European countries like Spain, that need to create jobs.
"In China we are still in the stage of transforming traditional industry. We must learn from advanced countries, and this is why we are open-minded," Mr. Huang says. "I am an entrepreneur, and I don't worry about politics. My feeling echoes most of the comments of Chinese entrepreneurs."
Another young Chinese MBA candidate in Spain, Tiantian Huang, says, "Chinese think differently. We are trying hard to benefit the world. We want harmony, not a fight. We want to increase trade, to build relations, to learn. We are trying to be more innovative to fit in the new world order."
She wants eventually to return to China with her experience and set up a company to trade with Europe and the US. "But first I need to understand the culture, languages, get my experience, and network."
As for Chengcheng, she intends to stay. "Once you get to a certain level in business, you can influence your surroundings," she says. "It's international relations. It's economy and politics."