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中国投资者在美不受欢迎

Sheridan Prasso 2011年05月06日


    随着中国公司走向全球、扩张进入美国市场,中资公司已在美国35个州创造了超过10,000个就业机会——仅2010年就在美国投资超过50亿美元。

    但纽约亚洲协会(Asia Society)和华盛顿威尔逊国际学者中心(Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars)本周三发布的一项研究称,一个不幸的事实是由于政治因素,中国投资在美并不受欢迎,这阻碍了进一步的投资,导致更多的投资资金和就业机会被拒之门外。

    这是华盛顿政客们以牙还牙举动的一部分:鉴于有报道称美国投资者在中国遇到了负面待遇,一些国会议员们希望能反击中国,或者干脆就是利用对经济衰退期失业现状不满的选民们的反华情绪。不过,具有讽刺意味的是在全美失业率仍接近9%之时,美国急需就业机会,不管就业机会是谁创造的。

    “政治干预和制造恐慌可能令合法(且可能有益)的投资交易转向,”报告称,“如果不减少政治干预,中国投资可带来的一些益处——如创造就业、消费者福利、甚至推动美国基建更新——可能落入美国的竞争对手之手。”

    换言之,为什么非要选择在怀有敌意的美国投资建厂,如果相比之下在墨西哥华雷斯(而非得克萨斯州)或者加拿大安大略省(而非密歇根州)投资更为简单,并能根据北美自由贸易协定(NAFTA)向美国市场出口产品?

    出于很多理由(参见美国制造……中国所有),中国公司希望更贴近美国消费者,了解他们的喜好和兴趣;希望利用经济衰退后美国制造成本的下降,相比中国沿海的广东省和上海,美国已成为了一个廉价制造地。而且在一些个案中——比如中国天津钢管集团正在得克萨斯州科珀斯克里斯蒂建造的一家生产石油钻探用无缝钢管的工厂——规避进口钢材99%的关税无疑合情合理。这家工厂最终将创造600个工作岗位,虽然完工时间已被延迟一年至2013年。

    虽然大多数交易都无需审查,但美国监管部门已两次阻止中国电信设备制造商华为收购美国公司。最近一次是在今年2月份,华为被迫取消去年已完成的对加州一家已不再存在的云计算公司的收购。华为表示,当初并不认为从该公司收购的技术如此敏感,需要监管审批,因为这不属于美国技术出口限制范围内。此外,美国国会议员们还发起了投书运动,希望阻止华为将设备售予美国电信公司Sprint Nextel和U.S. Cellular的行为。

    此类举动有泼冷水效应,亚洲协会的报告称。“虽然作为法定的美国国家安全审查机构,美国外国投资委员会(CFIUS)通常行事公正,但国会干预带来的负面印象将降低中国人投资美国的热情,干预传递出了混淆的信息,”报告写道,“中国投资者虽然心仪于美国富有的消费者群体、具有熟练技能的劳动者、完善的监管环境和一流的技术和经验,但政策和政治之间的关系令人困惑和怀疑。”

    报告建议美国议员们应传递出一个清晰的、代表两党的信息,即中国投资在美国是受欢迎的。报告还建议华盛顿应更主动地吸引来自中国的投资,而不只是依赖于目前在中国设有办事处的33个州和市政府各自为战地招商引资。否则,美国将只能与这些中国投资资金以及随之而来的就业机会挥手作别了。

    本文作者Sheridan Prasso是《财富》长期供稿编辑及亚洲协会的副研究员。

    Chinese companies have created more than 10,000 American jobs in 35 states as they seek to go global and expand into the U.S. market -- investing more than $5 billion here in 2010 alone.

    But the unfortunate perception that Chinese investments are unwelcome in the U.S. for political reasons risks deterring further investment, turning away the opportunity for further capital inflows and job-creation, according to a study released Wednesday by the Asia Society in New York and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington.

    It's all part of political tit-for-tat in Washington, where some lawmakers are seeking to hit back at China in response to reports of negative treatment of U.S. investors in that market -- or simply to take advantage of anti-China sentiment among an electorate that's angry over job losses during the economic downturn. The irony, of course, is that with national unemployment still nearly 9%, jobs are badly needed in the U.S., no matter who is doing the creating.

    "Political interference and fear-mongering threaten to divert legitimate and potentially beneficial investment deals," the report says. "If political interference is not tempered, some of the benefits of Chinese investment -- such as job creation, consumer welfare, and even contributions to U.S. infrastructure renewal -- risk being diverted to U.S. competitors."

    In other words, why set up shop in a hostile United States when it's easier to take advantage of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provisions and head to Juarez, Mexico instead of Texas, or Ontario, Canada instead of Michigan, and simply export to the U.S. market instead?

    For a number of reasons (see "American Made...Chinese Owned," Chinese companies want to be closer to U.S. consumers to figure out their desires and interests. They also want to take advantage of the fact that the recession has made the U.S. a cheap manufacturing destination compared to coastal Guangdong province and Shanghai. And in some cases -- such as the construction of a plant to make seamless pipe for the oil-drilling industry, which Tianjin Pipe Group of China is currently building in Corpus Christi, Texas -- it makes sense to evade 99% tariffs on imported steel. That plant will ultimately create 600 jobs, though its completion has been delayed by a year until 2013.

    While most deals pass without scrutiny, regulators have acted twice to prevent the Chinese telecoms equipment manufacturer Huawei from purchasing U.S. companies. The latest move came in February of this year, when Huawei was forced to retroactively give up its purchase of a defunct Californian cloud computing company it had bought last year. Huawei says it did not think the technology it acquired from the company was so sensitive as to require regulatory approval, since it was not covered under U.S. technology export restrictions. U.S. lawmakers have also launched letter-writing campaigns against attempts by Huawei to sell its equipment to U.S. telcos, namely Sprint Nextel and U.S. Cellular.

    Such moves have a chilling effect, the Asia Society report says. "Though the legally mandated screening organ for national security risks, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), generally has operated in a fair manner, bad publicity stirred up by the threat of congressional interference is having a chilling effect on Chinese readiness to invest in the United States by sending confusing and unclear messages," it reads. "Chinese investors, though attracted by the United States' wealthy consumer base, skilled labor, sound regulatory environment, and impressive technology and knowhow, are confused and cynical about the relationship between policy and politics."

    The report recommends that U.S. lawmakers send a clear, bipartisan message that Chinese investment is welcome here. It also recommends that Washington take more active measures to lure investment from China, rather than just relying on the 33 states and municipalities which currently maintain offices in China to seek investors on a piecemeal basis. Otherwise, we'll be waving those Chinese investment dollars, and the American jobs that could come along with it, goodbye.

    Sheridan Prasso is a long-time contributing editor at Fortune and an associate fellow at the Asia Society.

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