Since entering the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has consolidated as the main recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the developing world: over the last decade it received an average 50,000 million dollars per year. Based on a successful model of controlled opening, it managed to locate itself at the center of investor strategies.
It was only after China joined the WTO, after a difficult process entailing 15 years of stiff and prolonged negotiations, that it took the place of Latin America in terms of FDI attraction.
The Chinese logic is simple: the implementation of a policy of reinsertion into the global economy through a gradual process, involving transnational corporations and making business and service flows coincide with FDI flows.
After 2001, China has reaffirmed its position as the new engine of the world’s economy, based on its high GDP growth rates, international trade, FDI attraction and infrastructure development (OECD 2005). In 2005, it became the world’s fifth economy, and the third exporting power.
This virtuous circle of growth, foreign trade and investment would not yield these results if there was not a global strategy in place, which has allowed China to enter the international markets, not only for maquiladoras and raw materials, but also, more recently, for the high-tech industrial sectors and the sector of new technologies.
Although the FDI attraction strategy has been crucial for success, it only began to yield results in the early 1990s. Before that time, the FDI attracted by China was no greater than a few thousand dollars. Today, however, it records an accumulated total of around 600,000 million dollars, with an average 50,000 million dollars received over the last 10 years. With these numbers, China has become the main FDI recipient in the world when it comes to developing countries.
This new reality has given rise to debate over the «Chinese
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threat» to the developing world, considering that many growth strategies of Latin America and Africa require a funding flow via FDI, and even a portfolio investment.
On the other hand, on its progress towards becoming a source of foreign investments, China began to include in its strategic perspective the relationships with regions where it is less present, such as Latin America and the Caribbean, which are typically considered as an area of influence by the United States. This process is connected to the need of ensuring the long-term supply of energy, minerals and food, and it is accompanied by a promotion of access into the internal market. Additionally, the Chinese authorities insist on the respect towards and compliance with multilateral mechanisms under the WTO, and on obtaining support for their position in such sensitive issues such as the acknowledgement of the “market economy” status, the «one China policy», the composition of the United Nations Security Council, and the articulation of multilateral trade negotiations with developing countries.