IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

China's Changing Outbound Foreign Direct Investment Profile: Drivers and Policy Implications


  • Daniel H. Rosen

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

  • Thilo Hanemann

    (Rhodium Group)


After decades of negligible outbound foreign direct investment (FDI), Chinese firms' outbound investment has reached significant levels in recent years, challenging international investment norms and affecting international relations. But China's outflows are poorly understood. Seen in context, China is a laggard in global investment, and the country faces numerous internal impediments to overcoming this disadvantaged position. Daniel H. Rosen and Thilo Hanemann review the data behind China's growing outbound investment, consider the commercial and political forces driving this growth, and analyze both foreign and domestic obstacles for Chinese overseas investors. While extensive media coverage has provoked worries that Chinese firms are buying up the world, China remains a relatively minor global investor compared with OECD countries. China's net FDI position remains negative, with $5 of FDI assets under foreign ownership in China for every $1 of Chinese direct investment assets abroad. But China's efforts to rebalance its economic growth and make the shift toward higher value-added economic activity will increasingly force Chinese firms to invest abroad. Government policy has evolved in recent years to encourage and support China's firms to look abroad. Investment regimes in host countries are one obstacle to Chinese outbound FDI, but China's firms are even more impeded by home-made problems, including the parochial executive leadership and a dearth of key management skills needed to operate successfully overseas. Rosen and Hanemann argue that the growing volume and changing nature of China's outbound investment have important implications for policymakers in host countries. Host country governments must clarify their policies and draw a clearer line between legitimate national security reviews and protectionist economic competitiveness impulses disguised as security concerns. The lack of data transparency contributes to the poor understanding of China's outbound investment, and these inadequacies must be corrected if China and investment incumbents are to work together optimally. In addition, given its disadvantaged FDI starting position China should be expected to pull considerable weight to preserve and promote an open international investment environment, including by maintaining openness at home. If China converges upward to OECD outbound investment levels rather than incumbent leaders trimming down to historic Chinese levels due to protectionism, then future flows coming from China can contribute positively to a range of international issues, from financial crisis recovery to mitigating climate change.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel H. Rosen & Thilo Hanemann, 2009. "China's Changing Outbound Foreign Direct Investment Profile: Drivers and Policy Implications," Policy Briefs PB09-14, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:pbrief:pb09-14

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cushman, David O, 1985. "Real Exchange Rate Risk, Expectations, and the Level of Direct Investment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(2), pages 297-308, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Yin‐Wong Cheung & Jakob de Haan & Xingwang Qian & Shu Yu, 2012. "China's Outward Direct Investment in Africa," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(2), pages 201-220, May.
    2. Pradhan, Jaya Prakash, 2009. "Emerging Multinationals from India and China: Origin, Impetus and Growth," MPRA Paper 18210, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Prasad, Eswar S. & Ye, Lei, 2011. "The renminbi’s role in the global monetary system," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov, pages 127-197.
    4. Rania S. Miniesy & Eman Elish, 2016. "Is MENA Different? An Investigation of the Host Country Determinants of Chinese Outward Foreign Direct Investment," Working Papers 1024, Economic Research Forum, revised Jul 2016.
    5. Kelley, Dennis & Coner, Joshua Klatte & Lyles, Marjorie A., 2013. "Chinese foreign direct investment in the United States: Location choice determinants and strategic implications for the State of Indiana," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 56(4), pages 443-451.
    6. Jason Gurtovoy & Xiaohua Yang, 2013. "Globalization of Chinese firms, location choice, and socio-cultural milieu," Macroeconomics and Finance in Emerging Market Economies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 166-176, March.
    7. Sumon Kumar Bhaumik & Catherine Yap Co, 2009. "Chinese state???s economic cooperation related investment: An investigation of its direction and some implications for outward investment," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp966, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    8. G. Andrew Karolyi & David T. Ng & Eswar S. Prasad, 2013. "The Coming Wave," Working Papers 082013, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.
    9. Prasad, Eswar, 2014. "Global Implications of the Renminbi’s Ascendance," ADBI Working Papers 469, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    10. Shujie Yao & Pan Wang, "undated". "Has China Displaced the Outward Investments of OECD Countries?," Discussion Papers 12/10, University of Nottingham, GEP.
    11. Phanhpakit ONPHANHDALA & Terukazu SURUGA, 2013. "Chinese Outward FDI in Agriculture and Rural Development: Evidence from Northern Laos," GSICS Working Paper Series 25, Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies, Kobe University.
    12. repec:wsi:ceprxx:v:01:y:2012:i:01:n:s1793969012500069 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Xiaohua Yang & Clyde D. Stoltenberg, 2013. "Chinese multinationals and the state: an institutional perspective," Chapters,in: Globalisation, the Global Financial Crisis and the State, chapter 4, pages 72-93 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    14. Yao, Shujie & Wang, Pan, 2014. "Has China displaced the outward investments of OECD countries?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 55-71.
    15. Bastian Gawellek & Jingjing Lyu & Bernd Süssmuth, 2016. "Did Chinese Outward Activity Attenuate or Aggravate the Great Recession in Developing Countries?," CESifo Working Paper Series 5735, CESifo Group Munich.
    16. Shen, Xiaofang, 2013. "Private Chinese investment in Africa : myths and realities," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6311, The World Bank.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iie:pbrief:pb09-14. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Peterson Institute webmaster). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.