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11/11/2006 | CHINA - Blocking Investment to Promote Stability

Stratfor Staff

China published its 11th five-year plan for capitalizing on foreign investment Nov. 9. Until now, Beijing has publicized initiatives to curb foreign investment in order to cool the economy and ensure measured growth. Now that these plans have been formalized, more initiatives to block foreign investment will emerge as the Chinese Communist Party tries to bolster its legitimacy by redirecting its economic focus away from China's already-prosperous coast.

 

China published its 11th five-year plan for making use of foreign investment Nov. 9. The new plan states that a priority will be placed on the quality rather than quantity of investments.

The new plan marks a significant shift from former President Jiang Zemin's government, which pushed growth for growth's sake. Under Jiang's successor, Hu Jintao, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is promoting measured growth with a focus on closing China's wealth gap in a bid to bolster support from rural regions and the inland provinces.

Several measures to curb foreign investment have been initiated recently, but China still remains an attractive destination for investment -- much of which consists of "round-tripping," or recycled investments from overseas Chinese accounts in the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong -- given China's large labor pool.

Hu wants to curb round-tripping through the new plan and to crack down on other redundant foreign investments, especially those that compete with domestic companies. He also seeks to rein in corrupt local officials who blindly have sought investment to line their own pockets.

The Jiang government used economic strength to bolster its legitimacy and stay in power. Hu, however, knows the Chinese economic engine is running out of steam -- or more accurately, the type of steam it is running on is not adding useful production to the economy. He must therefore find another outlet to maintain CCP dominance. To do so, he is returning the CCP's original support base: the peasantry.

Maintaining CCP power is more important to Hu than pandering to foreign investors or domestic business leaders, as recent
purges in Shanghai have illustrated. It is a risky gamble, since unemployment will rise if foreign investment slows -- which also could lead the masses to move against the government. At the same time, China's economic miracle is unsustainable, and Hu would have to face this inevitability in any event. His gamble is that by appeasing the masses now, he can lessen the chaos that would follow an economic downturn.

Stratfor (Estados Unidos)

 


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