Chinese officials are stepping up overseas travel in a race to find investors

  • Chinese officials in campaign to attract foreign capital
  • City officials make hundreds of trips to Asia and Europe
  • Local governments are under pressure to boost growth

HONG KONG, April 6 (Reuters) – Large delegations of Chinese city and business officials have made hundreds of trips to Asia and Europe since December, trying to attract foreign investment as local governments struggle to meet growth and employment targets.

District officials have joined their city and provincial supervisors, along with local businesses, to cross the border more often than ever before, according to their social media accounts and three sources who have met with some of them.

After three years behind closed borders as China imposed strict “zero COVID” measures at great cost to its economy, officials made business trips to places ranging from Hong Kong to Paris within days of restrictions being lifted.

Their urgency underscores the pressure local governments face in spurring growth while saddled with a $9 trillion debt pile, said sources who have met with Chinese officials in Hong Kong.

“There is obvious pressure on every level of government to achieve high targets,” said Eric Yim, a lawmaker representing Chinese enterprises in the Asian financial hub.

Yim added that geopolitical and trade tensions with the United States have led delegations to focus more on the rest of the world.

The world’s No. 2 economy is “open for business,” Premier Li Qiang said last week at China’s Boao Forum, a summit sometimes touted as Asia’s answer to Davos, where he pledged to win over foreign investors and support private enterprise .

Although China has chosen a lower growth target of around 5% for 2023 compared to the roughly 5.5% target it missed last year due to a COVID-19 lockdown, it wants to create a million more jobs than has targeted in 2022.

Two prominent Hong Kong executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described officials they met with as more determined than ever to secure investment for projects ranging from ports and biotech to arts and sports.

“China needs foreign capital to boost its economy,” said one. “Never before have I had so many people connect in such a short period of time, and people in such niches.”

The other executive and Yim said they often attended eight to 10 events a day with Chinese officials.


A 200-member delegation from China shouted slogans such as “Seize new orders, expand market” as they boarded a private jet to Europe at 1:00 a.m., in footage released online by the government of eastern Jiangsu province.

The group left on Dec. 9, just two days after China suddenly lifted COVID restrictions, planning to hold more than 230 business meetings in Europe, according to videos posted on Douyin, the Chinese version of the hit app TikTok.

While many foreign investors echo long-standing complaints about unequal playing fields for overseas companies, intellectual property theft and unpredictable rules, several cities are trumpeting their deal-making success.

Officials from the southern province of Guangxi boasted on social media last week that they had secured investment from Hazemag, a German construction solutions firm.

The city of Putien, in southeastern Fujian, said it had signed 13 deals worth 21.8 billion yuan ($3.2 billion) for new energy, finance and fashion projects during visits to Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

Fengze, a district in the nearby city of Quanzhou, has made supply deals worth up to 30 billion yuan from Hong Kong, according to the city’s social media profiles.

The city of Wuxi, near the commercial center of Shanghai, held 85 signing ceremonies for deals worth 156 billion yuan during a seven-day trip to Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen, the Douyin publication showed.

Shenzhen’s southern technology center, the United Front Work Department, the municipal trade bureau, the Luohu and Futian county governments have sent teams to Hong Kong since the city opened its own borders in February.

Neither local authority immediately responded to requests for comment.

Shenzhen’s Boao district alone aims to attract 100 billion yuan in foreign investment this year, with 26 business managers and 10 officials in charge of key streets committing to the task in a letter, Chinese media said.

“This year, Shenzhen will do everything in its power to grab investment, grab projects, grab progress,” Meng Fanli, the city’s party secretary, was quoted as saying by the spokesman for China’s ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

“Stable growth is a top priority.”

($1=6.8810 Chinese Yuan Renminbi)

Reporting by Claire Jim; Editing by Marius Zacharias and Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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