Huffpost Business

China Is Buying Stuff In America, Just Not Enough Of It

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CHINA FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT US
China's newly appointed leader Xi Jinping. China's foreign direct investment in the U.S. is still relatively small. Unfortunately. | AP

Terrible news, everyone, China is buying stuff in America. The truly terrible news is that it's not buying nearly enough American stuff.

If you closely followed the interminable presidential campaign, then you are no doubt aware that you should be so very mad about how much money China is lending to America. China owns nearly $1.2 trillion of America's debt, which is horrible because that helps keep interest rates low, which... wait, what was the problem with this again?

Anyway, no time to think about that, because now we've got a new thing to be furious about, in the congressional elections of 2014: China is not content any more to just buy our bonds. Now it wants to buy our stuff, too, our very important stuff, like buildings. Or failed battery makers. Or bailed-out aircraft-leasing businesses.

On Monday morning bailed-out U.S. insurance giant American International Group said it was selling most of its aircraft-leasing business to a group of Chinese companies for $4.8 billion. Over the weekend we learned that Chinese auto-parts maker Wanxiang Group has won a court auction to buy bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems for $256.6 million.

This is fantastic news for 2014 Republican congressional candidates, because AIG received a nearly $70 billion bailout and A123 received $249 million Solyndrabucks or whatever before going out of business, so this shows how Obama is turning the country right over to the Chinese, just like that former Massachusetts governor with the nice hair warned us.

China is already on track to overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest economy, according to a U.S. National Intelligence Council estimate on Monday. Why let it buy its way to the top?

And there is no doubt that China is going to be buying more American stuff. It has long been anxious about tying up so much of its wealth in U.S. Treasurys that pay rock-bottom interest rates and would like to diversify into other stuff -- real stuff, particularly suppliers of the energy it consumes so much of. That is why it just recently completed its biggest-ever corporate takeover, buying Canada's Nexen for $15 billion. China spent $51.3 billion this year buying foreign companies, according to Thomson Reuters, second in the world to Japan.

Most of that money is going to countries outside of the U.S. Americans might want to get a little more of it. Foreign direct investment in the U.S. is like free stimulus money. We get the cash for new construction and jobs, while the foreigners pick up the tab.

And so far Chinese investment in the U.S. barely shows up as a blip on the radar screen of total foreign investment in the U.S., which is still relatively puny and concentrated in the hands of a few countries.

China invested $576 million directly into the U.S. in 2011, according to Commerce Department data -- or about 0.25 percent of the $234 billion in total foreign direct investment. In contrast, nearly $19 billion of foreign direct investment in the U.S. last year came from Japan. Thirty years ago everybody was panicking all of the time about how Japan was going to take over America. Now we think nothing of it.

Of course, Japan has a freer society and economy than China. There are reasons for Americans, Canadians and everybody else at the receiving end of China's cash to worry about China's relative lack of transparency. We also have to make sure we don't put national security at risk by selling sensitive stuff to China. But with the right safeguards in place, we could help balance out our debt to China buy letting it invest cash here.

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