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Bottled water. Houses. Waste management. Cows.
The past few years has seen a rise in Chinese investment overseas. Spearheading the movement towards further globalisation in the wake of the United States’ increasing protectionism, China is boosting direct foreign investment through Chinese companies, many of which are state-owned. This trend aligns with China’s vision for more connectivity and cooperation in global development. Regions such as New Zealand are ideal investment hotspots with their abundance of sought-after resources: China occupies the seat as the largest trading partner for both of these countries. Also on the table are farms, water, infrastructure, and property. Notably, China’s surge in overseas investments points to its overarching political aims of consolidating its position as a global superpower.
However, while the increase of Chinese foreign investments spells out positive economic benefits for the target country, this is often dampened by underlying political tensions. The rise in nationalism has left people apprehensive about the merits of foreign investment, stoking fears of jobs being outsourced and ownership being “stolen” by foreigners. In New Zealand, there is a disproportionate amount of sensitivity surrounding Chinese investment. Living in Auckland, I’ve heard countless complaints (questionable though they are) of the Chinese driving up our property market.
Uneasy feelings are further exacerbated by the cultural differences between China and its investment destinations in the Pacific. Chinese companies must adapt and operate under higher levels of accountability and transparency overseas – more perhaps, than they can get away with in China. There are also clashes in ideals, such as the tradeoff between expansion through investments and environmental damage. For countries like New Zealand and Australia, where the environment is a significant appeal, this may lead to governments restricting foreign investment, thus decreasing mutual economic benefits.
It is evident that utmost care must be taken when navigating the issue of Chinese foreign investment, and this is where I believe the Huntsman Programme bridges the overwhelmingly political gap in understanding/agreeance between China and the Pacific. The Area Studies courses at a premier Chinese university like Peking University will enable us to grasp the cultural context of Chinese actions; in particular, the Advanced Chinese Studies program at Peking University offers pertinent courses such as History of Twentieth Century Sino-Foreign Relations which can provide insight into historical precedents and relations that may have influenced current Chinese strategies in development. Concurrently, they give better understanding of potential sensitivities which we can take into consideration when advising potential courses of action.
Additionally, the flexible Huntsman curriculum balances learning through hindsight in history based courses with courses broaching contemporary issues taught by professors who are actively contributing to the field. I’m excited to attend lectures like Professor Stephen Golub’s Nations, Politics, Markets which will equip us with better skills to assuage unjustified public fears and raise any concerns that may readjust the Pacific’s position on Chinese foreign investment. Ultimately, I’m excited to not only pick the brains of my professor, but also my diverse classmates, each with their unique Huntsman curriculum and experiences.
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