Germany the safest place – and Venezuela the most dangerous – for Chinese investment, think tank says

Frank Tang
Robots in the Kuka stand pour a beer into a glass at the Hannover Messe industrial trade fair in Hanover, Germany April 23, 2016.
Nigel Treblin | Reuters

Germany is the safest place for Chinese investment, followed by New Zealand, Australia and the United States, while Venezuela is the most dangerous, edging out Iraq, Ukraine and Angola, according to rankings released by a mainland think tank on Thursday.

Developed countries took the 10 top spots in the list of 57 destinations rated for investment risk by the Institute of World Economics and Politics, a body under the ­Chinese Academy of Social ­Sciences.

Many of the nations along the "One Belt, One Road" route languished at the bottom of the rankings, which were based on 41 indicators, including economic fundamentals, debt repayment ability and relations with China.

It was the fourth time the ­institute had compiled the annual list. The top and bottom-ranking countries were the same as last year.

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Britain, which ranked third last year, dropped to eighth this time in the aftermath of its vote to leave the European Union. The U.S. also fell from second to fourth due to Donald Trump's win in the presidential election.

China's is now the world's second-biggest investor after the U.S., with $1.09 trillion in total offshore assets at the end of 2015.

Most of the money went to developed countries, including $40.8 billion to the U.S., $28.3 billion to Australia, $20 billion to the Netherlands and $16.6 billion to Britain.

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Institute senior researcher Zhang Ming, a co-author of the ­report, said domestic capital controls and global political uncertainties could mean a decline in offshore Chinese investment this year.

"China's outbound investment size may fall this year … probably to the 2015 level," Zhang said.

China stepped up capital controls to ease outflow pressures after Trump's win drove up the U.S. dollar and the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates late last year.

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Those controls include bans on "irrational investment" such as purchases of overseas properties, hotels and football clubs. Tougher limits have also been put on individuals buying U.S. dollars since the start of the year.

The authorities are concerned that a lot of the hot money flowing overseas is being disguised as ­corporate deals. Outbound investment between January and November last year reached $161.7 billion, well above the $118 billion total for 2015, ­according to the Ministry of ­Commerce.

Zhang said another risk factor was the incoming administration in the U.S.

"The Trump administration may be very cautious about China-led mergers and acquisitions although it could still favor green-field investment for job creation purposes," he said.

In all 35 countries covered by the belt and road initiative were included in the list but most were "developing countries with relatively weak economic foundations, simple economic structures and poor economic stability", the report said. Some even "face high political risks and suffer from poor social elasticity and weak debt ­repayment capacity".

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