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China to re-build the UK?

November 30, 2011

The tides are turning, more than half a century ago, British architects built goliath structures across China and India, which still stand tall as a reminder of each country’s past, a legacy left behind by the British and a reminder of the rich, rowdy colonial history.  As the financial axis tilts East, and much of the western infrastructure buckles under years of use, China the new power dragon has reared her head and offered to aid build modern buildings, bridges and towers for her colonial masters. This poses a possible answer to the question of whether and how China should help debt-ailed Europe, China’s largest trading partner

Seeking to grab opportunity, the Chairman of China Investment Corporation’s Lou Jiwei has an urgent need to find ways to invest the foreign exchange his nation is hoarding, Britain has an urgent need to stimulate growth and creaking, outdated infrastructure. So is this a partnership just waiting to happen?

“Now, infrastructure in Europe and the US badly needs more investment,” China Investment Corporation’s Lou Jiwei wrote in the Financial Times, explaining why China’s sovereign wealth fund wants to invest in improving infrastructure in Europe and the United States to spur global growth.

“Traditionally, Chinese involvement in overseas infrastructure projects has been as a contractor only. Now, Chinese investors also see a need to invest in, develop and operate projects,” he continued.

Mr Lou has about US$400bn (£256bn) of China’s huge foreign exchange reserves under his control and a mandate to invest it to earn decent returns for Beijing. UK Chancellor George Osborne is looking for a mere US$30bn for his National Infrastructure Plan (to invest in energy, water, transport and other infrastructure by 2015 in the UK) and needs to reassure voters that the UK can get back to growth. The US simultaneously needs at least US$2.2 trillion invested in repairing and rebuilding its infrastructure, Lou said, quoting data released by the British Treasury and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Spurring the US and UK to agree to China’s way of bailing the western powers out of their financial doldrums, in his article Lou Jiwei writes that “infrastructure spending is an important way to boost consumption, and it also acts as a spur to economic growth. One need only look at China to see what can be achieved… in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the government introduced a 4 trillian yuan economic stimulus package, with a large part of the money directed into infrastructure. As a result China’s annual economic growth rose from 6.8 percent to more than 10% from late 2008 to the end of 2009.”

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