China Seeks Foreign Investment to Boost Sagging Infrastructure

By Sheila Tefft, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 12, 1994 | Go to article overview

China Seeks Foreign Investment to Boost Sagging Infrastructure


Sheila Tefft, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


WITH its basic infrastructure straining under the burden of booming economic growth, China is going to great lengths to draw the attention of foreign investors.

At an international conference in Beijing late last month, China opened its Great Wall project to overseas investment. Businesspeople and scholars from the United States, Europe, and Asia were courted to provide expertise and the $11.5 million needed to rebuild 16 sections of the 4,000-mile-long, 2,000-year-old barrier. The government has already set aside $11.6 million, 30 percent of which was raised overseas, for the project.

"We hope to receive more foreign investment for the huge project in the years to come," said Ma Keqiang, an official with the China Great Wall Society, who was quoted in the official English-language China Daily. Help for infrastructure

Turning to foreigners to rebuild this famous icon, now a tourist site, is a highly visible example of China's desperation for foreign funds to bolster a sagging infrastructure that threatens the future of market-style reforms.

Peregrine Securities in Hong Kong estimates that by the end of the decade, China will spend $233 billion in infrastructure improvements, about $35 billion of which will be sought from overseas. "Construction and equipment companies around the world see this as the biggest bonanza anywhere," a Western economist in Beijing says.

Fifteen years of fast economic change have doubled the cargo demand on seaports, tripled the number of airline passengers, doubled the number of civilian vehicles, and boosted energy consumption by two-thirds.

Inadequate infrastructure is starting to strangle economic expansion and widen the disparities between flourishing coastal areas and poor interior regions lacking the transport, communications, and power sources needed to capitalize on China's prosperity. "Without proper transportation and other infrastructure, the inland areas are losing out," a Chinese economist says.

To narrow the gap, China has drawn up plans for a huge boom in infrastructure construction. It is estimated that in the next decade, China will need 60 million telephone lines, more than 100,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, 20 new or expanded airports, 10,500 miles of railway lines, 200 new port berths, and more than 30,000 miles of expressways and roads.

Despite concerns that construction expenditures are contributing to China's historically high levels of inflation, the Chinese central bank is giving priority to foreign-funded infrastructure expansion, and the government is pushing ahead with a number of megaprojects, some with assistance from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. …

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