China is the leadingrecipients of foreign direct investment in the world, but the presence of companiesfrom V4 countries in China is marginal. At the end of 2012 V4 countries’ FDIstock in China stood at about €191 million. According to the Eurostat data, thebiggest investor in China is Poland (€132 million), then Hungary (€31 million)and Czech Republic (€28 million). There is no registered Slovakian FDI inChina. Bearing in mind that EU27 FDI stock in China at the end of 2012 wasabout of €118 billion, V4 investments inthe PRC represents only 0,16% of all EU27 FDI in China.
The Eurostat data arebased on balance of payment statistics and not always provide the full pictureof sources of FDI, as some investment are made through entities set up in othercountries. That factor can explain why according to Chinese data, the biggestChinese investments in V4 countries are located in Hungary, then in Poland andCzech Republic. In 2010 five countries from CEE (Hungary, Poland, CzechRepublic, Bulgaria and Romania) absorbed all Chinese FDI in CEE region. Shareof Hungary in Chinese FDI in Central Europe was about 89%.
There are about 5000Chinese companies in Hungary. Most of them belong to SME sector (mainlyclothing and shoes shops and restaurants) and were established in early 1990sby Chinese immigrants which came to Hungary after introducing visa abolishmentpolicy (1988-1992). Thebiggest Chinese investments in Hungary are chemical giant Wanhua which, in 2011for about €1.5 billion, acquired full control over Hungarian isocyjanateproducer Borsod Chem. Currently, this company is the biggest TDI and MDIproducer in Europe. Chinese investors inHungary are also IT companies – Huawei and ZTE. Budapest is Huawei Europeanheadquarters, in Pecs and Komarom are Huawei’s Europe Supply Centers (assemblyplants) that serve Europe with Huawei’sproducts from Hungary (products are sold mainly to Italy and Germany), there are also twologistic centers in Biatorbágy and Üllő .
Hungary is also the first V4 and CEEcountry where Bank of China (BoC) opened its branch (in 2003). The second BoCoffice was set up in Hungary in 2012. Furthermore, in 2010, the ChinaInvestment Promotion Agency (CIPA) of the Ministry of Commerce opened itsEuropean office in Budapest. Hungarian side argues that main reasons for thisstep are country’s location in the center of Europe, professional labour force,direct flights between China and Hungary and the only in Centraland Eastern Europe branch of Bank of China. It is also worth mentioning, thatHungarian Commissioner for China-Hungary relations, during his stay in the PRC,in April 2013, signed an agreement about strategic partnership betweenHungarian government and Huawei Technology and negotiated with China Exim Bankproject of Budapest-Belgrade railway development. Furthermore, the HungarianInvestment and Trade Agency (HITA) signed a partnership agreement with theHungarian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce in order to promote economic relationsbetween two sides.
Hungarian investment inChina mainly involves sectors of waterfowls breeding, and sewage watertreatment, real estate, production of building materials. An example isHungarian investor Organica company (a joint-venture with Chinese company) inShenzhen dealing with wastewater treatment. Other investors are GEA EGI Group –a Hungarian contracting and engineering company with projects (e.g. plantconstruction) in China, and EUBAU with its factory in China manufacturingactivated carbon from vegetable raw materials.
Poland is the secondbiggest investment destination for Chinese FDI in CEE region. The latestbiggest Chinese investments in Poland are LiuGong which in 2012 purchasedcivilian part of steel mill in Stalowa Wola (the first full privatization inPoland by Chinese capital) and Tri-Ring Group which in 2013 invested (PLN 300million) in the FŁT Rolling Bearing Factory in Kraśnik. Other Chinese FDI inPoland represent IT sector: TCL in Zyrardow and Digital View in Koszalin bothmanufacturing LCD panels; Nuchtech company in Kobylka, near Warsaw whichproduces X-ray inspection system used mainly in transport (e.g. in trains) andZTE and Huawei Warsaw offices. Moreover, in Wola Kosowska near Warsaw islocated a big Chinese and Asian products distribution center – GD Poland.Recently one can observe Chinese bank sector interest in Poland. In 2012 twobiggest Chinese banks – Bank of China (BoC) and Industrial and Commercial Bankof China (ICBC) opened their branches in Warsaw.
The structure ofPoland’s investments in China indicates that Polish entrepreneurs areinterested mainly in mining (KGHMShanghai Copper Trading – the first KGHM branch in Asia), pharmaceutical(Bioton), construction chemicals (Selena’s investments in Nantong zone where PUfoams are produced and in Foshan with silicon plant) and clothing sectors (LPPclothing company is considering opening its own shops in China). It is alsoworth mentioning about Polish-Chinese joint-venture (the first joint-venture inthe PRC’s history) Shipping Company –Chipolbrok – founded in 1951 with its offices in Shanghai and Gdynia.
Main Chinese investor in Czech Republic is Changhong company – a TV manufacturer,which opened its plant the Industrial Zone of Nymburk city. The companyinvested $10 million and produces in Czech flat-panel and high-definiton TVsets. Another Chinese investor in Czech Republic is Shanghai Maling – a meatprocessing company (canned pork luncheon meat and ham products), which established its plant in Hrobice. There arealso Chinese world-wide known IT companies - Huawei and ZTE. The another Chinese investor in China is Yuncheng PlateFactory in Pečky, which produces gravure rollers for flexible packaging (beverage, food,flavor and so on) and gravure rollers for packaging in tobacco and decorindustries (for example: tiles, wallpapers, wooden slats and gift wraps).
On the other hand, the main investor is Skoda Auto, whichopened its factory in 2007 near Shanghai. In July 2013 Skoda produced its onemillionth car in China (in 2012 Skoda produced more than 235 thousand carsther). The company has already announced its plans to increase employment in Chinato 100 thousand people by 2018 to enhance its production capability. Otherinvestments are PPF-Home Credit Group (Czech consumer financeprovider)with about 2.5 million Chineseclients; ECM Group - a shopping centerECMall (including five-star hotel and office area), Metropolis Tower inZhongguancun area in Beijing; TOS Kunming – a joint-venture company establishedby Shenji Group Kunming Machine Tool company and Czech TOS Varnsdorf. Thecompany produces precision and large-size machine tools. Furthermore, inMarch 2013, Czech investor Škoda Electric established joint-venture with Chinese KingwayTransportation Jiangsu (China-Czech consortium SKE) and opened its productionline for vehicle traction units in Suzhou (Jiangsu province). Another example ofCzech company which invested in China is TESCAN – a supplier of scientificinstruments (e.g. scanning electron microscopes, detection systems, etc.) –which opened its local division in Shanghai.
In case of Slovakia, Chinese ITcompanies are the biggest investor in the country: Lenovo and Huawei openedtheir service centers in Bratislava. In2009 Chinese Mensac – rubber and tire machinery supplier opened in Slovakiancity Dubnica European Research and Technical Center.
V4 expectations and opportunities
In relations with China all V4 countriesare focused mainly on economic cooperation. The major goals are: first, toincrease export in order to improve negative trade balance with the PRC; andsecond, to attract Chinese investments as a way to exploit Chinese FDIactivities in the world that would stimulate industrial production and creationof new jobs in V4 countries. In addition, bearing in mind rising Chinese middleclass and interest in outbound tourism (in 2012 about 83 million Chinese travelledabroad, spending $102 billion), V4 countries are interested in attractingChinese tourists as an potential source of high revenue. In all Visegradcountries China seems to be the priority economic partner in Asia because ofits size and economic performance. The special focus on Central and EasternEurope in China’s foreign policy provide good opportunities to meet thesegoals. Implementation of “12 Measures” and “Bucharest Guidelines” together withsuch initiative like New Economic Silk Belt is bringing better conditions andnew impetus to improve either trade or investment flows.
To meet the goals ofenhancing China-V4 cooperation, good promotional activities are needed. All V4countries promote themselves in a similar manner through underscoring: EUmembership, location in the center of Europe, very good transport facilities(e.g. Bratislava argues that its close location to Budapest and Vienna airportsis a strong incentive for Chinese business, while Poland stresses that is theonly V4 country with direct flight connection with Beijing, additionallyoperated by Boeing Dreamliner aircraft) which means that V4 could be a hub forthe Chinese economic presence in Europe and a gateway to other EU and non-EUEuropean markets. V4 countries are also attractive to China because of stableeconomic condition despite the global and EU crisis, predictable politicalsituation, cheaper than in “old” EU members but well-educated labor with itshigh productivity. In addition, all countries also underscore long history ofbilateral relations without significant contentious issues.
Priority given to economiccooperation is supported by rising intensity of political dialogue as a mean tofacilitate China’s interest in a particular country which may result in bettereconomic cooperation with the PRC. Intensive political dialogue with China hasbeen observed in almost all V4 countries in recent years. What is more,countries are trying to establish special, unique and different from each othermechanism of cooperation which might upgrade status of cooperation with China.Good example can be Hungary with its policy focused on relations with China,“Mr. China” post, consulate in Chongqing, rather big Chinese diaspora inHungary which might be seen as an facilitator for closer economic andpeople-to-people Sino-Hungarian relations; and Poland with its “strategicpartnership” with China, strategic dialogue mechanism, and intergovernmentalcommittee headed and planned summits of prime ministers of every two years.Czech Republic activities are focused on institutional presence of Czecheconomic and tourism offices such as Czech Invest in Shanghai, Czech Trade inShanghai and Chengdu and Czech Tourism in Beijing.
Afterachievement of main foreign policy goals of 1990s and the first half of 2000s,V4 countries turned to Asia, paying special attention to rising China. Thiscountry as the fastest developing large economy provides huge opportunities interms of trade and investment cooperation. The evidence of recognizing suchopportunities we can find in the changes of foreign policy of V4 countries andnew initiatives of these countries. The first country which recognized the PRCas a priority direction for its foreign policy wasHungary, which in 2003 launched policy towards China, established specialcommissioner, opened bilingual primary school and launched directBudapest-Beijing flights. Pro-Chinese approach was also visible in Slovakpolicy towards China, which differed significantly from the Czech policy.Slovakia focused on frequent visits to China and awarding Chinese officials anddiplomats with Slovak orders and other honors,hence avoiding situation which could provoke China to negative response.Poland-China relations even after Poland’s accession to the EU were proper butnot very intensive. This approach was changed after global crisis. Recently,Poland reinvigorated political dialogue with China, launched programs ofattracting Chinese investors to Poland and supporting Polish exporters to beginbusiness in China (e.g. PAIiIZ activities, GoChina strategy, etc.), openeddirect Warsaw-Beijing flight connection, and established strategic partnershiprelations with China.
Looking at V4-China cooperation, its seems to be apparent that from the point of view of China,among the most important and significant incentives for closer cooperation withV4 countries should be economic conditions, potential business opportunities aswell as stable and predictable political situation, which guarantee continuationof V4 policy and initiatives in relations with China. V4 political approachestowards China did not play in the past a very significant role in economiccooperation, perceived in Beijing as the crucial dimension of bilateralrelations. But it has changed. Currently, political attitude may facilitateeconomic cooperation, but it also plays a symbolic role, which is visible on”rhetoric” level (e.g. names of bilateral relations as strategic). It is aclear signal that China’s policy is based on pragmatism. In other words,China’s recent growing engagement in Central and EasternEurope, including in V4, generally is a result of global economic crisis andPRC’s calculations that V4 countries (and generally CEE) are prospectiveeconomic partner because of its better economic conditions than in other partof Europe. Under the circumstances, with declining exports to traditionalChinese markets (e.g., the “old” EU members), the PRC is seeking new, stableoutlet markets. But to keep positive approaches of V4 countries towards China,it should pay attention to the expectations of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republicand Slovakia. Their main concern is narrowing trade deficit, as well as stilllow level of Chinese FDI in the region. Efforts undertaken recently must continue,be it within the 16+1 format or bilateral activities and should facilitate V4to export more goods to China and host more Chinese greenfield or brown field investments.
（To be continued...）