An article by Peter Apps in today’s International Herald Tribune (“Chinese Cash Welcome — To a Point) uses the example of Huang Nudo’s purchase of a 300-ha farm in Iceland to illustrate a European Council of Foreign Relations report that compares China’s “approach” to Europe to its approach to China.
It is not clear what is meant by this. The article seems to suggest, rather, that Europe’s approach to China is similar to Africa’s (and different from America’s) in that it is happy to get the cash without thinking of the consequences. Hence what the author suggests is the coming backlash.
I think it’s likely that if a Chinese businessman buys 300 ha in Iceland and says it’s for tourism development, then it is. When I went to Iceland early last year, Chinese tourists already were among the most prominent soakers in the famed hot springs.
But in a way, I think “China” is trying to do similar things in Europe as in Africa. Notably, it is taking the package approach to the peripheral states of Europe — offering infrastructure + loan + debt-purchase deals to places like Hungary — with the idea that these, particularly within the EU, can function as good manufacturing footholds (what with relatively cheap labour and no export tariffs) and testing grounds for operating in more mature markets. At the same time, in mature markets like the UK of France, China is behaving more like in South Africa, i.e. more or less joining the game under the existing rules.