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China's outbound investment faces tighter supervision
【2018-01-29】

Although China's outbound investment slowed down in 2017, the country has shown no intention of changing its approach.

A prudent approach and tighter supervision have become the clear stance for Chinese regulators.

Under a temporary method jointly released Thursday by several key regulators, including the Ministry of Commerce and the People's Bank of China, a full-process supervision over outbound investment activities will be imposed.

Previously, companies investing abroad were only required to complete record filings with central or local economic planners before their investment projects started.

The new method stipulates that record-filing and supervision must go through the full course of an investment activity, and that the supervision will target investment arms established overseas in particular.

If an investment arm is found to be bogus, relevant investment activities will not be put on record, let alone be approved. Moreover, key development of an investment activity must be reported in timely fashion.

Commercial Counselor Han Yong with the Ministry of Commerce described the regulation as "penetrating."

Han said that the tightened regulation would help regulators track the whereabouts of capital, and allow them to provide better and timely services to companies engaged in outbound investment.

The method also stipulates that outbound investment projects of at least $300 million or those in "sensitive countries and regions" or "sensitive industries" will be the focus of regulatory supervision and examination.

Sources with the Ministry of Commerce said that the method also put in place an information-sharing mechanism allowing different regulators to work closely and improve supervision efficiency.

For instance, if a regulator, be it China Banking, Securities or Insurance Regulatory Commission, finds an investment entity failing to comply or showing signs of misconduct, it can share the information through a platform established by the Ministry of Commerce and then give a collective warning.

Tax evasion cases will be transferred to the police, industry and commerce departments, taxation and foreign exchange administrations.

Spokesperson Wang Chunying with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange told a press conference earlier this month that China would continue to encourage domestic companies to invest abroad so as to become more integrated with the global industrial chains and value chains.

"Over the process, market rules and international practices must be followed," she said.

To prevent outbound investment becoming irrational, China's State Council has put a brake on projects in areas including real estate, hotels, cinemas, and entertainment, while investment in sectors such as gambling has been banned.

Looking to the future, Wang said Chinese companies would be encouraged to invest in projects associated with the Belt and Road Initiative as well as projects conducive to the restructuring and upgrading of the Chinese economy and the development of host countries.

"Signs of irrational investment will be closely monitored, while authenticity check and compliance audit over investment deals will be tightened," she said.

China's non-financial outbound direct investment fell 29.4 percent year on year to $120 billion last year, roughly the same as the 2015, after hectic expansion in 2016.