European nations should ease visa limits to welcome Chinese consumers and be more open to foreign investors, an executive of China's US$482 billion sovereign wealth fund said yesterday.
Jesse Wang Jianxi, an executive vice-president of China Investment Corp, said that as Europe sought to revive its economy it should learn from Hong Kong and gradually remove travel restrictions, just as Hong Kong and mainland China had done since 1998.
"Since then, mainlanders have poured into Hong Kong, boosting tourism revenue and sending retail sales soaring," Wang said at a financial forum hosted by Caijing Magazine. "The policy helped Hong Kong recover from … the Asian financial crisis and set it on a quick path to recovery."
He said Chinese visitors were keen to venture to Europe and a more relaxed visa policy could tap into this demand and help pull euro-zone countries back from the brink of recession.
Public-private partnerships should also be allowed to attract investment from outside Europe, Wang said. "If public investment is insufficient, the countries should try harder to encourage private investment and foreign investment," he said.
Wang said CIC was aware of a British Finance Ministry report that the government needed £200 billion (HK$2.5 trillion) by 2015 to fund energy, transport, communications and waste-treatment projects. "If there is not enough public money for the projects, the [British] government should attract private and foreign investment," he said.
CIC made a 4.3 per cent loss from its overseas portfolios last year, which proved to be a turbulent time as the European debt crisis deepened, it said in its annual report. "Our overseas investment performance will be better this year, and we will definitely deliver a positive return," Wang said.
Speaking at the same forum on Saturday, Jin Liqun, the chairman of CIC's board of supervisors, called for a friendlier environment in the US, saying the fund's willingness to invest in that country was held back by the suspicions of US politicians.
"We have to limit our stakes to no more than 10 per cent in many companies to avoid making larger investments that might give some people a heart attack," Jin said. "We have plenty of money to invest and our business partners are pleased to attract more funds, but we are constrained from doing so under the current circumstances."
Jin suggested Chinese companies adopt a low profile while looking for overseas acquisitions so as to avoid creating unnecessary anxiety or prompting politicians to talking of a conspiracy.
"Just put it plainly. You want to do business in the US. Don't use big words like 'strategy', which will scare some [Americans] away," he told entrepreneurs at the forum.