Capital inflows to China are being squeezed by corruption and pollution and Beijing is ready to tackle both head-on to ensure a steady flow of funds, Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of top executives from some of the world's biggest companies yesterday.
"If we can get individual rights under legal protection, if we can maintain economic activities in a fair way, and also have people's supervision, I think corruption problems will be definitely solved," Zhang said at a welcome dinner in Chengdu as part of the 12th Fortune Global Forum, which began here yesterday.
The government would undertake plans to protect foreign investors' legal rights and business interests, Zhang said, seeking to assuage fears over the mainland's legal environment, often cited as a deterrent for foreign investors.
He was equally emphatic on pollution. "The Chinese government has made a big resolution to tackle environmental problems and will begin with problems related to the fog and haze and the PM2.5 issue," Zhang said.
The state media has been reporting that environmental issues from air pollution to food safety have made foreign companies slow down their investments and delay plans to send more executives to work in China.
Zhang said he wanted China to have "blue sky, green land and clean water" so that the living standards of the people can be significantly improved.
Pollution has become a touchstone issue in China this year after a winter smog descended on Beijing, prompting rare public debate and triggering protests around the country.
Foreign direct investment has been one of the principal drivers of the mainland's breakneck economic growth in the past three decades. FDI was worth US$111.7 billion last year and Beijing is targeting US$120 billion this year.
The mainland attracted US$8.44 billion of FDI in April, up only 0.4 per cent year-on-year, a sharp slowdown from the 6.32 per cent growth seen in February and 5.65 per cent in March.
In the first four months of 2013, FDI inflow to the mainland, excluding those to the financial sector, grew just 1.21 per cent year-on-year to US$38.34 billion.
A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers recently found that though China retains its appeal among global investors, it was facing new challenges as emerging markets become more competitive in attracting investment.