As crunchy vignettes in U.S.-China relations go, it’s hard to beat the moment in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter pressed Deng Xiaoping to let Chinese people emigrate more freely. “If you want me to release 10 million Chinese to come to the United States,” the paramount leader offered, “I’d be glad to do that.”
Deng was being hyperbolic, but he had a point about what could happen when China shakes loose. Last year over 100 million tourists sallied out of the People’s Republic. But the real story is investment. Rhodium Group, which tracks outbound investment from China, sees $2 trillion of capital flows over the decade ending in 2020. The total stock of Chinese investment in the United States in 2013, for comparison, was $8 billion.
Real estate is at the heart of it. In the two years to March 10, $10.4 billion was invested by Chinese buyers into U.S. commercial property, according to Real Capital Analytics. For the two years before, it was just $1.5 billion. Since 2013 some $6 billion has gone into Manhattan alone, including the Zeitgeist-capturing $2 billion purchase of the Waldorf Astoria hotel by little-known insurer Anbang in February.
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