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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
China investment boom speeds up
A telephone user in Beijing
Foreign firms now account for more than half China's exports
Foreign investors poured $10.1bn (7bn) into China during the first three months of this year, in a bid to cash in on the country's entry to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December.

The figure represents a 28% increase on the same period a year earlier, a rapid pace even by China's recent standards.

Contracted foreign direct investment - projects signed off but awaiting delivery of funds - rose 11.4% in the first quarter of to $17.9bn, the Foreign Trade Ministry said.

While this indicates a slight slowing in cash inflows ahead, Chinese officials were keen to give the figure a positive spin.

The contracted investment figure can fluctuate wildly, at the mercy of a few big deals, economists said.

Money matters

Foreign direct investment is crucial to China, which has been Asia's fastest-growing large economy for at least a decade.

Last year, the country earned almost $47bn in foreign investment - more than went into France, and four times as much as the whole of Africa.

This year, state media have predicted at least $50bn, pushing China ahead of most West European countries.

Since exports by foreign firms account for just over half of the country's total, foreign investment has been a major driver of overall economic growth.

This year, according to the Asian Development Bank, Chinese growth is likely to slow marginally to 7%, from last year's 7.3%.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Business
Bright outlook for China
22 Jan 02 | Business
Global investment almost halves
31 Dec 01 | Business
China's economy 'overtakes Italy's'
13 Dec 01 | Business
China: an economic super power?
20 Nov 01 | Business
Global economy shrinks
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