China has invested $46.8bn in greenfield FDI projects in the European Union (EU) since 2010, but data from fDi Markets, a global greenfield investment monitor, shows that while outbound project numbers rose year-on-year between 2012 and 2016, capital investment and job creation took a dive in 2015. A record year in 2016 was followed by another drop in project numbers, capital investment and job creation in 2017. Although capital investment and job creation picked up again in 2018, project numbers have continued on a downward trend.  

China FDI into the EU totalled $2.03bn in 2010. In 2014, it reached $8.77bn, which was surpassed in 2016 when capital investment peaked at $10.79bn. In 2017, Chinese investment fell by 62.68% to $4.02bn. Nevertheless, it picked up in 2018 with capital investment estimated to be $7.42bn, of which 42.29% was concentrated in the UK, Germany and France.

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After four years of rising project numbers, starting in 2012 and resulting in a peak in 2016, data from fDi Markets shows project numbers have been on a downward trend thereafter. In definitive terms, FDI project numbers from China to the EU have witnessed a year-on-year decline of 5.26% in 2017 and 14.65% in 2018.

The decline of Chinese FDI projects into Europe strikes a discordant note when viewed beside China’s almost continuous rise in global outbound FDI. A report published by Rhodium Group and the Mercator Institute for China Studies claims that the introduction of capital controls and a liquidity squeeze in China, as well as enhanced regulatory scrutiny in host countries, may be curbing the Asian giant’s dominance. However, despite a new EU regulatory framework and trepidation shown by western powers towards Chinese FDI, it is unlikely that the majority of Chinese investors will be deterred, as Europe remains the second most attractive region for China FDI, behind the Asia-Pacific region.