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Foreign direct investment

Tracking US-China investments

Published 13 December 2018

Chinese investments in the United States plunged while US investments in China flatlined. See what's driving these trends on the US-China FDI Project website.

According to the 2018 report on investment trends by Rhodium Group and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, two-way foreign direct investment (FDI) between the United States and China fell by almost one-third in 2017 from 2016 volumes. Chinese investment in the United States fell from US$46 billion in 2016 to $29 billion in 2017. Overall US FDI in China is nearly twice the value of Chinese investment in the United States, but annual flows are flatlining.

What’s behind the trends?

In addition to this annual report, the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations offer a dynamic and detailed dashboard that tracks investment flows between the United States and China.

Scroll over the US and China maps on the project homepage to see overall volumes of outbound and inbound foreign direct investment stock from 1990 to 2017 between pairs of US states and Chinese provinces. You can further break the numbers down by sector.

At US$3.6 billion, Kentucky is the largest recipient of Chinese investment in the electronics and electrical equipment sector. No surprise, Texas receives more Chinese investment in energy than any other US state. While Michigan receives US$3.16 billion in Chinese investment in the automotive and transportation equipment sector, outbound investment flows from Michigan to China amount to US$17 billion. Scroll over the China map from there to see where the Michigan automakers are investing, from Guangxi and Chongqing to Shandong provinces.

What are the key characteristics of these investments?

The tracker also provides detailed analyses of what’s driving these investment flows with a dashboard indicating key characteristics of the investments. Are they greenfield or acquisitions? What percentage is privately owned versus state-owned? Is the nature of the investment strategic or financial? And what is the breakout between the controlling and minority stakes?

As discussion about investment flows heat up and specific transactions between American and Chinese firms come under more government scrutiny, this is a helpful tracker to dig into the details and see overarching trends.


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Andrea Durkin is Principal of the trade advisory firm Sparkplug, LLC and the creator of Consensus Learning®, an innovative digital tool for teaching negotiation skills deployed in graduate classrooms, think tank simulations and government training.

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