So far, Chinese statistics tell the story of a global expansion of China’s state capitalism. According to MOFCOM, Chinese companies have invested 90 billion USD in BRI partner countries between 2013 and 2018, an average of 11 billion USD per year. Not surprisingly, MOFCOM’s statistics indicate that contracted project work for Chinese companies in BRI target countries during the same time period of time is much larger than direct investment, reaching 600 billion USD. Of these, China’s 97 central State-Owned Enterprises are seizing the lion’s share. According to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission that oversees their operations, central SOEs are involved in 3,116 BRI investment and infrastructure projects - this represents 50% of the total number of projects and 70% of their total value. As a result, the world’s top 5 global contractors are all Chinese SOEs, with the largest, China State Construction and Engineering, working on projects in 119 countries.
This overwhelming domination of SOEs points to the question of the space left for companies from other countries, in particular firms from advanced economies that do not need big ticket infrastructure projects financed by China on their soil. Politically, China does not object to the involvement of firms from Japan, France or Singapore alongside Chinese companies in third countries. Japan and Singapore have signed such agreements with China and the issue was on the agenda of Xi Jinping’s recent state visit to Paris. In reality, the record of deals signed in third countries is meagre and China wins market shares at the expense of competitors.