Davos turn eye to China's investments abroad

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Worries that Europe's slowdown would hurt stronger economies are overshadowing discussions at this week's World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Attention turned Thursday to how China can help, even as some remain wary about its growing dominance.

John Zhao, CEO of Hony Capital, said foreign prejudice about Chinese investments is unfair Thuresday, but acknowledged that some companies are still learning a game that much of the world has been playing for decades.

"The vast majority of Chinese companies are trying to follow the rules as they understand it," said Zhao, whose company controls PC maker Lenovo, which bought IBM's computer division in 2005. "But many Chinese companies are still trying to learn the rules."

Chinese companies and government funds have been using vast reserves of cash to buy up foreign companies and invest in foreign government bonds in recent years. But with billions of dollars in Chinese investments pouring into their countries, some governments have accused China of seeking to exploit the economic weakness of others to grab valuable natural and technological resources at rock bottom prices.

One way for China to ease the rest of the world's fears about its extravagant corporate shopping sprees is be more open about its vast poverty problem at home, said Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization.

Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld reminded listeners that China's companies aren't the only ones with a reputation problem.

"We in the Western world have had a long tradition of corporate misdeeds," he said, citing Enron in the United States and Parmalat of Italy — both of which collapsed after years of hiding massive holes in their accounts.

The world's second-largest economy is still expected to grow this year at a pace that would make most of the world jealous. Most economists expect China to grow at 8 percent or more this year, slowing from 9.2 percent in 2011 but in keeping with the Chinese government's aim to steer the economy away from double-digit export-led growth to more sustainable expansion.

But concern that China may mismanage a soft landing gets mentioned in the same breath as other risks, such as the deepening of the eurozone crisis or weak recovery in the United States.

Armed with the world's biggest foreign reserves, deep fiscal pockets and room for credit easing, China is uniquely placed to cope with possible European recession and downbeat markets.

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