Opinion: China City of America plans


By Jan Van den Bergh –  Shanghai

The real story behind the “China City of America” plans in the New York neighbourhood has probably nothing to do with a cultural exchange between China and the West, neither with mutual understanding but with rich Chinese and their money. Lots of money. Earned by the 0.001% of Chinese when their dream was still Chinese. And to be spend elsewhere to also realise their American dream. Adding one dream to the other. That’s it. Cherry picking the best of both worlds.

Some wealthy Chinese investors want to develop a 600-acres multibillion property development in the beautiful Catskill Mountains northwest of New York. If there’s one thing the US – economy doesn’t need, it is that. It’s mainly a hidden way to drain $500,000 from 12,000 rich Chinese into a $6bn real estate fund. Why 500,000? Because you need to invest $500,000 and create 10 full time jobs for American workers in return for the Chinese investor to get an EB-5 visa, permanent residence, green card and US-citizenship. It’s a relatively small fare out of their massive cash loads to “disembark” into the American Dream.

How ready are these super rich Chinese to do that? To quote Financial Times: Last year 6,106 foreign investors applied for EB-5 visas, up from 3,858 in 2011 and 1,949 the year before, according to government data.” (2013 12 07).

Why do they want to jump ship from the China Dream?  Environment bad. Education not ideal. No future for the kids. Dangerous levels of both the rampant corruption and vengeful backfire on corruption. Dangerous levels of toxic environment yet not much of a solution for pollution. Moving out to live a better life elsewhere is a reasonable option. However there’s also a continuous greed they aren’t willing to give up with a foot out of the door yet the other at home – to keep the pipelines of money supply coming from low-wage labours or high-stake assets. Billions of dollars have left China in the last decade. And it’s not yet finished. This well calculated mix lets them cherry pick from the best offers of both worlds.

Their fortunes have been made in different sectors in China. Real estate being the one that has broken all records. With plenty of the latest building projects remain unsold and turned into ghost cities, that seems as if there’s no future in that for the time being. What can they do to duplicate the trade they are good at? Real estate investments abroad! In countries where foreign and big investments are welcome. Where money can buy a lot of things especially an intangible form of freedom. They feel more comfortable with high-rise constructions than investing in virtual technology startups – which latter maybe more successful outside of China but these late comers have no interests to compete with Silicon Valley. Megablock projects – what China City project really is in land-development terms – made them billionaires hence the best known path to duplicate in where they see fit to their own needs rather then where that concept is actually needed.

With that kind of high-stake confidence, go and build a China-themed park outside of China? Why not? If more and more Chinese are migrating and traveling to the other worlds, who are known for their bottomless shopping binge for souvenirs. So is their passion for buying up overseas properties too … while on vacation. Money is not the object. The object is to mark a brand in places where ultimate is already flagged by the world.

So why an ambition to carve out a piece of land in America with a name of China City? Perhaps it’s more of a psychological underdoing than political or economic conspiracy. From nothing to becoming super players, China is not short of miracle stories since the new century. To best describe such a turn of fates: “I am the king of the world!” – the best loved idea by all the Chinese of ‘being Jack’ bracing about coming to the America – the land of opportunities and free to be. It’s not the history of Titanic but their old Chinese Dream merging with their new American Dream.

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