[Excerpt] The Chinese government decided in 2007 to join a growing list of nations and create a sovereign wealth fund (SWF). The resulting entity—the China Investment Corporation (CIC)—with an initial capital fund of $200 billion, was a significant new addition to the existing pool of SWFs. The rapid expansion of SWFs in 2007, and in particular, the CIC’s creation, became the subject of significant congressional inquiry in 2007 and 2008. Several congressional committees – including the Joint Economic Committee, the Senate Banking Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House Financial Services Committee, and the House Foreign Relations Committee – held hearings on the growth of SWFs and their implications for the U.S. economy and national security. In February 2008, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional advisory panel, convened a day-long hearing on SWFs, with a focus on the CIC.
After the onset of the global financial crisis, concerns about SWFs in general and the CIC in particular diminished, in part because the CIC and many of the other major SWFs sharply curtailed their investment activities. However, starting in 2009, the CIC began making major investments in several different companies, with an apparent focus on energy and natural resources companies. In addition, one of the CIC’s subsidiaries, the Central Huijin Investment Corporation (Central Huijin), made substantial investments in several larger Chinese banks andfinancial enterprises, which in turn, began to back outward foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic investments by state-owned enterprises and private corporations.
Its renewed investment activities have rekindled congressional and scholarly concerns about the nature and intent of the CIC’s overall investment strategy. Although the CIC maintains that it is an institutional investor seeking to maximize its rate of return, some observers speculate that the CIC is operating as a vehicle for a Chinese government strategy to secure access and possibly control over resources necessary for China’s growing economy. Some are concerned that China’s expanding international holdings of energy and strategic resources may pose a risk to U.S. security. Discussions of ways to monitor and regulate the investment activities of SWFs and the CIC have reappeared among international experts and in Congress.