Oklahoma seeks Chinese investment

Updated: 2014-11-06 05:49


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When Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Larry Parman visited China in 2002 for the first time, he knew where he most wanted to go.

He started with a cruise along the Yangtze River in Chongqing, one of the most populous cities in southwest China, to see the Three Gorges Dam - the world's largest hydropower project - which spans the Yangtze.

"I have always been very curious about China and I have always appreciated Eastern culture," Parman said, adding that he got interested in the economic impact of building the dam at the age of 16.

"I became extremely mesmerized by the dam that was built on the Yangtze River," Parman, a Republican who has also served as Oklahoma's secretary of state, said in a recent interview in New York.

Parman spent several days in Chongqing to see the construction of the dam in progress.

Oklahoma seeks Chinese investment

Larry V Parman serves as the secretary of commerce at State of Oklahoma. [Photo by Hu Haidan / China Daily USA]

"We had the opportunity to see the Chinese culture when the river level was low, and we could see the markings on the hillsides that the estimated river level would rise to," he said.

"In one community, in particular, we saw an entire city being dismantled brick by brick and transferred across the river to a higher location above the future waterline," he said.

The Three Gorges Dam, which opened in 2003, is the world's largest power station in terms of installed capacity and the second-largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual energy generation. It aims to decrease the risk of flooding during peak rainfall season while storing and distributing water during dry season. The dam became completely functional in 2012 when the final 32 generators went into operation.

Parman's interest in the Three Gorges Dam has always made him link China with his home state of Oklahoma, whose exports to China - its third largest export market - grew by 201 percent to $439 million last year.

"I was particularly stuck by the entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic of the Chinese people and I thought right then for sure that China was going to grow to a very dynamic economy," he said.

"Oklahoma shares the same spirit and work ethic and because we have energy resources and energy opportunities, I just have to believe that at some point in time that's going to create some kind of partnership," he added.

Oklahoma is a major producer of natural gas, oil and agricultural products, and has a strong economic base in aviation, energy, telecommunications, and biotechnology, all of which are areas for Chinese investors to explore for potential investment, said Parman.

Oklahoma has seen very little impact from Chinese investment and is working on getting the attention of Chinese investors.

"Oklahoma is a ripe opportunity for Chinese investors, being the forth leading producer of natural gas, the fifth leading producer of oil and the sixth leading producer of wind energy," he said.

"It's important that China and the US both do whatever they can to continue the growth rates of their economies," he added, "particularly in China you have the emerging middle class, if you will, and the US will continue to create energy, so our economy can grow as well."

Chinese investment in the US has been on the rise for the past few years. More than $10 billion worth of Chinese deals are pending, including the recent $2.9 billion Lenovo-Motorola Mobility deal and the $1.95 billion Waldorf Astoria Hotel-Anbang deal, according to consultancy Rhodium Group.

This strong pipeline will likely push the total deal value to a double-digit (billion dollar) figure for the second year in a row this year, following the record $14 billion level in 2013, according to Rhodium.

Parman believes Oklahoma and Chinese investors are a good match.

"We will continue to be an excellent source of energy production for the US and the state of Oklahoma and it will be very appealing to outside investors," said Parman.

Heavy equipment manufacturing and some of the wind power technologies developed in the state could also be of interest to Chinese investors, Parman added.