Thursday, 21 July 2016

So the Chinese are buying up Sheffield. Tell me economic nationalists where's the outcry?


You'll all recall the outcry - much of it pig-ignorant - over the sale of ARM Holdings to a Japanese company. Between people blaming Brexit and a veritiable torrent of slightly leftish economic nationalism we were told that this was a terrible foreign take over. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't (I lean towards the latter - after all I'd be cheering on a British business buying a Japanese company why not the reverse).

What I don't understand it the selective nature of this economic nationalism. I've not picked up anything like the same sort of negative response to this:

In the biggest Chinese investment outside London, Sheffield city council announced that an initial £220m would pay for four or five city centre projects over the next three years and create “hundreds if not thousands” of jobs in south Yorkshire.

The partnership is between Sheffield city council and Sichuan Guodong Construction Group, one of the biggest firms in China’s south-western Sichuan province.

What, dear reader, is the difference between a massive Chinese conglomerate buying up big chunks of Sheffield city centre and the (admittedly larger) inward investment deal that was the ARM takeover? Or for that matter the perennial whining and whimpering about foreign investment in London property? I mean, if you're going to be an economic nationalist - adopt the daft Will Hutton view of industry - then, for heaven's sake, be a consistent economic nationalist.

What we have here is a massive Chinese investment in UK property - celebrated by The Guardian. Just the sort of thing the same paper was railing against a short while ago:

Foreign buyers now own close to 10% of the UK’s housing stock, he claims, and, unchecked, will gobble up much more, increasingly in Manchester, Edinburgh and other regional cities. With the global financial elite numbering at least 15 million, “increasing housing supply can never bring down prices, no matter how much public land and green belt is turned into flats, because the demand for investment returns is almost infinite.”

Thes epeople really do need to make their minds up. Just because this is a snuggly deal between a Labour Council and a big Chinese corporation (with all the lack of accountability that goes with this sort of deal) doesn't make it special or better - it's just as much foreigners buying up British assets as the ARM deal or a thousand other mergers, property investments and stock purchases. All in all a reminder that economic nationalism is stupid.



Jonathan Bagley said...

Property investment, if it means buying homes and leaving them empty, is different to the other investments you list..

Thomas Forth said...

I agree that economic nationalism is stupid and I share your puzzlement at the contradictions within it. It is similar to the puzzlement I feel when those who otherwise demand less state interference in our lives think that every home built in Britain needs to be planned in minute detail and the permitted or denied by the state. If you want to understand the contradictions within economic nationalism I would invite you to consider the contradictions in your response if I were to apply to build a home in your ward and your usual dedication to individual freedoms and a small state.