Rights, institutions, and Chinese investment abroad

Academic Article


  • China has rapidly become one of the leading source countries for foreign direct investment (FDI), though many aspects of Chinese capital remain under examined. In this study we analyze the sociopolitical determinants of Chinese FDI, paying particular attention to the role of human rights and democracy. We hypothesize that Chinese capital is drawn to host countries with worse human rights conditions, given the lack of sensitivity that Chinese firms–particularly state-owned enterprises–have to potential “spotlighting” as well as the underdeveloped status of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. However, we posit that Chinese firms will be drawn to more democratic hosts due largely to experiential learning effects (negative experiences with autocratic hosts) and pragmatic advantages of investing in a state with democratic institutions. We test these hypotheses across 195 countries for the years 2005–2013, and find Chinese FDI to be negatively and significantly related to physical integrity rights and positively related to democratic institutions.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lu K; Blanton RG