General Electric to Invest $2 Billion in China

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General Electric (GE), the global conglomerate whose businesses include consumer and business financing, power generation, household appliances, aircraft engines, medical imaging and media content, said it plans to invest more than $2 billion in China through 2012 in research and development, technology and financial services partnerships.

"China is the world's fastest-growing market for aviation, energy, transportation, health care and financial services," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in Beijing.

"These commitments represent GE's confidence in China's long-term economic prospects," added Mark Norbom, president and CEO of GE Greater China. GE sales in China have grown roughly 15% a year on average over the past 10 years, according to the company.

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The Fairfield, Conn.-based company plans to commit $500 million to enhance China R&D capabilities in new centers in six cities. The centers will focus on development in key areas for China such as rural health care, renewable and clean energy, smart grid technology, energy-efficient lighting, rail and aviation.

Immelt also pledged to invest more than $1.5 billion to fund new joint ventures with Chinese state-owned enterprises in key high-technology sectors to help meet "growth challenges" in China. He unveiled a a series of partnerships with Chinese firms.

These 50/50 joint ventures cover a wide array of technologies, among them locomotive propulsion with Chengdu Locomotive & Rolling Stock Works; rail signaling with Beijing National Railway Research & Design Institute of Signal & Communication; and smart grid technologies with Wuhan NARI, which is owned by China's State Grid. GE also acquired a stake in Shanghai Tianling Switchgear for power distribution and metro solutions with Shanghai Electric Power.

Still, despite his apparent enthusiasm for the China, Immelt said he remained concerned about a Chinese industrial policy that favors and promotes homegrown technologies. The policy been widely criticized by foreign businesses as discriminatory, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"And we are worried about protectionism" in China and around the world, Immelt told reporters. But, as the WSJ notes, he added immediately that China's government also has "confirmed" to GE that it values foreign investment.

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