China overtook the U.S. as the world’s top destination for new foreign direct investment last year, as the Covid-19 pandemic amplifies an eastward shift in the center of gravity of the global economy.
New investments by overseas businesses into the U.S., which for decades held the No. 1 spot, fell 49% in 2020, according to U.N. figures released Sunday, as the country struggled to curb the spread of the new coronavirus and economic output slumped.
China, long ranked No. 2, saw direct investments by foreign companies climb 4%, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said. Beijing used strict lockdowns to largely contain Covid-19 after the disease first emerged in a central Chinese city, and China’s gross domestic product grew even as most other major economies contracted last year.
The 2020 investment numbers underline China’s move toward the center of a global economy long dominated by the U.S.—a shift accelerated during the pandemic as China has cemented its position as the world’s factory floor and expanded its share of global trade.
While China attracted more new inflows last year, the total stock of foreign investment in the U.S. remains much larger, reflecting the decades it has spent as the most attractive location for foreign businesses looking to expand outside their home markets.