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Opinion

Let's have a free market, but not in my back yard

At the end of June, Kenneth Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, said that Chinese investment in the US should not be hampered. "I don't think it can be a one-way street," he argued.

He has a point. If US oil company Unocal accepts Chinese company CNOOC's bid but US regulators reject it because of a perceived threat to US national security should strategically sensitive US oil assets fall into the hands of a state-run Chinese company, it will stink of hypocrisy.

No-one batted an eyelid when, the same month, Bank of America bought a 9% stake in state-run China Construction Bank for $2.5 billion [see Sino sirens lure global banks on China odyssey, this issue, for commentary]. There was no discussion about the threat of BoA pillaging China's financial secrets. And plenty of US companies have holdings in Chinese oil companies, as Exxon Mobil does in China's Sinopec, for example. Indeed US companies are constantly seizing the opportunity to buy into China. According to data from Dealogic, the top 10 acquisitions that have been announced by US companies of Chinese companies this year alone total just under $4 billion.

CNOOC's proposed $18.5

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