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‘I really worry about China’ says GE’s Jeffrey Immelt

July 1, 2010

by Guy Dinmore, published July 1, 2010

In a rare public broadside on Beijing, Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric’s chief executive, accused the Chinese government of being increasingly hostile to foreign multinationals.

“I really worry about China,” Immelt told an audience of dozens of top Italian executives. “I am not sure that in the end they want any of us to win, or any of us to be successful.”

Immelt acknowledged the importance of the Chinese market, which contributed $5.3bn to the group’s revenues last year, but declared that GE was encountering its toughest business conditions there in 25 years.

“China and India remain important for GE but I am thinking about what is next,” he said, mentioning what he called “most interesting resource-rich countries” in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America plus Indonesia.

“They don’t all want to be colonised by the Chinese. They want to develop themselves,” he said.

Immelt also turned his criticism on Barack Obama, US president, lamenting what he called a “terrible” national mood. Business did not like the US president, and the president did not like business, he said, making a point of praising Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, for her defence of German industry.

“People are in a really bad mood [in the US],” the 54-year-old executive told an audience of somewhat surprised Europeans who had seen higher levels of US growth as a beacon of recovery.

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