FACT CHECK: Did Nikki Haley Rank No. 1 Among Governors In Chinese Investment In 2015?

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

During a Jan. 3 episode of the Fox News program, “America’s Newsroom,” 2024 hopeful and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed fellow 2024 presidential hopeful and former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was the number one governor to bring Chinese Communist Party (CCP) investments into the U.S.

Verdict: Unsubstantiated

Data from the Rhodium Group shows Haley ranks number one among Republican governors in Chinese investments when adjusted for gross domestic product (GDP). Check Your Fact could not determine if every single investment was from companies connected to the CCP.

Fact Check:

Haley’s campaign recently reported that they raised $24 million dollars in the fourth quarter of 2023, which is the most the campaign has raised in any quarter thus far, according to Axios. Haley recently passed DeSantis in the national polling average to claim the second place spot behind the frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, The Hill reported.

During the program, DeSantis claimed Haley was the number one governor to bring CCP investments into the U.S. “[Haley] ‘s not been able to defend her record as governor of South Carolina, where she was the number one governor of bringing in Chinese Communist Party investment into her state,” he said.

Haley later responded to DeSantis’ claim on an episode of “The Faulkner Focus,” denying its validity to Fox News host Harris Faulkner.

“That’s a lie,” Haley said of the claim. “[DeSantis] is lying because he’s losing. That’s not a true stat about China. It never was.”

Haley and DeSantis’ claims need context.  The Public Citizen has tracked Chinese investment in the U.S. from 2002 to 2016, indicating that Chinese “financial interests have acquired more than $120 billion of assets in the U.S. economy since 2002.” Public Citizen’s data on Consolidated China direct foreign investment (FDI) transactions for the same time period shows six instances where FDI specifically occurred in South Carolina.

The investments were made in 2012 ($70 million by Uniscite), 2013 ($218 million by Keer America), 2015 ($500 million by Volvo, $70 million by Shanghai Pret Composites Co. Ltd., $72 million by Haier America), and 2016 ($71 million by Yanfeng Automotive Interiors), coinciding with Haley’s tenure as governor. Check Your Fact was directed to the data by Dr. David MacDonald, a political science expert at the University of Florida.

Likewise, U.S.-China Investment Monitor Data from the independent research provider, the Rhodium Group, shows $2.79 billion being brought into South Carolina from China between 2011 and 2017. The same data shows less than $50 million being brought into China from South Carolina during the same time period. The data is representative of all industries. Check Your Fact was able to narrow down the the data for the particular time period by adjusting the sliders at the bottom of the webpage to establish a range of 2011 to 2017.

In addition, U.S. FDI in all Chinese industries fluctuated from 2011 to 2017. 

In 2011, U.S. FDI in all Chinese industries was $13.45 billion; in 2012, it was $15.36 billion; in 2013, it was $14.61 billion; and in 2014, it was $14.62 billion. In 2015, U.S. FDI in all Chinese industries dropped to $13.83 billion, while in 2016, it increased to $14 billion, and again to $14.14 billion in 2017.

Between 2011 and 2017, $65.85 billion of U.S. FDI in all Chinese industries was made via greenfield investments or “new projects that are built from the ground up.” Less than $50 million was derived from state-owned investors, according to the same data. Total U.S. FDI in all Chinese industries from 2011 to 2017 was $100.01 billion. It is important to note, however, that this data appears to be representative of the U.S. as a whole and is not specific to just South Carolina. A spokesperson for the Rhodium Group directed Check Your Fact to the data.

In terms of looking at South Carolina specifically, the state received between $100 million and $1 billion from 2000 to 2016, according to Figure 20 on page 32 of a 2016 report from the Rhodium Group on Chinese Investment in the U.S. MacDonald also directed Check Your Fact to this report.

Data from the Rhodium Group’s Chinese investment tracker was also cited in a November 2023 article from ABC News that labeled Haley as “ranked No. 1 among Republican governors in Chinese investment, when adjusted for [gross domestic product or] GDP.” Using Rhodium’s data, the outlet claimed Haley brought in over $565 million in Chinese investment in 2015. Haley also “oversaw $1.43 billion in Chinese investment into South Carolina.”

Similarly, The Post and Courier reported Haley more than doubled Chinese investment in South Carolina from $300 million in 2011 to $670 million in 2015, citing reports from the Department of Commerce. Furthermore, data from the Department of Commerce indicates Haley’s administration “gave $22.1 million in grants, job development tax credits or both to 11 Chinese companies,” according to the outlet. (RELATED: Nikki Haley Claims 1 In 6 American Families Can’t Afford Their Utility Bill)

While on the 2024 campaign trail back in July, Haley said Chinese investment only accounted for “2% of the 85,000 new jobs and $21 billion of new business investments made when she was governor of South Carolina,” according to the New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester.

One such instance of Haley recruiting a Chinese business to South Carolina was her work with the fiberglass company Chinese Jushi in 2016, Fox News reported. A deal between Haley and the company resulted in 400 new jobs being brought to South Carolina and the company investing $300 million in the state. The company had ties to the CCP, Fox News indicated.

Despite recruiting Chinese companies to South Carolina to do business, Haley vowed to root out Chinese influence in the U.S. in a June 2023 opinion piece she authored for The Wall Street Journal.

Check Your Fact has contacted Haley and DeSantis’ campaigns and various think tanks for comment. This piece will be updated accordingly if responses are provided. 

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter