David Sterman

More than two decades ago, Japan sported the most dynamic economy in the developed world.

The country's Nikkei stock market index was soaring to new heights, and real estate prices were skyrocketing. Flush with cash after a multi-decade spree of trade surpluses, Japanese investors started to seek assets elsewhere, and some of their biggest moves took place here in the U.S.

At the time, Japan Inc.'s move to snap up the highly prized Pebble Beach golf course in California and the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City led to lots of hand-wringing. Suggestions that our most beloved assets were falling into foreign hands led to a widespread economic anxiety that bordered on xenophobia.

All the worries ended up being for naught, however. Within a decade, those assets would be sold off -- at losses ranging from $400 million to $1 billion -- and fears of a "foreign invasion" subsided.

Fast-forward to 2012, and China is the new bogeyman. Chinese companies have been heavily investing in Africa, Latin America and the rest of Asia for the last half decade, and now they're setting their sights on U.S. assets.

Consider that Chinese companies have invested nearly $21 billion in U.S. companies over the past dozen years, but fully 17% of those deals (or $3.6 billion) came in just the first-half of 2012 alone, according to research firm Rhodium Group. That's not far from the full-year record of $5.8 billion set in 2010.

That record will be surpassed -- by a big margin -- if a pending deal goes through by China's Dalian Wanda to acquire movie theater chain AMC for $2.6 billion. The purchase is looking more and more likely, given reports that Wanda announced it had received regulatory approval for the purchase. A report in the Los Angeles Times said that the deal is expected to be closed at the end of August.

David Sterman

David Sterman has worked as an investment analyst for nearly two decades. He is currently an analyst for StreetAuthority.com

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