BEIJING, May 16 (Xinhua) -- China attracted 8.44 billion U.S. dollars of foreign direct investment (FDI) in April, up only 0.4 percent year on year, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Thursday.
The figure marked a sharp slowdown from the 6.32-percent growth seen in February and 5.65 percent in March.
In the first four months of 2013, FDI inflow to China, which excludes those to the financial sector, grew 1.21 percent year on year to 38.34 billion U.S. dollars, MOC spokesman Shen Danyang said at a press conference.
"We expect FDI to grow steadily this year," said Shen.
During the January-April period, China approved the establishment of 6,687 foreign-invested enterprises, down 4.69 percent from a year earlier.
The service sector saw a steady increase of FDI inflows in the first four months, up 6.87 percent year on year and accounting for 49.36 percent of the total FDI inflow during the period.
Foreign investment into China's manufacturing sector went down 3.83 percent, taking a 42.7 percent share in the FDI inflow, Shen said.
Lu Jinyong, an economic and trade professor with Beijing's University of International Business and Economics, said as China moves up the value chain and focuses on brand building, the investment structure will become more optimized.
In breakdown, direct investment from the European Union and the United States jumped 29.68 percent and 33.2 percent, respectively, to 2.47 billion U.S. dollars and 1.4 billion U.S. dollars in the first four months.
Regionally, China's western areas saw strong growth in foreign investment, with an increase of 25.7 percent, compared with a 5.7-percent gain for the central regions and 1.1-percent drop for the east.
Meanwhile, Chinese investment in overseas non-financial sectors rose 27 percent year on year to 29.5 billion U.S. dollars in the first four months.
Analysts warned of the risk of hot money inflow disguised as FDI to cash in on a rising yuan and interest rate margins.
Qu Yankai, executive director of the China Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment, said it is difficult to accurately measure the amount of such speculative funds but that the risks are real.
Speculators might use bogus investments and fake transactions to bring in hot money, analysts said.
Under a guideline put into effect by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) on Tuesday, management over the payment of capital with foreign exchange by foreign investors will be simplified.
Meanwhile, the compliance of foreign direct investment in China will be tightly examined and verified to ferret out anything abnormal or suspicious.
By launching an information system for capital accounts on Tuesday, the SAFE is expected to tighten its monitoring over the movement of direct investment.
Lu said that the country's combat against hot money had lasted for many years. "Whenever there is a market expectation of a rising yuan, the regulators will be alert," he said.