China's largest auto glass manufacturer, Fuyao Glass Industry Group <600660.SS>, will press ahead with investments worth about $1 billion in the United States this year despite criticism at home amid growing China-U.S. tensions, the company's chairman said.
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The company also expects to invest a further $130 million in Germany and Russia this year as it looks to tap into more high-end overseas markets, Cao Dewang told Reuters in an interview in Hong Kong on Monday.
Cao, whose company is already the biggest investor in Ohio, said he planned to create about 4,500 jobs by setting-up plants in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan this year.
The move has sparked outrage on Chinese social media, with netizens urging the government to stop Cao from "running away" at a time when U.S. regulators are stepping up scrutiny of Chinese buyers and new U.S. President Donald Trump has strongly criticized Chinese trade practices.
But Cao, who briefly met Trump last year, said the United States was a logical place to invest for Fuyao, which supplies almost every auto brand including Volkswagen , General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co .
"America is the biggest overseas market for us. I can and will make money in the U.S.," he said.
"Trump is a very smart person. His presidency will not affect Fuyao's investments in the U.S."
Fuyao expected to increase the orders it receives in the United States from $600 million currently to $1 billion over the next two to three years, he said.
It decided to establish factories in the United States and elsewhere overseas in order to move glass production closer to its foreign customers.
Fuyao could also benefit from cheaper materials, electricity and gas, as well as lower taxes and transportation costs in the United States.
Cao, a high-school dropout who rose from rags to riches, was among China's richest men last year with assets of 11 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), according to the 2016 Hurun China rich list.
(Reporting by Julie Zhu; Editing by Michelle Price and Stephen Coates)