China plans raid on European assets

China's Commerce Minister plans to lead an investment delegation to Europe next year, hoping to pick up some plum assets on the crisis-hit continent.

China has been reluctant to publically commit to buying additional European bonds, despite pleas for help, but could be much more interested in getting hard assets for its cash.

"Next year, we will send a delegation for promoting trade and investment to the European countries," Chen Deming told a gathering of Chinese firms with overseas investments on Monday.

"Some European countries are facing a debt crisis and hope to convert their assets to cash and would like foreign capital to acquire their enterprises. We will be closely watching and pushing forward the progress."

But he warned that China may fight back if other countries use trade protectionism to block purchases.

Chinese officials repeatedly emphasise the overseas deals that have fallen through because of political opposition; although far more Chinese purchases have gone through without difficulty.

China's largest state-owned shipping firm COSCO has already made a major investment into Greece's historic Piraeus port as part of divestment plans.