Building Bridges to China

Chinese companies and individuals are investing tens of billions of dollars in America. Here’s how Hawaii businesses and nonprofits are creating relationships with their Chinese counterparts and working to get a share of those

October, 2013



Chinese companies and investors are awash in money and much of that wealth is coming to America. Their reach is everywhere. In 2012, Chinese companies spent $62 billion acquiring U.S. companies, many billions more buying commercial real estate such as the General Motors Building in Manhattan and industrial projects in Oakland, and more than $12 billion on houses and condos nationwide.

Many people in Hawaii are hoping to profit off those Chinese investments that come ashore in the Islands. In this article, we look at four significant ways locals are hoping to get a piece of the action: the law, EB-5 investments, real estate and education. We’ll start with the law, because a small cadre of local lawyers may have the biggest vision of all. They don’t just want to help facilitate Chinese investments in Hawaii, they want a significant piece of the mainland action, too.


Mentoring and Personal Relationships May Have Big Payoff

Two years ago, four local lawyers formed the U.S.-China Legal Network, an organization that brings Chinese lawyers to Hawaii to mentor them on the practice and culture of law in the United States. Their goal is to make Hawaii a gateway for Chinese law firms that want to do business in this country. That may seem ambitious for a legal and commercial backwater like Hawaii, but local firms do have some advantages. Geography helps: Honolulu is only an eight-hour flight from Shanghai and there’s just a six-hour time difference for phone calls, versus 12 for New York. There are also the obvious cultural and historical relationships between China and Hawaii. In addition, the hourly rates for Hawaii’s top firms are about 60 percent of what the big New York law firms charge. Maybe most important, all four founders of the network have extensive ties to the legal community in China.

Roger Epstein, a partner at Cades Schutte, started going to Hong Kong shortly after he got out of law school in the 1970s. “I was doing complicated international tax-law investments, not only from Hong Kong, but Canada, New Zealand and Australia.” He also worked with Jardine Matheson, at that time the largest British company in Hong Kong, when it acquired Big Five company Theo Davies & Co. and became a Cades client.

Alan Ma, who was born in Hong Kong, has been an immigration attorney in Hawaii for 30 years. He’s now a sole practitioner, but, in the mid-1990s, while still a lawyer at Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, he contracted with DBEDT to serve as the state’s trade representative in Hong Kong. “I set up an office to try to promote Hawaii as an investment location,” Ma says. The timing was no coincidence: Before Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, many of its rich residents sought overseas investments to hedge their bets.

Larry Foster, a former dean of the UH law school, spent the last nine years in China while his wife, Brenda Foster, served as CEO for the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. While he was in China, Foster taught at the local campus of Beijing University. He also conducted training for young lawyers at Chinese law firms. “We repatriated to Kailua on July 1,” Foster says.

Mark Shklov, another sole practitioner, has more than 30 years of experience as an immigration attorney in Hawaii. His connection with China is largely through his work with the Hawaii State Bar Association.

“As part of my work with the Hawaii Bar,” he explains, “I’ve worked a lot on developing relationships with bar associations from other countries. We’ve developed a number of friendship agreements – like sister bar relationships. We have one with the Dai-ichi Tokyo Bar Association in Japan. We also have a relationship with the Shanghai Bar, one that all four of us worked on. Most recently, we’ve been developing a relationship with the Seoul Bar Association.” Epstein points out that Shklov also co-founded the Inter-Pacific Bar Association, considered by many international attorneys to be the pre-eminent bar association in Asia.

“All these efforts,” Shklov says, “have been to develop these personal and professional relationships with lawyers in Asia or those who have an interest in Asia. It’s not just a business or a professional goal, it’s a personal goal, too.”

No Laws

But why would Chinese lawyers need mentoring?

According to Epstein, it’s because of an astounding fact: Prior to 1983, China had no written law. Instead, powerful party members and government officials dictated what could be done, how, and by whom. “I’ll tell you how it worked,” says Epstein. “They’d say, ‘We’ll tell you what to do. This is what the law is. If you do it wrong, you go to jail. But we’ll make up the laws as we go along.’ That’s how it was from 1949 to 1983.”

Ma gives an example of how capricious the system could be: “Gordon Wu, the famous businessman who donated so much money to Princeton University, built the first private highway from Shangjiang to Guangzhou, and I personally saw the document authorizing it. There was only one line, ‘This is good for the country; you’re authorized to build the highway.’ It wasn’t based on anything like theInterstate Commerce Act or the rule of law.”

“There may have been Communist Party rules, or the local party committee may have had rules,” Epstein says, “but there were no laws like we know them.”

Because China’s modern legal system really just began in 1983, most of the senior lawyers who run the country’s bar associations, its largest law firms and its other legal institutions are only 45 to 50 years old. So, even though China is a global business behemoth, few Chinese attorneys have much experience in international law. Moreover, there are no older Chinese lawyers to act as mentors. That’s where the U.S.-China Legal Network comes in.

In 2006, at the request of a prominent Shanghai lawyer named Richard Hsu, the four local attorneys began to bring young Chinese lawyers to Hawaii – one at a time at first, then in pairs and small groups – for three to four months of acculturation.

“We actually hook them into our computer network here at Cades,” Epstein says. “And we introduce them to various aspects of lawyering, depending on what they’re interested in – real estate, finance, tax, corporate litigation, etc.” Also, the young lawyers each write a research paper – for example, on the nuances of intellectual property – and give presentations to groups such as the Hawaii State Bar Association, UH, Punahou School and various law firms.

“Usually, at least once a week,” Ma says, “they’ll come over to my office and I’ll try to set them up with appointments to talk with other lawyers in town, because, and this is just my philosophy, they’ve got to learn to talk with American people, American lawyers, if they want to be successful.”

But the program isn’t just about law. Ma also likes to take them to places where local Chinese people go and do things that local Chinese do. Foster likes to show them classic American law movies, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “12 Angry Men.” Following the November 2011 APEC summit, one young communist Chinese lawyer even testified at the state Legislature.

Although the program started as an informal arrangement between Richard Hsu and the four Hawaii lawyers, it has now grown to include relationships with the Shanghai Bar Association; the Huang-pu Judicial District, the government agency that regulates lawyers in Shanghai; and law firms in Shanghai and Beijing. And those relationships are becoming increasingly formal.

“Last year,” Epstein says, “the Shanghai Bar Association and the Huang Pu Judicial District sent a nine-person delegation here and they signed an agreement between the Shanghai Bar and the Hawaii State Bar, and Huang Pu Judicial District signed an agreement with Cades Schutte to take two lawyers a year.”

Planning For the future

Once you understand China’s legal history, it’s easier to understand why young Chinese lawyers might be interested in the U.S.-China Legal Network, but why would these Hawaii lawyers take time to mentor them? It’s pretty simple: As Chinese corporations and wealthy Chinese individuals buy American companies and invest in American real estate, those transactions are generating enormous revenues for the international law firms handling them. Cades and the other members of the network want in on the action – not just in Hawaii, but across the mainland, too. The idea is that, instead of having partnerships with law firms around the country, Chinese firms will partner with Hawaii firms and allow them to manage their U.S. transactions. In other words, the U.S.-China Legal Network is all business.

“Please don’t get this wrong,” Epstein says. “This is not a training program. This is not an internship. These Chinese lawyers are often senior partners – even though they’re 35 to 40 years old – who are trying to develop their international business. We’re doing the same thing.”

Given the scale of Chinese investment in the U.S., the upside is potentially huge.

“We don’t expect to get the biggest deals,” Epstein says. “Those deals have to go to the big New York law firms and the Big Four CPA firms and banks like Goldman Sachs, because that’s how you do those deals. But even the smaller deals could be $500 million. One of the lawyers we talked to in China has a deal now where one of her clients is buying some kind of auto-parts company in Detroit for about $1 billion.”

The legal fees on a transaction of that size can pay for a lot of mentoring.

 EB-5 Investments

Hits and Misses for a Federal Program

Maybe the best-known vehicle for foreign investment in Hawaii is the EB-5 program. Run through the U.S. Center for Immigration Services, EB-5 gives wealthy foreigners (and their immediate families) green cards in exchange for investing money and creating jobs in the U.S. The price of admission is $1 million, although in rural or economically disadvantaged areas – which includes most of Hawaii – investors only need $500,000.

There are two ways foreigners can participate. One is individually: use your $500,000 to start a company, create (or save) 10 jobs over two years and manage the business yourself. But, like any startup – let alone one owned and managed by a new immigrant – this kind of investment is risky. If it fails, the investor loses both his money and his provisional green card. The other approach, investing through a USCIS-approved “regional center,” is much more popular.

At its heart, the regional center is a brilliant concept. Basically, after a company is approved by USCIS to create a regional center, it finds foreign investors, identifies an appropriate project (big enough that all the investors qualify for EB-5), then structures the deal as a limited partnership, with the regional center as the managing partner and filing the necessary reports with USCIS. In this scenario, everybody wins. The investors (and their immediate families) get their green cards and (hopefully) an attractive return on their investment; the region gets jobs and economic development; and the company that manages the regional center takes a cut of the profits. For the glut of wealthy Chinese nationals eager to gain legal status, send their children to U.S. schools and get some of their assets out of China, EB-5 seems like the ideal vehicle. In practice, though, the program isn’t as straightforward as that, especially in Hawaii.

Problems From the Start

Hawaii’s history with the EB-5 program goes back to at least 1995, when DBEDT created the Hawaii Regional Center. Betty Brow, executive VP of Bank of Hawaii’s International Banking Division, estimates that “between 2000 and 2011, Hawaii had about $100 million in EB-5 investment,” much of it through one project, Sopogy.

But EB-5 has had problems almost from the beginning. Nationally, it has been plagued by an inefficient bureaucracy and by allegations of corruption and mismanagement at some regional centers. Most recently, Gulf Coast Funds Management, a regional center affiliated with Anthony Rodham, Hilary Clinton’s brother, has been accused of using improper influence and receiving preferential treatment. A 2005 GAO audit found widespread inefficiency and mismanagement, shutting down nearly 900 EB-5 cases. In fact, the current incarnation of EB-5 is technically a pilot program. This uncertainty at the federal level complicates the long-term viability of regional centers.

Locally, the issue has been mostly a lack of activity or oversight. As Alan Ma points out, USCIS actually suspended the state’s program in 2007. “The Hawaii Regional Center, which was managed by DBEDT then, lacked what it called ‘oversight management,’ ” Ma says. “The truth was that DBEDT did not submit the required statistical information on how the Regional Center was doing. CIS wasn’t pleased when the state didn’t know what was going on with the regional center.”

“So they (DBEDT) hired an independent contractor called CanAm Enterprises,” Epstein says. “CanAm was contracted to run the center under a five-year agreement and take over the responsibilities that DBEDT had and was unable to perform.” Ma actually served as a consultant for CanAm. And yet, both he and Epstein are dubious about its performance. They say that, although the Hawaii Regional Center has three prospective projects – the Honolulu International Airport consolidated rental car parking facility, UH West Oahu student housing and Sopogy’s Kalaeloa solar project – none have yet been fully approved by USCIS. They contrast this with the company’s performance in other parts of the country.

“In the last five years,” Epstein says. “CanAm had four other regional centers for which they raised $1.3 billion of investment money. They raised zero for Hawaii.” Indeed, the perception among many in the local EB-5 community is that DBEDT promotes CanAm, but CanAm siphons off potential Hawaii investors to its more successful regional centers on the mainland. Ma and Epstein worry DBEDT will cancel the program. They may have a point. CanAm’s management contract actually ended in March; since then, the company has been operating the regional center under a temporary extension. Meanwhile, Dennis Ling, the administrator for strategic marketing at DBEDT, says the state hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to renew the contract or continue the program.

CanAm, of course, has a different perspective on the Hawaii Regional Center. Although the company declined to be interviewed for this story, in an email, executive VP Christine Chen says all three of the regional center’s projects are fully subscribed – that is, they’ve found investors and the investors’ money is in escrow. According to CanAm, the delay in starting construction on these projects is because of USCIS’s slow approval process. That’s a chronic complaint about EB-5.

By law, USCIS is required to approve the regional center, approve the investors and approve the project. Each of these processes generates reams of paperwork and can be remarkably slow. For example, the agency can take years approving the investors, who have to demonstrate to the agency that their investment funds are all legally obtained. Similarly, USCIS’s analysis of projects to prove they will generate the appropriate number of jobs can be time consuming and complex.

Despite these snags, CanAm says, it has made quiet progress on its projects. According to Chen, “All the investors in two of the projects have been approved. The third project, for the Honolulu Airport, is pending adjudication at USCIS, but all the investor petitions have been submitted and the funds deposited in escrow.” In other words, CanAm hasn’t had any problem finding investors. They also discount the suggestion they siphon potential Hawaii investors to other regional centers, noting:

“CanAm maintains a waiting list of pre-screened investors who wish to subscribe to projects in the various regional centers we operate. Some investors prefer certain types of projects, others prefer certain regions.” Some specifically prefer Hawaii, Chen says.

Nonetheless, all three Hawaii Regional Center projects remain in limbo.

Two Are Inactive

Fortunately, CanAm doesn’t operate the only regional center in Hawaii. In fact, there are four of them; although, like many regional centers around the country, two appear moribund. Neither the Golden Pacific Ventures regional center, which is attempting to sell investors shares in coffee farms on Hawaii Island, nor Live in America Financial Services, an idle regional center recently bought by Lexington Realty Trust, the former owner of the old Macy’s building downtown, have any active projects.

On the other hand, the Hawaiian Islands Regional Center, which is developing a 100-bed skilled nursing facility on Hawaii Island and a 175-bed skilled nursing facility on Maui, may be a model for how to use EB-5 to bring Chinese investment to the state.

“We’ve found a niche,” says David Wilson, who, along with partners Ben Meeker and Andre Hurst, founded the Hawaiian Islands Regional Center in 2008. Indeed, skilled nursing facilities seem ideal for EB-5. They’re expensive to build, which means they can absorb a lot of foreign investment. They generate a lot of employment – between them, the Maui and Hilo facilities are projected to create 450 jobs, many of them highly paid. And maybe most important, they create a reliable revenue stream. That makes skilled nursing facilities easy to explain, both to Chinese investors and USCIS analysts.

But Wilson points out that the success of the Hawaiian Islands Regional Center isn’t just the result of the type of project it has chosen. It also approaches the EB-5 program differently. While other regional centers often take an equity position in their investments, Wilson and his partners function more like a bank, acting as lenders rather than owners of their projects. For both current Hawaii projects, the Hawaiian Islands Regional Center is working with Regency Pacific, which operates more than 50 skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities around the country, including two on Kauai and one in Kona.

Wilson points out that the Hawaiian Islands Regional Center also sequences its deals differently than most regional centers. For example, they seek USCIS approval for their projects before they look for subscribers.

“Our projects are already approved,” Wilson says. “In other words, we’ve sent in all our documents, all those documents have been vetted, and we’ve been back and forth on requests for evidence to make sure every ‘i’ has been dotted and every ‘t’ has been crossed. My understanding is that CanAm has filled out the subscriptions on their projects, but those projects have not been approved, so they haven’t really been funded.”

But, just as in the legal world, the most important attribute of a regional center that wants to attract Chinese investment is probably the ability to build relationships. That means being face to face with your potential investors. So, while CanAm says it markets its program “through a select group of authorized sales agents that are registered and/or licensed in China,” the Hawaiian Islands Regional Center is actually in the country. “Our company, as far as I know, is the only regional center that’s also a Chinese corporation,” Wilson says. “To make a long story short, we’re where the money is at.”

Real Estate

Big Dreams and a Smaller Reality

One type of investment that is commonly assumed to already be attracting Chinese money to Hawaii is real estate. Indeed, many in the real estate sector are busily trying to capitalize on the expected glut of money from Chinese buyers. On the residential side, most major brokerages have Chinese-language websites and have hired Chinese-speaking agents. That strategy dovetails with stories in the national media about heavy Chinese investment in depressed housing markets like Orange County, Calif., or Henderson County, Nev. In fact, according to reports from theNational Association of Realtors, China is the second-largest source of foreign buyers in the U.S., accounting for a quarter of all international sales.

But the idea that there’s a rush of Chinese buying homes in Hawaii is overblown. “It really is,” says Mike Pietsch, CEO of Title Guaranty. “For all the publicity it’s gotten, it’s fairly low. The Japanese and Canadian markets are still much larger.”

Pietsch points to the number of transactions recorded at the Bureau of Conveyances over the last several years. Among foreign buyers in 2012, Chinese were a distant third. Japanese buyers accounted for 228 transactions worth nearly $175 million. Canadians purchased 349 properties worth a whopping $311 million. By contrast, Chinese and Hong Kong buyers together only racked up 29 purchases worth $19 million – a drop in the real estate ocean.

Pietsch says the numbers also mitigate against the idea that the China market is suddenly growing. “If you’re forecasting out the full year for 2013,” he says, “it’s up to 20 sales for China versus 16 last year. But Hong Kong is down a bit.” In contrast, Japanese and Canadian sales are projected to reach 290 and 366 transactions, respectively. In other words, there’s hardly a groundswell of Chinese buyers for Hawaii real estate.

Pietsch acknowledges that these numbers may not tell the full story. It’s possible, for example, that the rash of towers going up in Kakaako and Waikiki temporarily hides a spike in Chinese investment. That’s because the typical Chinese buyer isn’t looking for a single-family home, but for a modest investment property. “My gut is that a lot of it is time-share and condo sales,” Pietsch says. “Stuff that’s easily managed. So these condo projects in Kakaako could be very appealing to foreign buyers, as we saw with Hokua and Nauru towers. The Ritz-Carlton is sold out; the Symphony is almost sold out. I’m sure some of that makeup is foreign buyers.” These are still pre-sales, though; they don’t show up yet in the Bureau of Conveyances numbers.

It’s also possible that some of those Canadian and mainland buyers are actually naturalized citizens originally from China or Hong Kong, and possibly still living there. These kinds of phantom buyers may cloud the size of Chinese investment in Hawaii. In any case, most real estate agents believe the China market is growing. “Our international clients are still mainly Japanese,” says Graham Ting, a China specialist with the high-end brokerage Sachi Hawaii. “But the rate of growth for the Chinese market is much, much faster. It’s true, investment from China may not be statistically there yet, but some of that money may be coming from Canada or the mainland.”

Education Connected to Real Estate

But, most savvy local real estate agents have figured out the limits of the Chinese market. Mei Pang, a Shanghai-born agent with Prudential Advantage, says, “The number of Chinese people who are going to buy real estate here in Hawaii will always be fewer than in mainland cities, especially those along the East Coast and West Coast.” The reason, she says, is largely because of the schools.

Indeed, almost everyone familiar with the mindset of Chinese investors points out that they often invest in the U.S. to help their children get into high-end American schools. “The schools in their mind are Ivy League schools or places like MIT or Stanford,” Pang says. “And, because they have those schools in their mind for their children, or even their grandchildren, they will always look to the mainland, not Hawaii.”

Pang also notes cultural differences between Japanese and Chinese buyers. “The Japanese have been wealthy for a while,” she says, “so they’ve pretty much toured the whole world, then decided Hawaii is a great place, so they come here year after year. The Chinese mentality is different. The Chinese only started to get wealthy and travel abroad about 20 or 30 years ago. If you asked them to come here every year, they would feel it’s such a small place. They want to go to the mainland. They want to see the world.” In short, Hawaii isn’t the same paradise for Chinese buyers that it is for the Japanese.

Still, brokers can’t ignore a country with as much cash as China. For example, Ting’s brokerage collaborates with a real estate company that has an office in Shanghai. For a fee, the Shanghai company refers potential Chinese buyers to Sachi Hawaii. That’s a concrete investment in the China market.

Chinese-speaking agents like Ting are also strategic investments for the real estate companies. Prudential Advantage has “several Chinese-speaking agents, like myself,” Pang says. She also points to the steady increase in direct flights from Chinese cities to Hawaii as a sign the market will grow. But she still doesn’t think local brokers can afford to put too many resources into China. “Right now, we’re still kind of focused on the local marketplace. On the side, we’re kind of in the planning stages of looking into the China market.”

That same tentativeness applies to the agents themselves. Ting, for example, has limited his personal investment in the China market. “I went to fairs and conventions,” he says, “but there were a lot of exhibitors there. Too many of them. I don’t think it’s effective, and it’s very expensive to set up a booth.” In the end, he concluded it wasn’t worth the investment.
Pang concurs. “I was thinking about going to China to market myself,” she says. “But that would have involved a large capital investment. Last year, I decided not to and to basically anchor my business with the local market.”


Local Schools Face Recruiting Challenges in China

Given China’s obsession with Ivy League educations, Hawaii’s colleges face a challenge in attracting more Chinese students. Last year, an alliance was formed by UH (including its community colleges), Hawaii Pacific University, Chaminade and a few private prep schools in the state. The aim of the Study Hawaii Educational Consortium is to promote the state as a destination for international students, particularly in the lucrative China market.

However, if UH wants to compete for lucrative Chinese students, it must make changes. For example, it may have to start paying agents in China to promote the school. “UH is probably one of the only state universities that doesn’t have brokers working for them in China,” says David Wilson of the Hawaii Islands Regional Center. “My daughter goes to Boston University and they have a huge presence in Shanghai, in Beijing and in Guangzhou. We went to her orientation and they probably had 120 Chinese kids enrolled in her university – and, as foreign students, they’re paying twice as much. A lot of the Chinese we talk to don’t even know there is a university in Hawaii.”

These educational consultants are one of the primary ways of reaching Chinese families, says Becky George, director of international programs at Leeward Community College and president of the Study Hawaii Educational Consortium. “These are basically companies that provide guidance to students and their parents about where to study outside China. Many of them are full-service companies. They have partners outside China and are sort of like what we would think of as travel agents.” For Chinese parents thinking of sending their children abroad, their advice is crucial.

Interestingly, the UH Outreach College can pay recruiters because it’s a nondegree program. Judy Ensing, director of international programs for the college, hopes that will provide a back door for university recruitment in China.

“We’re starting a brand-new program targeting Chinese students,” Ensing says. “We call it the University Preparatory Program. The goal is to work with agents in China that target students who are almost eligible to be accepted into U.S. universities, but need a little help.” The idea is to bring those students to the Outreach College as a prelude to matriculating into a degree program. “It will be a two-semester program,” Ensing says. “During the first semester, we’ll give them intensive English classes. In the second semester, they’ll start to take a couple of credit courses to make sure they’re really on track and ready to go into university. Hopefully, I’ll be boosting China enrollment into UH and producing a steady stream of Chinese students.”

According to Ensing, the preparatory program is patterned after successful programs at mainland universities. “It was proposed to us by Guangzhou Shi Jin Sheng Consulting, a recruiting agent in China, because it has been doing this with specific schools on the mainland, notably U.C. Irvine.”

There are other challenges. First, Chinese parents have to be convinced this is a good place to send their children. “Hawaii is a little bit of a hard sell,” Ensing says. “It’s hard for them to wrap their heads around the idea that this can be a study destination. We actually have to downplay the beauty and scenery to kind of make it look more serious and convince the parents that, yes, their kids can study here.”

There are also visa issues. “It’s fairly easy for Chinese to get a visa if they’re coming for a degree program,” Ensing says.

“But it’s different for nondegree programs, like those at the Outreach College. We’ve had Chinese students who’ve had their visa applications rejected.” Nevertheless, some Chinese students manage these obstacles: UH had 148 students from China and another 13 from Hong Kong in fall 2011.

Boarding Schools

Many of Hawaii’s private secondary schools are also eager to add to their cadre of high-paying international students, none more so than the Hawaii Preparatory Academy on Hawaii Island. That’s largely because HPA is the last of the traditional boarding schools in Hawaii. Nearly half of its 400 or so students are boarders, including 60 to 70 international students.

And, although Japanese students outnumber Chinese, the school is actively recruiting in China, according to admissions director Josh Clark.

“We were probably in the first wave of boarding schools getting high school students from China,” Clark says. “Within one or two years, we went from two Chinese students to 15. When other boarding schools saw the numbers that were coming out of China, they became more interested. Now, a lot of educational institutes are looking to China for students.”

Clark is almost constantly traveling the world to recruit for the school, including nearly annual visits to cities in China. He limits himself to places where there are plenty of people who can pay HPA’s prices. For tuition, room and board, and other fees, it is more than $50,000 a year.

Other local private schools, like Mid-Pacific Institute, also recruit Chinese students, though they rely on family stays rather than boarding. That’s a cheaper option for the students and their families, but the smaller payoff for the school means it can’t afford to send representatives to China to recruit students.

“They’re charging a day rate,” Clark explains. “I’m charging a boarding rate.”

HPA’s experience sums up the “China Lesson” for all Hawaii organizations. To really succeed in the China market, you have to be there. But being present is often too costly for individuals or small operations. That’s why organizations such as the U.S.-China Legal Network and the Study Hawaii Educational Consortium are so important. Support from government would also help, but that is currently anemic: DBEDT maintains a one-man office in Shanghai; HTA simply contracts with a marketing agent.

It would be a shame if Hawaii missed out on the China boom. In the words of an old Chinese proverb: Fortune does not come twice; misfortune does not come alone.


Purchases of Hawaii Residential Real Estate by Foreign Buyers

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 January – June 2013 Total Transactions
Country Amount Amount Amount Amount Amount Amount No Amount
Canada $249,548,452 $165,556,205 $321,424,085 $311,268,172 $214,876,022 $123,155,944 2,009 $1,385,828,880
Japan $99,135,458 $302,463,104 $261,108,970 $293,829,933 $174,641,020 $117,749,956 1,486 $1,248,928,441
Australia $10,878,266 $7,150,200 $23,948,373 $28,307,699 $14,032,099 $10,409,000 100 $94,725,637
Hong Kong $22,591,647 $9,752,000 $15,208,266 $23,733,386 $9,484,900 $9,220,653 80 $89,990,852
Korea $34,512,545 $5,505,400 $7,919,900 $11,379,000 $6,805,000 $1,450,500 76 $67,572,345
China $8,833,899 $4,821,304 $18,434,960 $3,174,700 $9,981,825 $6,900,266 62 $52,146,954
Singapore $2,646,866 $1,047,000 $14,385,720 $14,014,933 $8,643,000 $2,576,266 134 $43,313,785
New Zealand $13,287,600 $1,750,000 $3,838,883 $3,455,000 $6,088,000 $4,189,000 25 $32,608,483
Guam $1,956,100 $3,631,200 $8,122,700 $8,318,800 $4,515,533 31 $26,544,333
Taiwan $5,630,250 $1,412,000 $2,383,300 $3,032,386 $10,768,005 $129,000 31 $23,354,941
Switzerland $4,519,000 $1,255,000 $699,000 $1,426,000 $7,658,266 13 $15,557,266
United Kingdom $3,185,100 $230,000 $6,502,500 $1,641,533 $3,652,933 $125,466 21 $15,337,532
Netherlands $11,500,000 $166,933 $2,650,000 $310,000 5 $14,626,933
England $4,354,342 $8,100,000 $2,140,000 8 $14,594,342
Germany $1,297,133 $1,100,000 $1,120,920 $4,175,533 $455,000 $729,333 30 $8,877,919
Ireland $220,000 $7,226,250 $460,000 6 $7,906,250
Thailand $603,000 $74,733 $3,632,733 $912,520 $1,622,533 9 $6,845,519
Italy $3,390,000 $1,060,000 $638,000 $1,020,000 $485,000 8 $6,593,000
British Virgin Island $5,943,000 2 $5,943,000
Philippines $429,266 $515,000 $880,000 $288,866 $3,346,240 $478,000 15 $5,937,372
Lithuania $5,100,000 2 $5,100,000
*Totals $487,870,440 $519,702,479 $712,448,946 $725,237,240 $487,357,896 $286,341,035 4,256 $3.22 billion

Source: Title Guaranty

*Totals include sales to foreign nationals from 39 other countries; the total of each of those 39 countries was less than $4 million for the five and a half years.

Click here to download an Excel spreadsheet of the full list for all 60 countries, including the number of transactions for each country in each year. Courtesy of Title Guaranty.

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