Why China Is Buying

A U.S. oil company is the latest target of China's shopping spree. Will Washington let it get away?

As a graduate student at the University of Southern California in the mid-1980s, the CEO of China's third largest oil company remembers seeing Union 76 signs plastered all along America's Left Coast--emblems of California's car-crazed lifestyle. For Fu Chengyu, then a poor student from northern China, culture shock doesn't even begin to describe it. Try future shock. "Back then," he says, "China seemed like it was 100 years behind the United States."

It is making up for lost time quickly. Never has China's rapid rise been more evident than last week, when two big Chinese companies entered the auctions for two...

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