Chinese companies buying overseas assets is not news, especially in the resources sectors where such deals have been commonplace for years, albeit not at the pace of recent months.
But the Lenovo deal, or Legend to old China hands like Fat Dragon (Lenovo still sounds like something you might ask for in the pharmacy when no one else is around), is different.
You can be sure that Middle America slept through the purchase of South Korea's Ssangyong by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Nor were they likely disturbed when TCL took over the television assets of Thomson of France.
Lenovo and IBM, however, is something they will notice, much as the purchase of the Rockefeller Center by Japan's Mitsubishi woke up the US to the power of Japanese capital.
Chinese companies are investing overseas for a variety of reasons.
In the case of mining and steel companies and the like, they are doing so under the pretext of "resource security" – in other words, the strategic imperative to own resources rather than just buy them on the open market.
Whether China needs to do this is an open question. Japan dropped loads of money buying oilfields in the Middle East and the like in the 1970s and 1980s, when in retrospect, it all would have been cheaper to buy on the market.
Chinese companies, with sanction from on high, have entered the market for global resources at a time when the assets are highly priced – ironically because of the same Chinese demand. On any account, it is not a great time to be buying.
Just ask the Japanese about buying at the top of the market – they lost a fortune on overseas property investments.
Lenovo is buying for quite different reasons. To be successful in China, Lenovo needs to be a global company and IBM will help make them so. The critical component in this deal for Lenovo is to get a management team that can run a global business.
Lenovo, like most Chinese companies, knows how to make PCs more cheaply than just about any other company. But they don't know how to add value by managing and marketing a genuine brand. If Lenovo stood still in China, then sooner or later, the big US PC companies would have eaten their lunch. The IBM deal is risky, but it shows guts and foresight and will make the China market a fairer fight.
But lost in all this chatter are the politics of such a high-profile deal.
Japan's high-profile purchases provoked a backlash in the US that really only went away when the Japanese economy slowed and its money started to come home.
China is a more open economy than Japan is, something that will undermine anti-Beijing voices in Washington.
But Japan was an ally of the US. China is not. Fat Dragon sees trouble ahead. China must play the politics of this issue very carefully.