China said Thursday growth in its overseas direct investment slowed sharply last year as the global economic recovery remained weak and amid financial turmoil in Europe and the United States. Beijing also called on foreign countries to treat its investors fairly amid continued suspicions in some about the growing economic influence of the Asian giant. Outbound direct investment rose 8.5 percent last year from 2010, compared to an annual increase of around 22 percent the previous year, official data showed. Last year\'s rise was also dwarfed by an average annual increase of 44.6 percent between 2002 and 2011. Chinese investors sent $74.65 billion in direct investment to foreign countries last year, up from $68.81 billion in 2010, according to the Statistical Bulletin of China\'s Outward Foreign Direct Investment. But investment in foreign financial sectors fell 29.7 percent on-year to $6.07 billion, as Chinese investors turned cautious amid international financial turmoil, particularly in Europe and the United States. Unveiling the investment report, Shi Ziming, an official in charge of outward investment at the Ministry of Commerce, called for \"relaxed and fair\" treatment for Chinese investors. Big-check investments by China, often made by state-owned companies, are most likely to come under foreign government scrutiny and in some cases have been blocked for reasons of national security. In one of the most high-profile cases, state-owned oil group CNOOC in 2005 had to abandon its $18.5 billion offer for Unocal in the United States due to what it called \"unprecedented political opposition\" in Washington. \"China\'s state-owned companies, like other enterprises, operate on their own and... are job creators, tax payers and product and service providers in host countries just as any other investors,\" Shi told reporters. \"I hope various parties in host countries will look at overseas investment by Chinese companies in a more tolerant and rational manner and create a relaxed and fair environment for them.\" The government expects overall overseas direct investment to rise in coming years as the world\'s second-largest economy continues to steam ahead and Chinese companies become more experienced and competitive abroad. \"I think prospects for Chinese companies to invest abroad are profound taking into account these factors and the current global economic situation,\" Shi said. China has set goals to increase overseas direct investment at an average annual rate of 17 percent through 2015 to $150 billion by then, she added.