By ALISTAIR MACDONALD Updated July 16, 2012, 6:17 p.m. ET
TORONTO—Chinese companies once were happy to let Canadians and Americans represent them here. No longer. Today, they're using Chinese nationals as they invest billions into natural resource projects. These nationals can be seen from one end of Canada to the next, variously negotiating deals with Native American groups or prospecting for minerals in remote areas.
Meanwhile, a new breed of small Chinese players—many of them private investors—are looking for smaller, early-stage projects. These Chinese executives are building an on-the-ground presence to better manage risks and avoid the sort of political backlash that sidelined some past deals here and in the U.S.
Chinese companies have spent around $23 billion buying Canadian-based resources companies since 2005, according to researcher Dealogic.
The local engagement has attracted attention from Canadian intelligence, which has begun asking about the budding relationships between Chinese investors and Native American groups.
Referred to as "First Nations" in Canada, native groups exert significant influence over resource projects due to traditional claims to large tracts of Canadian territory.
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