Western firms in China are historically glum about outlook

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A record share of US firms surveyed are pessimistic about the next few years.

Western firms in China are the gloomiest they’ve been about the outlook for business and want Beijing to do more to reassure foreign investors as geopolitical tensions and economic woes dent sentiment.

The domestic economy has also been struggling after an early rebound from the end of pandemic curbs faded. There are some early signs that things are stabilizing, but the housing market is still shrinking and business profits are falling. “This would do much to rejuvenate business confidence and restore the appetite of foreign companies to continue engaging with China, and even increase their investments,” said Jens Eskelund, the European chamber’s president. He spoke earlier this month ahead of the launch of the chamber’s annual “position paper,” which makes sector-specific suggestions for reform.

Beijing last month announced a 24-point plan to reverse a slump foreign investment. The EU chamber encouraged those efforts, saying the proposal will help boost business confidence “if implemented in a timely, coordinated and consistent manner.” AmCham Shanghai was also positive about that plan in its report.

Weaker profits may also make it more difficult for companies to justify the geopolitical risks and regulatory hurdles of going big in China. Only 68% of survey respondents said they were profitable in 2022 — another record low — given the lengthy, widespread Covid-19 controls that hampered operations.

“We’ve rolled out a lot of measures and to attract foreign investments, which have been widely welcomed by investors and will continue to deepen reform and opening up and welcome foreign businesses to China,” she said at a regular press briefing.

 

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