Caixin
Sep 23, 2021 08:57 PM
WORLD

Optimism Among U.S. Companies in China Surges, Survey Finds

American companies in China are more optimistic about the business outlook in the country than at any point since the launch of the U.S.-China trade war back in 2018, a business group’s annual survey found.

The China Business Survey, released Thursday by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai (AmCham Shanghai), also found that over 70% of the surveyed manufacturers had no plans to move supply chains out of China.

The survey of 338 member companies was conducted between June 15 and July 15 with the help of consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers China, AmCham Shanghai said. It questioned companies on factors such as company performance, investment, domestic competition and mobility.

More than three-quarters of the U.S. companies surveyed said they’re optimistic or slightly optimistic about the business outlook in China for the next five years, a near return to the 80% figure recorded annually from 2015 to 2018, the nonprofit said. Only 9.8% of companies were pessimistic, compared with around 20% in 2019 and 2020, the iciest years of the China-U.S. trade war.

The survey said many companies are facing challenges brought by China’s Covid-related travel restrictions, including difficulties in bringing foreign staff because of the “strict” quarantine requirements.

“Business in China recovered quickly from last year’s lockdown. However, we are still feeling the pandemic’s effects,” Ker Gibbs, president of AmCham in Shanghai, said in the survey. “Overall business performance is good but there are signs of nervousness.”

China has mostly kept its domestic Covid epidemic under control since adopting a “zero tolerance” policy early last year, though regional flare-ups continue to appear.

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Meanwhile, most companies were profitable, and many increased their investment in China in 2020, with 82.2% predicting full-year revenue growth this year and 69.7% expecting revenue growth in China to outpace their businesses’ worldwide growth over the next three to five years.

Of the 125 surveyed manufacturers, 72% said they won’t move production or supply chains out of China in the next three years.

The world’s two largest economies are trying to reengage after four years of turbulent relations under former U.S. President Donald Trump, who in 2018 slapped tariffs on Chinese imports.

More than half of the foreign companies surveyed said China’s regulatory environment is transparent, a 9.5% increase from 2019. Gibbs said that the recent deluge of regulatory changes came after the survey was closed.

“To continue attracting U.S. businesses and investment, China must endeavor to create a stable business environment,” he said.

Contact reporter Wang Xintong (xintongwang@caixin.com) and editor Joshua Dummer (joshuadummer@caixin.com)

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