China’s economy could rebound soon, but longer-term growth will be ‘deeply challenging’

PUBLISHED: Tue, 01 Nov 2022 09:42:56 GMT
Abigail Ng
CNBC
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Key Points
  • Decoupling, a weak global economy and an expected reopening following years of strict Covid measures are factors affecting the outlook for China.
  • “Beyond the near-term rebound in growth we see ongoing downward pressure on potential or trend growth in China,” said Ethan Harris of Bank of America Securities.
  • “China has reached that level of its development where a lot of emerging markets typically find the going getting tougher,” said Mark Jolley of CCB International Securities.
China’s national flag in Hong Kong. Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg

China previously “sailed on” economically while other countries struggled, but the world’s second largest economy may have a difficult path ahead, according to one strategist.

“China has reached that level of its development where a lot of emerging markets typically find the going getting tougher,” said Mark Jolley of CCB International Securities.

He pointed to the trend of deglobalization, friction between the U.S. and China as well as the weak global economy.

“On both sides of the Pacific we hear a lot of wishful thinking that decoupling will promote rather than hurt domestic growth. We disagree,” Ethan Harris wrote in a BofA Global Research note published Friday.

“Decoupling is a negative sum game that hurts both countries. It means abandoning comparative advantage and stranding capital,” the global economist at Bank of America Securities added, though he acknowledged that there may be “strong geo-political and reliability reasons” for decoupling.

Domestically, Beijing also has to manage its troubled real estate sector, Jolley told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

“I certainly think that the economic outlook for China over the next five to 10 years is deeply challenging,” he said.

“In the past, China has sailed on while everyone else has kind of struggled. Now China’s probably going to be more like other countries,” he added.

BofA’s Harris said “adverse demographics” and the limits of an export or construction driven economy are challenges for Beijing.

“Beyond the near-term rebound in growth we see ongoing downward pressure on potential or trend growth in China,” he said, pointing to a return to “more of a command economy” and concerns that are dampening foreign investment flows.

‘Shining spot’

That said, Jun Bei Liu, a portfolio manager at Tribeca Investment Partners, said 2023 will be a “pretty good year” for China as the economy is expected lift strict Covid measures and domestic consumption rebounds.

“Compared to the rest of the world [where the] consumer is going to struggle in the next 12 months, China is going to be the shining spot,” she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

The sell-off in Chinese tech stocks presents an “enormous” opportunity, she said, though she warned that investors have to be mindful of policy changes for income redistribution.

“You just have to be very selective in what you choose — be focusing on businesses and sectors that [are] not so much policy driven, because that’s probably where most of the risk lies,” she said.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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