FSG expects China’s GDP growth rate to be worse than the consensus forecast of 8.1% in 2013. Weaker-than-expected data in Q1 suggests the state of the Chinese economy is even weaker than the official number suggested, prompting concern of a sudden deceleration of the Chinese economy. One of the red flags is local government debt (see chart below), a problem just started to manifest when some city governments, such as Dongguan’s, cut back on public spending. Free bus service in Dongguan was canceled in April.
Another red flag will be exports. China’s export numbers in the first four months of 2013 have come under scrutiny as concerns have been raised about their accuracy. China’s export growth to developed markets—the US, EU and Japan—remains lukewarm (see graph below).
Export growth to developing markets in ASEAN and Africa are strong but start from a lower base. Questions have been raised in particular about the extraordinary growth of China’s export to Hong Kong, which stands at 69% in the first four months based on official numbers indicated in the graph here:
We also believe slower growth at home will drive more Chinese investment overseas. Traditionally, Chinese outward FDI is state-led and resource driven. If we look at the geographical distribution of Chinese FDI overseas in last few years, they were focused on resource rich regions like Africa, Latin America, Oceania and some Asian countries like Indonesia. But with the economy slowing, we see that trend changing. We expect more participation of private Chinese companies who are investing for pure business purposes rather than national strategic reasons. And these private companies have the potential to pose a real challenge to multinationals, starting in the Chinese market, but increasingly in markets outside of China as well.