China: An Investment Opportunity Too Big To Ignore
Since the implementation of the initial Open Door Policy in 1978, China has experienced rapid development—making it the world’s second largest economy in nominal terms.
In the next year, the country will move into the next phase of opening up its economy by lifting restrictions on the foreign ownership of securities, insurance, and fund management firms, and this will make the economy more accessible to the outside world than ever before.
An Opportunity Too Big To Ignore
Today’s infographic from BlackRock explores the steps China’s markets have taken to attract foreign capital on a global scale.
China’s moves are funding the nation’s next stage of growth, and are also creating new investment opportunities for foreign investors.
The China Investment Opportunity
Currently, foreign investors hold just 3% of total Chinese securities, despite the country having the world’s second largest stock and bond market globally.
As the onshore equity and fixed income markets open up, investors have the opportunity to gain exposure to more sectors, particularly those that focus on the domestic economy.
China’s large consumption base of 1.3 billion consumers is a powerful engine of growth, with consumer spending increasing to $4.7 trillion in 2017, from $3.2 trillion in 2012.
Ensuring Sustainable Growth
There are structural reform gaps that need to be addressed in order to ensure China’s growth is sustainable.
These reforms, which seek to correct imbalances caused by uneven economic growth, cover many areas of the economy. They affect the government, as well as corporate, financial and household sectors.
Some of these key reforms include:
- Capital reallocation: Debt reduction and interest rate liberalisation
- Income redistribution: Property, household and corporate tax reduction
- Market regulation: Supply-side reform and environmental protection
- Institutional framework: Intellectual property protection, and reformation of the hukou— China’s registration program, which serves to regulate population distribution and rural-to-urban migration
With 22 reforms currently in progress, the long-term impact is expected to be tremendously positive for growth.
Opening Up the Great Wall
China has shown great support for economic globalisation, and has already been making strides to open its markets to the rest of the world.
- 2002: Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) scheme launches
- 2011: Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) scheme launches
- 2014: Shanghai/Hong Kong Stock Connect launches
- 2016: Shenzhen/Hong Kong Stock Connect launches
- 2017: Bond Connect scheme launches
- 2018: MSCI announces 20% inclusion factor of A-shares
- 2019: Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index begins including yuan-denominated bonds
- 2020: JPMorgan Chase & Co. plans to add Chinese government debt to index
These index inclusions will result in a substantial inflow of new investor funds. According to Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg’s decision to increase the weighting of Renminbi-denominated government and policy bank securities in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index could attract between $120-$150 billion in new investments into Chinese debt markets.
New China vs. Old China
China has transformed from an export-driven and rural country, into a global manufacturing and technology superpower.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into China’s tech sector have been rising significantly, and currently account for almost a third of total FDI.
China already has the world’s largest robot market, and the government is actively promoting the robotics industry with tax reductions and special R&D funding.
—Victoria Mio, CIO Chinese Equities, Robeco
China’s ambitious “Made in China 2025” ten year plan will lower its dependency on imported technology and make China a dominant player in global technology manufacturing.
An Economic Force To Be Reckoned With
China will inevitably face challenges as it proceeds to lead global economic growth. However, its changing economy is creating a new landscape of opportunity for potential growth, and may continue to do so for the coming years.
The continuous expansion of market access, combined with new policies that promote foreign investment, have helped improve investor confidence. If foreign investors exclude China from their portfolio, they risk missing out on the huge potential of this rapidly expanding market.
Mapped: The State of Economic Freedom in 2023
How free are people to control their own labor, property, and finances? This map reveals the state of economic freedom globally.
Mapped: The State of Economic Freedom in 2023
The concept of economic freedom serves as a vital framework for evaluating the extent to which individuals and businesses have the freedom to make economic decisions. In countries with low economic freedom, governments exert coercion and constraints on liberties, restricting choice for individuals and businesses, which can ultimately hinder prosperity.
The map above uses the annual Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation to showcase the level of economic freedom in every country worldwide on a scale of 0-100, looking at factors like property rights, tax burdens, labor freedom, and so on.
The ranking categorizing scores of 80+ as free economies, 70-79.9 as mostly free, 60-69.9 as moderately free, 50-59.9 as mostly unfree, and 0-49.9 as repressed.
Measuring Economic Freedom
This ranking uses four broad categories with three key indicators each, both qualitative and quantitative, to measure economic freedom.
- Rule of law: property rights, judicial effectiveness, government integrity
- Size of government: tax burdens, fiscal health, government spending
- Regulatory efficiency: labor freedom, monetary freedom, business freedom
- Open markets: financial freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom
The 12 indicators are weighted equally and scored from 0-100. The overall score is then determined from the average of the 12 indicators.
Here’s a closer look at every country’s score:
|#5||🇳🇿 New Zealand||78.9|
|#15||🇰🇷 South Korea||73.7|
|#24||🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||70.9|
|#25||🇺🇸 United States||70.6|
|#28||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||69.9|
|#45||🇨🇷 Costa Rica||66.5|
|#47||🇨🇻 Cabo Verde||65.8|
|#48||🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam||65.7|
|#56||🇲🇰 North Macedonia||63.7|
|#59||🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||63.5|
|#63||🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||62.9|
|#65||🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||62.6|
|#66||🇧🇸 The Bahamas||62.6|
|#74||🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe||61.5|
|#79||🇱🇨 Saint Lucia||60.7|
|#81||🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire||60.4|
|#88||🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||59.5|
|#98||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||58.3|
|#101||🇬🇲 The Gambia||57.9|
|#107||🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||56.9|
|#111||🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||56.2|
|#114||🇸🇻 El Salvador||56.0|
|#116||🇿🇦 South Africa||55.7|
|#136||🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||52.2|
|#140||🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||51.7|
|#148||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||50.2|
|#153||🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||48.3|
|#157||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo||47.9|
|#166||🇨🇫 Central African Republic||43.8|
|#176||🇰🇵 North Korea||2.9|
Only four countries in the world have a score of 80 or above, Ireland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Taiwan, categorizing them as completely free economically.
Let’s now look at things from a more regional perspective.
From a regional perspective, Europe ranks the strongest in economic freedom.
Despite being a powerhouse within Europe, Germany ranks 10th in the continent, with a score of 73.7. One of the categories Germany scored the weakest in was government spending (28.3/100). Over the last three years, government spending has averaged 49% of GDP.
Ireland ranks third globally, scoring particularly high in categories like property rights and judicial effectiveness. The country also has no minimum capital requirement—which is typically a banking regulation and corporate law issue determining how many assets an organization must hold—making it attractive for businesses to set up shop on the Emerald Isle.
Currently, Africa is the continent with the least economic freedom in the world, however, it is also the region with the highest potential for economic growth. A booming population, and thus, labor force, are promising for future innovation. In fact, it’s anticipated that Africa will see an increase of 2.5 billion people by the end of the century.
The lowest scoring country in Africa is Sudan, a country under further strain thanks to rife civil conflict. Historically, economic development has been constrained by rampant corruption and a lack of institutional capacity.
Conversely, Botswana registered the highest score on continental Africa (64.9), ranking higher than countries like France and Italy.
In the Americas, the United States ranks 3rd regionally—25th overall—with a score of 70.6. The report attributes the categorization of U.S. as only “mostly free” to issues like inflation, increasing government debt, and unchecked deficit spending. Public debt currently sits at a figure equivalent to more than 128% of GDP.
In South America, Chile comes out on top, ranking above many other economic powerhouses like the U.S., the UK, and Japan. However, the 2021 election of a new Constitutional Assembly could risk the current economic state, as it favors a much more socialist approach to the economy.
East Asia and Oceania
China’s score is among the lowest in East Asia & Oceania, ranking 154th in the world categorizing it as a repressed economy. The ruling Chinese Communist Party routinely exercises direct control over economic activity. China’s protectionist stance towards foreign investment and a plethora of trade tariffs imposed by other nations also factor in here.
In India, where public debt is equivalent to about 84% of GDP, fiscal health is the worst-scoring category. Additionally, much of the economy remains quite informal; a large share of people work in jobs without tax slips, recorded income, or formal contracts protecting them, which challenges labor freedoms.
The Middle East and Central Asia
It may come as no surprise that the United Arab Emirates has the highest score in the Middle East. The UAE has implemented various measures and initiatives, such as tax exemptions, duty-free zones, streamlined business registration processes, and flexible regulatory frameworks to encourage entrepreneurship and foreign direct investment. As well, the top individual and corporate tax rates in the country are 0%.
Türkiye’s lowest scoring category relates to judiciary effectiveness and the rule of law. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has already been in power for two decades, recently won the country’s election, again cementing his authority over Turkish politics. This makes it unlikely that Türkiye’s economic freedom score will recover in the short to medium term.
Where Does This Data Come From?
Source: The Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation
Data notes: A number of countries were not ranked due to unavailable data or other factors, like ongoing war, that made it difficult to properly assess the economy. These countries include: Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Liechtenstein, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
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