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Four Maps Showing China’s Rising Dominance in Trade

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We often use big, overarching ideas to help us understand the world and the opportunities contained within. These narratives, which can change over time, are used to create context. They give us a frame of reference for comprehending the news and events that affect our outlook on things.

China’s economic prowess is one of these new paradigms that has emerged, but many people still can’t really wrap their heads around the scale or scope of it.

It’s happened suddenly, and the ramifications are extremely relevant to our investments and understanding. Here’s four maps on China’s trade dominance that will help you think differently about the world:

China is the world’s #1 trade partner

China trading partners outnumbers US by a factor of two

Image courtesy of: Connectography

The United States is the number one trading partner for 56 countries, with important relationships throughout North America, South America, and Western Europe.

Meanwhile, China is the top partner for 124 countries, dominating trade in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Australia.

China’s Sphere of Influence

This map shows the portion of trade conducted by each country with China in Southeast Asia.

China's trade with ASEAN

Image courtesy of: Stratfor

The influence that China has with nations in Southeast Asia is significant. Most trade is in double-digit percentages, and China views this as its immediate sphere of influence. Throughout history, territories in this region would even pay tribute to China to gain access to trade.

“In East Asia’s tribute system, China was the superior state, and many of its neighboring states were vassal states, and they maintained a relationship of tribute and rewards,” writes Liu Mingfu in The China Dream, a popular book about China’s plans to return to power.

Maintaining influence in Southeast Asia is part of the reason that Beijing is posturing in the South China Sea. In fact, China’s coastguard is growing so fast that in 10 years it will have more tonnage than all of the coastguards in Southeast Asia, the United States, and Japan combined.

Building a New Silk Road for Chinese Trade

New Silk Road

Image courtesy of: Council of Foreign Relations

China seeks to increase trade ties with Asia and Europe even further by building a new Silk Road that puts even Marco Polo’s route to shame.

The Chinese transcontinental network, a massive infrastructure project pegged for completion by 2025, is expected to bring down overland travel time from Beijing to London to just two days. Currently, it takes 15 days for the journey.

The project’s aim is to shorten the time of bulk consumer-goods transport to Europe, while unlocking the economic potential behind Eurasian cities from Almaty to Tehran. The new Silk Road will include at least one high-speed line that goes 320 km/h, and the network will help to link up 70% of the world’s population in roughly 40 countries.

Infrastructure Override

You may have heard of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), which was officially launched at the end of last year. Initially proposed by China, the bank now has over a $100 billion of capitalization and 57 founding member states.

AIIB

Image courtesy of: Reuters

While this shows China’s push for infrastructure especially to coincide with its new Silk Road, there is another very interesting detail: Beijing controls 26.06% of the votes, essentially giving it veto power as most bank decisions need 75% of the votes to pass.

In other words, only infrastructure projects that benefit Chinese trade will likely get the nod from Beijing.

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A Timeline of U-Turns from the Chinese Market

It’s hard to ignore the massive economic opportunities available in the Chinese market, but it’s also notoriously difficult to succeed in.

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China’s economic surge is one of the biggest stories of the 21st century.

Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, and China’s swelling middle class has attracted the interest of Western companies.

As many American companies have discovered, doing business in China is far from straightforward. Recent history is littered with examples of companies that entered the Chinese market to great fanfare, only to retreat a few years later.

Calling Off The Offensive

Today’s infographic highlights 11 companies that ended up tapping the brakes on their ambitious forays on the other side of the Pacific.

Then, we take a look at the factors that influenced these strategic withdrawals.

Here are some high profile examples of corporate u-turns by American companies operating in the Chinese market:

Google

When Google China’s search engine was launched in 2006, the company had made the controversial decision to censor search results within the country. Google publicly displayed a disclaimer indicating that some results were removed, which created tensions with the Chinese government.

For a while, things seemed to be going well. Even though a domestic company, Baidu, had captured the majority of the Chinese search market, Google did have a respectable market share of about 30%.

Google China’s fortune took a turn for the worse in 2010 after a major hack – Operation Aurora – exposed user data as well as intellectual property. The hack, which originated from within China, was the last straw for Google’s executive team. After one last ditch effort to provide unfiltered search results within China, the company retreated beyond the firewall.

Amazon

Amazon was an early entrant into the Chinese market. In 2004, the company acquired Joyo – an online shopping site – which was eventually rebranded to Amazon China in 2011.

Amazon China achieved some early success hitting a market share of around 15%, but today, that market share has eroded to less than 1%. Facing nearly insurmountable competition from domestic e-commerce platforms like JD and Taobao, the company recently announced it would be exiting the Chinese market.

Uber

After arriving fashionably late for the ride-hailing party in 2014, it quickly became clear that Uber was facing an uphill battle against well-funded domestic rivals. After only two years, Uber elected to u-turn out of the Chinese market.

Though Uber’s tactical exit from China is often viewed as a failure, the company has earned upwards of $8B through its sale to competitor Didi Chuxing.

A Two-Way Street

Now that red-hot growth at home is beginning to taper off, a number of Chinese companies have begun their push into other markets around the world. Much like their American counterparts, brands pushing beyond China’s borders are seeing varied success in their expansion efforts.

One high-profile example is Huawei. The telecommunications giant has been making inroads in countries around the world – particularly in emerging markets – but has seen pushback and scrutiny in a number of developed economies. Huawei has become a lightning rod for growing concerns over government surveillance and China’s growing influence over the global communications network.

Already, Australia has blocked the company from participating in its 5G network, and in the United States, government agencies are banned from buying Huawei gear.

If negative sentiment continues to build, it remains to be seen whether Huawei and other Chinese companies will follow the playbook of American brands in China, and turn the car around.

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Chart of the Week

The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets in the Last 10 Years

This telling chart shows how national wealth markets have changed over the past decade, highlighting the biggest winners and losers.

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The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets

A lot can change in a decade.

Ten years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent the world’s financial markets into a tailspin, a catalyst for years of economic uncertainty.

At the same time, China’s robust GDP growth was reaching a fever pitch. The country was turning into a wealth creation machine, creating millions of newly-minted millionaires who would end up having a huge impact on wealth markets around the world.

The Ups and Downs of Wealth Markets (2008-2018)

Today’s graphic, using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, looks at national wealth markets, and how they’ve changed since 2008.

Each wealth market is calculated from the sum of individual assets within the jurisdiction, accounting for the value of cash, property, equity, and business interests owned by people in the country. Just like other kinds of markets, wealth can grow or shrink over time.

Here are a few countries and regions that stand out in the report:

Developing Asian Economies
In terms of sheer wealth growth, nothing comes close to countries like China and India. The size of these markets, combined with rapid economic growth, have resulted in triple-digit gains over the last 10 years.

For the world’s two most populous countries, it’s a trend that is expected to continue into the next decade, despite the fact that many millionaire residents are migrating to different jurisdictions.

Mediterranean Malaise
European nations saw very little growth over the past decade, but the Mediterranean region was particularly hard-hit. In fact, eight of the 20 worst performing wealth markets over the last decade are located along the Mediterranean coast:

Rank (Out of 90)Country% Growth (2008-2018)
89🇬🇷 Greece-37%
87🇨🇾 Cyprus-21%
86🇮🇹 Italy-14%
85🇪🇸 Spain-13%
84🇹🇷 Turkey-11%
82🇪🇬 Egypt-10%
80🇫🇷 France-7%
76🇭🇷 Croatia-6%

European Bright Spots
There were some bright spots in Europe during this same time period. Malta, Ireland, and Monaco all achieved positive wealth growth at rates higher than 30% over the last 10 years.

Australia
While it’s expected to see rapidly-growing economies as prolific producers of wealth, it is much more surprising when mature markets perform so strongly. Singapore and New Zealand fall under that category, as does Australia, which was already a large, mature wealth market.

Australia recently surpassed both Canada and France to become the seventh largest wealth market in the world, and last year alone, over 12,000 millionaires migrated there.

Venezuela
The long-term economic slide of Venezuela has been well documented, and it comes as no surprise that the country saw extreme contraction of wealth over the last decade. Since war-torn countries are not included in the report, Venezuela ranked 90th, which is dead-last on a global basis.

Short Term, Long Term

In 2018, global wealth actually slumped by 5%, dropping from $215 trillion to $204 trillion.

All 90 countries tracked by the report experienced negative growth in wealth, as global stock and property markets dipped. Here’s a look at the wealth markets that were the hardest hit over the past year:

Wealth MarketWealth growth (2017 -2018)
🇻🇪 Venezuela-25%
🇹🇷 Turkey-23%
🇦🇷 Argentina-20%
🇵🇰 Pakistan-15%
🇦🇴 Angola-15%
🇺🇦 Ukraine-13%
🇫🇷 France-12%
🇷🇺 Russia-12%
🇮🇷 Iran-12%
🇶🇦 Qatar-12%

The future outlook is rosier. Global wealth is expected to rise by 43% over the next decade, reaching $291 trillion by 2028. If current trends play out as expected, Vietnam could likely top this list a decade from now with a staggering 200% growth rate.

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