2019 in China brought together long running challenges, such as uncertainty over US–China tariff levels and ever more intrusive regulation of business in China, with a few unexpected ones as well: the crisis in Hong Kong and the flare up triggered by tweets from an NBA coach, to mention just two. Yet for many businesses, opportunities flourished throughout the year as China’s economy grew roughly 6 percent. And in multiple key industries, the government’s commitment to global leadership started to pay dividends.
2020 will offer a similar mix of evolving, often worsening, challenges. Growing separation between the US and China in technology sectors seems inevitable. While some companies will evolve to remain relevant in both markets, others will choose to focus on one. In 2020 this separation may become broader, impacting financial markets much more directly. China’s economic momentum will continue in 2020 with domestic consumption leading the way, selectively creating opportunities. If China’s priority sectors match those of your business, 2020 will be a good year to step up as the taps of government funding remain open for now.
Multiple areas of growing separation between the US and Chinese economies predicted in last year’s note were largely realized—investment flows, supply chain, data flows, people flows, technology procurement, standards. In all these areas, further separation will occur in 2020. One example, US government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy, not just the Department of Defense, have been presenting US university administrators with hundreds of case examples where they believe non-US academics, largely Chinese, have failed to disclose parallel funding for their research from overseas governments along with commitments to share their IP discoveries with those governments. Those academics will likely be proactively excluded from US universities; many others will self-select out or simply not come to the US in the first place. Restrictions on investment from China into the US will shift from a focus on larger deals, which have shrunk to almost zero, to direct and indirect (i.e. through funds) investment into technology start-ups.
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