The China Development Forum, a setting for western business leaders to meet with China’s new leadership, took place in a subdued mood due to the challenging business environment in China. US executives invested in the country face the prospect of being summoned to Washington to face hostile questioning from lawmakers over China’s zero-Covid policy, and the disappearance of capable tech dealmaker Bao Fan has added to the uncertain business environment. A majority of US businesses no longer view China as a top investment priority. China is now a complicated creature with three heads— the China of old, a vast market with unparalleled production efficiencies, a slowing China with long-term demographic and property sector issues, and political problems headlined by the prospect of conflict over Taiwan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Political problems threaten to suppress dynamism in the rest of China’s economy. The lack of clarity around President Xi Jinping’s policies and control over the business sector and society, combined with the prospect of five to ten more years of his rule, does little to soothe nerves for foreign companies in China. For US businesses in China, fewer companies can count on growth sources as China’s economy and politics become increasingly complicated.
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