China, the first country to deal with COVID-19, has also been the first to see some recovery, with economic indicators mostly back to pre-pandemic levels as of October. 

But the rest of the world has not been so successful.

The financial disruption in China and around the world has made asset prices more appealing. In March, U.S. stocks plunged to three-year lows. Even as COVID raged, however, Chinese stocks remained strong and are coming back even stronger. According to fund flow data from EPFR, “allocation to Chinese stocks among more than 800 funds reached nearly a quarter of their nearly $2 trillion in assets under management.”

China’s momentum is being driven by its economic recovery, making the country an interesting diversification play in the midst of all of today’s volatility. Here is what investors need to know.

What is happening in China’s economy?

China’s new economy, according to BlackRock, is technology and innovation driven, consumption and service-focused and more open with a growing, more urbanized middle class. 

Through 2018, China’s GDP growth averaged 9.5%, which the World Bank described as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” The country’s GDP was US$ 14.140 trillion in 2019 and it’s economy grew by 6.1%. Even with the pandemic, Oxford Economics anticipates a similar 6% GDP forecast for 2020.

Part of this growth is due to increased consumer demand, and a significant shift away from export reliance. In 2012, Chinese consumer spending was $3.2 trillion. This rose to $4.7 trillion in 2017. In December 2019 there was an 8% jump in retail sales and 6.9% growth in industrial production, exceeding analyst’s expectations. 

In other words, China is becoming increasingly self-reliant. 

That said, it still has its sights set on exports. China has a strong, well-educated workforce that will power the technology and advanced manufacturing sectors, which will be a core part of its economic growth. 

China’s Made in China 2025 initiative is a ten-year action plan to bolster manufacturing. Key manufacturing sectors include: New information technology, high-end numerically controlled machine tools and robots, aerospace equipment, ocean engineering equipment and high-end vessels, high-end rail transportation equipment, energy-saving cars and new energy cars, electrical equipment, farming machines, new materials, and bio-medicine and high-end medical equipment.

The plan is focused on (1) improving manufacturing innovation, (2) integrating technology and industry, (3) strengthening the industrial base, (4) fostering Chinese brands, (5) enforcing green manufacturing, (6) promoting breakthroughs in ten key sectors, (7) advancing restructuring of the manufacturing sector, (8) promoting service-oriented manufacturing and manufacturing-related service industries, and (9) internationalizing manufacturing.

But manufacturing is just one component of China’s growing economy. 

According to IBIS World, the 10 fastest growing industries in China include: internet services (27.4%), online games at (27.2%), online shopping (22%), optical fiber and cable manufacturing (20.3%), oil and gas drilling support services (8.6%), satellite transmission services (18.5%), alternative-fuel car and automobile manufacturing (17.8%), meat processing (17.3%), energy efficient consultants (17%), and Chinese medicinal herb growing at (16.6%). In other words, the economy is well-diversified. 

Why invest in China?

According to BlackRock, China is an “opportunity too big to ignore.” 

 Despite the fact that the majority of Chinese companies on the Fortune Global 500 are state-owned, many of its economic leaders are privately owned. For example, COVID-19 related buying benefited Alibaba in the form of a 34% growth rate in its e-commerce business year on year for first quarter of 2020. And Tencent reported a 29% increase in revenue year over year, amounting to $16.2 billion during the second quarter of 2020. 

But privately owned companies aren’t the only ones flourishing.

China Life Insurance, for example, has a market capitalization of roughly $100 billion, making it not only the largest insurance company in China, but also one of the largest in the world. 

According to Nasdaq, state-owned China Mobile offers “income and price appreciation potential.” The company is huge, with “188,000 5G base stations put into service throughout more than 50 Chinese cities.” And it has an annual dividend yield of 5.95%. 

This mixture of publicly and privately owned entities uniquely positions China against economic downturns. For example, rather than directing money to citizens and businesses like the U.S. stimulus, it intervened directly in the labor market by increasing employment in state-owned enterprises (SOEs). 

China’s markets are also poised to grow. According to The Financial Times, “the Chinese economy makes up 16% of the world’s GDP and around 14% of the world’s exports, it still only makes up 5% of the world’s equity markets, despite those markets being home to some of the largest companies in the world by market value. The obvious examples are Tencent and Alibaba, companies it is hard to get through the day in China without using.”

Even though China has challenges like the pandemic and US-China trade war, it’s still on a trajectory for long-term growth. That makes it a good investment opportunity now. 

How to invest in China

With such a broad economy, investing in China as a theme isn’t as easy as buying shares in a few companies. Rather, China-focused ETFs and mutual funds allow investors to get in on the entire Chinese economy without having to pick and choose sectors. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of different options available to investors today.


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