As China emerges from three years of pandemic-induced disruptions, British businesses find themselves at a critical juncture. The British Business in China: Sentiment Survey 2023-2024, reflecting insights from over 300 diverse companies, sheds light on the challenges and opportunities shaping the landscape.
- End of peak pessimism
Business sentiments are evolving from the peak negativity witnessed in 2022-2023, with a slow return to optimism.
- Treading water on investment
Amidst uncertainty, many companies are adopting a “wait-and-see” approach when it comes to investment, maintaining current levels in 2024.
- Size matters
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) bear the brunt of knock-on effects, facing increased difficulty in business operations, with a large proportion still reporting revenue levels below pre-pandemic times.
Issues driving sentiment
- Economy takes centre-stage post-COVID
China’s reopening in 2024 shifts focus from pandemic-related challenges to broader economic concerns, on both a global and domestic level.
- Geopolitical concerns remain prominent
Uncertainty surrounding China’s political relationships continues to impact businesses, with unpredictability in trade policies negatively affecting business operations.
- Talent and recruitment priorities evolve
Despite the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions, foreign talent attraction takes a backseat. Companies now prioritise finding skilled workers from the Chinese talent pool.
- Positive reaction to government approach
British businesses respond positively to increased government-business dialogue and initiatives such as the 24 Point Guidelines for Attracting Foreign Investment, as a means to address regulatory challenges and market access issues.
- R&D opportunities for British businesses in China provide collaboration opportunities
Interest sparks in Research and Development (R&D) areas such as sustainability, AI, and technological advancement, aligning with China’s growth objectives in these sectors.
While challenges persist, the positive response to increased dialogue and government initiatives provides a glimmer of hope. If implemented effectively, the proposed guidelines could drive investment, job creation, and foster economic recovery for both Britain and China.
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The British Business in China: Sentiment Survey 2023-24 measures the outlook of British businesses across the country for 2024, representing the voices of our members across goods and services, from small businesses to large multinationals with on-the-ground operations.
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