Despite projections that this giant will eventually surpass the US and claim the mantle of the world’s largest economy, China remains a developing country with its own unique brand of economic peculiarities.
While China’s central government has ably shepherded the country to unprecedented expansion, it still exerts a dominant and sometimes heavy-handed influence on the economy and markets. Many investors are understandably unnerved by China’s perceived mountain of debt, its giant shadow-banking sector, and a potential real estate bubble. Still others worry that the country is overly dependent on low-cost exports and infrastructure projects, rather than domestic consumption and innovation. And environmentally responsible investors are uncertain about the steps China is taking on its environmental front.
Such an investment climate may appear overly exotic and too risky. However, before deciding to pass over China, investors need to familiarize themselves with several misconceptions that can distort perspectives about China’s economy and corporate landscape.
Myth: China’s capital markets are liberalizing.
Reality: Lingering restrictions and government intervention mean markets won’t resemble those of the US or Europe anytime soon.
It was another sign of the wave of foreign investment destined for China’s capital markets. In February, MSCI announced plans to quadruple the weighting of Chinese equities in its benchmark indices this year.
But days later, MSCI decided to drop Han’s Laser from its indices because of regulatory intervention: ownership of the stock was about to touch a long-standing government-imposed ceiling on foreign investment. Buy orders halted. The turn of events illustrates both the opportunity and the complications from the opening of China’s equity and bond markets to foreign investors.