Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Apr 10, 2023

Goods, Services and the Shape of China’s Reopening


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Diego Anzoategui from the Global Economics Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about the global impact of China's reopening. It's Monday, April 10th, at 3 p.m. in New York.

At the end of 2022, China scrapped all COVID zero policies and laid out a growth focused policy agenda for 2023. By mid-January, around 80% of the population had had COVID, but infections are now much lower, mobility is improving, and China's economy seems to be taking off. We estimate China's growth will reach 5.7% in 2023, primarily driven by a rebound in private consumption.

This is the first time in four years that COVID, regulatory and economic policy are all pushing in the same direction. Since the Chinese Party Congress in October 2022, the administration has swung to a pro-business stance, and we expect fiscal and monetary support to continue. Furthermore, China's big tech regulation has entered an institutionalized and stable stage, and we don't expect new, aggressive measures any longer.

Although China's growth is expected to be strong in 2023, it is off a low base and it will take time for private sentiment to come back. So we expect fiscal easing to continue at least through the first half of 2023. As for monetary policy, the People's Bank of China may continue to provide targeted support towards economic recovery while private demand gets on a surer footing. As growth becomes more self-sustaining in the second half of 2023, cyclical policy could start to normalize, but not turn to outright tightening.

Against this macro backdrop, we believe that services such as tourism, transportation and food services will drive the recovery. During the pandemic, mobility restrictions and social distancing policies caused a much more serious drag on services compared to good producers- and China is no exception to this pattern.

But the services versus goods distinction is also key for assessing the global implications of China's reopening. Investors often ask to what extent China's reopening will translate into higher economic growth elsewhere. Historically, the China economic acceleration typically acts as a demand shock to the global economy. China's higher aggregate demand means higher exports to China from the rest of the world and greater economic activity globally. And more global growth coming from a demand push usually contributes to higher commodity prices, a weaker dollar and potential higher risk appetite leading to lower interest rates in emerging markets. This, of course, is good news, especially for EM. But the devil is in the details, and China's recovery being primarily driven by services is a key factor. One perhaps underappreciated by the market.

It's important to keep in mind that services are less tradable and therefore less relevant to international trade. If China's acceleration were to be goods driven, Asia and LatAm commodity exporters would be clear beneficiaries, particularly economies like Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. But the situation is different when services lead the way, and the relative advantage of manufacture-intensive Asian economies is less obvious in this case. Ultimately, our work suggests a more services driven rebound in China would be less relevant for the global economy.

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China’s growth is expected to be strong this year. However, it is being driven by services more than goods, meaning the news for other economies may not be as good as it initially appears.