The world’s second-largest economy is making its weight felt around the world.
And the new power of the Chinese consumer is showing up in various forms.
“It could be a trip to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, a compelling new Korean drama, an upmarket store in London, a multi-million-dollar footballer, an online payment app, a robot, or an electric car,” HSBC’s Julia Wang and James Pomeroy wrote in a recent report.
“The common thread is that all roads, wherever they are in the world, eventually lead to China in some way or another.”
Yes, investors may be jittery as China is slowing down amid a myriad of challenges and gloomy predictions of its short-lived rebound. But its economy is contributing more and more to global growth, and the more optimistic Chinese consumers are flashing their wallets in a way that shakes up the world economy.
China added the equivalent of Turkey’s entire economy to global GDP in 2015, and the country is responsible for about 12% of total world GDP, according to the HSBC report out Thursday.
Here’s Wang and Pomeroy connecting the dots:
It’s a sunny midweek day in Sydney and Taronga Zoo, scenically positioned on the city’s spectacular harbour, would be quiet but for the large numbers of visitors from mainland China. This highlights the rapid increase in Chinese tourists (and students) in Australia and the growth in the number of flights between the two countries. This, in turn, is helping Australia rebalance its own economy away from commodity sales to, yes, China. Look further down the supply chain and we find that in April Airbus and Boeing split an $10 billion order for 35 wide-body aircraft from China Eastern Airlines as the company adds new long-haul routes.
Its biggest impact is in the realm of investment: China is responsible for 30% of total global investment demand. As the economy transitions from a manufacturing powerhouse to a consumption-driven economy, Chinese investment has poured in retail, property and financial services instead of the familiar commodities.
More consumers are getting wealthier, and HSBC estimates that more than two-thirds of the population will be part of the urban middle-income class (those earning $12-50 per day) by 2025.
That means pretty big changes in the population’s income and tastes. The most visceral sign may be the rise of the Chinese Super League, a soccer league that recently has spent exorbitant amounts to lure the best players from all around Europe, Wang and Pomeroy note.
Chinese investors are investing in soccer teams worldwide as well, and now own 13% of Manchester City (England), 20% of Atletico Madrid (Spain), and 60% of Slavia Prague (Czech Republic), according to HSBC.
And it doesn’t just end there. The report notes that the share of Chinese viewers in global takings for movies has recently jumped to over 10% for most films, compared to only 2% in 2007.
This trend is even more important for movies made in the US: Chinese box office takings of American films grew about 49% year-over-year in 2015. Wanda Group, for example, is riding on this boom with its purchase of Legendary Entertainment, the studio behind Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy. China accounted for 12% of global takings for the recently released “Batman v Superman” film, according to HSBC.
Wang and Pomeroy suggest that we can expect more Chinese tourists to spend their newfound wealth abroad, in “exotic destinations” like South Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The sheer size of the Chinese population can have a pretty big impact on local economies.
Chile, for example, benefits from China’s burgeoning middle class. Exports to China now account for 25% of total Chilean exports, compared to less than 5% in 2000. These exports are shifting from copper to wine, thanks to greater demand from dinner party hosts, restaurants, and bars.
As another example, Chinese demand may boost South Korea’s GDP by anything between 0.2 and 1.8 percentage points depending on the pace of growth in China, according to HSBC.
At the same time, the researchers highlight how the booming Chinese market could continue to bring headaches like disinflationary pressure to the rest of the world and problems with how politicians handle trade deals.
The bottom line is that while China may be slowing, but its influence on the global economy is set to keep expanding.