• COVID-19 pandemic results in significant decrease in revenues and profitability.
  • Firms still committed to the China market, despite trade and regulatory uncertainties.
  • Bilateral tensions further strained in 2020, but most companies optimistic for 2021. 

Beijing, March 9, 2021 – 2020 was a challenging year for most foreign businesses operating in China, battered by US-China tensions and the global pandemic, according to a new survey released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (“AmCham China”). Despite significant challenges, though, the outlook among foreign businesses in China remains relatively positive, largely due to the Chinese government’s early and stringent response to the pandemic, an improving investment environment, and anticipation of a more predictable policy environment. 

The Chamber’s annual Business Climate Survey (BCS) Report found that only 56% of respondents, a record-low, were profitable last year, while 34% of member companies saw a drop in revenue, and 20% experienced financial losses. However, financial performance varied considerably by sector. Over one-third of Resources & Industrial (R&I) sector respondents say the pandemic had a positive impact on their revenues, while members from the Consumer sector saw the biggest revenue drop, driven by pandemic-related challenges. 

This is the 23rd consecutive year that AmCham China has surveyed its members on China’s business climate, with the results providing invaluable insight into the longer-term trajectory of China’s corporate environment. The BCS results contain input from around half of the Chamber’s member companies and elaborate on the impact of COVID-19, the progress of regulatory developments, such as intellectual property (IP) protection and cybersecurity, while continuing to assess the impact of US-China trade tensions. 

“With China leading in economic recovery and the new US administration in place, our members are cautiously optimistic regarding business growth in China, with nearly half of them hopeful that the bilateral relationship will improve,” said AmCham China Chairman Greg Gilligan. “Yet we remain keenly aware that certain bilateral tensions will continue to create business challenges. Notwithstanding the challenging situation, the Chamber, now in our 102nd year, remains committed to enhancing US-China commercial relations for the next 100 years and will continue to act in ways that reaffirm our role as an essential bridge between the US and China. The Phase One deal made some good progress, but there remains the need for continued market reforms, increased IP protections, and a more balanced operating environment.” 

Though growth rates hit new lows, China was the only major economy to post a GDP expansion in 2020, resulting in 26% stating their 2020 China earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margins were higher 

than their company’s global margins (vs. 22% in 2019). Some 75% hold an optimistic two-year China business outlook in the areas of market growth and economic recovery, and 57% are optimistic regarding their profitability potential, partly due to the speed of China’s post-pandemic economic recovery. 

While 44% of respondents to our May 2020 Flash Survey on the business impacts of COVID-19 expected the outbreak to significantly reduce 2020 revenues, only 16% expressed a similar concern as the year drew to a close. That said, many pandemic-related challenges remain. International and domestic travel restrictions, sustained uncertainties impeding business decision-making, and the need to implement hiring freezes among other human resources-related strains, are cited as top pandemic-driven impacts on business operations. 

AmCham China member companies are still largely committed to the China market, although uncertainties persist due to bilateral tensions and certain regulatory developments. 61% of survey respondents both view China as a priority investment destination and are confident that the Chinese government will further open its markets to foreign investment, although this is not generally translating into higher investment levels. However, members do continue to see business opportunities in areas such as the globalization of Chinese companies and growth in domestic consumption, but also in new areas such as China’s leading-edge adoption of new digital technologies. 

Despite widespread reports of pandemic-fueled supply chain disruptions and bilateral trade tension-inspired reviews of risks and vulnerabilities, the survey results do not indicate a major shift in members’ manufacturing and sourcing outside of China. 83% of respondents continue to say their existing manufacturing and sourcing will remain in China. 

Bilateral tensions are clearly a top business challenge overall and rising labor costs, regulatory inconsistencies, increased competition from privately owned Chinese companies, and concerns about data security are also cited as top challenges. Although members continue to state that innovation remains important for driving growth in China, technology-related bilateral tensions, tightened cybersecurity regulations, and insufficient intellectual property (IP) protection are key barriers to achieving such innovation. That said, members continue to see improvement in China’s enforcement of IP rights, reporting fewer concerns over IP leakage and data security risks than in previous years. 

US-China tensions were further strained in 2020, but a rising proportion of member companies are optimistic that the relationship will improve in 2021. 98% of survey respondents stressed that positive bilateral relations are important for their business growth in China. Following three years of intensifying trade tensions, the two countries concluded the Phase One trade deal in early January 2020, raising hopes among the business community that the effort would, at a minimum, prevent the relationship from further deteriorating. Nearly a year after its signing, over half of respondents reported the Phase One trade deal has done its part to stabilize the bilateral relationship, mitigate trade frictions, and decrease the risk of tariff escalations. 

Respondents also identified a variety of steps that can be taken by both the US and Chinese governments to stabilize the bilateral relationship and improve the business environment for foreign companies in China. With respect to the Chinese government, ensuring a level playing field and “further opening the market to foreign investment with clear timelines are the top actions members would like the Chinese government to take, followed by refraining from aggressive rhetoric and tit-for-tat actions. 

Additionally, members continue to say that improvements to the regulatory environment, greater IP protections, and limitations to industrial policy would encourage higher levels of investment. Regarding the US government, respondents say that refraining from engaging in aggressive rhetoric and tit-for-tat actions is the most important action the US government can take to help foreign businesses, followed by advocating more strongly for a level playing field for US business in China, and pursuing a results-oriented framework for regularized government-to-government communication. 

The survey also found: 

  • 46% of respondents say they remain uncertain about the impact of the Foreign Investment Law (FIL)’s implementation; 28% think the FIL’s implementation has improved their business operations in China. 
  • For respondents planning to decrease China investments in 2021, market access barriers and concerns around an uncertain policy environment are primary factors. 
  • 50% say that the bilateral tariffs and tensions have no impact on their company’s business strategy. 
  • More than 50% of respondents consider adapting “work from home” as a long-term strategy. 

About AmCham China – US-China Business: The Next 100 Years 

The American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China (AmCham China) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization whose membership comprises 4,000 individuals from over 900 companies operating across China. The Chamber’s nationwide mission is to help American companies succeed in China through advocacy, information, networking, and business support services. In addition to our headquarters in Beijing, AmCham China serves Tianjin, Central China, and Northeast China through our Chapters in Tianjin, Dalian, Shenyang, and Wuhan. Across the five offices, AmCham China has more than 30 working groups, and holds more than 150 events each year. Visit the Chamber’s website at www.amchamchina.org 

For more information, please contact:
Mark Dreyer, Marketing & Communications Director, AmCham China
mdreyer@amchamchina.org 

 

  • 新冠肺炎疫情导致会员企业的盈收能力出现显著下降。 
  • 尽管中美贸易和监管方面存在不确定性,但会员企业仍看好中国市场。 
  • 虽然2020年双边关系日趋紧张,但大多数会员企业对2021年其在华业务发展持乐观态度。 

202139日,北京 – 中国美国商会(以下简称“商会”)于今日发布2021年度《中国商务环境调查报告》(以下简称“报告”)。报告显示,受中美关系紧张和新冠肺炎疫情(以下简称“疫情”)的叠加影响,许多在华外资企业在2020年面临重重挑战。尽管如此,因中国政府在疫情暴发初期采取的严格措施,成功控制了疫情在中国境内的蔓延,外资企业仍乐观看待其在华发展前景。同时,出于对拜登新政府上台后,政策环境将趋于稳定的期待,许多会员企业对2021年的中美关系的走向相对较为乐观。 

报告发现,在华外企的全年总体营收和盈利均出现创纪录的低值,受访企业中只有56%在2020年有所盈利。34%的受访企业表示,其在华营收较前一年有所降低,20%的受访企业则面临一定程度的亏损。需要说明的是,不同行业的财务状况差异较大。来自工业和资源行业中超过三分之一的受访企业表示,疫情对其2020年的营收状况产生了正面影响,但消费行业则出现了历史上最为严重的营收下跌。 

这是商会连续第23年就中国商业环境对会员企业展开调查,其结果为中国营商环境的长期发展及走势,提供了大量有价值的数据。本次报告回收了商会近半数会员企业的反馈,在持续关注中美经贸摩擦对会员企业影响的同时,详细阐述了疫情对企业运营的影响,以及会员企业对知识产权、网络安全等政策法规方面发展的态度。 

商会主席葛国瑞(Greg Gilligan)表示:”由于中国经济复苏相对迅速,加上拜登政府的上台,我们的会员企业对其中国业务的增长持谨慎的乐观态度,同时有近一半受访企业表示,对双边关系的改善抱有希望。即便如此,受访的会员企业依然敏锐地意识到,双边关系的紧张态势仍会持续,并且给公司业务带来挑战。商会在中国深耕已达102年之久,我们仍致力于在下一个百年里继续发挥中美两国间的桥梁作用,提升和巩固中美两国间的商业关系。中美第一阶段经贸协议的

签订后,双边经贸关系中的一些领域取得了一些进展,但仍需要双方推进继续市场改革、加强知识产权保护以及营造对各市场主体更加公平的营商环境。” 

虽然受到疫情的冲击,中国的经济增速跌至历史低点,但中国也是2020年唯一一个GDP正增长的主要经济体,这使26%的受访会员企业表示其2020年在华息税前利润率比其在全球的总体利润率更高(2019年的数据则为22%)。此外,75%的受访企业对其在未来两年中国市场实现增长和中国经济复苏持乐观态度,另外57%的企业亦对其盈利潜力较为乐观,部分原因是中国在后疫情时代经济复苏速度相对迅速。 

商会在2020年5月曾就疫情对会员企业在华商务运营影响进行调查。结果显示,44%的受访企业预计疫情将极大地降低2020年的在华年度营收;而临近年底,则仅有16%的受访企业仍然表示存有类似的担忧。即便如此,疫情为主导的诸多挑战依然存在。国际和国内出行限制以及持续的种种不确定性一直阻碍会员企业的业务决策,此外,许多公司被迫暂停招聘及对其他人力资源方面的限制,这些都被在华外企视为疫情对其业务运营最为主要的影响。 

尽管面临中美经贸摩擦以及特定监管环境带来的挑战,商会会员仍然对中国市场抱有信心。61%的受访企业仍视中国为首选投资目的地,且对中国政府向外资企业进一步开放市场的前景充满了信心,尽管信心高涨不一定能转换为实实在在的增资。同时,一些会员企业还将包括中国公司全球化、国内消费增长,以及中国领先的数字化技术应用等因素视为主要商业机遇。 

尽管外界普遍报道了因疫情及中美经贸关系日益紧张而突显的供应链风险及脆弱性,但商会此次调查的结果并未显示会员企业正在对其生产和采购计划进行重大调整。83%的受访企业表示,它们没有考虑将生产或采购转移至中国以外的地区。 

商会会员企业普遍认为,其在华运营上面临的首要挑战包括:日益紧张的中美关系、劳动力成本的上升、监管环境的不一致、中国民营企业竞争力加剧以及对数据安全的担忧。尽管会员企业继续表示创新对推动其在华业务增长非常重要,但种种与科技相关的中美双边关系摩擦、互联网安全监管趋严、知识产权保护力度不足等仍是在华外企在提升创新能力上面临的关键障碍。即便如此,商会会员企业仍表示,可以看到中国在知识产权执法方面的改善,其报告的对知识产权泄漏和数据安全风险方面的担忧较近几年有所减少。 

中美摩擦在2020年进一步加剧,但越来越多的会员企业认为,在2021年,双边关系将有所改善。98%的受访企业强调,良好的双边关系对其在华的业务发展尤为重要。在持续三年愈演愈烈的贸易争端后,两国政府于20201月份达成了《中美第一阶段经贸协议》,给予了商界不少

能够防止双边关系进一步恶化的期望。在协议签署后一年左右,半数以上的受访企业称,第一阶段的经贸协议对稳定双边关系、减少贸易摩擦,以及降低关税抬升的风险起到了一定作用。 

同时,受访企业提出了一系列中美两国政府可以采取的进一步稳定双边关系、改善外资企业在中国的经营环境的措施。会员企业希望,中国政府应确保一个公平的竞争环境以及进一步向外资开放市场,明确时间表,其次为避免使用激进的言辞和采取针锋相对的行动。此外,会员企业还表示,希望中方能继续通过改善监管环境、加大知识产权保护力度和减少行业政策限制,鼓励外资在中国实现更高水平的投资。对于美国政府而言,受访会员企业希望美国政府采取的首要行动是避免使用激进的言辞和采取针锋相对的行动为在中国的美国企业争取一个公平的竞争环境,以及寻求以结果为导向的框架,以实现政府间沟通机制化 

本次调查还发现: 

  • 有46%的受访会员企业尚不确定中国《外商投资法》的实施会对其业务和运营产生了何种影响;28%的会员企业认为,《外商投资法》的实施对其在华运营情况有积极影响。 
  • 部分计划在 2021 年减少对华投资的受访企业表示,市场准入限制和对不确定政策环境的担忧是主要因素。 
  • 50% 的受访者表示,双边加征关税和紧张局势对其公司的业务战略没有影响。 
  • 超过 50% 的受访企业表示,会考虑长期采用”居家办公”的战略。 

关于中国美国商会 中美合作,下一个百年 

中国美国商会是一家位于中华人民共和国的非盈利、非政府组织,商会会员超过4000人,代表着900家在华运营的外资企业。商会致力于通过为会员提供政策建言、信息共享、人脉扩展以及专业服务,助力美国企业赢在中国。中国美国商会是唯一获得官方认证的、代表在华美资企业的商会,在北京、天津、大连、沈阳和武汉均设有办公室,有30余个工作组,每年举办逾150场会员活动。进入中国美国商会官方网站www.amchamchina.org查看更多信息。

如需更多信息,请联系:Yaxian Xiong
邮箱:yxxiong@amchamchina.org