What is the main lesson businesses can take from the recent Chinese crisis and the turmoil in global stock markets?The answer is agility of thinking, agility of strategy and agility of investment. When the Chinese stock market crash hit last week one of the major questions in the UK was – what does this mean for us? For investors in the FTSE 100 the answer was clear. The value of their holdings fell and fell over the week before beginning to recover nearer to the weekend. This kind of short-term market volatility is to be expected in the market and indeed can create buying opportunities for canny players. Those same investors are unlikely to have any direct exposure to Chinese equities – so no concerns there. For UK businesses again there is little direct exposure to China. Of course it is growing in importance as a trading partner but it is not on the same scale as our dealings with the euro zone or the US. The main concern, and perhaps the reason for the share price plunge around the globe, was the potential impact of a slowdown in the world’s second biggest economy on the global economy as a whole. China has been eating up commodities for years now as it tries to power industrial growth. Oil, metals, they have been after it all given the scarce natural resources they have at home. Read more about China:
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Remarkable for a nation so largeChina’s growing middle class has also been raising its spending power both at home and abroad. Just look at the trains at Marylebone station in London heading to Bicester Village retail park in Oxfordshire or the smart cars parking outside the Burberry and Harrods stores every weekend. The beneficial effect of the Chinese tourist has boosted our retailers’ revenues. However, a slowdown in demand is worrying for our big miners, oil giants and retail leaders. What will this mean for their top and bottom lines? There is also the political aspect. A socialist country trying to install free market policies is a difficult equation to master. It was arguably the primary reason for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. You give your population a sniff of economic or consumer freedom and it is difficult to quell the momentum. If the Chinese people feel that their masters in government are failing to keep the economic growth powering or are wavering in the course they are heading – how will they react? Political and social instability in China will further dampen their economic aspirations. But UK businesses do not need to panic. Too often when it comes to business strategy leaders are like wasps in a bottle – buzzing around, lots of energy but ultimately heading nowhere. They follow the big new trends – China is the new growth engine, we have to be there, we have to change our strategy to capture its growth and its consumers taste. That’s valid thinking but it can also be a psychological trap as you must always be agile and look at other opportunities. That is why it is so cheering to see CBI figures that revealed the UK is the largest investor in India having spent $22.2bn there between 2000 and 2015. A mammoth population, a growing middle class, a need for better energy sources and industrialisation and a stable democratic structure. Look at the economic growth being enjoyed in parts of Africa helped by more stable democratic regimes. There is vast potential there as well. Businesses need to be agile when developing a global investment strategy just as would needed when looking domestically. Have a balanced approach, a balanced amount of customers and locations. If one gets into difficulty, then the others will pick up the slack. Always look around for new opportunities. You would think that the world’s survival hinged on the Chinese economy if you go by what is in the media. But the world is a big place and businesses need to be adaptable to find the next sources of growth. China will come back – it is too big not too. But new China’s will also emerge.
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