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By Tori Uhland

September 14, 2023

China’s economy has been a global talking point for the past few decades, especially recently. After all, China is the world’s second-largest economy. Now, China faces a series of complex economic challenges that have far-reaching implications not only for its domestic stability but also for international markets, including those in the United States.

The COVID-19 pandemic escalated the issue in China. After their zero-COVID restrictions were lifted in January, it was expected that China’s economic growth would bounce back strongly and quickly. That would have been good news for everyone, but it hasn’t turned out that way. China’s trade–both imports and exports–have slowed substantially. Exports make up 20 percent of China’s economy, and in May, outbound shipments decreased by 7.5 percent. It’s a complex situation with a lot of factors to consider including debt, demographics, and trade wars. As you watch the news or see other headlines about China’s economy, you may wonder how or why that impacts you, so I wanted to provide a little insight into that.

Debt: China’s economy has been fueled by debt-driven growth, with a substantial portion of this debt originating from local governments and state-owned enterprises. This debt overhang has raised concerns about China’s ability to sustain its economic growth without facing a financial crisis.

Demographic Shift: China’s aging population and declining birth rates are putting immense pressure on its social welfare systems and labor force. This demographic shift may hamper its long-term economic growth prospects and place further strain on the nation’s resources.

Trade Tensions: The ongoing trade tensions between China and the United States have impacted China’s export-oriented economy. Tariffs and trade restrictions have disrupted supply chains and added uncertainty to international trade, affecting not only China but also American businesses that rely on Chinese manufacturing.

Supply Chain Disruptions: The United States and many other countries heavily depend on Chinese manufacturing for a wide range of products, from electronics to textiles. Any disruption in China’s production capacity due to economic instability can result in supply chain disruptions, affecting American companies and consumers.

Investor Confidence: China’s economic challenges can erode investor confidence not only in the Chinese market but also globally. This can lead to a flight of capital from China, impacting financial markets worldwide, including those in the United States.

Exchange Rates: Fluctuations in China’s currency can impact exchange rates and trade balances. A weaker yuan can make Chinese exports more competitive, potentially hurting American businesses trying to sell their products in global markets.

Soybean/Corn Exports: The United States is a major exporter of soybeans and corn, and China is one of its largest markets. Trade tensions can disrupt this, as well as their demand for products. Export demand plays a huge role in our commodity markets.

Diversification of Markets: The uncertainty in US-China trade relations has prompted American farmers to seek new markets to mitigate risk. While diversification is healthy in the long term, it can pose short-term challenges as farmers adjust to different market dynamics and regulatory environments.

Commodity Prices: China’s economic slowdown can impact global commodity prices, including those for agricultural products. Lower demand from China can lead to oversupply and depress prices, negatively affecting American farmers’ incomes.

I’d encourage everyone to read more about the economic crisis that China is facing. The United States has relied heavily on them for manufacturing and production for so long, and if the bubble bursts, it could impact many things in our everyday lives.