Restarting Business in China After COVID-19: New Article in 'The Diplomat' Highlights Results from China Program Survey

The survey reveals mixed progress in reopening different sectors of China's economy, but also shows that many business leaders in China are planning for some level of decoupling as access to global technology and supply chains remains uncertain.
A professional looks at their phone while wearing a mask in a busy downtown area.

Industries all over the world are grappling with new protocols and adaptations needed to safely reopen amongst changes the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on the global economy. Nowhere have these changes been more apparent than in China, the original epicenter of the pandemic. Now, China is one of the countries leading the way in reopening its national economy.

To explore how business leaders and entrepreneurs in China responded to the lockdown and how they’re planning for the future, the China Program conducted a survey in coordination with the Stanford Center at Peking University and Stanford Business School alumni Christopher Thomas and Xue (Xander) Wu. Though taken from a small sample, the results are one of the best samples to date of how businesses in China are responding to the uncertain geopolitical environment the pandemic and current U.S.-China relations are creating.

High-tech firms and firms with a digital presence or the ability to quickly adapt to a digital environment have faired the best, as might be expected. Less expected are the indications that many of the business leaders surveyed are planning for some degree of 'decoupling' or economic separation from U.S.-based suppliers and markets. Both the pandemic and fluctuating U.S.-China relations have made access to global technologies uncertain and both factors are accelerating desires to create localized supply chains. While the long-term implications of these findings are still unknown, the survey provides a valuable snapshot of the current economic landscape within China. 

Read an excerpt from the article below, and find the full article at The Diplomat. A Chinese language version is available on Caixin.

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From, "After COVID-19: Rebooting Business in China"

China was the first country to experience the ravages of COVID-19, having lost 4,634 people to the pandemic with 83,565 confirmed cases to date. Draconian measures were used to bend the curve and essentially stop the spread of the disease, although reports indicate that recently new cases have emerged, including those stemming from a Beijing market. For the most part, however, China has loosened restrictions and re-opened large parts of its economy. Individuals scan government-mandated QR health codes with their smartphones, and daily life has been restored to some sense of normalcy with restaurants serving customers and retail shops open to shoppers.

In this pivotal and important time, with streams of foreign policy arguments and opinion pieces sharply analyzing current U.S.-China geopolitical tensions continuing to pour forth, we at the Stanford China Program wanted to take stock of how businesses and the overall economy are coping as China tries to reopen its businesses and reboot its economy. Toward this effort, we conducted a collaborative survey of 135 senior executives in China from May 13-26. The survey was designed to help us better comprehend the variation in how Chinese businesses are reopening as well as how Chinese business leaders are viewing their prospects for the future. The research findings, based on one of the largest surveys to date of senior executives in China, helped us explore the following types of questions: What kinds of businesses have done better and what kinds have done worse? What role has the government played in economic assistance and business reopening? And how do China’s business leaders view the deterioration in U.S.-China relations, the possibility of decoupling, and even future access to technology?

Read the full article at The Diplomat.

Watch the panel discussion on the survey led by Jean Oi, Christopher Thomas, and Xue (Xander) Wu with Alvin Shiqi Wang (王世琪), Xiang Wang (王翔), Simon Yang (杨士宁), and Zhiqiang (ZZ) Zhang (张志强).

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