There are also signs China is using the economic chaos of the pandemic to go on a global shopping spree for new businesses and investments. According to the GlobalData analytics firm, China secured 57 outbound merger and acquisition deals worth $9.9 billion and 145 outbound investment deals worth $4.5 billion globally from January to April. U.S. policymakers say Beijing is exploiting economic vulnerabilities to boost its regional clout, mimicking its acquisition of an 11% stake in Australia’s distressed Rio Tinto mining company in 2008 or the strategically placed Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka in 2017. “China is a predatory firesale investor,” says Patrick M. Cronin, Asia-Pacific security chair at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.
The pandemic is a “two-sided coin” for China, says Derek Scissors, a Chinese-economy specialist at the American Enterprise Institute. Sure, there may be some opportunities for the country to build up domestic enterprise and acquire beaten-down firms on the cheap, especially in nations desperate for export credit because of cratering demand in the northern hemisphere.
But on the flip side, China’s exportreliant economy will struggle while consumers–especially in the U.S.–aren’t buying its products. Domestic consumption cannot replace the $2.5 trillion that China sold overseas last year.