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Year of the Rabbit Predictions: Looking at How the World Engages with China

After another 12 months that were far more challenging and uncertain than anyone could have predicted, the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit could provide much needed hope. In Chinese culture, the Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity, thus 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope and renewal.

For all of us who engage with China on a regular basis, hope and renewal would be hugely welcome. So far, the signs are positive: the post-COVID reopening of China will allow Chinese students and businesspeople to visit the world, while foreign executives and diplomats are keen to experience what is happening on the ground for themselves. China’s foreign affairs representatives were already back at global forums like WEF in Davos with the message that China is open for business and ready to reengage.

2023 promises to be a frenetic and interesting year in which (m)any things could happen. Despite all the pitfalls of making predictions in this era of unpredictability, we asked colleagues in offices throughout the FGS Global network to read the tea leaves and share their thoughts on what global engagement with China might look like this year.

They came back with a mix of excitement and optimism tempered with a dose of reality!

“In 2023, consumers in China will go back to spending mode but in a more careful and planned manner. For domestic as well as foreign brands, this means both opportunities and competition for gaining new consumer insights and exploring new innovations in order to win both market share (for the short-term) and mindshare (for the longer term).”

Paul Yang, Partner & Head of China, Hong Kong

“2023 will see a temporary thaw in China-Japan relations as a new military hotline opens between the two countries in March and Japan’s foreign minister visits Beijing. But rising military spending by Japan, added to existing disagreements over Taiwan and the Senkaku islands, means tensions will rise again thereafter.”

Daniel Bogler, Managing Director, Tokyo

“Chinese and U.S. policy makers will confront increasing challenges reconciling political imperatives and technological innovation and growth – with the fate of ‘decoupling’ in the balance.”

Brett O’Brien, Partner, Washington, D.C.

“Diplomatic relations between the UK and China will improve. The new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak doesn’t want the openly confrontational approach of his short-lived predecessor, Liz Truss. Having said that, tensions will remain, and we are still a long way from the ‘Golden Age’ of China/UK relations of a decade ago.”

Craig Oliver, Partner, London

Germany’s coalition government will finally publish its long-awaited China strategy. Leaked policy drafts and public debates among coalition members suggest that the strategy will try to strike a balancing act among Germany’s competing interests in China. It will highlight growing concerns about China’s domestic and foreign policies and about the German economy’s perceived dependence on the Chinese market, while also acknowledging the importance of this same Chinese market for German growth and prosperity.”

William Klein, Consulting Partner, Berlin

“In 2023, much will evolve around reconciling the contradicting forces shaping EU-Chinese commercial ties. As the EU decouples itself from Russian energy at high economic costs, European leaders are weary of putting at risk the strong trade and investment relations with China and European companies are exploring new opportunities for growth in China. At the same time, Chinese investments in Europe, particularly into critical infrastructure, will face higher public and regulatory scrutiny, while companies will pursue new strategies to decrease their unilateral dependency on Chinese suppliers.”

Biancastella de Angelis, Partner, Brussels

“Mission to Mars: following their MoU on future moon missions signed in 2022, the UAE and China will announce their intention to launch a space mission to Mars to study potential human habitats on the red planet.”

Madjiguene-Shariza Baranyanka, Senior Associate, Dubai