China’s Slowdown Has an Upside for BRICS Bloc Dealmakers

China’s economic slowdown opens doors for other nations to draw a bigger share of investment targeted at emerging markets, according to executives attending an annual BRICS summit.

(Bloomberg) — China’s economic slowdown opens doors for other nations to draw a bigger share of investment targeted at emerging markets, according to executives attending an annual BRICS summit. 

The deceleration, characterized by a property slump, soaring municipal debt and a youth unemployment crisis, has jolted financial markets as investors ponder what it might mean for commodities amid waning demand from the world’s second-largest economy. 

Policymakers from the US to New Zealand have sounded warnings, with major mineral producers like Brazil, Australia and South Africa under pressure. Softer demand for electronics will impact trade-dependent economies like South Korea and Taiwan, while companies from Nike Inc. to Caterpillar Inc. have already taken a hit to their earnings from China’s slowdown.

Read More: China’s Economy Is Weakening. Here’s Why That Matters: QuickTake

But business leaders attending the forum this week in Johannesburg said they don’t see a slowdown in China having a dramatic spillover effect, and that its recent travails could in fact help other members of the club. Their views dovetail with those of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategists, who say the knock-on effect of weakening Chinese company earnings and stock prices on equities in peer countries has declined “precipitously” over the past three years. 

“It presents a huge opportunity for others, especially India,” said Onkar Kanwar, the chairman of the BRICS Business Council and of Indian tiremaker Apollo Tyres Ltd. “India has carried out reforms, more is expected, and on the whole we are well prepared to welcome those who want to set up shop in India.”

China remains the dominant player in BRICS, which includes Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa — its gross domestic product is more than twice the size of the other members combined. Despite its recent travails, the Chinese economy continues to be one of the best performers, with the International Monetary Fund expecting growth of 5.2% this year. 

That lags the 5.9% predicted in India, but is well ahead of Brazil, Russia and South Africa, which are all expected to grow by less than 1%. 

“The Chinese economy has strong resilience, tremendous potential and great vitality,” President Xi Jinping said in a speech delivered on his behalf by Commerce Secretary Wang Wentao at the summit. “The fundamentals sustaining China’s long-term growth will remain unchanged. The giant ship of the Chinese economy will continue to part waves and sail ahead.” 

Some analysts have warned that Xi doesn’t have good options to reverse course and his country could be headed for Japanese-style drift after decades of rampant expansion. That would spell bad news for other countries dependent on exports to China.

As the BRICS meetings kicked off, signs that China was becoming more forceful in supporting its domestic markets provided a jolt to its peers. Emerging-market stocks ended a nine-day losing streak and currencies including South Africa’s rand, Brazil’s real and India’s rupee all gained.

China has “been growing for a long time and now this is some kind of satiation,” said Sergey Katyrin, the president of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who has played a role in facilitating trade relations between his country and China. “I would not say this is critical.”

Jai Shroff, the chief executive officer of Indian agro-chemical firm, UPL Ltd. sees climate change and a shortage of funding for sustainable agriculture as bigger threats than a downturn in China. 

“As economies grow, people spend more on food and they are unlikely to suddenly cut back,” he said. “That insulates our business in difficult times such as now.

Sim Tshabala, the CEO of Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s largest lender that is 20% owned by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, expects shifts in China’s economy to shake up global supply chains.

“The Chinese economy is clearly changing and increasingly focusing on consumption, less on investment, he said. “This is an opportunity to bring industrialization and end of value chains to Africa,” because it becomes more expensive to produce in China, he said. 

Xi stated as much, when he committed to his country importing more “quality products” from South Africa following talks with its President Cyril Ramaphosa. 


–With assistance from Alister Bull, Benjamin Harvey, Srinivasan Sivabalan and Jing Li.

More stories like this are available on

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.