American investors may be excused for suffering from chronic short-termism. This is a persistent condition reinforced by the financial industrial complex of stock market television, websites and Internet memes.
Scouring quarterly financial statements to discern the health and prospects of a company seems quaint and Luddite when an Instagram ice cream photo can cause a multibillion-dollar swing in the market value of a struggling video game retailer. (Yes, this actually happened last week to GameStop shares.)
And while there is plenty of important short-term data for investors coming out this week — February jobs report, dozens of quarterly earnings reports, another COVID-19 vaccine — China’s long-term planning bears notice.
The rubber-stamp Chinese parliament is scheduled to begin its annual meeting on Friday. Its 14th five-year plan will be released. These plans primarily are blueprints of China’s economic ambitions over the next half decade.
This edition of its half-decade long goals comes amid a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-induced trade tensions from which President Joe Biden has not backed away.
China’s economic ascendancy over the past generation was fueled by its desire to be a low-cost manufacturer and industry’s willingness to chase after lower costs as it fed the global consumers’ appetite.
As this latest five-year plan was being crafted, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has made clear his aspirations. Traveling in China in the early days of the Great Recession in 2008, I heard economists, business leaders and others talk about “turning inward.” Instead of relying on exports to Europe and America, China was recognizing its own internal economic opportunity.
Today, the Xi government calls it “dual circulation.” The concept — focus on stoking China’s own 1.4 billion population’s domestic consumption in addition to global trade — may not be new. However, it is as clear an expression as American investors probably will get of China’s increasing ambition to move up the global supply chain, flex its technology muscle and complement its trade-dominated economic growth with more internal combustion.
The implications for American investors will last longer than any frozen dessert meme.
Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts “The Sunshine Economy” on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of “Nightly Business Report” on public television. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.