In this new insight, we interview our senior analyst Maya Xiao to discuss her new research and learn about some of the dramatic changes that Chinese manufacturing industry output is undergoing.
What’s the single most interesting thing you learnt about Chinese manufacturing during your latest research, Maya?
It was that things in China are not as bad as they once seemed. Although back in May/June, China’s cities were once again plunged into lockdown and factories had to close their doors, our revised forecasts show that July and August have been positive months for the manufacturing industry in China. The country’s manufacturers are getting back on their feet. Forecasts are slowly getting back to their pre-lockdown levels and the industry is recovering quicker than we expected. Meanwhile, the government is prioritizing factories and businesses to ensure production levels can recover.
Have there been any changes in the manufacturing industry and your forecasts in this new research?
Overall, forecasts have improved for the manufacturing industry across China as life returns to normal. In our previous research in May, we forecasted a 2022 growth rate of 3.3%. In this new edition we have increased this forecast by 0.1% – to 3.4%.
If we take an industry perspective, the automotive, semiconductor and electronics sectors were by far the worst hit after the pandemic. Although automotive is recovering quickly due to its wide supplier base, production in the sector has still declined -1.9% since our previous forecasts. In contrast, the semiconductor and electronics industries are taking longer to recover due to supply chain constraints and chip shortages. Ever since the national lockdown there have been bottlenecks in supply chains, and raw materials are still in particularly short supply in many cases.
Do you think that domestic or overseas demand will be more important for Chinese manufacturers going forward?
We can take two perspectives on this. Whilst overseas demand has been very important throughout the pandemic in keeping China on its feet, domestic demand will be key to ensuring future Chinese growth. Overseas demand was the main reason for China’s growth during the first half of 2022. But, as a result of the trade restrictions encompassing the whole world right now, the Chinese government will prioritize domestic trade to boost the country’s growth rates. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world of trade currently because of the Ukraine conflict, the European energy crisis, and US foreign trade restrictions.
Which Chinese manufacturing machinery sector is most notable and why?
Machine tools is by far the most notable sector due to its current dynamism. It has undergone a lot of change recently as some of the industries that depend heavily on machine tools (such as semiconductors) have enjoyed a post-COVID boom. Indeed, recent machine tool performance has almost been along the lines of a high growth start-up. This is clearly in stark contrast to its previous iteration as a stable and mature industry. Of course, in time, machine tools will return to normal, but for now, the sector is one to watch.
What’s the outlook for Chinese manufacturing output in the short- and long-term?
Although our figures show that the forecast manufacturing growth rate in 2023 is down compared to 2022, from 3.4% to 2.7%, the outlook isn’t all that bad. Looking to the long term, 2023 will be a rocky year for most industries as a result of supply chain constraints and geopolitical tensions. In particular, the current energy crisis in Europe will push up the total cost of manufacturing, weakening demand for Chinese products. During 2022, suppliers have been fulfilling orders that were made in 2021 meaning demand in 2023 may be bleak. However, from the second half of 2023 onwards, things will pick up and growth rates will recover to around 4%. Although this won’t match pre-COVID levels, it is still a considerable growth rate for the Chinese manufacturing industry.
Why is it important for manufacturers and machine builders to have a detailed picture of manufacturing industry output?
Our Manufacturing Industry Output Tracker (MIO) provides suppliers and manufacturers with the most up to date and comprehensive database covering a wide range of countries and industries. It can assist them with their strategic planning by providing insight on how their industry is performing, how it is likely to grow in the future and where the current opportunity lies. From a macroeconomic perspective, the world is dynamic, and the situation is changing very quickly, this is why we update our forecasts quarterly – to ensure that our customers have the frequent updates they need to enable them to see the global picture.
For more information about the Manufacturing Industry Output Tracker, please contact Maya Xiao, Senior Analyst at Interact Analysis.