China economics

Fathom is a world-leading expert on China in a global context. China matters for both policymakers and investors. From AI to climate and from demographics to debt, the biggest questions facing the world are all playing out there.

After decades of phenomenal growth, China is:

  • The world’s second largest economy, in US dollars
  • The world’s largest emitter by volume of greenhouse gases
  • The most common trading partner for the most countries
  • The world’s largest official creditor

With its autocratic government structure, its quest for global influence and its comparative opacity to Western economies, China’s rise is the geopolitical event of this generation. US-China relations are frosty as the world’s two superpowers struggle for ‘durable co-existence’ while competing economically.

At Fathom we offer our clients unique insight into China, beyond the official statistics. For more information about our services or to discuss your needs and how we can help, get in touch with Joanna Davies, Head of China Economics and Government Services.

Our services

Consultancy

Much of our work is bespoke consultancy, answering specific queries for clients in government and financial management. That invariably requires designing new approaches and creating unique datasets to address complex problems, casting light on otherwise shadowy areas of China’s economy.

We scrutinise the existing data, and where it is lacking, we either improve it or create a new dataset entirely. Our findings are then summarised in plain, jargon-free English and delivered in a format that works best for you, whether that be a dashboard, presentation or written report.

Data, models, tools

Unexamined data are not worth looking at – especially when it comes to China, where official data is often a less than useful guide to the true state of affairs. Fathom’s data, models and tools are the result of decades of dedicated research and consultancy work by our team of experts. These can be tailored and applied to your questions as part of our bespoke consultancy offering, but recognising that sometimes you need instant insight, direct access to our proprietary data, models and tools is also available upon request.

Capital Flows Tracker

Our world-leading tool sheds light on China’s true investment patterns and strategic motivations and is particularly important as China faces increased scrutiny over its investment activity. The Capital Flows Tracker accurately monitors China and Hong Kong’s financial footprint since 2005 by bringing together and combining a range of diverse datasets. It disaggregates capital flows into M&A and greenfield investment, and is available bi-laterally and by sector. It includes the following details for each deal: country, company, sector, target address, deal status and deal value — including Fathom’s estimates where that information is not publicly available. It is updated through the year.

Click here to view our Introduction to the China Capital Flow Tracker animation.

Centrality Tracker

Our Centrality Tracker provides a comprehensive measure of the ties binding countries to the key economic powerhouses — China, the EU and the US. The tool covers more than 150 countries, which together account for more than 95% of global GDP. It includes detailed variables on trade, finance, commodities and development. The Tracker identifies underlying economic relationships since 2005, outperforming traditional macroeconomic models when assessing international spillovers from economic shocks such as COVID-19. It also casts new light on a variety of questions, such as: What is the size of, and sensitivity to, China’s economic and financial footprint in Africa? Is Latin America more closely aligned to the US, EU or China, and what has changed?

Fathom’s Interaction with China and US Index

Fathom’s Interaction with China Index and Fathom’s Interaction with US Index provide detailed measures of China and the US’s engagement with every country in Africa, based on more than 100 variables each. They reveal that China’s interaction with Africa has increased significantly over the last 20 years, and in 2010 overtook US levels of engagement. China still remains ahead, despite increased energy from the US. But greater engagement with China tends to be worse for a country’s real GDP growth and GDP per capita. In other words, we find that engagement with China over the US is linked to worse outcomes in African countries. But being engaged with neither is worse still.

RiCArdo

Originally intended to monitor and measure China’s progress in each of the nine high-tech industries specified under President Xi’s Made in China 2025 (MIC 2025) plan, Fathom’s RiCArdo tool now provides a detailed database of international trade flows in the MIC 2025 sectors since 2005. It covers more than 200 countries, which can be ranked by absolute trade flows in US dollars, by market share or by revealed comparative advantage (RCA). Using RiCArdo, we can assess which countries it would impact most if China succeeded in its MIC 2025 plan. But for now, we find that China has only made limited progress in upgrading its vast manufacturing base since 2015, with its high-tech export share still lagging well behind Japan, Germany and the US on this measure. That’s not to say that it hasn’t gained market share, though: it has, and at the expense of the US.

Fathom’s interactive table-top exercises

Our interactive table-top exercises (TTXs) are designed to bring economic debate to life by inviting participants to step into the shoes of policymakers. While macro models underpin these TTXs, the value is in the discussion and the debate — economics is fundamentally a study of trade-offs and the purpose of a TTX is to illustrate what these are. Our bespoke TTXs can be tailored to your needs, inviting you to consider key questions across macro, finance and geopolitics.

An immersive experience, our latest TTX focused on technological competition between the US and China, zooming in on the key trade-offs that are in play for policymakers: should they prioritise military capability or economic growth; should they focus on the short or the long term; should they support employees or replace them with AI and robotics? Aware of China’s poor demographic outlook, participants opted for a strategy of investing in labour-replacing technologies, a decision that is likely to maximise output but further amplify inequality within the PRC.

Global Outlook

The China-focused section of our quarterly Global Outlook is informed by our extensive suite of proprietary datasets, models and tools. We deliver these unique insights through our quarterly presentations and written research pieces, examples of which are available below. Subscribers to this service also receive invitations to roundtables and events, hosted by Fathom.

Case study

Fathom created its RiCArdo database and dashboard to provide an independent assessment of China’s progress towards its high-tech goals under President Xi’s Made in China 2025 plan.

Insights

Fathom’s Managing Director Erik Britton explains how China’s hidden pool of under-employed workers will remove one inflation threat.
Kevin Loane, Fathom’s Head of USA, warns that the West’s sanctions on Russia may deter China over Taiwan – but only for so long.
China’s one-way bet on housing is starting to look like a risky gamble, says Fathom’s Head of China Economics, Joanna Davies.

Listen to our podcast

Fathom: In Conversation is our economics podcast.

Fathom’s ten-part podcast series, The rise of China, is essential listening for anyone who wants to understand more about the Middle Kingdom. Each short episode features conversations with Fathom’s economists who share unique insights from their research to tell a well-rounded story of China’s past, present and potential future.

Get in touch

For more information about our China economics services or to discuss your needs and how we can help, please fill out the form below.

China economics enquiry

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