Burner Laptops and Smaller Profits: Firms Portray Their China Challenges

Business groups chronicle the difficult environment inside China for U.S. and European companies navigating confusing regulations and an intensified security focus.

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Keith Bradsher
Alexandra Stevenson

By Keith Bradsher and Alexandra Stevenson

Keith Bradsher reported from Beijing and Alexandra Stevenson from Hong Kong.

Sept. 19, 2023, 9:06 a.m. ET

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“American companies doing business in China are less optimistic about the future than at any other time in more than two decades. Restrictions on economic data, like the extent of youth unemployment, is making investment decisions harder. Few of the many foreign executives who left China during the pandemic are returning.

These are some of the takeaways from reports released Tuesday by organizations representing close to 2,000 European and American firms.

The papers by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China portray a business environment that has become more difficult to navigate. Companies find themselves caught between a Beijing that has been outwardly solicitous of their investment but at the same time focused on its security priorities. Nearly two-thirds of European companies in China have seen business opportunities thwarted by China’s ever more complex web of regulations.”