New Report | China 2024: What to Watch
January 30, 2024 — A new report from Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis (ASPI CCA) foresees “a vexing year ahead for China” marked by economic and political uncertainties. “China 2024: What to Watch” is a culmination of analysis from several CCA fellows.
“Across the economy, society, politics, the environment, and foreign policy, the team at Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis largely foresees a vexing year ahead for China as challenges continue to proliferate,” write Bates Gill, Executive Director of CCA, and Jing Qian, Co-Founder and Managing Director of CCA.
Nathan Levine, CCA Research Fellow, believes that China’s economy will continue to struggle. “A broader financial crisis or economic recession is unlikely, but China’s economy is likely to muddle through 2024 rather than demonstrate significant recovery,” writes Levine.
Diana Choyleva, Founder and Chief Economist at Endo Economics and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow on the Chinese economy at CCA, predicts that Xi Jinping’s “current charm offensive aimed at boosting foreign investor confidence in China will fall short and the exodus of western capital will persist.” Meanwhile, “China will continue to struggle with debt, and business and consumer confidence may not substantially improve.”
China is currently marked by a growing “trust deficit”, which Jing Qian believes could reshape the country’s political dynamics. He notes that in 2024, these developments could potentially lead to a unique “modernization trap”, undermining confidence in China’s governance and development.
Lynette Ong, Professor of Political Science at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, and a CCA Senior Fellow, notes that the economic slowdown will drive public discontent in China. “Events of nationwide significance, such as the death in 2023 of former premier Li Keqiang, have the potential to become flashpoints for broader public or elite dissatisfaction and will be viewed with unease by Party leadership in 2024,” writes Ong.
Fellow on Chinese Politics at CCA, Neil Thomas, predicts that “central scrutiny of local government finances and operations will intensify in 2024, with the party’s formidable internal discipline apparatus targeting provincial leaders judged culpable for ballooning local debt.”
Thomas also believes that Xi will adopt a more “oracular” leadership style of “delegated centralization,” in which he will rely on “an ever-closer circle of trusted advisors who increasingly compete for his favor.” This may result in greater political volatility, writes Thomas, and also limit the impact of Xi’s international diplomacy as other leaders, like Li Qiang, will travel more in his place.
Lyle Morris is a Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy and National Security at CCA. “Two key elections — in Taiwan and in the United States — will test Xi Jinping’s foreign policy strategy,” writes Morris. “Xi will aim to ward off independence-leaning tendencies following the election in Taiwan.” He will also make political preparations to “mitigate against and possibly capitalize on a chaotic shift in U.S. political leadership.”
Taylah Bland, Senior Program Officer for the China Climate Hub, and an Affiliated CCA Fellow on Climate and the Environment, notes that increased extreme weather events will likely force Beijing to speed up its prioritization of domestic climate adaptation and resilience efforts, framing climate as a matter of national security.
“China has refrained from major new climate commitments in recent years, but a confluence of factors could prompt the country to actively position itself as a global leader on climate action in 2024,” writes Kate Logan, Associate Director of Climate at ASPI and CCA Fellow. She believes that China is likely to begin offering a more concrete plan for ramping up climate-related spending in developing countries.
Bates Gill believes that “China is poised to significantly expand its attention on and economic, diplomatic, and security presence in the Global South in 2024, with a particular focus on developing countries in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Central Asia.” The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and BRICS will both become focal points for China’s accelerated engagement in the Global South in the coming year.
Read the full report here.