The short answer is… well, yes!
To elaborate, it’s important to understand that people always love picking sides, picking a proverbial team that they stand behind. And investors are… you’ve guessed it, people. As such, they tend to see things as either black or white, with little to no room for grey areas. China has to either be a has-been star who is now overrated now that the long-hanging fruit is long gone… or the most underrated investment space in the history of mankind.
But what if, dare I say it, the truth lies somewhere in-between?
To illustrate why, it’s important to add the temporal dimension to the equation and start with a long-term perspective. In my opinion, when it comes to a multi-decade time horizon, China is still incredibly underrated. Despite its impressive increase when it comes to nominal GDP, it’s still far behind the global average as far as the average Chinese is concerned (with the GDP Per Capital situation making this crystal-clear), let’s not even talk about how far behind it is if we compare it to the world’s economic rock stars such as the United States, Japan, top EU nations and so on.
In other words, there’s still so much room to grow that it’s hard to come up with rational arguments in favor of the opposite from a long-term perspective, in favor of views which revolve around China being overrated. I’m just not seeing it.
However, the road to economic fulfillment (the entire package, not just nominal GDP) is paved with multiple challenges when it comes to lower time frames. Economies don’t exactly always display the tendency of evolving in a linear, predictable manner. Sometimes, economies overheat, which leads to people getting carried away and making gross capital misallocation errors. These errors lead to sometimes steep corrections, which can take a reasonable amount of time to move beyond.
Therefore, from a shorter-term perspective, there have been and without a doubt will continue to be instances in which China is overrated. This is because while the country is packed with opportunities across pretty much all sectors, this doesn’t make it immune from the basic follies of human nature. On the contrary, the business cycle tends to be considerably more volatile when we’re talking about emerging economies compared to “established” players.
Your investment strategy needs to account for this reality.
Way too many investors make the mistake of going all-in, of being grossly over-exposed to a certain market and when the market in question under-performs, it leaves the players in question in a situation from which recovering becomes increasingly difficult. On this note, it’s worth stressing that not only can you be certain there will be downturns in China every now and then, it actually gets worse because these downturns cannot be predicted in an accurate and consistent manner.
Of course, the Internet will always be full of “China experts” who claim they have access to a working crystal ball but these people are simply charlatans. Feel free to try predicting the future yourself or trade based on the “signals” offered by people who claim they can if you’re keep on seeing for yourself just how big of a mistake this is. Or, you can just let common sense prevail and not try the absurd on for size at all. Just ask yourself this: if the “experts” who brag about being able to accurately and consistently predict the future are actually telling the truth, why would they waste time selling you courses or signals when they can simply trade themselves and end up absurdly rich far more easily? Again, common sense can and will get you far.
There are most definitely quite a few trustworthy experts on Chinese-oriented investment options, but guess what: you won’t see them making outlandish claims such as being able to predict the future. Instead, through a combination between research, expertise, experience and proper money management, they’re able to outperform others to a reasonable degree.
In the end, the conclusion is simple: from a long-term perspective, China is most definitely severely underrated but don’t expect this reality to come with guarantees when it comes to short-term gains, because there can and will be roadblocks every now and then and unfortunately for you, they cannot be predicted… you just have to accept them and do your best to put together a realistic strategy that enables you to land on your feet in worst-case scenarios as well.