Is Trump the best thing to happen to China?
Prior to Donald Trump’s US election win, Brexit and this year’s elections taking place in Europe, investors used to perceive the West as the home of political stability, while Asia and global emerging markets were seen as the more risky regions. A reason for avoiding these areas used to be the danger that politically something could go wrong, however of all the places where things could now, the US is now top of the pile.
In the last 18 months, with pre and post-election Donald Trump, he has talked, or mainly tweeted, a lot on what he plans to do to make America great again. However, to date he has delivered on nothing at all.
For example he made a big statement to the American electorate labelling China a “currency manipulator” which he would deal with on day one in office. People just accepted this because he was Trump, but the facts are that he has not dealt with it. Add in the shambles of his repeal of Obamacare, and it starts to make me question just what he will genuinely achieve. If he does not get his act together, then how can he get his tax reforms or anything else through?
The worry is that the US retail investor currently thinks everything is fine. Trumponomics has fed into bullishness in the US, with the S&P rallying since he came in. For me, it is pitiful listening to the CEOs of US companies talking about Trump. It would appear the captains of industry are not really speaking their mind, with everyone scared to death of saying something that Trump will jump on.
We have had little weighting to the US in our portfolios for a long time, but we have become so negative on its prospects that we have actually began reducing our global holdings, adopting an underweight position last month. Of course, there is the chance he can get policies through and keep the global economy spinning, but the evidence so far suggests not.
In its place we have been increasing our GEM and Asian weightings, and if we are looking to add anywhere to our equity positions right now, these would be the regions. This is because everywhere you look right now is opportunistic for China.
Not only does the whole Chinese set-up look more stable than the US, but if Trump does pull back on globalisation by pulling out of a number of trade deals, the Chinese will look to step into the breach.
China has been pushing to become a more global player for the last decade and Trump is effectively catapulting them to the front of the queue. At the same time, with Trump slashing everything to do with the environment China has gone from pariah to a hero. They have gone from being one of the globe’s worst polluters, to being in a position to gain the highly unexpected moral high ground from the US.
The point is that the Chinese have not created any of this, the US has done it all themselves. If Clinton had come in there would not be the changes environmentally, we wouldn’t be seeing the end of globalisation as we know it from a US perspective and China couldn’t have made any of these advantages.
Chris Metcalfe is investment director at IBOSS Asset Management Ltd