China tech market growth to slow in 2022, says Forrester

Vietnam, India, Philippines set to outpace Middle Kingdom

China's tech market growth will slow from 9.7 per cent in 2021 to 8.2 per cent in 2022, in large part thanks to the Middle Kingdom's zero-COVID strategy, analyst firm Forrester predicted in a report released this week.

While China's tech consumption will slow, it will still outpace the rest of the Asia Pacific region's 6.2 per cent growth in 2022, down from 6.4 per cent in 2021.

Growth will vary markedly among nations in the region, with vaccination rates, government directed pandemic management strategies and digitization efforts, and work-from-home ramp up measures all playing a part in the industry's prospects.

By late 2021, countries with at least sixty per cent of their population vaccinated – such as China, Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Japan – saw growth levels above their respective tech spending compound annual growth rates (CAGR) from 2015 to 2019.

In 2022, the Philippines, Vietnam, and India are expected to lead the way, with purchases of tech goods and services in these countries to grow by 9.1 per cent, 9.0 per cent, and 8.7 per cent, respectively. Tech spending in Malaysia and Indonesia will grow by about 8 per cent and by 7.1 per cent in Thailand. In Australia – a market larger than many Asian nations that have bigger populations – Forrester predicted 6.6 per cent growth in 2022, well above the CAGR from 2015 to 2019.

China, however, has a unique intolerance to any spread of COVID and a commitment to keep the virus from spreading, through lockdowns and strict border control. That plan delivered strong growth during 2021, when GDP rose by 8 per cent, software sales jumped 14.5 per cent and outsourcing spend grew by 13.3 per cent. Sales of computers and communications kit lagged a bit behind but still grew by 6.5 per cent and 8.3 per cent, respectively.

But as the virus evolves, so will the effectiveness of pandemic strategies. Forrester warned that China's strict COVID-19 policies increasingly exert downward pressure on domestic demand that could lead to an economic slowdown – especially as the Middle Kingdom aims to be technology self-sufficient in the face of both the pandemic-related challenges and US sanctions.

Undeniably, US sanctions have taken their toll on China's tech companies. Huawei's Chinese smartphone market fell by 68 per cent year over year as Apple ended the year as consumers' favourite smartphone vendor.

A year ago, Beijing set a goal of becoming 70 per cent self-sufficient in semiconductors. At the time the prospects weren't looking too good as China-owned silicon manufacturers' domestic market share slipped to below six per cent. Efforts like chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation's (SMIC) expansion plans are positive steps, but fall short of delivery the short term capability to create the comprehensive selection of chips China needs.

Now China has set a new and lofty goal of overall self-sufficiency in technology for 2035.

Forrester said these technology self-sufficiency goals "will drive significant tech investments over the next few years."

According to Forrester:

Despite structural economic issues, Chinese firms will continue to invest in their future-fit transformation: More enterprises will move to the cloud, modernize their infrastructure and application landscape, and consolidate their datacenter footprint – and hire third-party service providers to help with these initiatives.

China's decrease from 9.7 per cent to 8.2 per cent tech market growth still represents overall good sustained expansion. But Forrester also sees further slowdowns ahead – perhaps to as low as seven per cent – as factories hit continued lockdowns and face supply chain issues that "soften consumer consumption."

This problem is not unique to China.

Describing the entire Asia Pacific region, the report argues "the biggest risks to growth are supply chain bottlenecks, and persistently high inflation" that could "limit consumer spending and enterprise investments."

But as the rest of the world seeks to rejoin a global economy, China has yet shown no signs of letting up on its intolerance to COVID while the country's 14th Five-Year Plan aims to increase domestic consumption and retain export strengths. To reach both goals, and China's self-sufficiency target, public and private R&D will increase by seven per cent annually within the country. ®

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