Retail in Asia

In Markets

Foreign firms speak out in China

For years companies that do business in China largely avoided public criticism of Beijing’s policies, fearing this could jeopardise their standing in the world’s fastest growing major market. But recent months have seen executives from some of the biggest companies in Europe and the US speak out – a testament to mounting concern that China’s economy is moving in a direction less friendly to foreign companies that have staked much of their future on it.

Saturday saw two of Germany’s leading industrialists raise complaints about a range of Chinese policies toward foreign business during a public meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. That followed complaints in recent months from other top executives of General Electric Co., Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc.

"This new trend shows, on one hand, that the business environment is really getting unsustainable for some top executives… and, on the other hand, that the Chinese government is reducing the use of administrative revenge for criticism," commented Jingzhou Tao, a Beijing-based partner at law firm Jones Day.