Once again, the world’s investors are turning their worried gaze toward China. And for good reason. Economic growth in the third quarter sank to 6.5 percent, the slowest pace since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009. Car purchases fell last year for the first time in more than two decades. Apple Inc.’s warning in early January that iPhone sales in China were sagging alerted the world to how a slowing Middle Kingdom would drag down global growth and corporate profits.
But the locals figured that out a while ago. Even after a recent uptick, the stock market in Shanghai has still plunged by more than a quarter from its 2018 high. The outlook isn’t any rosier. Tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. imposed by President Donald Trump are starting to pinch the country’s factories. A steep and unexpected plunge in imports in December signaled just how sharply the economy is decelerating. That’s led Beijing to turn the volume down on its bravado and negotiate with Washington to defuse the conflict.