An annual report from the American Chamber of Commerce in China found last year that 32 percent of member companies surveyed do not plan to expand investments in China, a percentage that's higher than during the financial crisis in 2009.

One-quarter of the respondents have moved or plan to move business operations out of China, and of that group, 38 percent are relocating to the U.S., Canada or Mexico, according to the survey, published in January.


While Chinese firms have often had the advantage of local business know-how or government support in China, rising labor and land costs increased challenges for foreign companies further, analysts said. China's economic growth is also slowing, from double-digits a few years ago to just above 6 percent officially.


Commodities-sensitive U.S. firms such as Caterpillar invested heavily in China in an attempt to ride the economic boom there. Consumer-oriented companies like Apple followed, trying to target Chinese consumers.

Copper prices, often seen as an indicator of China's industrial health, are down more than 40 percent from a 2011 peak, and Caterpillar is on track for its first four-year decline in sales and revenues. And since the fiscal second quarter of this year, Apple has reported year-over-year declines of more than 25 percent in Greater China sales, versus double-digit growth previously.

"If you're waiting for the booming Chinese consumer ... it's just not on the way. The upside is just not what some consumer firms were hoping for," said Derek Scissors, chief economist at China Beige Book International, which regularly surveys Chinese businesses.

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