The foreign business community in China is in an all-time grump.
Since the financial crisis, the Chinese government has been focussed on boosting its domestic industries, either through doling out easy credit or by enforcing rules, sometimes selectively, against foreign firms.
Applications for wholly foreign-owned enterprises and joint ventures are being delayed or denied. Ditto with visas for foreign workers. Investments that were already underway have been stalled, and contracts that were already agreed have been placed in limbo.
Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Chamber of Commerce, is one of the few who is willing to speak out openly against what is going on. "There’s been a growing mood of uncertainty among our members and the broader foreign business community, about the climate for foreign enterprises in China, and particularly about market access and the future."
So it was interesting to hear Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, touch on the subject during a chat with the country’s netizens. He said the government would work to create favourable conditions for foreign firms and that foreign companies will be able to enjoy "national treatment according to Chinese laws".
Mr Wuttke is optimistic that this means things will change. "We warmly welcome his comments, which will help to alleviate our concerns," he said, wisely noting that he was looking out for more "concrete actions" from the National People’s Congress.