Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee

A survey released on Tuesday shows that US companies operating in China are not particularly concerned about talk of a trade war. To the contrary, respondents said they were significantly more optimistic about relations between the US and China than they were a year before.

The China Business Climate Survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Bain & Company found that companies remained concerned about China’s regulatory environment. But, strikingly, around 36% of respondents said they expect relations between the two countries will improve this year, compared with 17% last year.

Responses also echoed broad optimism among businesses and investors regarding China’s economic prospects for this year.

“Regarding the economy, there is cautious optimism that the ‘new normal’ rate of growth is sustainable for the foreseeable future, providing opportunities for business to expand,” said William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

But concerns regarding Beijing’s heavy hand still linger.

“Nevertheless, the survey continues to paint a troubling picture of the regulatory environment in China. The best that can be said of this year’s data is that there appears to be a bottoming out of sentiment from the very low levels plumbed over the past few years. There continue to be challenges and areas of disagreement, but by offering our candid assessment of the environment our members operate in, we hope we can contribute to the healthier and more sustainable development of China’s economy.”

The survey was conducted between October 23 and November 26, overlapping with US President Donald Trump’s most recent trip to China, before the recent barrage of headlines indicating the Trump administration intends to follow through on his campaign promises to get tough with China on trade.