China street

For as long as I can remember, China has been one of the world's fastest growing economies, far outstripping the growth of most developed nations. What am I saying? China has been the fastest growing for as long as I have lived.

While that is still the case, it is changing. And it is changing dramatically.

The economy grew by 7.4% in 2014. That was its slowest rate of growth for 24 years. Growth of that magnitude is something most of the world's major economies can only dream of right now. But China has been on a downward spiral for quite some time.

It's now down to 6.7%, slightly above expectations for the second quarter, and on par with growth in the first quarter. But it's hardly surprising if you look at the data. Take a look at our previous coverage of the Chinese economy - you'll mostly see words like "fall".

Why is slowing down?

China hasn't suddenly become a bad economy. Far from it. As I said, it's current growth is still far stronger than the rest of the world. But this slowing growth is the result of a very deliberate, very significant shift in economic policy.

China established itself as a manufacturing and exporting powerhouse. How many times have you looked at the bottom of a product and read 'Made in China'? Despite that 25% drop in exports earlier this year, China still exported $126.1 billion worth of goods. By comparison, the UK exported £41.7bn.

The Chinese government wants that to change. It is in the middle of transforming the economy from a manufacturing and export-led economy, to one that focuses on consumer spending and services, much like the UK's.

That means there's going to be a lull for a relatively lengthy period of time. We've already seen growth drop to considerable lows in the past few years, and it looks like its going to continue for at least the foreseeable future. New official statistics show that both industrial output and retail sales fell below expectations. Shifting economic policy is a long process. But even now, the country's industry is slowing too quickly and its new, consumer-led service economy is not growing fast enough.

In fact, retail sales grew by 10.2%. Although relatively strong growth, it was still below analysts targets and a fall on the 10.6% rise seen in June. And earlier this week, figures showed that cinema ticket sales had not picked up by as much as hoped, another indicator that the Chinese people are struggling to adapt to their new economic environment.

Where does that leave the UK?

A lot depends on how the UK reacts to leaving the European Union. If the government plays its cards right, the economy could stand to benefit a great deal from China's current troubles.

Just over a month after the Brexit vote, Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed that the government had started early discussions with the Chinese over a possible free-trade deal. If a free-trade deal comes to fruition, British companies could find themselves laughing.

Look at it this way; China wants to make fewer things, the UK wants to make more. There's one opportunity, to increase exports of goods to China. China wants more services, the UK is a strong exporter of services. There lies another two opportunities, actually - first to increase services exports to China, and second to attract foreign direct investment from China to British service companies.

We heard about how the UK's 'special relationship' with the US continues to flourish, with more of the US' FDI coming from Britain than anywhere else, and by some margin. But could Brexit and China's slowing economy be the catalyst to a special relationship between the two? Economically perhaps, politically perhaps not.