Sagging U.S. stocks also weighing on Chinese markets

As U.S. financial markets close out their most volatile week in years, stocks in China have also been rocked by a selloff. The benchmark Shanghai Index closed down nearly 10 percent for the week, while the tech-heavy Shenzhen fell 7.8 percent.

Investors have different, though related, concerns about the world's two largest economies. In the U.S., the first market "correction" -- a 10 percent or more decline from stocks' recent high -- in two years was sparked by concerns over rising inflation and the future path of interest rates. The ripple effects overseas are now heightening concerns about financial stability in China, a main engine of global economic growth.

Investing in mainland Chinese equities is in its infancy for most U.S. investors. That is set to change in May when China A Shares will be included in the MSCI EM index, which is widely held by U.S. pension funds. But domestic investors already have exposure to China through their ownership of multinational corporations that do business in China, including major technology companies, industrial giants, retailers and restaurant chains.

A longtime challenge for investors is the secrecy shrouding political and economic decisions in Beijing, along with reliability of Chinese government data.

"At the end of the day, the major political and economic decisions in China come down to what seven guys in the Politburo standing committee, the major decision-making body of the Chinese Communist Party, decide to do," Gabe Lipton, global macro strategist with GZERO Media, said in an interview with CBSN. "It's not like the U.S., where we know what the Fed is going to do, we know how the U.S. Treasury is going to react."

Another issue for those trying to gauge China's economic performance is assessing the accuracy of the country's official reports. Regional governments in some provinces admitted to falsifying data during a downturn in 2015, when a commodity rout slammed sectors that specialize in metals and mining. Questions about the validity of China's official GDP, unemployment, productivity and other data remains a challenge for global policymakers and for stakeholders looking to invest in the region.

"There's a history of Chinese data being pretty opaque and us not knowing what's happening. If there's a major crisis, we have to sort of ask -- what's going to be at the top of the government's priority list?" Lipton said. "Is it going to be giving people a really clear picture of what's going on in the country ... or maybe changing things to make them look a bit rosier than they actually are?"