Opinion

Epidemic tests China’s supply chain dominance

Much has been written on the Wuhan coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19, but very little is known yet about its impact on the global economy and, in particular, the global value chain. Still, one thing is clear: The shock is bigger than that caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), for the simple reason that China is much more important for the global economy than it was then.

By: Date: February 17, 2020 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

Beyond China’s much larger economic size, it is important to note that China is now much more integrated in the global value chain. By moving up the ladder, China has become a much more important player in exporting intermediate goods than before, which means that any disruption in its production capacity could affect the rest of the world more severely than in the past.

It is worth noting that this transformation is asymmetric in nature as China has been reducing its reliance on foreign inputs while it has continuously increased its exports of intermediate goods. This implies that any disruption to China’s value chain reverberates globally as factories elsewhere become more dependent on the intermediated goods imported from China. Given the current disruption to China’s supply chain onshore – total quarantine in Hubei province and limited elsewhere – the high dependency on Chinese capital and intermediate goods means that the ability to substitute imports from China for others is rather limited, at least in the short run.

Beyond the exports of intermediaries, some countries have become very dependent on China as their own companies have moved a good part of the production to China. In other words, the large stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) that developed economies have accumulated in China also explains why Covid-19 is an important global shock. This is especially true for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and, interestingly, it goes beyond their production in China. The reason is simple: While those three economies have been diversifying their FDI away from China into Southeast Asia, the reality is that those countries are also heavily dependent on China for their value chains. In other words, the economic impact of the Covid-19 may well show that the degree of diversification achieved by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan with their near-shoring away from China into Southeast Asia has been rather limited.

All in all, the Covid-19 outbreak is putting the well-established model of integrated supply chains of production to a test. This is because China has becoming too central to the global value chain and too important, and the shock has actually hit there, at the epicenter. A very likely consequence of this will be a much faster re-shoring of the value chain to other destinations. Destinations will be chosen on the basis of many factors but the Covid-19 outbreak is clearly adding two. First, there should not be as much concentration of the supply chain as there was for China in the past. Second, over-dependency on sourcing in China will be discouraged. This is clearly good news for countries like Mexico, but also Eastern Europe.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint.

Due to copyright agreements we ask that you kindly email request to republish opinions that have appeared in print to [email protected].

Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

COVID-19: The self-employed are hardest hit and least supported

Self-employed workers are hardest-hit by COVID-19 lockdowns. Yet they often receive less government support than salaried employees. Is the disparity justified?

By: Julia Anderson Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 8, 2020
Read article More on this topic
 

Opinion

Disease, like poverty, does not stay at home

To fight the Covid-19 pandemic, best practice responses in Africa need to be implemented around international collaboration. These include the need to activate emergency operations centres, to establish a surge capacity in health systems, and to mitigate the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.

By: Yonas Adeto, Karim El Aynaoui, Thomas Gomart, Paolo Magri, Greg Mills, Karin von Hippel and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: April 8, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

POSTPONED: The Sound of Economics Live: Can the Eurogroup save the day?

In this episode of The Sound of Economics, we analyse the Eurogroup's 'rescue plan' amidst the economic fallout brought about by the COVID-19 health crisis.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Giuseppe Porcaro, André Sapir and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 8, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Social distancing: did individuals act before governments?

Using online searches for restaurants as a proxy to assess whether and to what extent individuals were practicing social distancing before strict lockdown measures, we identify substantial differences between countries. In some countries, including Denmark and Portugal, searches for restaurants were considerably down before restaurant restrictions were put in place. Countries where social distancing started earlier, regardless of when policies were enacted, can expect a flatter coronavirus curve.

By: Catarina Midões Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 7, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

A green recovery

Government policy faces various challenges. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the European Union set ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions. Now in the midst of the pandemic, the EU has temporarily lifted state-aid rules allowing governments to steer companies through the crisis and to minimise job losses using public money. This column suggests combining these policies by attaching green conditions to state aid. In that way, we can aim for a green recovery.

By: Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 6, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

A European response to the coronavirus crisis with Paolo Gentiloni

This is the second event in our series with the Financial Times, where Paolo Gentiloni will discuss the European response to the coronavirus crisis.

Speakers: Paolo Gentiloni, Mehreen Khan and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 6, 2020
Read article More on this topic
 

Opinion

A European approach to fund the coronavirus cost is in the interest of all

We had not seen a common challenge as clear as this pandemic. The sum of national actions and programs is likely to be insufficient.

By: Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Arnoud Boot, Elena Carletti, Jan Krahnen, Miguel Otero-Iglesias, Lucrezia Reichlin, Dirk Schoenmaker and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 6, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Upcoming Event

Apr
21
13:00

The role of Cohesion policy in the fight against COVID-19 with Elisa Ferreira

How can cohesion funds help the National, regional and local communities that are on the frontline in countering the coronavirus and the resulting economic crisis.

Speakers: Jim Brunsden, Maria Demertzis and Elisa Ferreira Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Mythbusters: debunking economic myths

Economics seems to be full of myths that are hard to debunk. Will robots take our jobs? Are trade deficits bad? Is China such a big economy simply because of the size of its population? This week, Nicholas Barrett, Maria Demertzis, Marta Domínguez-Jímenez and Niclas Poitiers put on the detective cap and become Bruegel's own economic mythbusters.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: April 3, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

A temporary, common fiscal stimulus to answer the mayhem of COVID-19

We are not in normal times and we have to surpass, albeit only for the duration of the COVID-19 shock, the hurdles that did not allow the euro-area to endow itself of a common fiscal policy.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 2, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Find my virus: Mobilising AI and big data to fight COVID-19

At this event, the panellists will discuss the role of AI and big data in the fight against the coronavirus crisis.

Speakers: J. Scott Marcus, Alex Sandy Pentland, Georgios Petropoulos and Marietje Schaake Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 2, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Upcoming Event

Apr
28
18:00

The Sound of Economics Live: On emerging market crisis with Barry Eichengreen

At this online podcast recording, Guntram Wolff and Barry Eichengreen will discuss the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on emerging economies and the corresponding policy responses.

Speakers: Barry Eichengreen, Giuseppe Porcaro and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Load more posts