Policy brief

Deglobalisation in the context of United States-China decoupling

After decades of increasing globalisation, there now seems to be a slowing, or even a turn to deglobalisation, meaning decelerating trade and investme

Publishing date
21 December 2020
  • After decades of increasing globalisation on every front, from trade – pushed further by the growing role of value chains – to technology, movement of people and investment, there now seems to be a turn towards slower globalisation if not deglobalisation, at least in some areas.
  • Deglobalisation is not a new concept but rather a megatrend which has been seen before, for example right before the First World War. Signs of deglobalisation, measured by decelerating trade and investment, and smaller global value chains, started to appear already in 2008. But this trend seems to have accelerated because of the United States’ push to contain China in the context of the strategic competition between the two. Such containment is apparent not only in bilateral trade and investment flows but also in technology. COVID-19 has been a second very important factor contributing to deglobalisation. The most obvious impact has been in movement of people.
  • However, the trend towards deglobalisation is much less evident for finance, with the exception of foreign direct investment, though increasing attempts by the US and China to decouple particular types of financial flows are emerging, including the delisting of Chinese companies from US stock exchanges and the imposition of sanctions for transactions with certain Chinese companies and individuals. Overall, it is too early to confirm the depth and the sustainability of the current wave of deglobalisation, but an increasing number of signals suggest a trend of deglobalisation is underway.


García-Herrero, A. and J. Tan (2020) ‘Deglobalisation in the context of United States-China decoupling’, Policy Contribution 2020/21, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Alicia García-Herrero

    Alicia García Herrero is a Senior fellow at Bruegel.

    She is the Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at French investment bank Natixis, based in Hong Kong and is an independent Board Member of AGEAS insurance group. Alicia also serves as a non-resident Senior fellow at the East Asian Institute (EAI) of the National University Singapore (NUS). Alicia is also Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Finally, Alicia is a Member of the Council of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation (FUF), a Member of the Board of the Center for Asia-Pacific Resilience and Innovation (CAPRI), a member of the Council of Advisors on Economic Affairs to the Spanish Government, a member of the Advisory Board of the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and an advisor to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s research arm (HKIMR).

    In previous years, Alicia held the following positions: Chief Economist for Emerging Markets at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Member of the Asian Research Program at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), Head of the International Economy Division of the Bank of Spain, Member of the Counsel to the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, Head of Emerging Economies at the Research Department at Banco Santander, and Economist at the International Monetary Fund. As regards her academic career, Alicia has served as visiting Professor at John Hopkins University (SAIS program), China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and Carlos III University. 

    Alicia holds a PhD in Economics from George Washington University and has published extensively in refereed journals and books (see her publications in ResearchGate, Google Scholar, SSRN or REPEC). Alicia is very active in international media (such as BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC  and CNN) as well as social media (LinkedIn and Twitter). As a recognition of her thought leadership, Alicia was included in the TOP Voices in Economy and Finance by LinkedIn in 2017 and #6 Top Social Media leader by Refinitiv in 2020.

  • Junyun Tan

    Junyu Tan is an economist at French investment bank Natixis specialising in Asia thematic research and is a CFA charterholder.

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