The world is at a turning point. Help shape our future by taking this one-minute survey from the United Nations. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN is capturing people's priorities for the future, and crowdsourcing solutions to global challenges. The results will shape the UN's work to recover better from COVID-19, and ensure its plans reflect the views of the global public. Take the survey here.
As the coronavirus pandemic has plunged much of the world economy into turmoil, you've probably heard a lot about what might happen to "supply chains," the vast networks of manufacturing and shipping that help create and deliver all those plastic toys, iPhones, cars, pills, pants, yogurt, and N95 face-masks you've been waiting on.
The future of global supply chains is an especially important question for China, the world's manufacturing powerhouse. Some countries and companies now worry about relying too much on any single supplier for consumer and medical goods, let alone one where the government hid the first evidence of what became a global pandemic and sometimes enforces trade and investment rules in seemingly arbitrary ways. The US-China trade war — and the vulnerabilities it reveals for manufacturers — certainly don't help.
<p>So, as foreign companies worry about whether continuing investment in China is a good idea, many countries are offering themselves as attractive alternatives. </p><p>Here's a look at three of those alternatives... with one big caveat.</p><p><strong>India</strong>. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has long<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/3fbe1c46-0c7f-11ea-8fb7-8fcec0c3b0f9" target="_blank"> sought</a> to boost his country's lagging manufacturing sector. Now New Delhi is redoubling its<a href="https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/covid-19-fall-out-india-lures-global-businesses-with-sops/1848769" target="_blank"> efforts</a> to lure factories out of China, reaching out to firms directly, easing foreign investors' access to land, and even in some cases<a href="https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Indian-states-waive-labor-laws-under-cover-of-coronavirus-crisis" target="_blank"> loosening labor regulations</a>. India's fast-growing population of young people —workers and consumers — makes for a potentially attractive alternative to<a href="https://time.com/5523805/china-aging-population-working-age/" target="_blank"> aging China.</a> But Modi has a problem. His continued fondness for high tariffs as a way to protect local industry, and his decision to<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/05/economy/rcep-trade-deal-india-scli/index.html" target="_blank"> opt out</a> of a major China-led Asian trade pact, limit his country's appeal for other Asian countries. After all, companies may want to leave China, but they still want preferential trade arrangements with the rest of Asia's massive consumer market. </p><p><strong>Vietnam</strong>. As labor costs in China have risen over the past decade, some manufacturing has already relocated to Southeast Asia. Vietnam, which has streamlined trade and investment rules and concluded a free trade deal with the EU, is one of the biggest winners. In the six years to 2019, it alone absorbed almost half of all US manufacturing that left China, according to a<a href="https://www.kearney.com/operations-performance-transformation/us-reshoring-index/full-report" target="_blank"> study</a> by Kearney, a consultancy. Now, having managed both the public health and economic aspects of the coronavirus pandemic well, the country is looking to benefit from a further exodus from China. But as some experts have<a href="https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/06/18/is-vietnam-eating-into-china-s-share-of-manufacturing-pub-82094" target="_blank"> pointed out</a>, the country's relatively small (and aging) population, as well as its own dependency on Chinese imports, may limit its longer term appeal. </p><p><strong>US</strong>. The Trump administration has seized on the economic fallout of what Trump calls "the China virus" to intensify its calls for American firms to bring manufacturing "back" to the US from China. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/11/opinion/coronavirus-jobs-offshoring.html" target="_blank"> wrote</a> that the age of "lemming-like" offshoring is now over. Data backs up his claims: The "Reshoring Index" in that same Kearney report, which measures the movement of manufacturing from Asia to the United States, found the largest reshoring jump on record in 2019. But making things at home is one thing – making them with human hands is another. As we've written, many companies are<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/coronavirus-and-the-robot-revolution" target="_self"> looking to automation</a> to bring manufacturing closer to their home markets while also keeping costs down. That lessens the vulnerability of production to pandemics and tariff wars, but it doesn't do much for jobs.</p><strong>Is China too big to fail?</strong> China still has huge advantages. First, rearranging supply chains isn't like changing table settings – it takes time to reorient billions of dollars in investment and infrastructure. Second, and more importantly, China has a billion consumers. It used to be that foreign companies wanted to be in China mainly because it was a cheap place to make things for export. But as China's own population has gotten more affluent (lifting<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/graphic-truth-china-since-tiananmen" target="_self"> more than 500 million people</a> out of poverty will do that), the country is itself a<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/how-the-coronavirus-hits-the-world-economy" target="_self"> leading consumer market</a> for European and US firms. That makes decisions to leave the country much harder.
More Show less
Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal
July 07, 2020
AMLO and Trump: an unlikely duo – When Mexico's populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, shakes hands with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, it will mark AMLO's first foreign trip since he assumed office nearly two years ago. In the run up to the meeting, both Trump and AMLO have boasted of warm personal ties, but the friendship is… an unlikely one. Recall when AMLO was elected in 2018, most analysts predicted that he would clash with Trump over immigration and trade (AMLO had long advocated for Mexicans' right to work in the United States, while Trump infamously referred to Mexican migrants as "criminals" and vowed to abolish NAFTA, the free trade agreement that was a boon for Mexico's economy.) But in endearing himself to Trump, AMLO may have calculated that, from Mexico's standpoint, a revised trade deal is better than no trade deal at all, and has thus been willing to appease the US president on issues like immigration. (As part of an agreement with the Trump administration, for example, AMLO deployed the National Guard to stop Central Americans trying to reach the US via Mexican territory.) Moreover, in flying to Washington now AMLO might also be keen to distract attention from his own poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen Mexico's death toll surpass 30,000 in recent days, now one of the highest in the world.
<strong>Uighurs seek justice at the ICC – </strong>Activists from two exiled Uighur groups have filed a petition with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to try Chinese officials for genocide and crimes against humanity. The <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/world/asia/china-xinjiang-uighur-court.html" target="_blank">complaint </a>targets 30 members of China's Communist Party, including President Xi Jinping, for their involvement in the detainment of the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. More than one million Uighurs are believed to have been locked up since 2017 as part of what Beijing describes as a benign "deradicalization campaign," but which is widely believed to be a network of internment camps where minorities are held indefinitely without trial. (A chilling <a href="https://apnews.com/269b3de1af34e17c1941a514f78d764c" target="_blank">AP report</a> recently revealed that the Chinese government has used a draconian scheme to cut Uighur birth rates, which included the use of forced sterilization.) The 80-page filing now under consideration by the ICC accuses Beijing of illegally repatriating and incarcerating thousands of Uighurs from Cambodia and Tajikistan. Any rulings by the court, however, are unlikely to move Beijing. China – like the United States – is not a party to the statute that created the ICC, meaning it is under no obligation to cooperate with its findings.
More Show less
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
Got through the Fourth of July. Pretty rough one for 2020 here in the United States. Still in the thick of it as we see caseload exploding in the United States. But really, the virus is all about developing markets right now. Poor countries around the world very soon, with the exception of the US and the UK, all of the top 10 countries around the world in terms of coronavirus caseload will be poorer countries. Let's keep in mind, these are countries that test a lot less, which means the actual numbers, in the United States the experts are saying probable likelihood of total cases is about 10x what we've actually seen in the US, in emerging markets and most of them, it's more like between 20 and 100. In other words, this is really where the virus now is.
<p>Those countries have nowhere near the money to be able to ensure that people can stay locked down and out of work and safe for a long period of time as we have been able to in the United States and Europe and Japan. They aren't going to get enough aid to make up the difference internationally. And, you know, populations are younger. Life is cheaper in these countries. A lot more people die from, they have lower life expectancy, they have worse health care, and so the willingness to, you know, tie yourself in knots over the latest dangerous disease is much less than in a country where every additional person that dies drives political outrage. And it should not be that way. But it is that way. So, you're seeing different policies as a consequence. </p><p>That means de facto herd immunity strategy. Doesn't mean de facto herd immunity, because we still don't know that herd immunity is something that you'll be able to get to. We don't know how long antibodies last. Your first studies now, with just a few months, this disease has been with us as humanity for six months, so we have no idea if herd immunity would apply and if so, to how many people, do you have to have symptoms that are hard or can it can asymptomatic people also have herd immunity? We hope we're going to get to a vaccine. I worry that the Chinese and the Indians are rolling out vaccines before they have adequate human trials, which means that the quality of the vaccines that lots and lots of people get may be considerably substandard and have second-order health effects that are negative. And it also means much more of a fight internationally. The biggest tragedy of coronavirus globally is the fact that the world is so uncoordinated, is so not working together either to ensure that people have treatment, that we have adequate medical supplies, that we have adequate economic response, or that we eventually have adequate vaccine. That is going to continue to make this much worse as a crisis than it otherwise would have been. </p><p>Now, here in the United States, of course, it is certainly good to see that the Trump administration, however late, is now tilting towards telling everyone you should wear a mask. If it was up to me, I would make mask wearing mandatory and I would enforce it and I would have significant fines if you don't. And I would also be looser in opening up economies. So that people could get jobs back, we could go back. I mean restaurants would be a challenge. Bars probably still no go because you can't keep masks on when you're doing that. But certainly stores, office places, all of that, places where people can come and get the economy moving. I want them to do it. But everyone has to wear a mask. And if not, it's really going to cost you. And yeah, you're going to lose some personal liberties, but you're going to maintain your job, your well-being. The economy will do better. And soon enough, we won't have to do it anymore because we'd then be able to get low enough numbers of new cases that we could do the contact tracing that we don't have the people for right now. We could do the quarantining, that we don't have the tests and the people for right now. You've got far fewer cases before the number of tests and contact tracing that America presently has is adequate to actually get to a "we've defeated this virus." </p><p>Short of that, I'm glad that the Trump administration is saying "wear a mask." That's Ivanka. That's Kevin McCarthy. Even Trump in his soon to be rallies, they're handing out masks to everyone and they're going to tell people that you should be wearing them. That's a good thing. And I wish it was happening three or six months ago, but better now than three months from now, especially for an administration that thinks they're losing on coronavirus and doesn't want to talk about it very much. I mean, you saw the Mount Rushmore speech, and this was a pretty significant electoral rally speech and coronavirus was really not even mentioned. And that's in large part because they recognize that it's not a winner for them. They're doing badly on it. So, given all of that, the fact that they are now pivoting towards "wear a mask and get everyone to do it," does show that they want to have more of a handle on this or they fear losing in November. And for the good of the American population and the global economy or the largest economy in the world, I'm really glad for that. </p><p>You know, even Dr. Fauci, who's someone I like quite a bit personally, but remember when at the beginning he was saying, "don't wear a mask, we're not sure does anything." And the reason he was saying that is not that he thought that was true. He knew it wasn't true. But America didn't have adequate numbers of masks. They were concerned people were going to have a run on them and there wouldn't be enough for people in hospitals. That's unacceptable in a country like the United States. A couple of months after we knew that there was a pandemic in place in China. And I mean yes, we lost a month because the Chinese covered it up. But we need to know better. We need to do better than that. So, deeply frustrating from my perspective. Plenty of blame to go around. </p><p>People asking me why I don't focus on the states, it's because mostly I focus on the national level and around the world. But certainly if you focus on the states big mistakes made here in my own New York in terms of getting people out of the hospitals and forcing those with coronavirus to be taken back in elderly homes, assisted living facilities led to vastly more people getting killed than otherwise would have happened. We've seen big mistakes and opening too fast in a lot of states like Texas and Florida, despite Centers for Disease Control guidelines, they were being ignored. And as a consequence, much more spread than we otherwise would have seen. These are horrible things and they're leading to the United States right now, leading the developed world in terms of numbers of cases and also having considerably more deaths per capita than in Japan, than in South Korea, than in Canada, than in Germany. And then in Europe as a whole, though there are European countries that have more per capita deaths than the United States does. But we should be leading. </p><p>We should be doing much better than Europe. Remember, the pandemic only hit the US in scale 10 days after it hit Europe. Therefore, we should have learned from them. Two weeks matters, an immense amount in a pandemic. Our numbers should be better. They're not. And why not? Because at every level of government, we've done a bad job. And the media and social media are also helping people not know what to believe, not know if this is something they should really worry about or if it's fake news. And when you're not leading with science, when the country is immensely divided, then you politicize coronavirus, too. And that ends up killing and enfeebling a lot of people. </p><p>Final thing I would say, it is certainly true that our death toll in the United States looks a lot better right now than our caseload. There are two things you really should focus on: First is that death is by definition a lagging indicator. And especially when mostly young people are getting the disease right now. But the next order people, when they come home, they have the disease. They don't know they have the disease because they're asymptomatic. And we don't test enough. 10 times more people have the disease than we know about in cases that older people will get it. So, then you'll actually have fatality rates go up. And also, let's keep in mind, we do not know what the long-term implications for health and for the economy of people that have this disease and don't die from it. And certainly, we've seen lots of people, including young people, continue to have significant challenges with their own personal health, with their breathing, with their sense of smell, with their energy levels, with heart, other issues for months. And we've only had six months and only three months in the United States with large numbers. </p> So, I don't feel really good about the fact that we've got, you know, a few million cases in the United States and maybe 10 times that in actual numbers of people who got the disease. We have no idea what that's going to do to their health in 10 and 20 years time. Their life expectancy. Their ability to work. Their ability to live functional, happy, productive lives. So, none of this makes me particularly happy right now. But at least top down, you get a feeling like they're taking it more seriously now than they were two weeks ago. I think that's true with the governors. I think that's true with the president and the administration. That's better than the alternative.
More Show less
July 06, 2020
Many countries around the world — mostly democracies in the Americas, Asia, and Europe — have condemned China's recent move to implement a draconian new security law for Hong Kong that in effect ends the autonomy granted to the territory when it reverted from British control to Chinese rule in 1997. However, last week 52 countries expressed support for China's decision at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Most of these countries either owe China a lot of money or are relatively authoritarian regimes themselves — but not all of them. Here's a look at the China-debt exposure and freedom rankings of the countries that took Beijing's side on the new Hong Kong law.