Workers hurry to produce protective suits and face masks at a factory in Hai’an, East China’s Jiangsu Province on Thursday amid the nationwide battle against the coronavirus epidemic. As production is resuming after Spring Festival, China can produce about 32,000 protective suits and 15 million face masks a day, which has eased the medical supply shortage. Photo: cnsphoto
The US House of Representatives recently saw the establishment of a Congressional Supply Chain Caucus, media reports said, as the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is disrupting global supply chains and threatening access to products. There is no denying that sometimes governments need to step forward and play a role in supply chain management, but the caucus must be careful that it is not used by some politicians to push forward a China-US decoupling.
In a letter to congressional colleagues, the caucus stated that it will work to “strengthen and add resiliency to protect the delivery system, which can be severely harmed by geopolitical events such as the recent coronavirus outbreak that has had significant impacts on global supply chains,” according to media reports.
It is not clear what kind of innovative solutions the caucus will come up with to address disruptions caused by the epidemic. The US, as the center of the global economy, already has the world’s most developed supply chain network. There is no need to exaggerate the vulnerabilities of its supply chain.
Indeed, the epidemic created temporary difficulties in China’s production and global supply chains, but as the epidemic situation has generally stabilized, the country’s social production and economic operation is gradually returning to normal. China will continue its support of the US supply chain. In the highly globalized world, any attempt to cut off global industrial chains or clamor for industrial transfers and decoupling is neither realistic nor wise.
Although some US politicians have tried to exploit fears of medical supply shortages to call for the return of relevant industries to the US in recent days, such concerns cannot be eased by bringing a complete industrial chain “home.” Without sufficient incentives, no producer could be motivated to produce high-cost face masks, for example, in the US.
Fundamentally speaking, supply chain adjustment should depend more on market forces. The Chinese and US economies are highly complementary. Even during the global fight against the virus, China needs to import medical equipment and drugs from the US while exporting medical goods like protective suits and masks.
Attempts to renationalize industrial chains won’t create a supply system that is resilient to various risks. Without global cooperation, no country can stand alone to safeguard its own supply chain.