OPINION

What effect is 2019-nCoV likely to have on China and world’s economy?

Chinese scholars like Liu Kan and Lu Chuanying etc. of SIIS gave three major views, both in China and abroad, about the negative impacts of the 2019-nCov epidemic on China’s economy. The “critical impact” assessment goes like that it will have serious effects on the already slackening Chinese economy, even causing a slide of its growth rate and handicapping global economy. Based on data about the economic impact of SARS in 2003,the“manageable impact” viewers believe that the epidemic will have only limited and controllable effect on China’s economy, and that China’s economic performance of the whole year will not be much influenced despite a declining growth rate in the first quarter. The “uncertain impact” theory  holds that historical evidence does not tell much about the future economic trajectory, but the actual economic impact depends on how long the epidemic will last. After all, China’s economic size(99 trillion RMB in GDP)is 9 times that of 2003(11.7 trillion RMB).

Indeed, it would be imprudent to judge the economic impact of the epidemic by historical experience. The new millennium has witnessed the outbreak of a number of epidemics, natural disasters or other acute incidents in China. Yet the Chinese government has managed to contain and tackle them one by one, including SARS in2003,HIN1(swine flu)in2009,and H7N9(bird flu),as well as the Wen Chuan earthquake in 2008.Even in face of the rampant global financial crisis in 2009,China was able to maintain steady growth of economy with a strong stimulus package and collective international efforts led by the Group of Twenty(G20).

However, experts believe that the potential impacts of the 2019-nCov epidemic can be different from all the previous epidemics and other incidents .For one thing, it occurs when China’s economy, in the midst of a transition from high-speed growth to high-quality development, faces three daunting tasks domestically; externally, with globalization under unprecedented challenges and China-U.S. trade frictions only starting to ease, China’s economy will be further hit if the epidemic is out of control. For another thing, the current epidemic has influenced larger areas and to greater degrees. Not only are the complete quarantine of Wuhan city and first-level response applied by more than 30 provinces or municipalities the first time in history, but the epidemic has impacted all economic fields across the nation; its effect on small-and medium-sized enterprises is yet to be seen, while China’s employment, local government debt issue, and stability of the RMB value are all under severe test. It is widely forecast that China’s economic growth will be down by 1 to 1.5 percentage point. Some even doubt if China’s economy can achieve a 5-percent growth in 2020.

Experts noted that, to be more specific, the 2019-nCov epidemic poses direct harm on three main sectors of China’s economy: the service sector, especially such consumer industries as tourism, catering, entertainment and logistics; the manufacturing sector, typically in mobile phone, automobile and electronic industries, due to indefinite time for return to operation; and the trade sector, owing to potential cuts or even shutdown of airlines, sea routes and borders by some countries as a result of the prevailing panic or geopolitical considerations.

The impacts on the world macro-economy, as experts forecast, are likely to be severe. Simply put, China is much bigger, more intertwined with the global economy and in a more different development period than it was 17 years ago. Weakening demand for manufactured goods and tourism etc. will hit many related sectors worldwide. China has also become a major part of global value chains, which (if disrupted) could have major implications for international companies. The outbreak of the epidemic also poses the trading and shipping industries with various challenges. It is widely believed that the world economic growth rate may be contracted at least for 0.3% or even more depending on the concerted stimulating measures taken by the major economies. 

Nevertheless, the resilience of China’s economy cannot be underestimated. Even in the short term, the epidemic does not cause merely negative effect on economy, but it has benefited such industries as electronic commerce and online game and entertainment. At the same time, the Chinese government boasts strong financial capacity in crisis management; more policy measures will be adopted as the epidemic continues. In the mid-term, some Americans doubt if China is able to fulfill its commitment made in the Phase I deal with the United States; however, China’s purchase of U.S. agricultural products is expected to reach a new high for the deal has greatly wiped off the uncertainty of China-U.S. trade relations; besides, due to the epidemic, China is very likely to increase purchase of other products, such as medical equipment and supplies. Notably, the epidemic will be taken into full consideration in the making of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan(2021-2025)and new measures are expected to be adopted to stimulate economy for the next five years. In the long run, as China has grown to be the second largest economy, the epidemic cannot undermine its huge potential in consumption, urbanization, and such new economic fields as 5G and artificial intelligence. Furthermore, the major economies will come up with a serial of strong monetary and fiscal policies to stimulate the growth which may stop the whole world economy from turning down further. 

By :Li Bijian

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