Coronavirus News Asia

Virus forces Chinese exporters to look inwards

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Cancelled shipments, returned goods and a dearth of new orders have left China exporters in crisis as the coronavirus hits its trading partners worldwide – accelerating a long-standing push towards domestic consumption.

The world’s second-largest economy is stirring back to life after virus cases dwindled from a peak in February, when activity came to a near-halt.

But recovery is now hampered by lockdowns and restrictions overseas as the coronavirus continues its deadly march across the planet, with exporters forced to look to domestic markets after years of selling overseas.

Chinese online marketplace Taobao said the number of foreign trading companies opening stores on its domestic-focused platform spiked 160% from February to May.

And policymakers – who have sought for years to wean the country off cheap exports and government spending in favor of domestic consumption – are welcoming the change.

“When there is no light in the west, there is light in the east,” the commerce minister, Zhong Shan, told reporters at a briefing this week.

He said domestic sales from export businesses rose 17% in April, and the government was supporting trading enterprises that specialized in foreign sales to tap the home market instead.

Foreign sales used to make up nearly half of toymaker Shantou Beilisi’s turnover, but this plummeted to just 5% after the virus struck.

General manager Chen Zhuoyue told AFP that orders from his largest export markets, the United States and Europe, are now “basically negligible”.

“Many countries there imposed lockdowns and the global flow of logistics is another issue… these have affected our order volume,” he said.

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