The World’s Next Factory Won’t Be in South Asia
By Irene Yuan Sun
Vietnam seems to be the consensus pick for winner of the U.S.-China trade war, as Chinese and other manufacturers shift production to the cheaper Southeast Asian nation. If there’s a loser, at least in terms of missed opportunities, it may be the countries of South Asia.
To understand why, remember that the trade war has only accelerated an important trend a decade in the making. Faced with rising costs, Chinese manufacturers must decide whether to invest in labor-saving automation technologies or to relocate. Those choosing the latter present an enormous opportunity for less-developed countries, as Chinese companies can help spark industrialization and much-needed economic transformation in their new homes.
There may not be another such chance this generation. The only proven pathway to long-lasting, broad-based prosperity has been to build a manufacturing sector linked to global value chains, which raises productivity levels and creates knock-on jobs across the whole economy. This was how most rich nations, not to mention China itself, lifted themselves out of poverty.
Photo courtesy of faungg’s photos.