East Asia cooperation needed to fight coronavirus

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/3 21:43:40

Supportive banners outside the South Korean Embassy in Beijing. Photo: South Korean Embassy

As the coronavirus epidemic in China has been reined in with the daily number of new cases falling sharply, the situations in South Korea and Japan deteriorate. It seems that South Korea and Japan have joined China to become main epidemic battlegrounds, a change in the global fight against the virus that will likely cause further shocks to global supply chains and the world economy.

In South Korea, the hardest-hit country beyond China, authorities raised the coronavirus alert to the "highest level" last month, while the Japanese government has vowed to take every necessary measure to ensure it is able to host the Olympics this year. And more economic implications of the epidemic could be seen in the three East Asian countries, considering their close economic ties.

Since China's manufacturing sector relies heavily on the supply of parts from South Korea and Japan, media reports recently suggested that the spread of the coronavirus in those two countries may deal another blow to Chinese factories that are struggling to resume work. South Korea and Japan are both important trading partners for China, and the three saw their trade value rise from $130 billion in 1999 to more than $720 billion in 2018.

Moreover, given the major East Asian economies' positions in the global value chain, they are also of great importance to stabilizing the global economy. China, Japan and South Korea account for nearly 24 percent of the world GDP, with their trade exceeding 18 percent of the global total. Over the years, the three economies have not only dominated the regional industrial chain in Asia, but they have become one of the engines driving global economic growth.

In this sense, the regional supply chain disruption threatening the world economy highlights the necessity of strengthening cooperation among the three countries to combat the virus and mitigate economic damage.

To a certain extent, cooperation and mutual assistance to fight the virus have already started. When the epidemic began to spread rapidly in China a few weeks ago, Japan and South Korea offered China abundant medical aid. Now, as companies that supply medical goods such as face masks and protective suits gradually resume operations, China has also begun donating medical supplies to its two neighbors.

At present, the epidemic situation in China is generally stabilizing. While China's approach led to the quarantining of the whole country - which carried a huge price - that may not suit Japan and South Korea. However, some of its experience in containing the virus could still be shared. Furthermore, with Chinese companies back on track, China can also assist Japan and South Korea in containing the virus while minimizing its impact on production.

We hope that despite their different ways of handling the epidemic, the three East Asian economies will strengthen cooperation to establish an effective prevention and treatment system that could bring the virus under control as soon as possible.

Posted in: GT VOICE

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