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Tech addicted to China and decoupling impossible

by on28 May 2024

GlobalData says supply chains China dependent

It would be impossible for the world’s technology industry to decouple its supply chains from China, say analysts for GlobalData.

GlobalData’s latest report with the catchy title, “Thematic Intelligence: Supply Chain Disruption” had a look how companies could improve supply chain resilience by relocating production closer to home, diversifying their supply chain, digitalising their networks, and adopting a circular economy model.

Unfortunately, reworking supply chains was complex and expensive, with no quick fixes. As the world’s manufacturing hub, China controls many global supply chains. Given the country’s massive investments in digital and clean energy technologies, a complete decoupling from China is virtually impossible.

GlobalData Thematic Analyst Carolina Pinto said: “Supply chain disruptions are becoming worse and more frequent. Geopolitical fractures, climate change, and demographic changes exacerbate these disruptions. However, it is trade restrictions that are primarily driving the reshoring efforts.”

From materials to end products, Chinese suppliers are not only major producers of consumer goods and electronics, but China also dominates the solar panels, batteries, and 5G infrastructure industries.

Strong economic growth and other developments have changed some of the factors that first made China an attractive manufacturing destination: China no longer has the scale of cheap labor it once had; China has a shrinking population; and China is a major target of decoupling efforts.

To make matters worse, the US-China trade war is increasing the regulatory and reputational risks of doing business in China. As a result, more companies are relocating their manufacturing to countries that carry less geopolitical risk.

Pinto continues: “The Chinese government’s long-term plan to make China self-sufficient anticipated the importance of emerging technologies to the future global economy and invested billions in digital and clean energy technologies. A fast and cost-effective energy transition will still rely heavily on Chinese supply chains.”

Companies must assess the best destination for relocating production and finding new suppliers to decouple from China and build supply chain resilience. Depending on a country’s physical infrastructure, workforce, and existing industrial environment, a company can choose to move supply chain operations back to its home country, a nearby country, or a politically and economically allied country.

Pinto adds: “Western and the Chinese government are heavily subsidiaing reshoring efforts of critical industries. However, high production costs and severe labour shortages make reshoring for Western companies a costlier process.”

Western companies are more likely to nearshore or friendshore, meaning they move supply chain operations closer to the final consumer, but not back to the home country. This can reduce the cost of transportation while complying with trade restrictions and avoiding high labour costs.

Pinto concludes: “Latin America is a promising nearshoring location for many US tech companies. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico have strong engineering talent with expertise in the cloud, AI, and cybersecurity. Companies outsourcing to Latin America can benefit from a large pool of talent, low labour costs due to lower average wages and very high inflation, and proximity to the US.”

Ironically this means that local jobs are still not going to happen despite huge amounts of subsidies being flung at tech companies.

Last modified on 28 May 2024
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