China's reputation for coercion is likely to have a positive impact on intra-Asia trade balance in 2021
It's a commonplace to say that without China the intra-Asia trade would be insignificant in terms of container and dollar volumes.
By its own account, at least, China seems to have emerged in better shape than most in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak from which we are now emerging.
Said Bloomberg: "One market showing signs of recovery is China, where the virus’s earliest outbreak has been contained and factories are getting back to work. Reports show both Japanese and South Korean exports to China falling far less than shipments to other key markets, but there’s a risk that collapsing global demand could squash China’s rebound."
And that is the factor that must not be ignored. Not so much "collapsing global demand", but rather the collapsing global demand for goods and services from China. Undoubtedly, demand fell at first, but as America and Europe emerge from their quarantined states, replacement demand will again surge to kick-start western economies.
The main countervailing influence to this positive trend has been and will continue to be the increasingly fierce trench warfare between the two traditional electoral halves of western democracies, who usually vote 50:50 left and right at most elections which are most often very close.
These two halves usually live together between elections peaceably and engage in a little "bit of murder" at elections as one of Disraeli's fictional characters put it. A modus vivendi that was quite acceptable in previous times has proven itself less so in recent years.
It appears that the toleration of the political right to the ever leftward or "progressive" direction of centrist politics, came to a shuttering halt in 2016 with the election of US President Donald Trump the UK's Brexit referendum. And the world has been living with the consequences ever since.
In the past RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in the US and British Conservative "wets" who have dominated their parties have been content to be a sea anchor against the leftward drift of the of their respective ships of state, slowing it to a small extent, but with nary a thought of reversing engines and going the other way.
In 2016, that changed with the election of President Trump and the vote to leave the European Union. Before these votes, the upper reaches of the parliamentary left, combined with the RINOs in the States and the wets in the UK had, felt they had sufficient grip on power to defeat the uprising in their midst and played their hands accordingly.
In both cases, the aftermath was more important than the result as the story since has been an effort to undo the result, because what the victors have in mind is to utterly reform the media, academic bureaucratic complex, which is the power-based of the elites.
The leftist American response has been to delegitimise the election of Donald Trump and frame him for some high crime or misdemeanor, first with the FBI investigation into alleged Russian collusion and then with impeachment trials. In the UK, it started with a foot-dragging exit strategy in which the supposed proponents of Brexit were far too accommodating to those who wanted to remain in the EU. This was sorted out with an election which brought a decidedly pro-Brexit negotiators to the table. In this, the Remain side schemed with the Europeans to stymie the outcome, wanting an extention to trade deal talks after January 1 when the UK will be well and truly out of the clutches of the EU.
The relevance of these events to the prospects of the intra-Asia trade is this: These have been all consuming passions on both sides of the Atlantic and are likely to remain so for the rest of the year.
One thing that must be remembered, that however much the right and left hate each other in the US and the UK, they are agreed on China, which they both regard as a murderous, tyrannical regime that is becoming more so. For its part, China appears quite unconscious of its nature and how it perceived in the world.
It is worth noting that people in Hong Kong, Americans and British, who fiercely disagree about the value of Trump and Brexit are the first to agree on China. On that issue they are one the same side. In Europe, it is much the same. Pro-EU and anti-EU factions come together on China.
The significance of that once these issues subside in the background, as they will over time, the China question will loom in their minds like the Himilayas and become the central focus of a united foreign policy on both sides of the Atlantic on both sides of the aisle.
Should that happen, the UK and the EU will stand as one as they both espouse democracy and rule of law, which is expressly condemned in the Patriotic Education programme Beijing is bent on foisting on Hong Kong schools, seeing it is as flawed political outlook to be rejected by all Chinese patriots. The US factions agree on this in principle as they accuse each other of subverting these principles or not upholding them to the proper extent.
The upshot of this is that as more export trade is withdrawn from China in the process of reshoring, more will land is other countries of Asia. This appears to be the next development in the intra-Asia trade lanes as we emerge from the lockdown and as other matters recede into the rearview mirror, and incidently, the intra-Asia trade becomes more healthly.