Until recently, most policymakers and investors remained complacent about the potential economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. As late as the end of February, most wrongly assumed that it would have only a brief, limited, China-specific impact. Now they realize that it is generating a global shock, which may be sharp—but which most still expect to be short. But what if the economic disruption has an enduring impact? Could the coronavirus pandemic even be the nail in the coffin for the current era of globalization?
The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the downsides of extensive international integration while fanning fears of foreigners and providing legitimacy for national restrictions on global trade and flows of people.
All sorts of businesses have suddenly realized the risks of relying on complex global supply chains that are specific not just to China—but to particular places such as Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic. Chinese people—and now Italians, Iranians, Koreans, and others—have become widely seen as vectors of disease; senior Republican politicians in the United States have even labeled the disease the “Chinese coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, governments of all stripes have rushed to impose travel bans, additional visa requirements, and export restrictions. The travel ban on most arrivals from Europe that U.S. President Donald Trump announced on March 11 is particularly broad, but far from unique. All of this is making economies more national and politics more nationalistic.