COVID-19

China’s service economy imperiled by virus emergency

Scott Tong Jan 24, 2020
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Residents wear masks while buying vegetables in the market on Jan. 23th, 2020 in Wuhan, China. Getty Images
COVID-19

China’s service economy imperiled by virus emergency

Scott Tong Jan 24, 2020
Residents wear masks while buying vegetables in the market on Jan. 23th, 2020 in Wuhan, China. Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The coronavirus in China has come during Chinese New Year, its biggest holiday. Which means it’s hitting what’s now a critical part of the Chinese economy: the service sector.

Chinese factories are struggling from the U.S. trade war, but China’s overall economy is still growing at a rate of about 6% because of its service economy: retail, transportation, hotels and entertainment.

“One of the big successes for China’s policymakers has been a rebalancing away from an old, clunking, heavily-polluting industrial sector, towards a larger role for services,” said Tom Orlik, chief economist at Bloomberg Economics. 

Services are now at risk because the virus is keeping people at home. Movie screenings have been canceled. Travel is down, and so is eating out.

Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, said the service slowdown could spill over to the rest of the world.

‘If you are even a U.S. company that flies people to the impacted areas, you’re going to be impacted,” El-Erian said. “The longer this uncertainty lasts, the more the spillovers start to cascade.”

During China’s SARS virus outbreak 17 years ago, growth dipped and came right back. Now, though, said Michael Hirson who covers China at the Eurasia Group, China’s economy is much bigger — and more globally linked. 

“And that’s why you see companies like cruise lines and tourism [and] casinos being impacted by this, in ways that they weren’t when SARS hit,” Hirson said.

One bright spot could be video games for people stuck at home. The top game in China right now is called “Plague Inc.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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