LONDON (Reuters) – China is ready to move on from the coronavirus and get back to business as usual. “With the spread of COVID-19 under control, we should actively carry out the resumption of work and production,” President Xi Jinping said this week.
Xi’s comments, reported by state media under the headline “Chinese president unpauses China’s economy”, were made during a tour of Zhejiang province. (CGTN, part of China Media Group, April 2, 2020)
As ever, Xi’s whistle-stop tour was an exercise in subliminal messaging. Those comments were made during a visit to an auto parts supplier in the Daqi industrial park in the city of Ningbo. He also dropped in on Ningbo Zhoushan port, one of the world’s busiest, and praised it for getting throughput back to pre-coronavirus levels.
The political messaging, however, masks the fragility of China’s metals raw material supply chains. As the coronavirus spreads, so too do the lockdowns on activity in key supplier countries such as Chile, Peru, South Africa and Indonesia.
China has rapidly built out its metals refining capacity over the last decade but at the cost of needing ever more imported raw materials to feed its smelters. Some of those supply chains are now starting to creak.