By Abu Naser Al Farabi
Within the broader context of global commerce and cooperation, the first China International Supply Chain Expo (CISCE), which takes place in Beijing from November 28 to December 2, emerges not merely as a traditional expo, but as an innovative and pioneering endeavor. Unlike traditional expos, the CISCE is not confined to regional or sectoral boundaries; instead, it stands as an open invitation to the world, symbolizing China's commitment to providing a global public good that transcends geopolitical barriers.
Five sectors dominate participation at the expo: smart vehicles, agriculture, clean energy, digital technology, and health. The Expo attracts over 500 organizations from 55 countries and regions. A good number of Fortune Global 500 companies, including Amazon, ExxonMobil, Apple, FedEx, Tesla, General Medical, Intel, HP, Qualcomm, and Honeywell, are slated to participate, showcasing their innovative technologies, goods, and services in the critical connections of the global supply chain.
China has been in the spotlight as the host of several monumental international events for at least the past half a year. From the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October to the resounding success of the China International Import Expo in early November, the nation has consistently proven its commitment to fostering international collaboration.
Yet, amidst this grandeur, the CISCE stands out as a true pioneer, not just because it is China's first national-level expo dedicated to global industrial and supply chain issues; it also shines a light on one of the most pressing issues of our time, with the central aim of developing a unified response to the stresses plaguing the global supply chain.
The Tesla booth at the first China International Supply Chain Expo in Beijing, capital of China, November 26, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]
Recent years have borne witness to a cascade of seismic shocks, from the China-U.S. trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, all of which not only exposed the inherent vulnerabilities but have laid bare the fragility woven into the intricate fabric of our global industrial and supply chain networks. Those shocks have also illustrated how woefully unprepared we are both globally and nationally.
Although the talks about industrial and supply chain readjustments began prior to the commencement of the trade war between the two largest economies in the world in 2018, it was during this period that the matter garnered a significant surge and peaked roughly two years later with the emergence of COVID-19.
In an interconnected world, addressing policy challenges by forging a coordinated regulatory environment is always daunting due to the diverse positions of individual countries in the geopolitical field. The task is far more difficult when it comes to forging shared policy approaches toward reconfiguring existing shocks-prone global supply chains. The labyrinthine web of interconnected trade networks, with threads stretching across continents, demands a level of coordination that surpasses conventional policy challenges.
The imperative to reconfigure supply chains has surged to the forefront of strategic initiatives undertaken by businesses, firms, and nations alike. However, while the resounding call for supply chain resilience has echoed across industries and nations, a discernible gap emerges: a significant lack of coordinated efforts to guarantee that the reorganization efforts will result in a truly robust, resilient, and efficient global supply chain network.
In the pursuit of a resilient supply chain – one that withstands constant disruptions and adapts to changing needs – effective readjustment policies hinge on a shared vision, common aspiration, and collective prosperity.
Unfortunately, some countries, motivated by geopolitical considerations, have opted for unilateral policy measures, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. Over several decades, globalization has flourished through the unfettered movements of goods, services, data, and capital, along with the unrestricted movement of people.
However, a growing number of actors now view these flows as strategic currency. Unilateral policy shifts, driven by the geo-strategically motivated notions of "decoupling," "de-risking," etc., are fragmenting the global supply chain, weakening the integrative forces that once fueled economic and trade cohesion.
Against this backdrop, the CISCE emerges as a guiding light, opening doors to a future where cooperation knows no bounds and mutual gains serve as the currency of prosperity. With the theme "Connecting the World for a Shared Future," the first CISCE unfolds as an expansive international platform, seamlessly integrating the entire supply chain spectrum, fostering collaboration across enterprises of varying scales, and serving as a catalyst for cross-pollination between industry, academia, and research.
As an inaugural global public platform dedicated to the global industrial and supply chain, the CISCE is poised to facilitate discussions on diverse policy approaches, harmonize these strategies for mutual benefits, narrow policy gaps, exchange knowledge, spur innovation, and foster collaborations among a wide range of stakeholders.
Abu Naser Al Farabi, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a Dhaka-based analyst focusing on international politics, especially Asian affairs.