Fuyao founder: COVID-19 may weaken China’s global production status

COVID-19 may weaken China’s place in the global supply chain, a Chinese newspaper quotes Cho Tak Wong — founder of Fuyao and its Moraine-based counterpart, Fuyao Glass America — as saying in a newly published interivew.

"Cao Dewang, whose U.S. automotive glass plant was featured in the award-winning documentary American Factory, says China's role in the global supply chain could be weakened after the coronavirus, but it will be an uphill battle for rich economies to rebuild manufacturing at home," said a story published Wednesday in the South China Morning Post.

Cho Tak Wong is also sometimes called Cao Dewang, though he often uses the former name professionally. In 2013, he agreed to build an auto glass factory in the shell of a former General Motors plant in Moraine. Although the community initially expected that plant to have 800 workers, today, more than 2,000 worked there before the pandemic shut down most American auto production.

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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and its brutal economic fallout, some are re-assessing national and international reliance on manufacturing in China.

Credit: Thomas Gnau

Credit: Thomas Gnau

“After the epidemic, the global industrial chain will reduce its dependence on China,” the Hong Kong-based newspaper quoted Cho as saying.

However, the world may find it difficult to replace China as a global supplier, he also says in the piece.

“In the short term, it’s hard to find an economy to replace China in the global industry chain,” said the industrialist billionaire who founded Fuyao in the 1980s.

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Citing official Chinese sources, the newspaper says China’s exports declined 13.3 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, “underlining the damage being wrought by the coronavirus in particular.”

The story also quotes David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as saying the pandemic could push the U.S. and China further apart economically.

“This crisis is more likely to accelerate decoupling than to lead to better cooperation,” Dollar is quoted as saying.

In his most recent interview with the Dayton Daily News, Cho in late February said he expected then to continue investing in his American operations, as long as they’re profitable. He has invested some $600 million in the Moraine plant and a raw materials supply plant in Illinois.

“We have to make it profitable, and then we’ll have the ability to continue to invest,” he said then, “We will continue to grow, and we will continue to invest. There’s no question.”

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