China watcher and CFR-scholar Ian Johnson opens a roundtable conference at the National University of Singapore on the question whether the world is heading for a new cold war, now the tensions between China and the USA have not diminished after the US president Joe Biden took over from Donald Trump.
Last week we saw a resumption of economic activities in China, and hoped our speakers’ business would be up to steam before the summer, including a few months for event organizers to get their act together. But recent developments show that the coronavirus crisis might only be starting in the rest of the world, as European countries and the US have started to lockdown their economic activities to stop the spread of the virus. Together with gloomy assessments of the lackluster way those countries deal with the crisis, our first analysis might have been too optimistic.
China and South Korea might be starting to resume their economies, the rest of the world is getting further into lock-down mode. After Italy, the rest of Europe and the United States are only at the beginning of the corona virus pandemic. And for sure nobody in those countries is in de mood to prepare for a life after the current crisis.
At the China Speakers Bureau, we do start to look ahead, also as more events are cancelled and international flights still seem in a unstoppable free fall. But one thing is sure: even when timing is unclear, this crisis will be disappearing in the months to come, even when experts already predict a second wave of patients after the summer. In our line of business the average lead time between inquiries for speaker’ assignments and execution is on average three months, and we do not want to start for resumption of our business until the pandemic has officially stopped.
With all possible caveats: early signs do indicated the coronavirus is slowly retreating in China. That might reverse, as workers are slowly returning to work, and quarantine measure are partly revoked. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, notably South-Korean, Japan, Iran and Italy are fighting their own hot spots of the coronavirus and the fears of a global pandemic outbreak are all but over.
When you follow our social media feeds at Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you might notice that our China news – not related to the coronavirus – is growing since the weekend, and that is a good sign too. But still, we do not expect the event industry to pick up before May, and much might depend not only on China and the success of its quarantine measure, but also how the virus is developing in the rest of the world.
China’ struggle against the coronavirus has been on the front pages worldwide on the past weeks. Western CEO’s of companies with operations in China have been calling for calm and try to convince their audiences all is well for those operations. The question is whether that is more than wishful thinking.
China has been into lunar festival mode over the past weeks and all offices and factories would have been closed anyway. Damage might have been obvious in the consumer industry as even outside Wuhan many inhabitants kept off the streets. But the major question is now, as the lunar festival holidays end, whether China’s massive work force returns to their workplaces.
2019 is ending and we have some interesting trends to observe. In the China-related speakers’ business, we saw an encouraging expansion beyond the usual suspects: the US, Western Europe and developed parts of Asia. This year we dealt more than ever with Latin America, South Africa, Eastern Europe and last night Ian Johnson returned from a successful trip to Abu Dhabi, where he spoke for the Emirates Center For Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).