The Pandemic, U.S.-China Tensions and Redesigning the Global Supply Chain
On January 27, 2021, the China Program at Shorenstein APARC hosted Professor Hau L. Lee, The Thoma Professor of Operations, Information & Technology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business for the virtual program “The Pandemic, U.S-China Tensions and Redesigning the Global Supply Chain.” Professor Jean Oi, William Haas Professor of Chinese Politics and director of the APARC China Program, moderated the event.
Professor Lee focused on an important question that has only become more pressing due to the COVID-19 pandemic: How, if at all, should businesses redesign their supply chains? Since the beginning of the pandemic, explains Lee, there has been an increase in calls for “redundancy” in supply chains in order to protect them from the problems they faced early in the pandemic, when China was first hit by shut downs and slowed productivity. Advice has been varied, ranging from the “China Plus One” strategy in which businesses simply add a secondary production location, to completely domesticating supply chains.
Lee warns, however, of the perils of overreaction. There are numerous risks that come along with a fully domestic supply chain, not least the danger of “having all of your eggs in one basket.” Instead, says Lee, businesses should move cautiously and, instead of fully divesting from China, should use the country intelligently.
Professor Lee’s “In and Out Design” encourages businesses to work from the inside out, securing and strengthening their supply chains by starting at home. Companies must first build “internal supply chain excellence,” after which they can move on to making sure their strategic partners are equally strong and can work to their advantage. Eventually, companies can move on to strengthening the extended value chain and, ultimately, their entire ecosystem. Using strategies like dual response, leveraging “lubricants,” and bolstering capacity-building capabilities, businesses can create a more stable future.
The session concluded with a fruitful Q&A between Professor Lee and the audience, moderated by Professor Oi.