The split between the world’s two largest economies would likely force Southeast Asian countries to take sides, he said, even though they would want to be “pragmatic” and remain friendly with both countries for as long as possible. “Being in Asia, the pull from China’s gravity in terms of its size and its influence would be hard to resist,” said Tay during the firm’s Asia Macroeconomic Quarterly Update virtual seminar on Monday. “That’s not a knockdown argument to say that they will all side with China in that case,” he added. “But there is that risk to consider.”
In recent months, Washington has made it more and more difficult for Huawei to purchase semiconductors needed to manufacture its products. The Trump administration has also tried to remove Beijing-based video-sharing app TikTok from U.S. app stores, though a U.S. court eventually blocked that order temporarily.
“It’s easy to imagine an American consumer not trusting a Chinese tech company to be scrupulous in terms of safeguarding their privacy, and likewise, for a Chinese consumer with regard to U.S. tech companies,” Tay said. That’s especially likely if the U.S.-China relationship worsens and there’s a lot of mistrust “not just between the government but between the people of these two major world powers,” he added.
Consumers from both sides already appear to be boycotting products from each other, as nationalism rose after the coronavirus pandemic broke out. A report by Deutsche Bank Research in May said a survey found that 41% of Americans will not buy “Made in China” products again, while 35% of Chinese will not buy “Made in USA” goods.