(CNN)In the city of Geraldton on Australia’s western coast, a backlog of rock lobsters were recently stuck waiting in their tanks, with no market to go to. In New Jersey, a boutique has been unable to fill all its wedding dress orders. A small business owner in London can’t source enough human hair extensions, wigs and weaves for its online sales.
The deadly novel coronavirus that has devastated the Chinese economy is having a ripple effect across the globe. And while it has hit the lucrative auto, tech, energy and tourism industries particularly hard, it is also hurting the small businesses that shape everyday life in just about every corner of the world.
The food we eat, the work we do and the clothes we wear — many are daily reminders of the vital role China plays in the global economy.
In Western Australia, the fishing season had only just begun when the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative was forced to stop buying its members’ rock lobsters, which would have been exported to China for the busy Lunar New Year period. The co-operative usually exports more than 90% of its catch to China and was one of several Australian sellers that halted its exports to the country.
“Like other seafood markets around the world, we have a very fast moving supply chain so we were among the first to feel the commercial impact of Chinese New Year holiday celebrations grinding to a rapid halt,” the co-operative said in a recent newsletter.
“Quite simply, it was necessary to reduce supply given the significantly reduced demand we were facing.”
The co-operative was forced to cut its buying price to $0, to stop fishermen from bringing in lobsters than it couldn’t sell on. The price has crept back up — it’s now at $30-35 — and Australians are enjoying the crustaceans at cut prices. Some stocks will be frozen, while other sellers are looking for other international markets to buy the backlog.
Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, said it would be impossible to quantify the full economic impact of the coronavirus because China has become entwined with so many industries.
This interconnectivity and development in China has happened at an “absolutely phenomenal” pace since the country began economic reforms in the late 1970s under the leader Deng Xiaoping, Tsang said.
“When Deng Xiaoping started the reform from 1979, China’s economy looked a bit like North Korea’s today,” said Tsang. “They were so much behind technologically, industrially, in all kinds of capacity. It went at a pace that’s gone beyond the wildest imagination that Deng Xiaoping had when he set very ambitious targets for China.”
To put this growth in perspective, in 1970, China’s GDP was less than $100 billion, World Bank data shows. The Unites States by that time had just passed the $1 trillion threshold.
The gap between the economies of China and the US is narrowing. Reaping the benefits of globalization, China’s GDP is now roughly $14 trillion, although it is still some way off the United States’ $21 trillion economy.
This remarkable transformation has seen the country transform from the ground up, with more than 800 million people hauling themselves out of poverty, World Bank data shows. Although wealth inequality and human rights violations for some groups are persistent problems, the average Chinese person’s quality of life has substantially improved during the last four decades. Many older Chinese people who were never able to leave the country in their youth can now travel easily. China is now the world’s largest market for outbound travel and the world’s largest