Finbarr Bermingham

Finbarr Bermingham

Production Editor, Political Economy

Finbarr Bermingham is a contributor to Inkstone. He is a production editor at the South China Morning Post focused on China’s political economy.

Language spoken
English
Areas of Expertise
Trade, economics, geopolitics
Trump trade policies may have been bad for America
When the US-China trade war kicked off in 2018, Xu Yanlin, a senior sales manager for a Guangzhou company selling clothes and household items on Amazon, worried that her US market would collapse. But instead, her online store thrived, as the firm jacked up prices and passed Donald Trump’s trade war tariffs on to customers. “The tariffs were absorbed by American consumers themselves. We have generally increased the unit price this year. For example, a design for which we charged $16 before is now priced at about $19.99,” said Xu. Some 6,959 miles away in Phoenix, Arizona, Barry Vogel, CEO of industry group Audio & Loudspeaker Technologies International, said the tariffs were a “double whammy
What four years of Trump meant for manufacturers
When Donald Trump was elected US President in 2016, almost all of M Group Corporation’s high-end hotel furniture fittings were made in China. Now, after four years of being pummeled by anti-dumping duties, tariffs and extreme political volatility, about half are made in China, with the balance of production scattered around Vietnam, Malaysia and Eastern Europe. “We eventually came up with a solution, and the only real winner was my frequent flier program,” said the American company’s president H David Murray. “My eldest son and I traveled just about all over the world to find resources.” First Trump slapped 341% anti-dumping duties on Chinese-made quartz worktops, then followed up with tari
Trump and Biden both vow to reduce reliance on China, but methods will be ‘night and day’
In his Mexico City office, while the coronavirus pandemic has raged, Samuel Campos’s phone has been ringing off the hook with firms looking to move their manufacturing to Mexico. “Since the trade deal this year, I think our volume is up around 30% to 40%,” said Campos, managing director at commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank, pointing to the revamped US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that went into effect in July. The callers used to be mainly European and American, looking to escape China to avoid trade war tariffs or to be closer to their consumer markets. But in recent months, Chinese firms have been calling too – all keen on managing the costs and volatility that come with
Chinese cotton ban set to shake up global fashion trade
US apparel groups are expecting a Trump administration decision as early as this week blocking imports of Chinese-made textile and apparel products, according to textiles industry sources and a former Trump White House trade official. The decision is expected to be made on the grounds that the products were made with forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China.  Such a move has the potential to affect tens of billions of dollars of US textile and clothing imports that contain cotton, yarn or fabric produced in the far-western region. It also could boomerang back on US cotton producers if Beijing retaliates. The US has accused the Chinese government of engaging in “widespread forced labor,”
Hong Kong scrambles after US says city ‘no longer autonomous’
Economists, diplomats and business figures were scrambling on Thursday to quantify the effect of Washington’s decision to deem Hong Kong “no longer autonomous” from China.  The US decision came hours before China’s top legislature endorsed moves to impose national security legislation on the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the promise that it would enjoy a high degree of autonomy.  Many of the Hong Kong stakeholders gamed out the “nuclear option,” in which the United States revokes the city’s special trading status. Former White House officials said that the most likely immediate scenario is that US President Donald Trump approves a “variety” of sanctions
Coronavirus pandemic pushes US, China into ‘new Cold War’
A dramatic deterioration in US-China relations in recent days has convinced current and former government advisers on both sides that bilateral ties have plummeted to their lowest point in decades. Over the past week, the Trump administration has threatened to scrap an initial trade deal and increase tariffs on China, backed tough new export controls for Chinese firms buying American tech products, and continued to push theories claiming the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in the city of Wuhan. The White House is also “turbocharging” an initiative among “friendly nations” to push manufacturing supply chains out of China, according to Reuters.  And a leaked report from the US Departme
‘Literally chaos’: inside the stampede to buy masks and ventilators in China
A “wild feeding frenzy” is under way in China for medical equipment crucial to containing the spread of the coronavirus around the world. Scalpers stake out factories with suitcases loaded with cash to secure millions of surgical masks hot off the production line. Dealers trade ventilators back and forth as if they were cargos of coal before they finally reach the end buyer carrying eye-watering mark-ups. Governments wire eight-figure sums of money for vital equipment only to lose out to another government that was quicker to produce the cash. We are slap bang in the middle of a gold rush for the year’s most sought-after commodities – masks, gloves, thermometers, ventilators, hospital beds,
Inside China’s race to sell coronavirus testing kits to the world
As the horror of the coronavirus outbreak in China was unfolding over January’s Lunar New Year holiday, a group of technicians were holed up in a Nanjing facility with a supply of instant noodles, working long hours to develop testing kits for diagnosing the virus. Already at that point, the coronavirus had ripped through the city of Wuhan and was spreading rapidly around China. A handful of diagnostic tests had already been approved by the central government in Beijing, but hundreds of firms in China were still scrambling to develop new ones. “I did not think about applying for approvals in China,” said Zhang Shuwen, founder of Nanjing Liming Bio-products. “The application takes too much ti
China’s economy fell off a cliff during coronavirus lockdown
The coronavirus’ impact on China’s economy was made plain in new numbers released on Monday, which showed a collapse across the board. Strict containment efforts, including the full-scale lockdown of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first reported, has led analysts to downgrade their outlook for the Chinese economy, with most now expecting a historic contraction in the first quarter. On Monday, newly released economic data points fell dramatically further than analysts had predicted. For example, retail sales,  a key metric of consumption in the world’s second-largest economy, fell by 20.5%, the first decline on record.  The median forecast of a group of analysts, conducted by Bloomberg
How face masks are reminding the world of China's manufacturing dominance
The Liu family factory has been making diapers and baby products in the Chinese city of Quanzhou for over 10 years. In February, for the first time, it started making face masks, as demand soared spectacularly due to the coronavirus outbreak. The business – which employs 100 people in the southeastern province of Fujian – has added two production lines to make up to 200,000 masks a day. And while the decision was primarily commercial, “encouragement” from the Chinese government – in the form of subsidies, lower taxes, interest-free loans, fast-track approvals for expansion and help to alleviate labor shortages – made the decision an obvious one, said Mr Liu, who preferred only to give his fa