China remains on track to grow nearly 2% this year, the most of any major economy, while the world is expected to contract by 4.4% and the U.S. by 4.3%, according to the International Monetary Fund. Other Asian economies are close behind China: Vietnam is expected to grow 1.6%, Taiwan is expected to be flat from a year earlier and South Korea is forecast to contract modestly at 1.9%.
But they also derive an especially large part of their growth from exports of manufactured goods to the rest of the world, especially the U.S. and Europe. Asian economies are among the largest producers of laptops, communication equipment, TVs and other household goods that have experienced surges in demand as the pandemic forced people to stay home.
“We call it the Zoom boom,” said Rory Green, an economist at research firm TS Lombard who covers China and North Asia, referring to the increase in demand for screens and laptops as more people work from home.
A key question is whether all that demand can be sustained as Covid-19 caseloads surge again in the West. Stimulus paychecks have been spent and even if cases of infection come down again, there is a limit to how many smartphones and other devices people need to work and study from home.