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Asia’s pain unevenly spread as China slows

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By John Foley

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Asia’s falling markets reflect the belief that a slowdown in China will take its toll on the region. But things aren’t so straightforward. Look at what proportion of the region’s largest economies goes to China, and how important those exports are to domestic GDP. Despite a decade of rapid growth, the world’s second-largest economy has had a smaller impact on its neighbours than might be expected.

Graphic: Exports to China as share of GDP  

Consider Australia. A third of its exports go to China, according to calculations based on data from the International Monetary Fund. That’s mostly mined commodities like iron and coal. Yet the total value of those exports was equivalent to just five percent of Australia’s GDP in 2012. Japan is similarly insulated – over a fifth of its exports are China-bound, but those equate to just three percent of total output.

Vietnam is deeper into China’s slipstream. Some 17 percent of exports go to China, reflecting its growing role as a low-cost link in the global manufacturing supply chain. That is equivalent to 13 percent of GDP. South Korea, home to Samsung and Hyundai, exports goods equivalent to 15 percent of GDP to the Middle Kingdom, double the level a decade ago. For Singapore – perhaps unsurprisingly, given its trading roots – exports to China have risen to 32 percent of GDP.

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