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Asia Minute: Tianjin’s Tragedy Carries Unknown Economic Cost

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

Many questions still linger about last week’s toxic chemical explosion in China.  The blast killed more than a hundred people and injured hundreds more.  Scores are still missing and hundreds of other people have been driven from their homes.  While the extent of the incident’s economic damage remains unclear, certain impacts are starting to emerge.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The port of Tianjin is one of China’s biggest…the 10th busiest container ship port in the world.  Beijing is less than 75 miles away.  Tianjin also hosts a free-trade zone which has helped attract international corporate investment in the form of factories or distribution centers from names including Wal-Mart and Airbus to John Deere and Toyota.

The extent of disruption varies from company to company, and the overall picture is still not clear.  John Deere has some building damages and has suspended production indefinitely.  Toyota’s three factory lines are functional, although the automaker has stopped work at least until Wednesday.

Tianjin is also the route for most cars imported into northern China.  The BBC reports 27,000 Volkswagen vehicles were damaged in last Wednesday’s explosion…along with 15,000 from the French automaker Renault.  The Korean automaker Hyundai also has damaged cars, but has not yet released specific numbers.

Iron ore destined for anywhere in northern China is shipped through Tianjin from Australia by BHP Billiton which is experiencing delays.  Bloomberg reports more than a hundred commercial ships are anchored off the coast as of Monday, waiting for port operations to stabilize.   

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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