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Asia Pacific Business Review

For a Special Issue on

The COVID-19 pandemic, de-globalization, and sustainability of global supply chains in the Asia Pacific: challenges and opportunities

Manuscript deadline
01 March 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Hailong Jia, School of Public Administration, South China University of Technology, China
[email protected]

Mingwei Liu, School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA
[email protected]

Chris Rowley, Kellogg College, University of Oxford & Bayes Business School. City University of London, UK

Ingyu Oh, Dept. of Global Engagement, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan

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The COVID-19 pandemic, de-globalization, and sustainability of global supply chains in the Asia Pacific: challenges and opportunities

The idea of global supply chain sustainability is built on the triple-bottom-line (TBL) framework originally proposed by Elkington (1997) in the study of business strategies and later expanded in the research on global supply chains (Seuring and Müller 2008). The TBL framework emphasizes that sustainable supply chains should maintain environmental quality and advance social justice, particularly the fair distribution of the benefits and costs of global supply chains among different social groups, while promoting economic development or corporate performance (Seuring and Müller 2008; Khan et al. 2021).

Neoliberalism that advocates the importance of macro institutions such as free market, limited government intervention, and privatization (Friedman 1962) is a major theoretic approach examining this issue from macro perspectives. Its proponents argue and find that the proliferation of global supply chains driven by neoliberalism promotes economic efficiency for individual firms, more efficient allocation of resources, faster macro-economic development, more employment and rising wages (Krugman 2011). However, some of the critics of neoliberalism and modernisation theory, based on theories such as dependency and world systems, emphasize that countries at the core and at the peripheral are impacted differently by globalization (Stiglitz 2002; Rajeev et al. 2017). Some, drawing on institutional theory, argue and find that the economy, embedded in social institutions other than the economic ones, should not and cannot develop unfettered (Bruton, Ahlstro, and Li 2010).

When narrowing down to firm-level strategies and practices in global supply chains and the initiatives or responses of other actors, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature stands out. The stakeholder theory, most popular in the CSR literature, suggests businesses have economic, environmental and social responsibilities towards a range of stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers and local communities, and these stakeholders have rights to take active roles to improve the sustainability of global supply chains (Freeman and Reed 2014). Another theory that the CSR literature and other related studies often draw on is institutional theory. It emphasizes that behaviors of businesses and other actors are shaped by formal institutions such as international treaties, domestic laws and codes of conduct and informal norms such as local cultures and traditions (Westermann-Behaylo, Berman, and Van Buren 2014). More business-centric theories like resource-based competitiveness theory pay more attention to how businesses could derive competitive advantages from its unique resources and capabilities useful in the TBL framework (Barney 1991; Bag et al. 2021). Studies drawing on these theories find that CSR policies and practices, as well as some other relevant institutions and business strategies, have mixed impacts on global supply chain sustainability (Kuruvilla et al. 2020; Kuruvilla 2021).

The brief review above suggests that scholars approach the sustainability issues in global supply chains from various theoretic angels and often find mixed results. The COVID-19 pandemic, together with de-globalization has further complicated the situation. Both the pandemic and de-globalization have greatly disrupted global supply chains (Enderwick and Buckley 2020). Also, the rising geopolitical tensions in the Asia Pacific and de-globalization are closely intertwined. Geopolitics are even more immediate drivers behind state and private measures disrupting supply chains in the region. Stakeholders of global supply chains have adopted various coping strategies and practices in response, but their effects are unclear.

A few studies have started to probe issues about the impacts of the pandemic, de-globalization and the responses of various stakeholders on global supply chains. Global outsourcing and lean-based inventory management have proved to be fatal to supply chain sustainability in the pandemic (Sajjad 2021). Moving supply chains out of certain countries, has been deemed essential to avoid geopolitical risks (Witt et al. 2021), but it takes time (Curran and Eckhardt 2021). The pandemic and de-globalization may also present economic opportunities for supply chains in some countries. For example, for countries which have better public health infrastructure and management, suppliers there can take advantage of the stoppage of supply chains elsewhere and fill the gaps (Handfield, Graham, and Burns 2020). The impacts on the environmental and social dimensions of supply chain sustainability are also mixed. For example, multinationals from developed countries may replace their suppliers in developing countries by resorting to local sourcing or near sourcing (Enderwick and Buckley 2020), which will result in order disappearance, factory closures and mass layoffs in some Asian developing countries. However, some developing countries in the region may benefit. Supply chains that move out of some countries like China may relocate to South East Asian countries (Contractor 2021). This would create jobs and potentially boost social development in those countries. For another example, regarding the environmental domain of supply chain sustainability, the pandemic and de-globalization may appear to have positive impacts in the short run due to reduced economic activities (Sarkis 2021), although a post-pandemic rebound effect is expected as countries begin to focus on economic recovery after they ease their pandemic measures (Hanna, Xu, and Victor 2020; Sarkis 2021). However, these studies are scattered, or not focused on the Asia Pacific.

The objective of this Special Issue is to consolidate and advance the research on the sustainability of global supply chains in the Asia Pacific in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and de-globalization. This call for papers aims to invite both theoretical and empirical studies that investigate and analyze the challenges and opportunities brought about by the pandemic, de-globalization and the responses taken by stakeholders for sustainability of global supply chains in the Asia Pacific.

Suggested research questions are listed below. We also welcome papers that address questions not on the list but are consistent with the themes outlined in this call for papers.

  • What are the impacts of the pandemic on the economic sustainability of global supply chains in the Asia Pacific? Do they vary across countries in the region due to different pandemic responses of national or local governments? If yes, how? How are lead firms of global supply chains in the region, such as those in Japan and South Korea, affected by the pandemic, and what are the consequences for the economic sustainability of their suppliers in the region? What are the coping strategies and practices adopted by lead firms and suppliers in the region, and how effective are they in sustaining operations of supply chains?
  • What are the impacts of the pandemic on the social sustainability of global supply chains in the Asia Pacific? How are different groups of supply-chain-related workers economically, physically, and psychologically impacted by the pandemic and what are their coping strategies? What are the measures taken by other stakeholders? Are these strategies and measures effective? How and Why?
  • What are the impacts of the pandemic on the environmental sustainability of global supply chains in the Asia Pacific? How are these impacts received by the states in the region? What are the impacts on the renewable energy industries in the region? What are the responses of different stakeholders in the region to the increase of medical waste brought by the pandemic? Are these responses effective? How and why?
  • Is de-globalization resulting in supply chain outflows in some countries in the Asia Pacific? If so, do the outflows have a comparable impact on supply chain sustainability across these countries? What are the impacts of countermeasures taken by the states in the region? How have other actors in the region who have been affected by the outflows of global supply chains, responded? And how effective are these responses in terms of maintaining global supply chain sustainability?
  • Are there any developing countries in the region benefiting from the relocation of global supply chains? If so, what are the benefits in terms of economic, social and environmental sustainability of global supply chains in these countries? How do governments, firms, workers, and social groups in the developing countries in the region respond to the relocation of global supply chains to reap the benefits? And to what extent are their responses effective?
  • Do the pandemic and de-globalization contribute to the enhancement of the economic, social, or environmental sustainability of global supply chains in some of the developed countries within the region? If yes, what improvements can be identified? How do multinationals/lead firms in these countries respond to the pandemic and de-globalization? What are the consequences of these responses for the three dimensions of sustainability of their supply chains?
  • The three dimensions of TBL may have inherent tensions (Panigrahi, Bahinipati, and Jain 2019). Has the pandemic or de-globalization intensified or lessoned these tensions in global supply chains in the Asia Pacific? If so, how? And what efforts have the different stakeholders taken to balance the different or conflicting impacts of their responses to the pandemic or de-globalization on different dimensions of global supply chain sustainability and what the effects?

We welcome papers from different theoretical perspectives and using different empirical methodologies (e.g., quantitative, qualitative, case-oriented or mixed methods). However, papers must be original studies that contribute to the advancement of existing knowledge and debates on the topic.

Submission Instructions

All papers will be reviewed in accordance with the APBR normal review processes. Manuscripts should be formatted in accordance with the APBR publication guidelines and all the required content, structure and geographical focus and coverage – please look at the website.

Proposed Timeline

Submission deadline: 1 March 2024

Revised article deadline (second round): 1 October 2024

Deadline to the publisher: 15 December 2024

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