Working Group Economic Geography

Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on regional resilience and disparities in Germany and China

 

Investigators:

Prof. Dr. Robert Hassink, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU), Germany 

Prof. Dr. Annekatrin Niebuhr, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU), Germany

Mercator Fellow Prof. Dr. Canfei He, Beijing University, China

Mercator Fellow Dr. Huiwen Gong, Eawag, ETH Domain, Switzerland

 

Commission: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Duration: 2021-2024

 

Large crises affect regional economies differently, partly because of the specific characteristics of the crisis in question, but also because of differences in regional economic structures, in experiences in dealing with previous crises and in policy reactions at the national and regional level. The effects of the current COVID-19 crisis undoubtedly also differentiate between countries and regions. However, previous research provides only limited evidence on regional economic effects of pandemic crises and existing findings are often not applicable because basic conditions with respect to globalisation, ICT and mobility of individuals and goods differ significantly from the current situation. Based on first observations, we see two outstanding effects of COVID-19. First, containment measures restrict mobility and face-to-face interaction thereby diminishing classical agglomeration advantages and in particular learning opportunities that cities provide. Secondly, and simultaneously, global production networks are strongly disturbed which may lead to a regionalization of value chains, however, without agglomeration advantages. How this complex situation will affect regional resilience and disparities will be the core aim of this project. It will do so, by comparing the regional effects of COVID-19 in Germany and China, using complementary quantitative techniques and qualitative case-study methods. The project will not only lead to policy-relevant empirical research results, it will also reevaluate the explanatory power of theoretical concepts in economic geography and regional economics around agglomeration advantages, global production networks and regional resilience. 

The project will deal with four main research questions:
1) How does the COVID-19 crisis affect regional economies in Germany and China and do, in particular, agglomeration effects and an integration in global value chains influence the size of the regional shock and economic recovery of regions? How do economic crisis and health crisis interact at the regional level?
2) Does the crisis reduce agglomeration advantages because work from home and declining labour mobility might weaken learning effects?
3) How does the crisis affect global value chains and global production networks and what are the implication for regional disparities in Germany and China?
4) Do we need to revise the current theoretical approaches on regional effects of major crises because evidence derived from the WP 1 to 3 suggests that their assumptions and argu-ments do not apply anymore?