Wei Luo 1,+,*, Lingfeng He 2,+, Zihui Yang 1, Shirui Zhang, Yong Wang 3, Dianbo Liu 4, Sheng Hu 5,1, Li He 2, Jizhe Xia 6, Min Chen 7

1 GeoSpatialX Lab, Geography Department, National University of Singapore, Singapore
2 Institute for Empirical Social Science Research, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China
3 School of Computing and Information Systems, Singapore Management University, Singapore
4 Mila-Quebec AI institute, QC, Canada
5 School of Geography and Information Engineering, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, China
6 Guangdong Key Laboratory of Urban Informatics, and Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Spatial Smart Sensing and Service, School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China
7 Key Laboratory of Virtual Geographic Environment (Ministry of Education of PRC), Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China
+ These authors contributed equally
* Corresponding Author

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have created immeasurable health and economic crises, leading to unprecedented disruptions to world trade. The COVID-19 pandemic shows diverse impacts on different economies that suffer and recover at different rates and degrees. This research aims to evaluate the spatio-temporal heterogeneity of international trade network vulnerabilities in the current crisis to understand the global production resilience and prepare for the future crisis. We applied a series of complex network analysis approaches to the monthly international trade networks at the world, regional, and country scales for the pre- and post- COVID-19 outbreak period. The spatio-temporal patterns indicate that countries and regions with an effective COVID-19 containment such as East Asia show the strongest resilience, especially Mainland China, followed by high-income countries with fast vaccine roll-out (e.g., U.S.), whereas low-income countries (e.g., Africa) show high vulnerability. Our results encourage a comprehensive strategy to enhance international trade resilience when facing future pandemic threats including effective non-pharmaceutical measures, timely development and rollout of vaccines, strong governance capacity, robust healthcare systems, and equality via international cooperation. The overall findings elicit the hidden global trading disruption, recovery, and growth due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; International trade network; Resilience; Vulnerability

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