The Economist Asia Edition January 2, 2021

The Economist is the premier source for the analysis of world business and current affairs, providing authoritative insight and opinion on international news, world politics, business, finance, science and technology, as well as overviews of cultural trends and regular Special reports on industries and countries.

United Kingdom
The Economist Newspaper Limited - Asia Pacific
51 期号


the world this week

Governments in Britain and across the European Union rushed to approve a post-Brexit trade agreement before December 31st, the date on which Britain’s transition period ends. The deal, which was announced on Christmas Eve, covers goods, but says little about financial services. Some disruption for business is expected. The EU’s member states back the pact, though the measures will come into force only provisionally until the European Parliament can give its blessing. Scientists were worried by two new and more contagious variants of covid-19 that are spreading around the world. Nearly all the countries in the EU began vaccinating citizens, a week after the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The Netherlands said it would not start until January 8th, claiming it wanted more time to implement its programme “carefully”.…

the future of global e-commerce

OVER THE past ten months most people in the rich world have participated in the biggest shopping revolution in the West since malls and supermarkets conquered suburbia 50 years ago. The pandemic has led to a surge in online spending, speeding up the shift from physical stores by half a decade or so. Forget the chimney; Christmas gifts in 2020 came flying through the letterbox or were dumped on the doorstep. Workers at a handful of firms, including Amazon and Walmart, have made superhuman efforts to fulfil online orders, and their investors have made supernormal profits as Wall Street has bid up their shares on euphoria that Western retailing is at the cutting edge. Yet as we explain this week (see Business section) it is in China, not the West, where…


IN 1916 CINCINNATI decided to construct a magnificent new subway system. After decades of cock-ups it was abandoned in 1948, and today there are two miles of tunnels beneath the city that have never been used. That cautionary tale is still relevant. Politicians everywhere are calling for more infrastructure spending (see Finance section). Yet few industries have a worse record of coming through on time and on budget. If the incipient boom is to produce better results, governments and firms must learn to adopt best practice from around the world. Most countries have enacted short-term stimulus plans to deal with the pandemic. On December 27th President Donald Trump signed a $900bn spending bill (see United States section). But there is also appetite to binge on infrastructure. Joe Biden wants to spend…

the tunnel gets darker

THE WINTER solstice may have passed, but in the land of covid-19 the nights are still growing longer. In recent weeks two variants of the coronavirus have spread with ferocious speed in Britain and South Africa. They have mutations that make them a lot more contagious. Although, so far, they do not seem to be any deadlier, for every ten people that older variants would infect in Britain the new one infects 15. Early data suggest that the South African variant burns just as fiercely. Just now the world is rightly focused on approving, making and administering vaccines. Alas, it also needs to face up to the fact that before jabs come to the rescue, the new variants will spread, creating deep difficulties for policymakers. Evolutionary biologists have shrugged at the appearance…

online onslaught

IT IS A ritual almost as frequent and as fleeting as observing the cherry blossoms each year. A new Japanese government pledges to move more public services online. Almost as soon as the promise is made, it falls to the ground like a sad pink petal. In 2001 the government announced it would digitise all its procedures by 2003—yet almost 20 years later, just 7.5% of all administrative procedures can be completed online (see Asia section). Only 7.3% of Japanese applied for any sort of government service online, well behind not only South Korea and Iceland, but also Mexico and Slovakia. Japan is an e-government failure. That is a great pity, and not just for hapless Japanese citizens wandering from window to window in bewildering government offices. Japan’s population is shrinking…

britain’s place in the world

THE TRANSITION is over and Britain is fully out of the European Union. On December 24th the sides agreed on a trade deal. It spares them the even greater upheaval of no deal at all (see Britain section). It is minimal, though, along the lines first signalled months ago. It largely overlooks services and marks the start of endless haggling. And, on British insistence, foreign policy and defence are ignored. Looking across the seas with an estranged continent at its back, a lonesome Britain thus faces a bracing question: what role should it now play in the world? It is a question the country has grappled with off and on for centuries, and in recent decades British thinking has often been clouded by nostalgia for lost empire and great-power status. Membership…