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The Economist May 23, 2020

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United States
The Economist Newspaper Limited
51 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
coronavirus briefs

The Chinese city of Shulan was put under a strict lockdown after an outbreak of covid-19. Infections in Russia surged to a cumulative total of 310,000. Protests erupted in a poor suburb of Santiago, Chile’s capital, over food shortages caused by the lockdown. Donald Trump said he was taking hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, to ward off covid-19. Doctors warned that this is unsafe. America’s House of Representatives is to allow remote voting for the first time. Captain Tom Moore, a war veteran who walked laps of his garden ahead of his 100th birthday to raise money for Britain’s health service, was awarded a knighthood. Captain Tom’s quest went viral, raising £32m ($39m), and cheering up a nation. For our latest coverage of the virus and its consequences please visit economist.com/ coronavirus or download the Economist app.…

7 min.
the world this week

Politics At the World Health Organisation’s annual summit (held remotely), China accepted an Australian-led motion calling for an inquiry into the origins of covid-19. This marked a climbdown by the Chinese government in the face of widespread demands for such a probe. Earlier, Donald Trump once again threatened to pull America out of the WHO unless it took unspecified steps to show “independence from China”. Despite its success in tackling the coronavirus, Taiwan was not invited to this year’s meeting. China imposed tariffs on Australian barley on the day the WHO considered the Australian motion. China maintains that such tariffs have nothing to do with Australian criticism of its rulers. A police watchdog in Hong Kong issued a report on the force’s handling of protests last year. It found no serious problem with…

5 min.
seize the moment

FOLLOWING THE pandemic is like watching the climate crisis with your finger jammed on the fast-forward button. Neither the virus nor greenhouse gases care much for borders, making both scourges global. Both put the poor and vulnerable at greater risk than wealthy elites and demand government action on a scale hardly ever seen in peacetime. And with China’s leadership focused only on its own advantage and America’s as scornful of the World Health Organisation as it is of the Paris climate agreement, neither calamity is getting the co-ordinated international response it deserves. The two crises do not just resemble each other. They interact. Shutting down swathes of the economy has led to huge cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. In the first week of April, daily emissions worldwide were 17% below what they…

5 min.
the cure and the disease

SINCE CHINA locked down the city of Wuhan on January 23rd, over a third of the world’s population has at one time or another been shut away at home. It is hard to think of any policy ever having been imposed so widely with such little preparation or debate. But then closing down society was not a thought-out response, so much as a desperate measure for a desperate time. It has slowed the pandemic, but at a terrible price. As they seek to put lockdowns behind them, governments are not thinking hard enough about the costs and benefits of what comes next. Although social distancing may have to be sustained for months or years, lockdowns can only ever be temporary. That is because it is becoming clear how costly they are,…

3 min.
chip wars

IF AT FIRST you don’t succeed, try again. A year ago America forbade its high-tech companies from selling to Huawei, a Chinese maker of smartphones and mobile-network infrastructure. American officials worry that Huawei-powered phone networks could aid Chinese spying (something the firm denies), and about China’s growing technological prowess more generally. But the embargo turned out to be puny. Loopholes allowed American firms to carry on supplying Huawei from overseas factories. The Chinese firm’s revenues rose by 19% in 2019, to $123bn. Thanks to its efforts to stockpile parts, its purchases from American suppliers rose by 70%, to $19bn. On May 15th America tried a different tack. It announced new rules that target Huawei’s in-house microchips, which power many of the firm’s products. The rules are aimed at the factories that…

3 min.
no bail-outs without representation

“DO NOT DRAG the country again into political uncertainty,” Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah, admonished the country’s parliament this week. It is too late, unfortunately. Ever since Mahathir Mohamad resigned as prime minister in February, politics has been in flux. In theory, the king’s decision to appoint Muhyiddin Yassin to head a new government on March 1st should have put an end to the turmoil. But because Mr Muhyiddin has spent two and a half months in office without proving he has a majority in parliament, the politicking has continued (see Asia section). Indeed, many speculate that the prime minister is avoiding a vote because he might lose it. The only way to stem the scheming is for Mr Muhyiddin to prove them wrong. The parliamentary arithmetic is opaque because Mr Muhyiddin’s…