Over the winter of 2019-20 in China, a new Coronavirus went epidemic and the government responded with unprecedented lockdowns of daily life in the city of Wuhan and its surrounding province of Hubei and a temporary closing of the world’s second-largest economy. By Spring of 2020 in China, the disease COVID-19 was largely under control and the Chinese economy was slowly starting to reopen for business.
Of course, by Spring of 2020, COVID-19 had caused a global pandemic whose widespread health effects and restraints on social life and economic activity reverberate still across most of the world outside China.
The contrast between China’s contagion containment and economic recovery and the performance in both categories by the democracies of the West is nowhere sharper and more painful than here in the United States.
Here, a 30 percent minority of people refuses to protect themselves or those around them from infection, and thus have not just extended the pandemic in America, but multiplied the damage it inflicts on the American economy.
Which sets up another startling contrast to a very different group of Americans, the central bankers who fought off denial and parochial self-interest to contain the pandemic’s economic effects in America and and to extend those protections to economies far beyond our borders.
That’s a nutshell version of the plot-line of our guest Adam Tooze’s new book Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy, to which I would add a sub-subtitle — How a Saturation of Dollars Snuffed Those Economic Shakes.
Adam Tooze holds the Shelby Cullom Davis chair of History at Columbia University and serves as Director of the European Institute. In 2019, Foreign Policy Magazine named him one of the top Global Thinkers of the decade. His latest book is Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy.