Another week has gone by and the virus numbers are down, but there is a growing sense that there will be no clear-cut end to the crisis. And that creates a huge problem in terms of kick-starting the Chinese economy. At what point does someone declare the all-clear? And who is it that declares it? What is making them hesitate, presumably, is the risk of declaring the all-clear, only to have a flare-up occur the next day in some province. All of the benefits and also the consequences of a high degree of centralized control have been on display throughout this process. Right now, the numbers indicate that only a small percentage of normal activity is taking place. Manufacturing and services are hurting something terrible. Office workers are generally doing something from home, and that economic activity is impossible to measure. State banks have been told to provide whatever support they can in the form of loans to restaurants and other businesses to help them avoid collapse. The big danger remains the failure of a significant number of private companies and a jump in unemployment. Life is risk, and without being at all dismissive of the dangers of the virus, at some point the center needs to say – go forth and reboot life. Because without the center saying that, there is a huge reluctance on the part of many people to go out and resume their roles in the economic machine, based on a mixture of reasonable concern and unreasonable fear.
If you’re in China, put on your mask this weekend and go and participate in the economy in some way.