We’re not going back to normal | SupChina COVID-19 updates for April 3, 2020

planet changes coronavirus covid 19Photo credit: Barry Wilmore / NASA

Hi everyone,

A few weeks ago, we took for granted that we worked the jobs we worked, procured and consumed food the way we did, entertained ourselves and engaged with others the way we liked, exercised the ways that made us feel best, and had a choice about any of it.

We also took for granted that the defining issues of our time — or at least the next election — would be healthcare, the environment, artificial intelligence / potential mass unemployment due to technological development, and (maybe) foreign affairs or education.

But now, the election — and maybe a much longer period of time after that — might just be about straight survival economics, i.e. getting the economy back to some bare minimum of normalcy after COVID-19 has run its course. We should be truly thankful that at the very least the elections will take place at all, and on schedule to boot.

If you’re a news junky like me, you’ve surely seen a few of the “what the post-COVID future will be like” articles and thought pieces that have been published in recent weeks. Perhaps you’ll discover some new ones from the group I’ve collected below. If you’ve been avoiding the news but for whatever reason still open this newsletter, you may be keen to spend some extra time this weekend pondering the future. After all, it is coming, like it or not.

Before we get to it, thought, I also want to flag a few upcoming SupChina live digital events that will be available free to the public (normally only for paying subscribers):

  • Technology and Business Between the U.S. and China in 2020 (April 8): a fireside chat between yours truly and Christopher Marquis, Professor of Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management
  • The SupChina CEO Webinar (April 22): featuring discussions with the U.S.’s leading virologist, the CEO of Trip.com (formerly C-Trip), the former chief economist of Morgan Stanley, and four others

Thanks for reading, and have as good a weekend as you can. Seriously, no matter what you have or haven’t done this week, you deserve to find some joy amidst the turmoil if you can.

– Bob Guterma
SupChina COO

The future looms…

Life in general

  • The Virus Is a Reminder of Something Lost Long Ago: In rebuilding a broken world, we will have the chance to choose a less hurried life. (The Atlantic)
  • How Epidemics of the Past Changed the Way Americans Lived: Past public health crises inspired innovations in infrastructure, education, fundraising and civic debate (Smithsonian Magazine)
  • We’re not going back to normal: Social distancing is here to stay for much more than a few weeks. It will upend our way of life, in some ways forever (MIT Technology Review)

The environment

  • The Pandemic Is Turning the Natural World Upside Down (The Atlantic)
  • What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change (NYT)
  • A Dirty Economic Restart Could Kill More People Than The Coronavirus (Forbes)
  • Our environmental practices make pandemics like the coronavirus more likely (Vox)


  • For some Chinese businesses, there’s no going back to life before the coronavirus (CNBC)
  • Understanding the Economic Shock of Coronavirus (Harvard Business Review)


  • The Ugly End of U.S.-China Relations & Trade (Foreign Policy)
  • For Autocrats, and Others, Coronavirus Is a Chance to Grab Even More Power (NYT)

The U.S. news roundup

  • New York had its deadliest day yet, and state governor Andrew Cuomo lobbied for a nationwide plan to redistribute ventilators to the places that actually face the risk of running out
  • Our international readers will be forgiven for thinking that the federal government — not state governors struggling to survive — might form our national strategic plan. Our national leader prefers to publicly “choose not to do” the very things he and his team just recommended we all do.
  • Bill Gates is funding new factories for 7 potential coronavirus vaccines, even though it will waste billions of dollars
  • Stocks declined by more than 2%, although that is a pretty mild drop considering the jump in unemployment this week.
  • NYC ambulances stop taking certain cardiac arrest patients to hospitals to prioritize COVID patients
  • Trump and the CDC say we should wear masks in public, signalling a huge reversal after weeks of saying that Chinese and other Asian nations’ belief in wearing masks was misguided

Around the world

  • Germany Cries Foul Over Berlin-Bound Masks Diverted to U.S. (WSJ)
  • There are fears a coronavirus crisis looms in Tokyo. Is it too late to change course? (CNN)