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THE GUIDE IN BRIEF

Globalization accelerated coronavirus—and it’ll be the key to stopping it

LUCY JONES for Quartz
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

💡The Big Idea

Globalization brought us Covid-19—and the tools to fight it. But as we do, nearly every corner of the global economy will change. Here’s the TLDR on our latest member-exclusive field guide on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.


🤔Here’s Why

1️⃣ As factories in China reopen, the biggest threat to global industries like consumer electronics is shifting from supply chain disruption to the coming recession.

2️⃣ That recession will be particularly hard on the fossil fuel industry, but that may or may not accelerate the world’s transition to renewable energy.

3️⃣ Industries seeking bailouts, such as US airlines, also face the prospect of increased regulation.

4️⃣ Across business, the current crisis will transform the way we work, changing much more than the number of people who work from home.

5️⃣ But it will not make us less connected. Globalization is here to stay.


📝 The Details

1️⃣ The biggest threat to global industries is shifting from supply chain disruption to the coming recession.

This month, Foxconn, the company that assembles the world’s iPhones, resumed work at its factories in Vietnam and mainland China. For the consumer electronics industry, one of the first industries to feel the impact of the novel coronavirus, this is welcome news. But just as the industry was a harbinger for the coming disruption of businesses across the world, its biggest challenge now is one every industry will have to face: the deep drop in consumer demand that comes with a global recession.

2️⃣ That recession has the potential to accelerate the world’s transition to renewable energy.

As the pandemic has brought many of the world’s major economies to a virtual standstill, it’s also lowered greenhouse gas emissions. And, so far, industries with some of the highest global emissions have been especially hard-hit. But those emissions-reducing losses may be ephemeral. What would truly reset the world’s emissions trajectory would be a shift in the balance of power between fossil fuels and renewables. Experts are divided over whether that will happen. It hasn’t in the past, but today, solar, wind, and storage are not only available, they’re often cheaper.

3️⃣ Industries seeking bailouts face the prospect of increased regulation.

For the second time in less than two decades, US airlines have come, hat in hand, to the government. As with the attacks of Sept. 11, the crises have exposed how vulnerable airlines are to the disruption of normal business, and how much the national and global economy depends on their continued operation. US airlines have recently enjoyed some of the most profitable years in their history, spent 96% of their free cash flow over the past decade buying back shares, and ended up deep in debt, with limited cash on hand in this time of crisis. Critics say that the industry should not be allowed to go back to business as usual.

4️⃣ The current crisis will transform the way we work and learn.

​Whenever the pandemic winds down, it will have left an indelible mark on classrooms and the workplace. A more permanent shift to a majority-remote workforce could lower some of the barriers to building a truly diverse company. But we’re likely to lose important ground, as we miss out on relationship building that’s hard to replicate offline. Once this is over, we could find ourselves with more diverse workforces but less diverse leadership. Meanwhile, education is being transformed by a massive experiment in online learning.

5️⃣ But it will not make us less connected. Globalization is here to stay.

You don’t get a pandemic without a global economy. But the economy has been global since well before the invention of jet planes, and public health and trade have been intertwined for centuries. While our current global economy makes a pandemic worse in some ways, it also offers us the tools to fight it. Already, vaccine production and testing are underway in numerous countries, and scientists are sharing potentially beneficial treatments on the internet. While some governments may use this moment to be opportunistic, it will take global cooperation to end this crisis.