Your Wednesday Briefing

Your Wednesday Briefing

Good morning.

We’re covering chaos in Iran amid the coronavirus, what to know about symptoms and an exploration of what makes Hideo Kojima’s video games so captivating.

, a business correspondent for The Times in Hong Kong, has been exploring the global impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. She spoke with Mike Ives, on the Briefings team, about her latest report, on how the shutdown of one of the world’s biggest economies is hurting business around the globe.

Hey, Alex. What was the most striking thing you learned while reporting this story?

How China plays such a big role in the lives of individuals around the world. We read a lot from corporations about how their bottom lines are being hit. We also have heard a lot from policymakers who are worried. But China is the economic center of gravity for so many smaller players, too.

One economist put it this way: We’ve never been here before. Not even in wartime has an economy completely ground to a halt the way China’s did. And the world has never been as integrated as it is today.

You interviewed a truck driver from Mongolia who may need a new job because the border with China has closed. How did you find him?

The truck driver, Battogtokh Uurtsaikh, is someone I met in the Gobi Desert last October. I was reporting a story about how China’s demand for coal plays such a big role in the ordinary lives of Mongolians.

I met Mr. Battogtokh on this highway between Mongolia’s biggest coal deposit and Tsagaan Khad, a dusty border town with China. He was with four other young truck drivers who were working together to fix a flat tire and a broken hub on one of their trucks. They all grew up together and now travel in a pack as truck drivers, each one in his own truck with a walkie-talkie to communicate with each other.

Was he surprised to hear from you again?

Not really. But his circumstances have changed a lot since we found him on the side of a two-lane highway. At the time he was hopeful that this gig would be a temporary steppingstone — a quick way to make good money and pay off his loans. But he hasn’t driven his truck for more than a month.

China’s powerful State Council is introducing measures to help small businesses. Will that indirectly help people like Mr. Battogtokh, whose livelihoods depend on a strong Chinese economy?

China will focus first on fixing its domestic economy, so the money will help businesses in China. Many of these private businesses have suffered for more than a year with difficult cash flow situations because of China’s economic slowdown. It’s hard to see how that financial aid will do much to address the situation for people like Mr. Battogtokh.

It’s the same thing in Thailand, where tour guides say they are thousands of dollars in debt because their Chinese counterparts took off with the deposits paid upfront by Thai tour guides. As the Chicago business owner I spoke with said: “Everyone is desperate for money.”

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about Super Tuesday.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Tailpipe emissions (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times received several nominations in the World Press Photo Awards, including Ivor Prickett for his work in Syria and Times videographers for their story on protests in Chile.

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