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In the famous cover engraving of Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan," the state is embodied in an authority-bearing figure presiding over a serene European landscape. But as the world tries to reimagine the state in the aftermath of COVID-19, it makes sense to look toward governments like South Korea and Taiwan, which have mixed high state capacity with plenty of technological innovation.   © Illustration by Chuan Ming Ong
The Big Story

Coronavirus: Asia embraces big government to battle recession

Lavish spending, deep debt, high-tech surveillance. Is this the end of the small state tradition?

JAMES CRABTREE, Nikkei Asia contributing writer | Southeast Asia

SINGAPORE -- His face disguised by a black protective mask, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin posed for the cameras in early November, holding up a thick red budget document. Inside, its pages bulged with promises for $78 billion of spending over the next year -- the most expensive budget in Malaysian history. Some of it targeted a worsening COVID-19 pandemic via higher health care investment. Other measures tried to kick-start a stuttering economy with cash handouts and infrastructure schemes.

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