They also highlight an important question for next year: Can East Asia, which traditionally relies on customers in Europe and North America to fuel its growth, instead become a source of demand for the rest of the global economy?
While Europe enjoyed a strong rebound in the third quarter, its recovery is starting to run out of steam as coronavirus infections rise again across the continent.
Although European capitals are loath to reintroduce the national lockdowns imposed in March, they are targeting restrictions on hospitality, entertainment and travel.
“No government wants to go back to where they were in March, given the impact on the economy,” said Ms Melanie Debono, European economist at Capital Economics. “But any restrictions may take longer to unwind so the virus doesn’t uptick again.”
By contrast, governments in the Asia-Pacific region – including New Zealand and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan, South Korea and China – suppressed Covid-19 to lower levels and then maintained tighter controls against a resurgence. While Europe enjoyed its summer holidays, Asia kept international travel on hold.
Taiwan closed its borders early and followed that up with well-organised contact tracing, quarantine and social distancing to eliminate a few initial clusters. South Korea was slower to halt travel, but mass testing and tracing keep new cases below 100 a day. Neither of them ever needed a lockdown.
China, meanwhile, suppressed the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan to zero and continues to tackle any new case aggressively. An outbreak in Beijing over the summer prompted strict local lockdowns, controls on leaving the city and mass testing until it was wiped out. The world’s most populous country and the origin of Covid-19 now reports only a handful of cases a day.
The economic result is that people can act without fear of the virus: One can go to the pub in Wellington, the swimming pool in Wuhan or the office in Hanoi.
Where we have seen policies to contain the virus, people have quickly returned to normal,” said Dr Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics at HSBC in Hong Kong.
While China’s economy is picking up overall, that is largely owing to infrastructure and exports. “When you look at consumption, it’s true that’s lagging,” said Dr Neumann, who noted that luxury goods in China are recovering strongly but broader retail sales are struggling.
As well as avoiding the hit to domestic demand from continuing fear of Covid-19 – affecting Japan as well as Europe and the United States – the manufacturing hubs of Asia have benefited from a shift to consuming goods instead of services. The industrial economies of Germany and northern Italy are also enjoying the trend.
Intense global demand for medical goods, such as masks and gowns, and working-from-home necessities, such as personal computers, has rippled through Asian supply chains.
With Europe and North America providing cash to furloughed workers, it is the open-for-business Asian economies that can meet their demand for manufactured goods.
That leaves two big issues.