The Treasury Department said on Friday that it was putting Taiwan, Vietnam and Switzerland on notice over their currency practices, but it struck a more conciliatory tone than the Trump administration by stopping short of labeling any of them a currency manipulator.
The announcement came in the Treasury Department’s first foreign exchange report under Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen. The report, which Treasury submits to Congress twice a year, aims to hold the United States’ top trading partners accountable if they try to gain an unfair advantage in commerce between nations through practices such as devaluing their currencies.
Being labeled a currency manipulator requires a trading partner to enter into negotiations with the United States and the International Monetary Fund to address the situation. The blemish is somewhat symbolic but can lead to tariffs or other forms of retaliation if talks collapse.
Both Switzerland and Vietnam had been on the list of currency manipulators after the Trump administration added them last year, and their removal on Friday means no country currently faces that designation. Still, Treasury said there were signs that Switzerland, Vietnam and Taiwan were improperly managing their currencies.
Vietnam and Switzerland as manipulators in its final report in 2020, but the Biden administration said there was insufficient evidence to support the designation. To receive the label, Treasury must conclude that a country manipulates the exchange rate between its currency and the dollar for “purposes of preventing effective balance of payments adjustments or gaining unfair competitive advantage in international trade.”
wrote a report concluding that Taiwan was hiding $130 billion in reserves to mask its currency interventions and that the case for naming it a manipulator was stronger than the case for naming China.
“Taiwan really has been intervening on a large scale to maintain an undervalued currency for competitive advantage,” Mr. Setser wrote on Twitter at the time.
The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator, instead urging it to improve transparency over its foreign exchange practices.
Treasury kept China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on its currency monitoring list, and added Ireland and Mexico.
Vietnam and Switzerland as manipulators in its final report in 2020. The Biden administration’s report undid those designations, citing insufficient evidence.
Instead, the department said it would continue “enhanced engagement” with Vietnam and Switzerland and begin such talks with Taiwan, which includes urging the trading partners to address undervaluation of their currencies.
“Treasury is working tirelessly to address efforts by foreign economies to artificially manipulate their currency values that put American workers at an unfair disadvantage,” Ms. Yellen said in a statement.
Taiwan is the United States’ 10th largest trading partner in 2019, according to the United States trade representative. Vietnam is the 13th largest, and Switzerland is 16th.
The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator, instead urging it to improve transparency over its foreign exchange practices.
Treasury kept China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on its currency monitoring list, and added Ireland and Mexico.
Millions of workers are wondering what the office will be like when they go back after a long stretch of remote work. Employers are trying to prepare them for it.
IBM has designed a “reorientation” program to help its employees adjust when they return to a familiar setting but face a host of unfamiliar new procedures, the DealBook newsletter writes.
“It’s sort of like the first day of school,” said Joanna Daly, the company’s vice president of talent. “A day early, kids go and get to see the classroom or see how things work.”
This is needed, she said, because it is “not simply returning to the workplace as it existed before or the ways of working as it existed before.”
IBM made a “day in the life” video to show employees what to expect. One version of the 11-minute-long video seen by DealBook starts with “Paul” going back to one of IBM’s offices in Britain. To start the day, he goes through a self-screening checklist to assess potential exposure. He enters the office through designated entrances and picks up his masks for the day (and disinfectant wipes if he needs them). Arrows guide him through the halls and up one-way staircases. Only one person is allowed in the bathroom at a time.
The cafeteria is closed, so Paul must bring his lunch. He can’t use the whiteboards or marker pens in conference rooms (and he shouldn’t linger there longer than necessary). If Paul sees other IBMers not following the safety protocols, “It is OK to politely remind them,” the narrator assures him.
Along with the video, IBM produced an 18-page presentation depicting “Sonia’s’’ return to the workplace, serving as a friendly, cartoon-filled back-to-work manual.
“We’re looking now at how might anxiety manifests itself differently for different employees around being back together and then how do we address that,” Ms. Daly said, “through practical understanding of health and safety and also through having enough flexibility in the environment that everyone can kind of get used to coming back.”
IBM, which has 346,000 employees, hasn’t set a timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. The company’s chief executive, Arvind Krishna, has said he expects 80 percent of them will work in a hybrid fashion when they do.
Mercedes-Benz unveiled an electric counterpart to its top-of-the-line S-Class sedan on Thursday, the latest in a series of moves by German automakers to defend their dominance of the high end of the car market against Tesla.
The EQS, which will be available in the United States in August, is the first of four electric vehicles Mercedes will introduce this year, including two S.U.V.s that will be made at the company’s factory in Alabama and a lower-priced sedan. Mercedes did not announce a price for the EQS, but it is unlikely to be lower than the S-Class, which starts at $94,000 in the United States.
The cars could be decisive for Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, as it tries to adapt to new technology.
“It is important to us,” Ola Källenius, the chief executive of Daimler, said of the EQS during an interview. “In a way it is kind of day one of a new era.”
The EQS has a range of 770 kilometers or about 480 miles, according to Mercedes. If that figure is confirmed by independent testing, the EQS would dethrone the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus as the production electric car that can travel the farthest between charges. The Tesla currently occupies the No. 1 spot with a range of just over 400 miles, according to rankings by Kelley Blue Book.
The EQS owes its stamina to advances in battery technology and an exceptionally aerodynamic design, Mr. Källenius said. Some analysts question whether Mercedes can sell enough electric vehicles to justify the cost of development, but Mr. Källenius said, “We will make money with the EQS from the word ‘go.’”
The EQS is the latest attempt by German carmakers to show that they can apply their expertise in engineering and production efficiency to battery-powered cars. Vehicles are Germany’s biggest export, so the carmakers’ success or failure will have a significant impact on the country’s prosperity.
On Wednesday, Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen, unveiled the Q4 E-Tron, an electric SUV. The Q4 shares many components with the Volkswagen ID.4, an electric SUV that the company began delivering to customers in the United States in March. Though priced to compete with internal combustion models, neither vehicle offers as much range as comparable Tesla cars.
In the S-Class tradition, the EQS offers over-the-top luxury features like software that can recognize when a driver might be feeling fatigued and can offer to turn on the massage function embedded in the seat.
“You’re going to get S-Class level refinement in a very, very high performing electric car,” Mr. Källenius said. “That’s your buying argument.”
China on Friday reported that its economy grew by a remarkable 18.3 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year.But the spike is as much a reflection of how bad matters were a year ago — when the China’s output shrank by 6.8 percent — as it is an indication of how China is doing now.
Global demand for the computer screens and video consoles that China makes is soaring as people work from home and as a pandemic recovery beckons. That demand has continued as Americans with stimulus checks look to spend money on patio furniture, electronics and other goods made in Chinese factories.
China’s recovery has also been powered by big infrastructure. Cranes dot city skylines. Construction projects for highways and railroads have provided short-term jobs. Property sales have also helped strengthen economic activity.
Exports and property investment can carry China’s growth only so far. Now China is trying to get its consumers to return to their prepandemic ways.
Unlike much of the developed world, China doesn’t subsidize its consumers. Instead of handing out checks to jump-start the economy last year, China ordered state-owned banks to lend to businesses and offered tax rebates.
Travel restrictions over the Lunar New Year holiday dampened consumer appetite and slowed the momentum of Chinese shoppers. But retail data on Friday showed that March sales were better than expected, raising hopes that consumers might be starting to feel confident.
By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet
Global stocks rose on Friday after a string of strong economic reports and company earnings.
The S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent, set for its fourth straight week of gains and another record. The benchmark had gained 1 percent in the week through Thursday and is up nearly 5 percent so far this month.
The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6 percent on Friday, also climbing to a record, while the FTSE 100 in Britain climbed above 7,000 points for the first time since February 2020. Stock indexes in Japan, Hong Kong and China all closed higher.
China reported on Friday that its economy grew by 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year, when swathes of the country had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, data showed U.S. retail sales in March leapt past expectations, increasing by nearly 10 percent, and initial state jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic.
This week, banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase reported better-than-expected earnings, and their chief executives delivered upbeat economic forecasts.
The yield on 10-year Treasury notes slipped to 1.57 percent on Friday. Last month, concerns that government spending would overheat the economy and lead to higher inflation sent bond yields shooting higher, to 1.74 percent on March 31. But those worries appear to have been soothed by central bank officials, who have repeatedly said they expect increases in inflation to be temporary.
Earlier this week, data showed that prices in the United States rose2.6 percent in March from a year earlier, a larger-than-normal increase partly because prices of some items fell in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold.
Another reason yields have drifted lower is a “remarkable” demand for bonds, ING, a Dutch bank, said. Recent Treasury bond auctions have received more bids than normal, and JPMorgan Chase sold $13 billion of bonds on Thursday, the biggest sale ever by a bank, according to Bloomberg.
“Cash has to go somewhere, and it can’t all go into equities,” the ING analysts wrote in a note to clients.
Twitter said on Thursday that it had blocked the account of James O’Keefe, the founder of the conservative group Project Veritas.
Mr. O’Keefe’s account, @JamesOKeefeIII, was “permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam,” specifically that users cannot mislead others with fake accounts or “artificially amplify or disrupt conversations” through the use of multiple accounts, a Twitter spokesman said.
In a statement on his website, Mr. O’Keefe said he will file a defamation lawsuit against Twitter on Monday over its claim that he had operated fake accounts.
“This is false, this is defamatory, and they will pay,” the statement said.
“Section 230 may have protected them before, but it will not protect them from me,” Mr. O’Keefe said, referring to a legal liability shield for social media. That shield, part of the federal Communications Decency Act, has become a favorite target of lawmakers in both parties.
In February, Twitter permanently suspended the Project Veritas account, saying it had posted private information. It also temporarily locked Mr. O’Keefe’s account.
To keep you watching, YouTube serves up videos similar to those you have watched before. But the longer someone watches, the more extreme the videos can become.
Caolan Robertson learned how making clever edits and focusing on confrontation could help draw millions of views on YouTube and other services. He also learned how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm often nudged people toward extreme videos.
Over more than two years, he helped produce and publish videos for right-wing Youtube personalities including Lauren Southern, Cade Metz reports for The New York Times.
Knowing what garnered the most attention on YouTube, Mr. Robertson said, he and Ms. Southern would devise public appearances meant to generate conflict. They attended a women’s march in London and, with Ms. Southern playing the part of a television reporter, approached each woman with the same four-word question: “Women’s rights or Islam?”
They often received a confused, measured or polite response, according to Mr. Robertson. They continued to ask the question and sharpened it. Ms. Southern, for example, said it would be difficult for Muslim women to answer the question because their husbands wouldn’t let them attend the march. That caused anger to build in the crowd.
“It appears in the videos that we are just trying to figure out what is going on, gather information, understand people,” Mr. Robertson said. “But really, we were trying to find the most incendiary way of making them mad.”
Ms. Southern described the situation differently. “We asked the question because we knew it was going to force people to question their own political views and realize the contradiction in being a hard-core feminist but also supporting a religion that, quite frankly, has questionable practices around women,” she said. And, she added, they used video techniques that any media company would use.
A court has awarded attendees of the infamous Fyre Festival approximately $7,220 apiece, nearly four years after they were left scrounging for makeshift shelter on a dark beach. The $2 million class-action settlement, reached Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York between organizers and 277 ticket holders from the 2017 event, is still subject to final approval, and the amount could ultimately be lower depending on the outcome of Fyre’s bankruptcy case with other creditors.
CBS is turning to a pair of outsiders to restore the fortunes of a news operation that trails its rivals at ABC and NBC. CBS said on Thursday that Neeraj Khemlani, a vice president at the publishing powerhouse Hearst, and Wendy McMahon, a former ABC executive, would succeed Ms. Zirinsky. The two will serve as presidents and co-heads of CBS News, a division that will be expanded to include local stations owned by the network.
Anil G. Kumar, a civil engineer, was one of them. Around this time last year, he and his family were about to buy a two-bedroom apartment. But when last year’s lockdown hit, Mr. Kumar’s employer, a construction chemicals manufacturer, slashed his salary by half.
“Everything turned turtle within a few hours,” he said. Three months later, his job had been eliminated.
Now Mr. Kumar spends his days in his home in a working-class neighborhood in the western part of Delhi, searching for jobs on LinkedIn and taking care of his son.
The family’s middle-class life is now under threat. They survive on the $470-a-month salary Mr. Kumar’s wife draws from a private university. Instead of holding a big celebration for their son’s 10th birthday at a restaurant, which would have cost nearly $70, they ordered a cake and a new outfit for about one-fifth the cost. Mr. Kumar also canceled his Amazon Prime subscription, which he hadn’t used in a while.
“Every day you can’t sit on the laptop,” he said. “At times, you feel depressed.”
India’s middle class is central to more than the economy. It fits into India’s broader ambitions to rival China, which has grown faster and more consistently, as a regional superpower.
To get there, the Indian government may need to address the people the coronavirus has left behind. Household incomes and overall consumption have weakened, even though the sales of some goods have increased recently because of pent-up demand. Many of the hardest hit come from India’s merchant class, the shopkeepers, stall operators or other small entrepreneurs who often live off the books of a major company.
“India is not even discussing poverty or inequality or lack of employment or fall in incomes and consumption,” said Mahesh Vyas, the chief executive of the Center for Monitoring of the Indian Economy. “This needs to change first and foremost,” he said.
HONG KONG — Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media figure, and several of Hong Kong’s most prominent opposition campaigners were sentenced on Friday to prison terms of eight months to 18 months for holding an unauthorized peaceful protest.
Supporters of the defendants say the prosecutions are the latest sign of the fundamental transformation that Beijing has sought to impose on Hong Kong. Until recently, the city had long been a bastion of free speech. Now, the sentences send an unmistakable message that activism carries severe risks for even the most internationally recognized opposition figures.
The court sentenced Mr. Lai, 73, a media tycoon who founded Apple Daily, an aggressively pro-democracy newspaper, to 12 months in prison. Martin Lee, an 82-year-old lawyer, often called Hong Kong’s “father of democracy,” was handed a suspended 11-month prison term, meaning he would avoid being put behind bars if he is not convicted of another crime in the next two years.
overhauled Hong Kong’s electoral system to cement the pro-Beijing establishment’s grip on power. Protests have been largely barred during the pandemic, and self-censorship in the media and arts, which are under intense official pressure, is a growing concern.
Over a period of months in 2019, hundreds of thousands of people joined antigovernment demonstrations in one of the greatest challenges to the Communist Party in decades. The sentences imposed on Friday, added to the measures already taken against dissent, are likely to chill participation in such protests in the future.
“It’s very clear that the approach has changed radically, not just by courts and police,” said Sharron Fast, a media law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong. “The emphasis is on deterrence; the emphasis is on punishment. And with large-scale assemblies, the risk is very high.”
a march on Aug. 18, 2019, that followed a gathering in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island. The rally in the park had been permitted by the police, but the authorities, citing the violence at earlier protests, had not approved plans for demonstrators to march about two miles to government headquarters afterward.
He has traveled the world, including many trips to Washington, to lobby for that cause. Such internationally focused activism is now banned under the national security law.
Mr. Lai, the media mogul, was smuggled into Hong Kong from mainland China as a child and worked his way up from factory laborer to clothing company tycoon. He then put his wealth into crusading, tabloid-style publications that have been sharply critical of the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong.
Mr. Lai also faces a fraud case and charges of collusion with a foreign country under the security law for allegedly calling for sanctions against Hong Kong. In a separate hearing on Friday, prosecutors added two more national security charges, accusing Mr. Lai of conspiracy to commit subversion and obstructing justice.
In the illegal assembly case, the court rejected defense arguments that the procession after the rally was necessary to help protesters safely clear out of the crowded park, or that potential imprisonment for a nonviolent march would infringe on the rights to free speech and assembly that have traditionally been protected in Hong Kong.
protests did devolve into widespread violence.
in a letter this week to his colleagues at Apple Daily, told them to be careful because “freedom of speech is dangerous work now.”
“The situation in Hong Kong is becoming more and more chilling,” he wrote. “The era is falling apart before us, and it is therefore time for us to stand with our heads high.”
In Paraguay, the government of Taiwan has built thousands of homes for the poor, upgraded the health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships and helped fund a futuristic Congress building. But the alliance is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for Covid-19 vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.
Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does.
Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with China or Taiwan, an island that it regards as Chinese territory. In recent years, three countries in Latin America severed ties with Taiwan after secret talks with Beijing. All three were early recipients of Chinese vaccines.
This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, said it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the vaccine produced by Sinovac.
If 2020 was the summer of the pandemic-enforced road trip, many people seem to be hoping that 2021 will be the summer they can travel overseas. But that’s a big “if.” Roadblocks abound, among them, the rise of variant cases in popular destinations like Europe and confusion about the role that vaccine “passports” will play as people begin crossing borders. The recent pause on Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine adds a new wrinkle.
Still, there is reason for optimism. The number of vaccine doses administered each day in the United States has tripled in the last few months, and President Biden has said the United States is still on track to vaccinate every American adult who wants it by the end of May. Globally, the number of shots has been rising, with more than 840 million vaccines administered worldwide.
Currently, Americans are restricted from entering many countries for nonessential trips. Travelers can check the U.S. State Department website for specific country entry restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to view recommendations for international travelers (vaccinated and unvaccinated), and the C.D.C. COVID Data Tracker to monitor country conditions.
Iceland announced on March 16 that it would allow all vaccinated travelers into the country, Delta Air Lines followed soon after with an announcement that in May it would resume its Iceland routes from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Minneapolis St. Paul Airport, and offer a new route from Boston.
it’s been reported that the Biden administration may cancel existing travel restrictions for foreign nationals coming from Britain, Europe and Canada, around mid-May.
Still, the market is very much in flux, Mr. Grant said, so even though airlines may be increasing their flight schedules, they will continue to adjust to demand, possibly consolidating some of the flights.
United Airlines plans to increase international flights, but will still be operating just about half of its 2019 schedule. Among the flights it is eyeing are those between Chicago and Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Tel Aviv. The company also plans to increase service from Los Angeles to Sydney and Tokyo Narita.
Beach destinations that are open to Americans have seen an increase in demand and United is scheduling 90 more flights per week to or from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America than it had in May 2019.
Patrick Quayle, the vice president of the United Airlines’ international network, said the company had been adding more flights to countries that were open, but was uncertain when additional destinations like Canada — which is currently closed to American tourists and which has recently seen a rise in cases — would be added to that list. United is trying to be nimble, he said, so “if something were to open up, we can put our aircraft in the sky quickly.”
At American Airlines, new routes are planned this summer from New York to Athens and Tel Aviv, and from Miami to Suriname and Tel Aviv. (Israel has announced it would allow some vaccinated tourists into the country beginning May 23.) American also announced it was restarting a number of flights to Europe. Beyond that, the company won’t speculate on where air travel will open next.
Travel-Ready Center allows passengers with booked tickets to view country-specific entry requirements and schedule tests, and will soon allow customers to upload and store their vaccination records on the website before they travel. American’s online travel tool on the company’s website already allows passengers to store required documents like proof of negative coronavirus tests.
One airline that has been focusing on flights between the United States and international destinations is not a U.S. carrier, but a Middle Eastern one: Emirates. The United Arab Emirates opened up to leisure and business travelers last July and Emirates is already offering direct service to Dubai from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. Passengers can also connect from there to other destinations in the Middle East, Africa and West Asia. The company recently announced it would resume its flight between Newark and Athens on June 1.
health and cleaning protocols they put in place during the pandemic. Some have been adding on-site virus testing. In addition, so-called “touchless technology,” like phone apps for ordering food, will continue to be rolled out. A report by Medallia Zingle, a communications software maker, found that 77 percent of consumers surveyed said the amount of in-person interaction required at a business will factor into their decision on whether or not they visit that business.
Marriott, one of the world’s largest international hotel companies, with some 7,600 hotels under 30 brands, has implemented a set of practices it calls Commitment to Clean that includes sanitizing properties with hospital-grade disinfectants, using air-purifying systems and spreading out lobby furniture to facilitate social distancing. Some properties offer free coronavirus testing.
Recently the company announced a pilot program introducing self-serve check-in kiosks that create room keys and allow guests to bypass the front desk. It is also adding more “grab and go” food options.
Hyatt, another major international brand, is also continuing to focus on cleanliness. Currently, it is working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council and Cleveland Clinic to create its Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment. Those practices will “remain in place during the pandemic and beyond,” Amy Weinberg, Hyatt’s senior vice president of loyalty, brand marketing and consumer insights, wrote in an email.
its Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, France, one of its last remaining closed properties. Almost all Hyatt properties have been open since last December, and in February the company began arranging for guests staying at Hyatt resorts in Latin America who planned to travel back to the United States to get free on-site coronavirus testing.
IHG’s Kimpton brand with 73 hotels in 11 countries plans on modifying its protocols this summer where it feels they are safe and local ordinances allow — for example, bringing back the manager-hosted social hour, a guest favorite.
The four Kimpton hotels in Britain that closed because of the pandemic are currently scheduled to reopen by the end of May. A new Kimpton property in Bangkok that opened in October of 2020 to local guests will welcome international travelers this fall. The company also plans to open a new hotel in Bali and one in Paris later this year.
“Hoteliers are chafing at the bit” to reopen and are able to do so quickly, said Robin Rossman, the managing director of the hospitality analytics company STR. The global hotel sector, though, will likely take up to two years to make a full return, he said.
Geographic Expeditions, which did not run any trips last summer, reported that its bookings have picked up significantly in the past few months. It plans to run 20 international trips this summer, both to familiar destinations such as the Galápagos, and some off the beaten path, including Pakistan and Namibia. There are only about 25 percent fewer guests signed up now than there were for 2019 summer trips, according to the chief executive, Brady Binstadt, and they are “spending more than before — they’re splurging on that nicer hotel suite or charter flight or special experience.”
The company chose its first destinations based on entry requirements and client interest and then adjusted itineraries to avoid crowds, minimize internal flights and make sure guests had access to required testing. One expedition required flying a Covid-19 test into a safari lodge in Botswana via helicopter.
A guest recently moved a Geographic Expeditions trip planned for 2022 departure forward to 2021. The company hopes this will become a trend.
Abercrombie & Kent restarted its small-group and private trips last fall and early winter to places like Egypt, Costa Rica and Tanzania, and is continuing to expand choices as countries open up. “There’s been a noticeable spike in people calling who have had their first vaccine,” said Stefanie Schmudde, the vice-president of product development and operations. Bookings in March rose more than 50 percent over bookings in February, according to the company.
Ms. Schmudde monitors global travel conditions intently, and can rattle off names of countries that have been open to tourists for a few months and those she expects to open soon. She predicts Japan and China will open up this fall, but does not expect Europe to welcome many visitors any time soon.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Taiwan has built thousands of homes for the poor in Paraguay, upgraded the country’s health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships and even helped fund the futuristic Congress building in the capital, spending generously over decades to nurture their diplomatic ties.
But the alliance, which makes Paraguay one of only 15 nations to have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and the only one in South America, is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.
With its health care system buckling as Covid-19 cases soar, Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, in order to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does.
“This is really a life and death situation,” said Pepe Zhang, an associate director at the Atlantic Council who specializes in relations between Latin America and China. “In this very acute phase of the pandemic, less resourceful countries like Paraguay are asking where they’re going to get the vaccine.”
to rely predominantly on Chinese vaccines to blunt an epidemic that has left a brutal toll.
That has given Beijing considerable leverage in a region where it has a broad constellation of investments and projects. Suddenly, wresting Paraguay from Taiwan’s orbit — which would advance Beijing’s goal of politically isolating an island it regards as its territory — appears within reach.
Euclides Acevedo, Paraguay’s foreign minister, said recently that Beijing has made it clear it is interested in establishing ties with Paraguay. He has dangled that prospect of making the diplomatic switch as he has sought to pressure Taiwan and its ally, the United States, to get vaccines to Paraguay quickly.
late last month in an interview on the television network Telefuturo. “I think our strategic allies, including the United States and Taiwan, must respond.”
Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with Beijing or Taipei. Three countries in Latin America blindsided and angered the United States government in recent years by abruptly severing ties with Taiwan following secret negotiations with Beijing.
Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador — came with promises of growing trade with Beijing and has made them early recipients of Chinese vaccines.
Mr. Acevedo said Paraguay should explore what it would gain by doing the same.
“President Xi Jinping has keen interest in partnering with us,” he said. “It’s a political debate that should draw input from all segments of the state and all of society.”
Yet, it’s not clear that Paraguay has taken formal steps toward exploring a flip.
Charles Andrew Tang, who heads the China-Paraguay Chamber of Commerce, said he advised officials at the health ministry earlier this year on the paperwork they would need to fill out to request purchasing Chinese vaccines.
Mr. Tang, who is seen in Paraguay as a key interlocutor with the Chinese government, said it is conceivable that Chinese vaccine manufacturers would sell vaccines to Paraguay even without formal diplomatic relations. But he said the onus was on officials in Paraguay to make the first move.
an immediate pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within one to three weeks of vaccination.
All 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico temporarily halted or recommended providers pause the use of the vaccine. The U.S. military, federally run vaccination sites and a host of private companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Publix, also paused the injections.
Fewer than one in a million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are now under investigation. If there is indeed a risk of blood clots from the vaccine — which has yet to be determined — that risk is extremely low. The risk of getting Covid-19 in the United States is far higher.
The pause could complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy.
Johnson & Johnson has also decided to delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns over rare blood clots, dealing another blow to Europe’s inoculation push. South Africa, devastated by a more contagious virus variant that emerged there, suspended use of the vaccine as well. Australia announced it would not purchase any doses.
“The virus can spread across borders, but mankind’s love also transcends borders,” he told reporters.
This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, announced it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Beijing-based Sinovac.
“The leaders of this company have understood the enormous social and cultural value of soccer in South American countries,” the federation’s president, Alejandro Domínguez, said in a statement, calling the donation a “noble gesture.”
Despite all these signals, Taiwan’s position in Paraguay may be safer than it appears, said Lee McClenny, who served as the U.S. ambassador in Paraguay until last September. While cabinet members and businessmen have pressured President Mario Abdo Benítez to forge ties with China, the Chinese government didn’t show much interest in getting Paraguay to flip, he said.
“On the ground I didn’t see very effective efforts to make this happen,” Mr. McClenny said.
Besides, Mr. McClenny added, the Paraguayan president takes a special pride in the relationship with Taiwan, which was brokered in the 1950s by his late father, who served as the personal secretary to Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator who ran the country for 35 years. And Taiwanese aid has made a major impact in the landlocked, impoverished nation.
“It’s effective and benefits people’s lives in real ways,” Mr. McClenny said about Taiwan’s assistance.
The Biden administration has signaled its unease about the prospect that Paraguay could cut a deal with China. In a phone call with Mr. Abdo Benítez last month, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged the Paraguay government to continue to “work with democratic and global partners, including Taiwan, to overcome this global pandemic,” according to a summary of the call provided by the State Department.
That message rankles opposition lawmakers, including the leftist Senator Esperanza Martínez, who served as health minister from 2008 to 2012. Ms. Martínez has long favored establishing relations with China, arguing that Paraguay stands to benefit in the long run by expanding trade. She said Washington’s exhortation was immoral.
“We’re being loyal to people who impose rules on us while we die,” she said. “Our allies are vaccinating people morning, afternoon and night while they block us from getting vaccines, saying we’ll turn into communists.”
Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro. Santi Carneri contributed reporting from Asunción, Amy Qin contributed reporting from Taipei, Taiwan and Sui-Lee Wee contributed reporting from Singapore.
Near the peak of the American war in Afghanistan, a former chief of neighboring Pakistan’s military intelligence — an institution allied both to the U.S. military and to its Taliban adversaries — came on a talk show called “Joke Night” in 2014. He put a bold prediction on the record.
“When history is written,” declared Gen. Hamid Gul, who led the feared spy service known as the I.S.I. during the last stretch of the Cold War in the 1980s, “it will be stated that the I.S.I. defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the help of America.”
“Then there will be another sentence,” General Gul added after a brief pause, delivering his punchline to loud applause. “The I.S.I., with the help of America, defeated America.”
In President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by September, Pakistan’s powerful military establishment finally gets its wish after decades of bloody intrigue: the exit of a disruptive superpower from a backyard where it had established strong influence through a friendly Taliban regime before the U.S. invaded in 2001.
social unrest, agitation by oppressed minorities and a percolating Islamic militancy of its own that it is struggling to contain.
If Afghanistan descends into chaos, Pakistanis are bound to feel the burden again just as they did after Afghanistan disintegrated in the 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal. Millions of Afghan refugees crossed the porous border to seek relative safety in Pakistan’s cities and towns.
thousands of religious seminaries spread across Pakistan. Those groups have shown no hesitation in antagonizing the country’s government.
bitter about the double role played by the I.S.I. The killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. forces in 2011 was one rare moment when those tensions played out in public.
But Pakistan’s generals were also successful in making themselves indispensable to the United States — offering a nuclear-armed ally in a region where China, Russia and Islamist militants all had interests. Effectively, it meant that the United States chose to turn a blind eye as its Pakistani allies helped the Taliban wear down American and allied forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistan was 50 times more important to the United States than Afghanistan was.
In recent years, as American officials sought a way to leave Afghanistan, they again had to turn to Pakistan — to pressure the Taliban to come to peace talks, and to lend help when the United States needed to move against Al Qaeda or the Islamic State affiliate in the region.
With the U.S. intention to leave publicly declared, Pakistan did away with any semblance of denial that the Taliban leadership was sheltering there. Taliban leaders flew from Pakistani cities to engage in peace talks in Qatar. When negotiations reached delicate moments that required consultations with field commanders, they flew back to Pakistan.
When the United States finally signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in February last year, the mood in some circles in Pakistan was one of open celebration.
Pakistan’s former defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who had repeatedly visited the halls of power in Washington as a U.S. ally, tweeted a photo of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban deputy at the talks in Qatar.
“You might have might on your side, but God is with us,” Mr. Asif said in the tweet, ending with a cry of victory. “Allah u Akbar!”
But there are signs that extremist groups within Pakistan have already felt emboldened by the Taliban’s perceived victory, giving a glimpse of the trouble likely to be in store for Pakistani officials.
The once-defeated Pakistani Taliban have increased their activities in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Ambushes against security forces have become more frequent.
Just how wide the problem of extremism might stretch has been on display in recent days on the streets of two of Pakistan’s main cities, Lahore and Karachi.
Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a movement that sees itself as protecting Islam against blasphemy, thrashed uniformed members of Pakistani forces and took dozens hostage for hours. Videos emerged of Pakistani army officers trying to reason with the violent protesters. Officials said two policemen had been killed, and 300 wounded. The showdown continues, as the government moved to ban the group as a terrorist outfit.
“The state was not able to control the stick-yielding and stone-hurling members of the T.L.P. that paralyzed most parts of the country for two days,” said Afrasiab Khattak, a former chairman of Pakistan’s human rights commission. “How will they handle trained, guns-carrying Taliban militants?”
Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.
Factories are whirring, new apartments are being snapped up and more jobs are up for grabs. When China releases its new economic figures on Friday, they are expected to show a remarkable post-pandemic surge.
The question is whether small businesses and Chinese consumers can fully share in the good times.
China is expected to report that its economy grew by a jaw-dropping double-digit figure in the first three months of the year compared with the same period the year before. The number is widely estimated by economists to be 18 percent to 19 percent. But the growth is as much a reflection of the past — the country’s output shrank 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with a year earlier — as it is an indication of how China is doing now.
A year ago, entire cities were shut down, planes were grounded and highways were blocked to control the spread of a relentless virus. Today, global demand for computer screens and video consoles that China makes is soaring as people work from home and as a pandemic recovery beckons. That demand has continued as Americans with stimulus checks look to spend money on patio furniture, electronics and other goods made in Chinese factories.
in the corporate sector, where many firms have borrowed beyond their means. Many economists are looking for signs of a broader recovery that relies less on exports and the government and more on Chinese consumers to juice growth.
A slow vaccination rollout and fresh memories of lockdowns have left many consumers in the country skittish. Restaurants are still struggling to bounce back. Waiters, shopkeepers and students are not ready yet for the “revenge spending” that economists hope will power growth. When virus outbreaks occur, the Chinese authorities are quick to put new lockdowns in place, hurting small businesses and their customers.
To avoid a wave of outbreaks in February, the authorities canceled the travel plans of millions of migrant workers for the Lunar New Year holiday, the biggest holiday of the year in China.
“China’s Covid strategy has been to crush it when it reappears, but there seems to be a lot of voluntary social distancing and that’s affecting services,” said Shaun Roache, chief economist for Asia Pacific at S&P Global. “It’s holding back normalization.”
Wu Zhen runs a family business of 13 restaurants and dozens of banquet halls in Yingtan, a city in China’s southeastern Jiangxi Province. When China began to bounce back last year, more people started coming to her restaurants for their favorite dishes, like braised pork. But just as she and her employees began preparing for the Lunar New Year, a new Covid-19 outbreak prompted the authorities to limit the number of people allowed to gather in one place to 50.
“It should have been the best time of the year for our business,” said Ms. Wu, 33.
This year, Ms. Wu decided that closing the entire business over the holiday would be cheaper. “If we want to serve Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner, the labor wage for one day is three times higher than the usual time. We save more money by just closing the doors and the business,” she said. It will be the second year in a row that the restaurants shut their doors over the holiday.
Ms. Wu inherited the business from her father two years ago and employs more than 800 people. Before the pandemic, three quarters of the business revenue came from big banquets for weddings and family reunions. She said business has yet to return to normal after months of crushing virus restrictions.
The setbacks facing small-business owners like Ms. Wu are also affecting regular consumers who are jittery about opening their wallets. According to Zhaopin, China’s biggest job recruitment platform, more jobs in hotels and restaurants, entertainment services and real estate are available than a year ago. But households are still being cautious about spending.
Families continue to save at a higher rate than they did before the pandemic, something that worries economists like Louis Kuijs, who is head of Asian economics at Oxford Economics. Mr. Kuijs is looking at household savings as an indication of whether Chinese consumers are ready to start splurging after months of being stuck at home.
“More people still seem to not go all the way in terms of carefree spending,” he said. “At times there are still some lingering Covid concerns, but there is perhaps also a concern about the general economic situation.”
Many families took on more debt last year as they borrowed to buy property and to cover expenses during the pandemic. China still largely lacks the kind of social safety net that many wealthy countries provide, and some families have to dip into savings for health care and other big costs.
Unlike much of the developed world, China doesn’t subsidize its consumers. Instead of handing out checks to jump-start the economy last year, China ordered state-owned banks to lend to businesses and offered tax rebates.
Retail figures on Friday will give a better sense of where consumers are picking up their old spending habits. But data from the first two months of the year already show that consumers like Li Jinqiu are spending less and saving more.
Mr. Li, 25, who recently got married, has a one-month-old baby at home. He had planned to work for the family business, but it has been hit by the pandemic and he doesn’t think there is much opportunity for him if he stays.
“The whole family has some sense of crisis,” Mr. Li said. “Because of the pandemic and because of family business, I have a sense of crisis.”
Mr. Li said he had received a job offer in sales at a financial firm in Beijing but had delayed the start date to help take care of his newborn. He said he once borrowed to spend on items like his $150,000 Mercedes. Now he drives a $46,000 electric car and has put off buying new clothes.
BRUSSELS — Iran and the other signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal resumed negotiations in Vienna on Thursday to revive the accord, though the atmosphere was fraught in the aftermath of the apparent Israeli attack on a major uranium enrichment site in Iran.
Senior diplomats involved in the talks have agreed that the working groups meant to bring both Iran and the United States into compliance with the deal had made progress.
But after the meeting on Thursday, the head of China’s delegation, Wang Qun, called for a faster pace and fewer distractions.
“We do think that all these developments have reinforced our conviction that what is needed most now as a top priority is to do away with any disruptive factors and pick up the pace of negotiation here,” said Mr. Wang, China’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
said in a Twitter post that the “general impression is positive.” He said this meeting would be followed “by a number of informal meetings in different formats, including at expert level.”
The talks have been overshadowed in recent days by Iran’s response to an attack at its Natanz uranium-enrichment facility on Sunday. Tehran decided to further increase enrichment to 60 percent, a major step toward the 90 percent enrichment that is considered suitable for a nuclear bomb and a flagrant breach of the limits of the 2015 accord. Iran also said it would replace damaged centrifuges at the Natanz facility with more advanced models that were banned under the accord.
The Natanz attack was said to have been carried out by Israel, which has regularly criticized the 2015 deal as weak and unlikely to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. U.S. officials have said Israel was responsible for the attack and have denied any American involvement.
The meeting in Vienna involved senior diplomats from Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia under the chairmanship of the European Union. Senior American officials are in a nearby hotel, because President Donald J. Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in 2018.
The three European nations, joined by the United States, have sharply criticized Iran’s moves in recent days, calling them “provocative” and “particularly regrettable” in the face of progress at the Vienna meetings.
“Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions,” they noted in a statement, adding that Iran’s enrichment decision was “a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, criticized Iran’s intentions. “I have to tell you, this step calls into question Iran’s seriousness with regard to the nuclear talks, just as it underscores the imperative of returning to mutual compliance” with the nuclear deal.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is purely civilian.
The talks are designed to bring the United States back into compliance with the 2015 deal by negotiating what economic sanctions should be lifted. A second working group is focusing on how to bring Iran back into compliance, which Iran has deliberately broken as a “remedial” measure since the economic benefits of the accord have been denied it.
Those talks are said to have been positive so far, but Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was dismissive of them in comments made on Wednesday marking the first day of Ramadan in Iran. He said it was “not worth looking at” initial offers for the lifting of sanctions, saying that “the offers they provide are usually arrogant and humiliating.”
He also warned that time could be running out. “The talks shouldn’t become talks of attrition,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “They shouldn’t be in a way that parties drag on and prolong the talks. This is harmful to the country.”
He also said that Iran was prepared to return quickly to compliance if agreement could be found in Vienna and again denied that Iran would ever build nuclear weapons.
The leader of the Iranian delegation, Abbas Araghchi, a deputy foreign minister, has been busy in Vienna holding bilateral talks in the last few days, rejecting speculation that Iran might withdraw from the negotiations. The impression among other diplomats involved is that Iran is committed to a deal, as is the United States.
How to get there and how to synchronize the moves of both sides in an atmosphere of mistrust is the task of the Vienna meetings. Whether that succeeds, or how long it will take, is unclear. But both Iran and the United States have said that they want a successful conclusion.