China’s antitrust authority summoned 34 top internet companies to talk about new fair-competition rules. Within hours, they were discussing business changes and publicly pledging to stay in line.

“These new regulations are going to require internet platforms to look at how they innovate going forward, and the result is potentially less innovation,” said Gordon Orr, a nonexecutive board member at Meituan, the Chinese food delivery giant.

Even so, Alibaba and other internet titans have a status in China that could protect them from the most heavy-handed treatment. Officials have praised the titans’ economic contributions even as they tighten supervision. Mr. Xi wants China’s economy to be driven more by its own innovations than by those of fickle foreign powers.

That means it might be too soon to declare Jack Ma down for the count.

“His company is much more important to the success and functioning of the Chinese economy than any of the other entrepreneurs’,” Mr. McGregor said. “The government wants to continue to reap the benefits of his company — but on their terms. The government isn’t nationalizing Alibaba. It isn’t confiscating its assets. It’s simply narrowing the field in which it operates.”

Alibaba declined to comment.

Mr. Ma is no neophyte at dealing with the authorities in China.

He worked briefly and unhappily at a government-run advertising agency before founding Alibaba in 1999. At the time, China was still getting used to the idea of powerful private entrepreneurs, and Mr. Ma proved adept at charming government officials.

in the 2000s. “What a world-class company needs most is a soul, a commander, a world-class businessman. Jack Ma, I believe, meets this standard.”

Mr. Ma saw early on what success might bring with it in China, said Porter Erisman, an early Alibaba executive.

“There was only one person in the company who brought to our attention that one day we might face issues of being so big that we would come under pressure for having too much market power,” Mr. Erisman said. “And that was Jack.”

one of Alibaba’s biggest investors, Yahoo. Mr. Ma said the move had been necessary under new Chinese regulations. Alipay later became Ant Group.

“The Alipay transfer emboldened him,” said Duncan Clark, who has known Mr. Ma since 1999 and is chairman of BDA China, a consulting firm. “He kind of got away with it.”

work more closely with the state.

When Mr. Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019, a commentary in the official Communist Party newspaper declared: “There is no so-called Jack Ma era — only Jack Ma as part of this era.”

China’s leaders need the private sector to help sustain economic growth. But they also do not want entrepreneurs to undermine the party’s dominance across society.

Last October, as Ant was preparing to go public, Mr. Ma spoke at a Shanghai conference and criticized China’s financial regulators. He had long seen Ant as a vehicle for disrupting the country’s big state-run banks. But there could scarcely have been a less opportune moment to press the point. Officials halted Ant’s share listing soon after.

In China, “it’s hard to say the emperor has no clothes these days,” said Kellee S. Tsai, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Mr. Ma has largely vanished from sight within his companies, too. In January, he popped up in an internal chat group to answer a business question, according to a person who saw the message but was not authorized to speak publicly. Employees later shared Mr. Ma’s message to reassure nervous colleagues.

estimated that Mr. Ma was not, for the first time in three years, one of China’s three richest people. The country’s new No. 1 was Zhong Shanshan, the low-key head of both a bottled-water giant and a pharmaceutical business.

Chinese news reports about his sudden wealth had to explain to readers how to pronounce the obscure Chinese character in his name.

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Canadian Rivals in Bidding War for U.S. Railroad: Live Updates

put forward last month by a rival railroad operator, Canadian Pacific.

The competing offers underline the riches expected to come from trade flows after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was passed into law last year. A merger with either suitor would create a railroad line that stretches from Canada to Mexico. In the already consolidated railroad industry, few lines are left to bid on — let alone deals that will be approved by regulators.

Canadian National said in a letter to Kansas City board that the company had spent “considerable time and resources analyzing a potential combination of our two companies.” It argues its offer represents “an unparalleled opportunity to create a premier railway for the 21st century.”

The offer gives Kansas City Southern a valuation 21 percent higher than Canadian Pacific’s bid, which had been agreed on by the companies’ boards.

For Canadian National, the proposal would be a chance to stop its smaller domestic competitor from gaining significant scale. Unlike Canadian Pacific, Canadian National already has track agreements extending to the Gulf of Mexico.

The rival bid is one further challenge to Canadian Pacific’s offer, which was already facing regulatory scrutiny. The U.S. Department of Justice has urged the Surface Transportation Board — which must approve the offer — to examine the deal under tough industry guidelines put in place in 2001 and expressed concern over its use of a voting trust that would it allow it close the deal even before getting regulatory approval.

Canadian Pacific has argued that there should be no regulatory trouble, given the two railroads have no overlap and in some cases create new markets. It said its smaller size compared with other major North American railroads should exempt it from the guidelines.

A Louis Vuitton store in Paris. The retailer’s parent company helped set up a digital ledger that provides a history of luxury goods bought by consumers.
Credit…Charles Platiau/Reuters

Three rival names in the European luxury sector have established a new blockchain consortium that will allow shoppers to track the provenance of their purchases and authenticate goods.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which first unveiled plans for a global blockchain-based system in 2019, will be joined by Prada Group and Compagnie Financière Richemont in the Aura Blockchain Consortium, a nonprofit group that will promote the use of a single blockchain solution open to all luxury brands worldwide.

Many sectors are looking at the possibility of using blockchain, the distributed ledger system that underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Because blockchains are unchangeable and decentralized, the data stored on them is trustworthy and secure.

In this case, each product will be given a unique digital code during the manufacturing process that will be recorded on the Aura ledger. When customers make a purchase, they will be given login details to a platform that will provide the history of the product, including its origin, components, environmental and ethical information, proof of ownership, a warranty and care instructions.

Bulgari, Cartier, Hublot, Louis Vuitton and Prada are already using the system, with “advanced conversations” being held with a number of other luxury brands, according to a statement released Tuesday. Participating luxury brands pay an annual licensing fee and a volume fee. Aura, based in Geneva, was developed in partnership with Microsoft and ConsenSys, a blockchain software technology company in New York.

“The Aura Consortium represents an unprecedented cooperation in the luxury industry,” said Cartier’s chief executive, Cyrille Vigneron, adding that he invited “the entire profession” to join the consortium.

“The luxury industry creates timeless pieces and must ensure that these rigorous standards will endure and remain in trustworthy hands,” he said.

“Businesses are reimagining the office to foster collaboration, culture and focused work, while supporting a growing remote employee base,” Andi Owen, chief executive of Herman Miller.
Credit…Emily Rose Bennett for The New York Times

Just as workers across the country begin to return to the office, two of the largest furniture design companies will merge.

Herman Miller agreed to acquire its rival Knoll in a cash and stock deal valued at $1.8 billion.

The merger combines two furniture giants that share a modern design element. Herman Miller, best known for its Eames chair and ottoman, and Knoll for its Barcelona chair, together hope to capture an even bigger share of the renovations occurring at home and in offices as many companies and employees look to a future of splitting their time between the two in the post-pandemic world.

“As distributed working models become the new normal for companies, businesses are reimagining the office to foster collaboration, culture and focused work, while supporting a growing remote employee base,” Andi Owen, president and chief executive of Herman Miller, said in a statement Monday. “At the same time, consumers are making significant investments in their homes.”

Based in Zeeland, Mich., Herman Miller traces its roots to 1905 when it began selling bedroom suites. During the depression, when the company was struggling to survive, its then-chief executive, Dirk Jan De Pree, met the designer Gilbert Rohde, who persuaded him to move away from traditional design and toward more modern design and the office furniture market. In 1942, Herman Miller introduced the Executive Office Group, designed by Mr. Rohde, that featured modular pieces that could be configured in different ways.

After Mr. Rohde died in 1944, Mr. De Pree worked with a range of designers, including Charles Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames and Isamu Noguchi. The Eames Executive Chair, a plush, padded, leather chair that was released in 1961 and commissioned for the ultramodern lobby of the Time Life building in New York, can be purchased today for $4,895.

Likewise, Knoll’s history in furniture dates back more than 80 years when the husband-and-wife founders, Hans and Florence Knoll, embraced the creativity of the Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany, and later, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., teaming up with a variety of architects, sculptors and designers.

After the expected close of the transaction later this year, Ms. Owen will become the president and chief executive of the combined company. Andrew Cogan, Knoll’s chairman and chief executive, will depart after 30 years with the company.

Journalists watch a screen showing China's president, Xi Jinping, delivering a speech during the opening of the Boao Forum on Tuesday.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, called for cooperation and openness to an audience of business and financial leaders on Tuesday. He also had some warnings, presumably for the United States.

Speaking electronically to a largely virtual audience at China’s annual Boao Forum, Mr. Xi warned that the world should not allow “unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world.”

The audience included American business leaders including Tim Cook of Apple and Elon Musk of Tesla, as well as two Wall Street financiers, Ray Dalio and Stephen Schwarzman. Long a platform for China to show off its economic prowess and leadership, the Boao Forum is held annually on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. (Last year’s was canceled amid the pandemic.)

In recent years, Mr. Xi has used the forum to portray himself as an advocate of free trade and globalization, calling for openness even as many in the global business community have become increasingly vocal about growing restrictions in China’s own domestic market.

On Tuesday, he also reiterated his earlier message opposing efforts by countries to weaken their economic interdependence with China.

“Attempts to ‘erect walls’ or ‘decouple’” would “hurt others’ interests without benefiting oneself,” Mr. Xi said, in what appeared to be a reference to the United States and the Biden administration’s plans to support domestic high-tech manufacturing in the United States.

The White House held a meeting with business executives last week to discuss a global chip shortage and plan for semiconductor “supply chain resilience.” Speaking to executives from Google, Intel and Samsung, Mr. Biden said “China and the rest of the world is not waiting, and there’s no reason why Americans should wait.”

China is pursuing its own program for self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing.

Mr. Xi also pledged to continue to open the Chinese economy for foreign businesses, a promise that big Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have clung to even as foreign executives complain that the broader business landscape has become more challenging.

The display at a crytocurrency ATM in Zurich, Switzerland. Prices of cryptocurrencies and related stocks slipped lower on Tuesday.
Credit…Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency started as a joke, now has a market value that can’t be laughed at: more than $50 billion. On Tuesday, traders of Dogecoin were trying to push up the price to coincide with 4/20, or April 20, a date associated with smoking cannabis.

On Twitter, the hashtags #DogeDay and #Doge420 were trending. Dogecoin’s price, which has surged lately, fluctuated between gains and losses on Tuesday, trading at about 40 cents, according to Coindesk. A month ago, it was about 5 cents.

The ripple effects of the boom in crypto markets are being felt far and wide. Coinbase, the cryptocurrencies exchange that went public last week and is helping the industry move into the mainstream, has a market value of $66 billion. Central banks have ramped up plans to explore digital currencies to offer people a secure alternative to cryptocurrencies, which are out of their control. On Monday, the Bank of England was the latest to announce it was looking into a central bank digital currency.

On Tuesday morning, prices of cryptocurrencies and related stocks slipped. Bitcoin fell 1 percent, trading just above $55,000. Shares in Coinbase and Riot Blockchain were slightly lower in premarket trading.

Exxon wants to capture carbon from industrial plants along the Houston Ship Channel and pipe it offshore.
Credit…Bronte Wittpenn for The New York Times

HOUSTON — Under growing pressure from investors to address climate change, Exxon Mobil on Monday proposed a $100 billion project to capture the carbon emissions of big industrial plants in the Houston area and bury them deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

Exxon, the largest U.S. oil company, wants to create a profit-making business out of the capture of carbon emitted by petrochemical plants and other industries. But its plan would require significant government support and intervention, including the introduction of a price or tax on carbon dioxide emissions, an idea that has failed to attract enough support in Congress in the past.

The company already captures carbon, which it injects into older fields to produce more oil. Exxon now wants to use its expertise to store the carbon dioxide generated by other industries. But without a price on emitting carbon, many businesses would have little financial incentive to pay Exxon to capture and store their carbon.

The Obama administration failed to enact a cap-and-trade system, which raises costs for polluting companies by forcing them to buy tradable permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. California, the European Union and 11 states in the Northeast use versions of cap-and-trade. Other governments, including British Columbia and Britain, have imposed a per-ton tax on emissions.

Exxon wants to capture carbon from industrial plants along the Houston Ship Channel and pipe it offshore where it would stored up to 6,000 feet below the Gulf of Mexico. The effort would be paid for by industry and the government, and would eventually store 100 million tons of carbon annually — equivalent to the emissions of 20 million cars, according to Exxon.

The company has discussed its idea with national and Texas policymakers and Republicans and Democrats in Congress, Exxon’s chief executive, Darren Woods, said in an interview. “They see the opportunity and appeal of this idea,” he said. “The question is, how do you translate the concept into practice?”

Exxon said its proposal complements President Biden’s climate efforts, but it would require the administration to embrace a price on carbon, something it has not done.

“The concept of a price on carbon is critical,” Mr. Woods said. “There has to be a way to incentivize the investment.”

Offshore storage has already gained traction in Europe, where governments have put carbon prices in place and lawmakers are more willing to spend taxpayer money to address climate change.

Mr. Woods said that, given the right policies, carbon capture projects could be a major business for Exxon around the world. “The potential for these markets is very, very large to the extent that demand continues to increase to decarbonize society,” he said.

A used-car dealership in Naperville, Ill. The average price paid for a used car is well above $20,000.
Credit…Nick Carey/Reuters

Last year’s pandemic-induced production delays, combined with a continued shortage of computer chips and other automotive components, have tightened the supply of new models — especially popular sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

That means it may be challenging to find a new ride with the colors and features you want at a price you can afford, Ann Carrns reports for The New York Times. “It’s harder to get exactly what you want,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds. “Don’t expect heavy discounts.”

So if new cars are too expensive, you can just buy a used car, right?

Yes, but deals may be elusive there as well. Fewer people bought new cars last year, so fewer used cars were traded in. And the short supply of new cars is pushing more buyers to consider used cars, raising those prices, analysts say. The average price paid for a used car is well above $20,000, Edmunds says.

On the plus side, if you have a car to trade in, its value is probably higher, especially if it’s a popular model. The average value for trade-ins, including leased cars turned in early, was about $17,000 in March, up from about $14,000 a year earlier, according to Edmunds. The average age of trade-ins was five and a half years.

Various online services, like Kelly Blue Book, TrueCar and Carvana, will supply a trade-in estimate based on your location and your car’s age, mileage and general condition, and offer more tailored appraisals if you provide details like the vehicle identification number. Some even offer to buy your car outright.

Noting the power of digital platforms, Margrethe Vestager, a European Commission official, said in a recent speech that “we need something more to keep that power in check.”
Credit…Pool photo by Olivier Hoslet

Around the world, governments are moving simultaneously to limit the power of tech companies with an urgency and breadth that no single industry had experienced before.

Their motivation varies. In the United States and Europe, it is concern that tech companies are stifling competition, spreading misinformation and eroding privacy; in Russia and elsewhere, it is to silence protest movements and tighten political control; in China, it is some of both.

Nations and tech firms have jockeyed for primacy for years, but the latest actions have pushed the industry to a tipping point that could reshape how the global internet works and change the flows of digital data, Paul Mozur, Cecilia Kang, Adam Satariano and David McCabe report for The New York Times.

“It is unprecedented to see this kind of parallel struggle globally,” said Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan and an antitrust expert. Now, Mr. Crane said, “the same fundamental question is being asked globally: Are we comfortable with companies like Google having this much power?”

Underlying all of the disputes is a common thread: power. The 10 largest tech firms, which have become gatekeepers in commerce, finance, entertainment and communications, now have a combined market capitalization of more than $10 trillion. In gross domestic product terms, that would rank them as the world’s third-largest economy.

Governments agree that tech clout has grown too expansive, but there has been little coordination on solutions. Competing policies have led to geopolitical friction. Last month, the Biden administration said it could put tariffs on countries that imposed new taxes on American tech companies.

Tech companies are fighting back. Amazon and Facebook have created their own entities to adjudicate conflicts over speech and to police their sites. In the United States and in the European Union, the companies have spent heavily on lobbying.

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CreditCredit…By Simoul Alva

In today’s On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide looks at a health technology nonprofit organization that is turning the approach to vaccination credentials on its head.

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Xi Jinping of China Calls for Openness Amid Strained Ties With U.S.

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, called for cooperation and openness to an audience of business and financial leaders on Tuesday. He also had some warnings, presumably for the United States.

Speaking electronically to a largely virtual audience at China’s annual Boao Forum, Mr. Xi warned that the world should not allow “unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world.”

The audience included American business leaders including Tim Cook of Apple and Elon Musk of Tesla, as well as two Wall Street financiers, Ray Dalio and Stephen Schwarzman. Long a platform for China to show off its economic prowess and leadership, the Boao Forum is held annually on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. (Last year’s was canceled amid the pandemic.)

In recent years, Mr. Xi has used the forum to portray himself as an advocate of free trade and globalization, calling for openness even as many in the global business community have become increasingly vocal about growing restrictions in China’s own domestic market.

global chip shortage and plan for semiconductor “supply chain resilience.” Speaking to executives from Google, Intel and Samsung, Mr. Biden said “China and the rest of the world is not waiting, and there’s no reason why Americans should wait.”

China is pursuing its own program for self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing.

Mr. Xi also pledged to continue to open the Chinese economy for foreign businesses, a promise that big Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have clung to even as foreign executives complain that the broader business landscape has become more challenging.

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