met with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, as Mr. Bach was visiting the city.

It was Mr. Bach who on Sunday held a video call with Ms. Peng intended to reassure athletes and others worried about her disappearance in the days after her post appeared.

Earlier in Mr. Xi’s term, lurid reports about officials’ sexual misdeeds at times surfaced in state media, disclosures intended to signal that he was serious about purifying the party.

Mr. Xi’s priority now appears to be fending off any odor of scandal tainting the party’s top echelons. References to Ms. Peng’s account were nearly wiped off the internet inside China. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, suggested that the attention around Ms. Peng had become “malicious hype.” Official media have not shown or reported on Mr. Zhang since Ms. Peng went public; nor have they directly challenged her account.

“Even to deny her allegations would be to give them a level of credence that you couldn’t then roll back,” said Louisa Lim, a former journalist who long worked in China and the author of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia.”

When Mr. Zhang retired in 2018, he dropped from public view, as is the norm in Chinese politics. Retirement often comes with perks like high quality health care, housing and travel within China, but also some monitoring.

“Once you retire, your movements are reported to the party’s department of organization,” said Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California who studies the party.

In her post, Ms. Peng seemed to indicate that she and Mr. Zhang had recently had a disagreement, and that he had once again “disappeared” as he did before. She wrote, though, that she expected that her account would have little effect on Mr. Zhang’s eminence.

“With your intelligence and wits,” she wrote, “I am sure you will either deny it, or blame it on me, or you could simply play it cool.”

Claire Fu and Liu Yi contributed research.

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With Tokyo Olympics Weeks Away, U.S. Warns Americans Not to Travel to Japan

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Monday warned Americans against traveling to Japan as the country experiences an increase in coronavirus cases less than two months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

The move has little practical effect, as Japan’s borders have been closed to most nonresident foreigners since the early months of the pandemic. But the warning is another blow for the Olympics, which are facing stiff opposition among the Japanese public over concerns that they could become a superspreader event as athletes and their entourages pour in from around the world.

The Japanese authorities have insisted that they can carry off the Olympics safely. They have made clear that they intend to proceed with the Games regardless of public discontent and a state of emergency currently in place in much of the country.

Likewise, Japanese officials told the local news media that they viewed the American warning as separate from any considerations for the Games. The State Department declaration is unlikely to affect the United States’ decision to send its athletes to the Olympics. Presumably, most if not all have been vaccinated, although the Games’ organizers are not requiring participants to be inoculated.

Osaka, part of Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area, is struggling to deal with the surge, which has put pressure on its health care system.

20,000 people in Japan connected to the event. In addition, the Japanese organizers of the Games have barred international spectators from attending.

But those moves have not allayed public concerns. About 80 percent of the Japanese public believes that the Olympics, which were delayed by a year because of the pandemic, should be canceled or postponed again, polls show. The approval rating for Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has fallen to the low 30s over his handling of the virus, according to a recent poll by Jiji Press.

Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the Games to be canceled, and protesters have taken to the streets to denounce the event as a threat to public health. In a poll conducted last week, nearly 70 percent of companies said that the Olympics should be stopped or delayed.

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Olympics participants will be offered a vaccine before the Games.

Athletes and officials traveling to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer will be offered doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine before arriving in Japan, the International Olympic Committee said on Thursday, in an effort to reassure the Japanese public about the safety of hosting the event.

The committee said it had struck a deal with the drug makers to send the doses to Olympic and Paralympic Games participants’ home countries, where they will be administered through domestic inoculation programs.

The effort is the latest attempt by Olympic officials and Japanese organizers to assuage the concerns of Japanese people who do not want their country to host the Games during the pandemic. Less than 1 percent of people in Japan have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a New York Times database, and restaurants, bars and nonessential businesses are closed in several areas, including Tokyo.

The initiative was developed “not only to contribute to the safe environment of the Games, but also out of respect for the residents of Japan,” the committee said in a statement.

would buy doses of a Chinese-made vaccine, there is no requirement for athletes, coaches, officials and others attending the Games to be vaccinated.

In March, China said it would provide vaccines for Olympic participants. But China’s vaccines have not been approved in many countries, and several — including Japan — said they would decline the offer.

The I.O.C. president, Thomas Bach, acknowledged that accepting the vaccine was voluntary, even as he urged competitors to be inoculated. “We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” he said.

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The New Taiwan Tensions

When Henry Kissinger secretly traveled to Beijing in 1971 to negotiate the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China, he came bearing multiple requests — about the Vietnam War, nuclear arms, the Soviet Union and more. Kissinger’s Chinese counterpart, Zhou Enlai, had only one focus: Taiwan.

The U.S. needed to recognize the government in Beijing, not Taipei, as the only legitimate China, and the United Nations needed to expel Taiwan, Zhou said. Kissinger agreed to those terms, and President Richard Nixon triumphantly visited China the next year.

Still, the U.S. did not abandon Taiwan. Even as it refused to recognize Taiwan, it continued selling arms to its government and implicitly warned Beijing not to invade. The policy is known as “strategic ambiguity,” and it has endured since the 1970s.

Now some U.S. officials and foreign-policy experts worry that it has become outdated, as my colleague Michael Crowley explains. They think that President Biden may need to choose between making a more formal commitment to Taiwan’s defense or tempting China to invade.

released a statement saying, “Similar exercises will be conducted on a regular basis in the future.” Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic has suggested that a Chinese invasion “could happen at any moment” and that Biden should be prepared.

A military conflict still seems unlikely. Then again, military conflicts often seem unlikely until the moment they begin.

China’s current leaders view Taiwanese reunification much as Zhou did in 1971: urgent and vital. “Fast forward half a century, and the same issue — Taiwan — remains Beijing’s No. 1 priority,” as Niall Ferguson of Stanford University writes in a Bloomberg Opinion piece. To Beijing, Taiwan continues to be a source of embarrassment, the island where the losers in the country’s civil war fled in 1949 and whose government is propped up by foreign powers.

Just as important, though, is what has changed in recent decades. China has transformed itself from a poor country that endured the chaos of civil war, famine and the Cultural Revolution during the 20th century into one of the world’s leading powers. It has become the only serious rival to the U.S., economically and militarily.

severe human rights violations. It has crushed dissent in Hong Kong over the past year. Taiwan remains the only part of greater China that’s outside of Beijing’s grip.

“Xi seems to see the U.S. as weakened and distracted,” Michael Crowley told me, “but also focusing more and more on the China threat — leading to concern that he may see a window of opportunity that moves him to action in the near future.”

Biden and his foreign-policy team have decided to take a fairly tough approach to China. They do not believe Donald Trump’s specific policies, like his tariffs, were effective, but Biden’s team has accepted Trump’s view that Barack Obama and his predecessors were too soft on China, mistakenly hoping it would become friendlier as it became richer.

Even within this hawkish framework, though, the most effective approach to Taiwan is not obvious. Some Americans — including Robert Gates, a former defense secretary; Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican; Barney Frank, a Democratic former House member; and Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations — argue that while “strategic ambiguity” worked when China was weak, it no longer does. Today, they say, the U.S. must provide clarity, to prevent a thriving, affluent democracy of 24 million people from being overrun.

Other experts argue that a formal change in U.S. policy would be so confrontational as to force Beijing to choose between humiliation and war. “For Taiwan, strategic ambiguity remains a relatively successful policy,” Lu Yeh-chung of National Cheng-chi University in Taipei told The Times. Advocates for the status quo say that China’s leaders understand that an invasion of Taiwan could bring global condemnation, tough economic sanctions and a needless risk to China’s continuing rise.

Michael Crowley’s news analysis or Niall Ferguson’s history-laden Bloomberg essay.

business is booming for interior decorators: “We work for the one-half of the one-half of the 1 percent.”

Lives Lived: After a failed documentary project, Sharon Matola found herself in Belize looking after a jaguar, two macaws and 18 other half-tamed animals. The zoo she established there became a popular attraction, and Matola an outspoken advocate for animals. She died at 66.

Tokyo Olympics are set to begin in July, with the Paralympics scheduled to start in August. Years of planning — and billions in television dollars — mean Olympic organizers are keen to hold the event without postponing again.

But polling in Japan has trended strongly against the Games, as Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida report in The Times. Thousands of athletes and other participants will be heading to Tokyo, and less than 1 percent of Japan’s population has been vaccinated, CNBC reports. The country’s experience of the pandemic has been comparatively mild, with the level of infections and deaths far below that of the United States or Europe. But that’s not guaranteed to continue.

Though organizers have said that vaccinations will not be mandatory, the International Olympic Committee will supply vaccines for any competitors who need them. Some countries, like India and Hungary, are prioritizing Olympic athletes for vaccinations at home. Organizers are also barring spectators from overseas, and cheering is forbidden at the Olympic torch relay, which kicked off in Fukushima Prefecture last month.

One thing that is staying the same: The Games will still be called Tokyo 2020, reflected in heaps of T-shirts, mugs, signage and other branded merchandise.

slice of Florida lime pie.

People in their 20s and 30s are turning to Botox. Why?

“Shiva Baby,” a tense comedy about a young woman at the shiva of a family friend, mixes “big laughs with gut-wrenching discomfort,” Jason Bailey writes in a review.

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Why ‘Cursed’ Olympics Are Pressing Ahead Amid a Pandemic

The organizers scrapped their first logo after plagiarism accusations. The president of Japan’s Olympic Committee was indicted on corruption charges related to the bidding process. Out of fears of extreme heat in Tokyo, the I.O.C. moved the marathon to Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island, 500 miles from the Olympic Stadium.

Taro Aso, the country’s finance minister, has described the Tokyo Olympics as “cursed.”

For Japan, the prospect of recouping its costs has grown only more distant, after the Tokyo organizing committee said on Saturday that it would not allow foreign spectators. Without these visitors, there is now little upside for hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

The organizers say that their focus is primarily on safety, and that they have earmarked $900 million in spending on measures to combat the virus. They have watched in recent weeks as other major sporting events — the Australian Open, the N.C.A.A. men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — have gone ahead. For the Games, some countries are pushing Olympians to the front of the vaccination line, and the I.O.C. has agreed to supply Chinese vaccines for those who need one.

The organizers say vaccination will not be mandatory, however, and many athletes, delegates and others will be coming from places where vaccines are unlikely to be fully available. Japan itself will not start vaccinations for those over 65 until next month, and there has been no indication that athletes will be prioritized.

Infections and deaths in Japan have never spiraled to the levels seen in the United States or Europe, but the country is still recording more than 1,000 new infections each day and dozens of deaths. The Tokyo region was under a state of emergency until Sunday, and the country’s borders remain closed to most overseas visitors.

With more contagious and perhaps deadlier variants circulating around the globe, epidemiologists warn that the Tokyo Olympics have the potential to turbocharge the virus’s spread.

Controlling the pathogen will be “almost close to mission impossible,” said Dr. Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist at Kobe University Hospital. “Canceling the Olympic Games would be much easier.”

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Overseas spectators are barred from the Tokyo Olympics.

TOKYO — Spectators from overseas will not be allowed to attend the Summer Olympics in Japan, organizers said on Saturday, making a major concession to the realities of Covid-19 even as they forged ahead with plans to hold the world’s largest sporting event.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo organizing committee, promised at a news conference on Saturday that the lack of international spectators would not spoil the Games.

“The Tokyo 2020 Games will be completely different from the past, but the essence remains the same,” Ms. Hashimoto said. “Athletes will put everything on the line and inspire people with their outstanding performances.”

The Tokyo Games, which begin in July, were originally scheduled for 2020 but were delayed by a year because of the pandemic. The Tokyo organizing committee has been scrambling to develop safety protocols to protect both participants and local residents from the virus.

announced this month that China had offered to provide vaccinations for participants who required one ahead of the Games.

But not all local spectators will have the chance to be inoculated before the Olympics open on July 23. In Japan, where the vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, the population will not be close to fully vaccinated by the time the Games start.

Japan has had about 455,000 Covid-19 cases and 8,797 deaths during the pandemic, far fewer than in the United States and Western Europe, according to a New York Times database. The country declared a widespread state of emergency in early January after a rise in infections. Since then, most areas have lifted the declaration. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that it would end in Tokyo on Sunday.

As part of its efforts to stop the spread of new, more infectious variants of Covid-19, Japan has also barred all new entries into the country from abroad since late December, excepting Olympic athletes and some of their entourages. The exception has been contentious: Foreign students and workers are still unable to enter the country, and the foreign ministry has not given any clear indications as to when that might change.

Regardless of the opposition, officials plan to officially kick off the countdown to the Games on Thursday with the torch relay, starting in Fukushima. As with the events this summer, the number of spectators will be limited.

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Spectators From Overseas Are Barred From Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — Spectators from overseas will not be allowed to attend the Summer Olympics in Japan, organizers said on Saturday, making a major concession to the realities of Covid-19 even as they forged ahead with plans to hold the world’s largest sporting event.

The Tokyo Games, which begin in July, were originally scheduled for 2020 but were delayed by a year because of the pandemic. The Tokyo organizing committee has been scrambling to develop safety protocols to protect both participants and local residents from the virus. Concern has been running high in Japan, with big majorities saying in polls that the Games should not be held this summer.

The decision, which the Tokyo organizers made jointly with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the national and local governments in Japan, had been foreshadowed in the Japanese media for weeks.

Thomas Bach, the president of the I.O.C., has encouraged national organizing committees to secure vaccines for athletes, and he announced this month that China had offered to provide vaccinations for participants who required one ahead of the Games.

vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, the population will not be close to fully vaccinated by the time the Games start.

The organizing committees will now have the enormous headache of arranging refunds for ticket buyers. In bidding for the Games, the Tokyo organizers said that 7.8 million tickets would be made available. Typically, about 10 to 20 percent of Olympic tickets go to international spectators.

Japanese fans could take up some of the slack. Local demand for tickets far outstripped the supply, at least before the pandemic.

The coronavirus has had a comparatively muted effect on Japan, which has had far fewer cases and deaths than the United States and Western Europe. The country has reported just over 8,700 Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

Japan declared a widespread state of emergency in early January after a rise in infections. Since then, most areas have lifted the declaration. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that it would be ended in Tokyo.

a superfan who has attended 15 Olympics, bought about $8,600 in tickets for the Tokyo Games for himself and his nephew.

They were looking forward to seeing beach volleyball, archery, fencing, diving and a men’s basketball game and had tickets for the closing ceremony. According to terms from CoSport, the broker that handled ticket sales for U.S.-based fans, customers will not be repaid for some fees — which Mr. Brown said could cost him about $1,200 — and refunds could take time.

“Since we are being barred, it is only right for them to make everyone whole and refund all of the money paid,” Mr. Brown said before the official announcement was made. What’s more, he said, after waiting a whole year, he wanted his refund quickly. “It would be real painful watching this at home on TV and knowing they have the money, and not knowing when you’re going to get it back.”

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