China on Saturday said it was imposing a record $2.8 billion fine on the e-commerce titan Alibaba for monopolistic business practices, the government’s toughest action to date in its campaign to regulate the country’s internet giants more closely.
Beijing’s market watchdog began investigating Alibaba in December for potential antitrust violations including preventing merchants from selling their goods on other shopping platforms. On Saturday, the regulator said its investigation had concluded that Alibaba had hindered competition in online retail in China, affected innovation in the internet economy and harmed consumers’ interests.
The fine on Alibaba, one of China’s most valuable private companies, exceeds the $975 million antitrust penalty that the Chinese government imposed on Qualcomm, the American chip giant, in 2015. Even so, it is unlikely to leave a substantial dent on Alibaba’s fortunes. The regulator said the fine represented 4 percent of Alibaba’s domestic sales in 2019. The group reported profits of more than $12 billion in the last three months of 2020 alone.
Alibaba said in a statement that it would accept the penalty “sincerely” and would strengthen its internal systems “to better carry out its social responsibilities.”
proposed updating the country’s antimonopoly law with a new provision for large internet platforms such as Alibaba’s. In November, officials halted the plans of Alibaba’s sister company, the finance-focused Ant Group, to go public and tightened oversight of internet finance.
In December, it opened the antimonopoly investigation into Alibaba — a startling turn in the fortunes of Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder, whom people in China had long held up as an icon of entrepreneurial pluck.
Skepticism about the clout of large internet companies has been on the rise in the United States and Europe, too. Western regulators have repeatedly fined Goliaths such as Google in recent years for various antitrust violations. But such penalties generally have not changed the nature of the companies’ businesses enough to mitigate concerns about their power.
The marble idol was carved as many as 6,000 years ago, a 9-inch-tall female figure with a sleek, abstract form, its head tilted slightly upward as if staring into the firmament.
By the 1960s the idol had been transported to the United States, where it was in the possession of the court tennis star and art collector Alastair Bradley Martin and his wife, Edith, and known as “The Guennol Stargazer.”
Christie’s listed the stargazer for sale in 2017, drawing the attention of the Turkish government, which asked for the auction to be halted.
The Turkish government then sued Christie’s, saying the idol had been looted. The government asked the court to find that it is the rightful owner of the idol and cited the 1906 Ottoman Decree, which asserts broad ownership of antiquities found in Turkey. But the auction proceeded and the idol fetched a price of $14.4 million, before the unidentified buyer backed away.
agreed to return a collection known as the Lydian Hoard, which included more than 200 gold, silver and bronze objects from the reign of King Croesus of Lydia, a kingdom in western Asia Minor that flourished in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.
And in 2012, the government of Turkey asked museums in Los Angeles, New York and Washington to turn over dozens of artifacts it said were looted from the country’s archaeological sites.
It is generally accepted that the item at issue in the lawsuit originated in Kulaksizlar, the home of the only workshop known to have produced the stargazers. The figures were so-called because of the angle at which a large head rests on a thin neck, Christie’s said in an online description, creating “the whimsical impression of the figure staring up at the heavens.”
When the Guennol Stargazer was first listed for auction, Christie’s said it was “considered to be one of the most impressive of its type known to exist,” adding that it had been on loan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at various periods from 1966 to 2007.
The Turkish government said that one of its witnesses, Neil Brodie, a senior research fellow in the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, would provide “comprehensive scientific evidence” for his conclusion that the idol was almost certainly found in Turkey.
for part of the Lydian Hoard. (The museum’s former director, Thomas Hoving, once referred to Klejman as among his “favorite dealer-smugglers.”)
Christie’s and Steinhardt have maintained that the Turkish government cannot prove ownership of the idol under the 1906 decree because it has “no direct evidence of where or when the Stargazer Idol was found, excavated or exported: it has no witnesses to the excavation or export and no photographs.”
The defendants also have said that Turkey knew about the presence of the idol in New York as early as 1992 but did not act on that knowledge.
“Turkey’s 25-year delay in making its claim baited the trap for dealers, collectors and auction houses,” defense lawyers said in court papers. “And set them up for huge losses when Turkey claimed the Idol only after it came up for sale at a major auction house.”
The vote could lead to a rethinking of strategy inside the labor movement.
For years, union organizers have tried to leverage growing concerns about low-wage workers to break into Amazon. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union had organized around critical themes of supporting Black essential workers in the pandemic. The union had estimated that 85 percent of the workers at the Bessemer warehouse were Black.
The inability to organize the warehouse also follows decades of unsuccessful and costly attempts to form unions at Walmart, the only American company that employs more people than Amazon. The repeated failures at two huge companies may push labor organizers to focus more on backing national policies, such as a higher federal minimum wage, than unionizing individual workplaces.
Democrats in Washington, who put their full weight behind the union effort, said the loss showed that they needed to push for changes to labor and antitrust laws. The House of Representatives passed an expansion of worker protections this year, but it is unlikely to be approved in the Senate.
“Workers cannot organize to scale in America absent labor law reform, full stop,” Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, who had visited Bessemer, said in an interview.
The Amazon warehouse, on the outskirts of Birmingham, opened a year ago, just as the pandemic took hold. It was part of a major expansion at the company that accelerated during the pandemic. Last year, Amazon grew by more than 400,000 employees in the United States, where it now has almost a million workers. Warehouse workers typically assemble and box up orders of items for customers.
The unionization effort came together quickly, especially for one aimed at such a large target. A small group of workers at the building in Bessemer approached the local branch of the retail workers’ union last summer. They were frustrated with how Amazon constantly monitored every second of their workday through technology and felt that their managers were not willing to listen to their complaints.
Organizers appeared to have strong support early on, getting at least 2,000 workers to sign cards saying they wanted an election, enough for the National Labor Relations Board, which conducts union elections, to approve a vote.
BERLIN — Germany’s government plans to ask lawmakers to grant it stronger powers in order to introduce a nationwide lockdown as the country is gripped by a third wave of the coronavirus.
The country’s approach has so far been to have the governors of Germany’s 16 states agree to any nationwide pandemic policies. But as calls from public health officials have grown stronger for a new nationwide lockdown in recent weeks, Chancellor Angela Merkel has had trouble gaining all of the governors’ support.
The lawmakers’ new plan seeks overcome regional differences in how to curb the latest surge in cases. It will be put before Ms. Merkel’s cabinet next week, Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for the chancellor, told reporters on Friday.
The law would spell out which restrictions would be imposed in areas with over 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days.
offered a public apology.
Speaking on national television, she then raised the idea of seeking Parliament’s support in consolidating her government’s powers to ensure that all states abide by the same rules. Germany has been wary of consolidating power in the central government since World War II, but several lawmakers have backed the idea for this specific circumstance.
“The aim here is to create uniform national rules,” Ms. Demmer said, adding that the law change would be put before cabinet on Tuesday.
The German authorities registered 25,464 new infections on Thursday, 3,576 more than a week ago. On Thursday, nearly 300 people died of the virus.
“There will be, once again, a couple of difficult weeks,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, calling for a unified lockdown. “It is about not overburdening our health care system. It is about protecting human lives.”
A planned meeting between the chancellor and state leaders that was planned for Monday was canceled as part of the decision, Ms. Demmer said.
According to the most recent data from the Ministry of Health, around 9 percent of New Zealanders have used an illicit drug in the past year, with cannabis the most popular. Synthetic cannabis is a common problem, with more than 40 deaths associated with the drug reported in 2018. (The country narrowly voted against legalizing marijuana in a referendum last year.) Drugs are the third most common reason young people are kicked out of school.
While New Zealand has long struggled with methamphetamine abuse, party drugs are increasingly common. In 2019, the New Zealand police seized more than two million Ecstasy tablets and their equivalents, up 560 percent from 2018.
It is these party drugs in particular that have resulted in injury or death, sometimes as a result of people taking mislabeled or contaminated drugs. This year, KnowYourStuff received almost 1,000 messages from festivalgoers who reported atypical reactions to drugs sold to them as MDMA, including paranoia, seizures, severe nausea and days of insomnia. The drugs are believed to have been contaminated with synthetic cathinones.
Speaking in Parliament last year, Andrew Little, the minister of health, emphasized that the current New Zealand government saw drug policy as a health matter rather than a criminal one.
A prosecution-led approach has not worked, he said, adding: “It’s not changing. If we want to change behaviors, then we’ve got to take a different approach.”
But does it work?
The data is spotty, but promising.
A survey from Victoria University found that 68 percent of surveyed festivalgoers who used the testing services changed their behavior, with some reducing the amount they took while others disposed of their drugs altogether.
A similar study held at a festival in Canberra, Australia, in 2019 found that “all those who had a very dangerous substance detected disposed of that drug in the amnesty bin.”
“I want to emphasize that,” he added. “Through no fault of their own.”
The pandemic has hit African-Americans and Latinos hardest on all fronts, with higher infection and death rates, more job losses, and more business closures.
Proposals that confront the wealth gap head on, though, are both expensive and politically charged.
Professor Darity of Duke, a co-author of “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” has argued that compensating the descendants of Black slaves — who helped build the nation’s wealth but were barred from sharing it — would be the most direct and effective way to reduce the racial wealth gap.
Vice President Harris and Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey have tended to push for asset-building policies that have more popular support. They have offered programs to increase Black homeownership, reduce student debt, supplement retirement accounts and establish “baby bonds” with government contributions tied to family income.
With these accounts, recipients could build up money over time that could be used to cover college tuition, start a business or help in retirement.
Several states have experimented with small-scale programs meant to encourage children to go to college. Though those programs were not created to close the racial wealth gap, researchers have seen positive side effects. In Oklahoma, child development accounts seeded with $1,000 were created in 2007 for a group of newborns.
“We have very clear evidence that if we create an account of birth for everyone and provide a little more resources to people at the bottom, then all these babies accumulate assets,” said Michael Sherraden, founding director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, which is running the Oklahoma experiment. “Kids of color accumulate assets as fast as white kids.”
Without dedicated funds — the kind of programs that enabled white families to build assets — it won’t be possible for African-Americans to bridge the wealth gap, said Mehrsa Baradaran, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap.”
Republican senators, singed by their experience on the pandemic aid bill, responded to Mr. Biden’s gestures to bipartisanship by issuing a chilly statement saying that the last time he made a public plea to work together, “the administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, pushed the administration to negotiate an infrastructure measure that would represent about 30 percent of the $2.25 trillion being proposed, before turning to budget reconciliation for any additional spending increases.
“My advice to the White House has been, take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that,” Mr. Blunt said.
Importantly, Republicans have no interest in the corporate tax increase that would essentially undo their most significant legislative achievement of the Trump era. Neither do business groups, which have helped broker some bipartisan compromises on economic issues in the past but have lost some power in recent years as populist impulses have swept both parties.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, called the tax proposal “an effort to rewrite the 2017 tax bill,” which itself passed via budget reconciliation with no Democratic votes.
The Trump tax law “in my view was principally responsible for the fact that in February 2020 we had the best economy of 50 years,” Mr. McConnell said. “But they are going to tear that down.”
Still, business lobbyists and some lawmakers remain hopeful that Mr. Manchin’s appeal could prod Mr. Biden and congressional leaders toward a set of mini-compromises on infrastructure. Such deals could including spending big on research and development for emerging industries, like advanced batteries, in the supply chain bill, which carries bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate. They could also include spending a few hundred billion dollars on highways and other surface transportation projects. That could satisfy at least some of Mr. Manchin’s quest for bipartisanship and give both parties the ability to claim victory.
A year after starting construction on its first European auto assembly plant on the outskirts of Berlin, Tesla is complaining that German regulations are too slow and inflexible, risking a delay in the opening of the facility.
“Obstacles in German law governing permits are slowing down the necessary industrial transformation and thus the transformation of transport and energy,” Tesla said in a 10-page letter, which was seen by The New York Times.
Tesla wants to open its“gigafactory” as soon as June, and is hiring up to 12,000 workers to build as many as 500,000 electric vehicles a year. But the Office of Environment in Brandenburg, the federal state that encircles Berlin, has yet to say the factory can open.
Tesla sent the letter to the top administrative court in the region in support of a lawsuit filed by Environmental Action Germany that charges the federal government with not doing enough to keep to the targets of the Paris Climate Accord. The letter is similar to a “friend of the court” brief, which are not common in German courts, and it was unclear whether the German judges would even consider it.
Elon Musk, the chief executive, clashed with officials last year over his efforts to keep the plant running during the pandemic.
Government authorities insist they have done everything in their power to speed up the regulatory process for Tesla, including securing logging and building permits, completing a process that normally takes 11 months in just four weeks. Along the way, the Tesla plant has faced protests by environmentalists and extensive public hearings. Many of the complaints center on the amount of water the plant will consume.
In the letter, Tesla charges that any delay in opening the plant would hinder European emission goals by keeping fossil-fuel burning vehicles on the road.
Tesla cars are popular in Germany, but not everyone is applauding its move.
“It’s surprising that Tesla feels badly treated at all,” wrote the conservative-leaning Welt, a daily newspaper, noting that the future factory — sometimes known as Germany’s fastest construction project — was given every advantage on state and federal level.
The Tesla letter said that the permit process was too slow and not flexible enough in dealing with changes to the original application.
“This discourages necessary investment in clean energy projects and infrastructure and makes it virtually impossible for Germany to meet its climate targets,” it read.
filed first-time claims for state jobless benefits last week, an increase of 18,000, the Labor Department said. It was the second consecutive weekly increase after new claims hit a pandemic low.
At the same time, 152,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 85,000.
Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.
Claims rose above one million early in the year but havecome down since then, helped by the spread of vaccinations, the easing of restrictions on businesses in many states and the arrival of stimulus funds.
Most individuals received payments of $1,400 in recent weeks as part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion relief package, and the funds should bolster consumer spending in the coming months.
On Friday, the government reported that employers added 916,000 jobs in March, twice February’s gain and the most since August. The unemployment rate dipped to 6 percent, the lowest since the pandemic began, with nearly 350,000 people rejoining the labor force.
Still, there is plenty of ground to make up.
Even after March’s job gains, the economy is 8.4 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020. Entire sectors, like travel and leisure, as well as restaurants and bars, are only beginning to recover from the millions of job losses that followed the pandemic’s arrival.
The union seeking to represent workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama said late Wednesday that there were 3,215 ballots cast — or about 55 percent of the roughly 5,800 workers who were eligible to vote.
The ballots are expected to be counted by hand starting either Thursday afternoon or Friday morning in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, according to the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. Hundreds of ballots are being contested, mostly by Amazon, the union said.
The vote counting will be shown on a videoconference call to a small number of outsiders, including journalists, in addition to representatives from the union and the company.
Union elections are typically held in person, but the labor board determined that the election should be conducted by mail to minimize risks during the pandemic. The ballots were sent to workers in early February and were due at the agency before March 30. Since then, Amazon and the union have had a chance to challenge whether particular worker were eligible to vote.
When the public counting is done, the agency will announce the formal results if the margin of victory for one side is greater than the number of contested ballots.
If the margin is narrower, then it could take two to three weeks for the N.L.R.B. to hold a hearing to sort through the contested ballots and take evidence from both sides on whether they should be counted.
Officials are calling Taiwan’s drought its worst in more than half a century. And it is exposing the enormous challenges involved in hosting the island’s semiconductor industry, which is an increasingly indispensable node in the global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones of modern life.
Chip makers use lots of water to clean their factories and wafers, the thin slices of silicon that make up the basis of the chips, Raymond Zhong and Amy Chang Chien report for The New York Times. In 2019, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s facilities in Hsinchu consumed 63,000 tons of water a day, according to the company, or more than 10 percent of the supply from two local reservoirs.
In recent months, the government has:
But the most sweeping measure has been the halt on irrigation, which affects 183,000 acres of farmland, around a fifth of Taiwan’s irrigated land.
The Taiwanese public appears to have decided that rice farming is less important, both for the island and the world, than semiconductors. The government is subsidizing growers for the lost income. But Chuang Cheng-deng, 55, worries that the thwarted harvest will drive customers to seek out other suppliers, which could mean years of depressed earnings.
Prosecutors are accusing the French arm of Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant, and some of its former executives of engineering a “system of espionage” from 2009 to 2012, in a criminal trial that has riveted public attention in France.
The alleged snooping was used to investigate employees and union organizers, check up on workers on medical leave and size up customers seeking refunds for botched orders, Liz Alderman reports for The New York Times. A former military operative was hired to execute some of the more clandestine operations.
In all, 15 people are charged. A verdict from a panel of judges is scheduled for June 15.
The case stoked outrage in 2012 after the emails were leaked to the French news media, and Ikea promptly fired several executives in its French unit, including its chief executive. There is no evidence that similar surveillance happened in any of the other 52 countries where the global retailer hones a fresh-faced image of stylish thriftiness served with Swedish meatballs.
Victims’ lawyers described a methodic operation that ran along two tracks: one involving background and criminal checks of job candidates and employees without their knowledge, and another targeting union leaders and members.
Ikea’s lawyer, Emmanuel Daoud, denied that systemwide surveillance had been carried out at Ikea’s stores in France. He argued that any privacy violations had been the work of a single person, Jean-François Paris, the French unit’s head of risk management.
Emails and receipts showed that Mr. Paris handed much of the legwork to Jean-Pierre Fourès, who surveilled hundreds of job applicants, gleaning information from social media and other sources to speed vetting and hiring. He also did background checks on unsuspecting customers who tangled with Ikea over big refunds. He insisted that he had never broken the law in gathering background material.
The surveillance encompassed career workers. In one case, Mr. Fourès was hired to investigate whether Ikea France’s deputy director of communications and merchandising, who was on a yearlong sick leave recovering from hepatitis C, had faked the severity of her illness when managers learned she had traveled to Morocco.
Carnival Cruise Line, the largest cruise operator in the United States, is optimistic that several of its U.S.-based lines will be up and running by July, it said on Wednesday as it reported its first quarter financials. Booking volumes for future Carnival cruises were about 90 percent higher in the first quarter of 2021 than in the previous quarter, “reflecting both the significant pent-up demand and long-term potential for cruising,” Arnold Donald, the chief executive of Carnival Corporation, the cruise line’s parent company, said in a statement on Wednesday. The company reported a net loss of $2 billion for the first quarter of 2021.
Unions representing employees at two prominent podcasting companies owned by Spotify, the audiostreaming giant, announced Wednesday that they had ratified their first labor contracts. The larger of the two unions, with 65 employees, is at The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website with a podcasting network. The second union, at the podcast production company Gimlet Media, has just under 50 employees. The two groups were among the first in the podcasting industry to unionize, and both are represented by the Writers Guild of America, East.
S&P 500 futures were up on Thursday, pointing to a rise when Wall Street trading starts, a day after the benchmark index set another record the previous day. Investors are awaiting the latest weekly jobless claims report, which could provide a fresh measure of a strengthening economy.
European markets were mostly higher and Asian stocks had a mostly positive day. Oil futures were lower, and Treasury yields slipped.
Investors on Wednesday were buoyed by remarks in the minutes of the Federal Reserve officials’ meeting last month, which suggested policies that have supported the markets and businesses through the pandemic were not about to be removed.
Fed policymakers have said they want to see “substantial further progress” toward their employment and inflation goals before scaling back the accommodative measures.
Weekly jobless claims numbers, to be released later on Thursday, come amid growing confidence about hiring in the U.S. economy. The payrolls report for March showed an impressive gain of 916,000 jobs. But even with that improvement, the economy is still 8.4 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020.
Investors are also digesting more details of President Biden’s corporate tax plan, which aims to raise as much as $2.5 trillion over 15 years. It includes a strict new minimum tax on global profits and cracking down on companies that try to move profits offshore.
Stocks, bonds and oil
In European, trading the Stoxx Europe 600 was 0.4 higher after hitting a record high at the close of trading on Wednesday. In Britain, the FTSE 100 was also 0.4 percent higher. In Asia, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong ended the day 1.2 percent higher.
In New York, S&P 500 futures were 0.3 percent higher, after the index rose 0.2 percent on Wednesday.
Oil futures were slipping, as rising coronavirus infections weigh on projections of oil demand. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was 0.2 percent lower at $63 a barrel, and the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, fell 0.5 percent, to $59.47 a barrel.
Yields on 10-year Treasury notes were down more than 2 basis points, to 1.64 percent.
WASHINGTON — If anything can tip the global power struggle between China and the United States into an actual military conflict, many experts and administration officials say, it is the fate of Taiwan.
Beijing has increased its military harassment of what it considers a rogue territory, including menacing flights by 15 Chinese warplanes near its shores over recent days. In response, Biden administration officials are trying to calibrate a policy that protects the democratic, technology-rich island without inciting an armed conflict that would be disastrous for all.
Under a longstanding — and famously convoluted — policy derived from America’s “one China” stance that supports Taiwan without recognizing it as independent, the United States provides political and military support for Taiwan, but does not explicitly promise to defend it from a Chinese attack.
As China’s power and ambition grow, however, and Beijing assesses Washington to be weakened and distracted, a debate is underway whether the United States should make a clearer commitment to the island’s defense, in part to reduce the risk of a miscalculation by China that could lead to unwanted war.
foreign policy challenge seizing the Biden administration as it devises its wider Asia strategy. At the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, which is reviewing its military posture in Asia, officials are re-evaluating core tenets of American strategy for a new and more dangerous phase of competition with China.
American officials warn that China is growing more capable of invading the island democracyof nearly 24 million people, situated about 100 miles off the coast of mainland China, whose status has obsessed Beijing since Chinese nationalists retreated and formed a government there after the country’s 1949 Communist revolution.
Last month, the military commander for the Indo-Pacific region, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, described what he sees as a risk that China could try to reclaim Taiwan by force within the next six years.
The United States has long avoided saying how it would respond to such an attack. While Washington supports Taiwan with diplomatic contacts, arms sales, firm language and even occasional military maneuvers, there are no guarantees. No statement, doctrine or security agreement compels the United States to come to Taiwan’s rescue. A 1979 congressional law states only that “any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means” would be of “grave concern to the United States.”
The result is known as “strategic ambiguity,” a careful balance intended both to avoid provoking Beijing or emboldening Taiwan into a formal declaration of independence that could lead to a Chinese invasion.
essay in the September issue of Foreign Affairs magazine that declared that strategic ambiguity had “run its course.”
“The time has come for the United States to introduce a policy of strategic clarity: one that makes explicit that the United States would respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan,” Mr. Haass wrote with his colleague David Sacks.
Mr. Haass and Mr. Sacks added that the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, may question America’s willingness to defend its alliances after four years under President Donald J. Trump, who railed against “endless wars” and openly questioned the United States’ relationships and security commitments. While more hawkish-sounding, a clearer pledge would be safer, they argued.
“Such a policy would lower the chances of Chinese miscalculation, which is the likeliest catalyst for war in the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Haass and Mr. Sacks wrote.
remarks in February at an event hosted by The Washington Post, Robert M. Gates, a former defense secretary and C.I.A. director who served under presidents of both parties, including Mr. Bush and Barack Obama, called Taiwan the facet of U.S.-China relations that concerned him the most.
Mr. Gates said that it might be “time to abandon our longtime strategy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan.”
The notion gained another unlikely adherent when former Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat and longtime dove on military issues, argued in an opinion essay in The Hill newspaper last month that on human rights grounds, the United States must guarantee that a thriving Asian democracy be protected from “forcible absorption into an unashamedly brutal regime that exemplifies the denial of fundamental human rights.”
Mr. Frank cited China’s “imperviousness to any other consideration” than force as reason to “save 23 million Taiwanese from losing their basic human rights.”
Though of limited value in territorial terms, Taiwan in recent years has also gained a greater strategic importance as one of the world’s leading producers of semiconductors — the high-tech equivalent of oil in the emerging supercomputing showdown between the United States and China, which faces microchip supply shortages.
sent dozens of warplanes over the Taiwan Strait days after Mr. Biden’s inauguration in January, the State Department released a statement declaring America’s “rock solid” commitment to the island. Mr. Biden raised the subject of Taiwan during his phone call in February with Mr. Xi, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised their concerns about the island during their meeting last month in Anchorage with two top Chinese officials.
“I think people are bending over backward to say to China, ‘Do not miscalculate — we strongly support Taiwan,’” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Ms. Glaser said she had been surprised at the Biden team’s early approach toward Taiwan, which so far has maintained the Trump administration’s amplified political support for the island, a posture some critics called overly provocative. She noted that Mr. Blinken had recently urged Paraguay’s president in a phone call to maintain his country’s formal ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from Beijing, and that the U.S. ambassador to Palau, an archipelago state in the Western Pacific, recently joined a diplomatic delegation from that country to Taiwan.
“That is just really outside of normal diplomatic practice,” Ms. Glaser said. “I think that was quite unexpected.”
But Ms. Glaser does not support a more explicit U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s defense. Like many other analysts and American officials, she fears that such a change in policy might provoke China.
“Maybe then Xi is backed into a corner. This could really cause China to make the decision to invade,” she warned.
billions of dollars in arms sales under the Trump administration that featured fighter jets and air-to-ground missiles allowing Taiwanese planes to strike China. Such equipment is meant to diminish Taiwan’s need for an American intervention should it come under attack.
But Mr. Colby and others say the United States must develop a more credible military deterrent in the Pacific region to match recent advances by China’s military.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, H.R. McMaster, a national security adviser for Mr. Trump, said the current ambiguity was sufficient.
“The message to China ought to be, ‘Hey, you can assume that the United States won’t respond’ — but that was the assumption made in June of 1950, as well, when North Korea invaded South Korea,” Mr. McMaster said.