Late last month, foreign officials in army regalia toasted their hosts in Naypyidaw, the bunkered capital built by Myanmar’s military. Ice clinked in frosted glasses. A lavish spread had been laid out for the foreign dignitaries in honor of Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day.
That very day, the military, which had seized power on Feb. 1, gunned down more than 100 of its own citizens. Far from publicly condemning the brutality, the military representatives from neighboring countries — India, China, Thailand and Vietnam among them — posed grinning with the generals, legitimizing their putsch.
The coup in Myanmar feels like a relic of a Southeast Asian past, when men in uniform roamed a vast dictators’ playground. But it also brings home how a region once celebrated for its transformative “people power” revolutions — against Suharto of Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines — has been sliding back into autocracy.
From Cambodia and the Philippines to Malaysia and Thailand, democracy is languishing. Electoral politics and civil liberties have eroded. Obedient judiciaries have hobbled opposition forces. Entire political classes are in exile or in prison. Independent media are being silenced by leaders who want only one voice heard: their own.
alliance of democracies.” With China and Russia involved, the United Nations Security Council has done nothing to punish Myanmar’s generals.
Covid-19 with them.
A scheduled special meeting on Myanmar by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations offers little hope of action. That consensus-driven group avoids delving into members’ internal affairs. Earlier negotiations among regional foreign ministers didn’t result in a single policy that would deter Myanmar’s coup-makers.
Besides, many of the region’s leaders have no wish to uphold democratic ideals. They have used the courts to silence their critics and met protest movements with force.
But if authoritarians are looking out for one another, so, too, are protesters. In Thailand, students have stood up to a government born of a coup, using a three-fingered salute from the “Hunger Games” films to express defiance. The same gesture was adopted after the putsch in Myanmar, the leitmotif of a protest movement millions strong.
its first commoner president, and Malaysia would shunt aside a governing party bloated by decades of graft and patronage. Thailand’s generals had managed to go years without a coup. Even in Vietnam, the Communist leadership was pushing forward with liberalization.
The most significant transformation seemed to be in Myanmar. The military had led the country since a 1962 coup, driving it into penury. In 2015, the generals struck a power-sharing agreement with a civilian leadership fronted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest. President Barack Obama went to Myanmar to sanctify the start of a peaceful political transition.
Now Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is again locked in her villa, facing possible life imprisonment. Her supporters have been arrested and tormented. Soldiers picked up one of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s followers and burned a tattoo of her face off his arm.
Much of the rest of Southeast Asia is in full-fledged democratic retreat. The leader of Thailand’s last coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is still the prime minister. His government has charged dozens of student protesters, some in their teens, with obscure crimes that can carry long sentences. Thai dissidents in exile have turned up dead.
After a brief interlude out of government, Malaysia’s old establishment is back in power, including people associated with one of the largest heists of state funds the world has seen in a generation. Vietnam’s crackdown on dissent is in high gear. In Cambodia, Hun Sen, Asia’s longest-ruling leader, has dismantled all opposition and set in place the makings of a family political dynasty.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines may enjoy enduring popularity, but he has presided over thousands of extrajudicial killings. He has also cozied up to China, presenting it as a more constant friend than the United States, which once colonized the Philippines.
Protesters in Thailand, who gathered by the hundreds of thousands last year, have resumed their rallies, even though most of their young leaders are now in prison.
As the riot police fired rubber bullets near the Grand Palace in Bangkok last month, Thip Tarranitikul said she wanted to erase the military from politics.
army chief, appears to have underestimated the people’s commitment to democratic change. Millions have marched against him. Millions have also joined nationwide strikes meant to stop his government from functioning.
There is little reason to believe the military will back down, given its decades in power. Over the past two months, it has killed more than 700 civilians, according to a monitoring group. Thousands have been arrested, including medics, reporters, a model, a comedian and a beauty blogger.
But the resistance has demographics on its side.
Southeast Asia may be ruled by old men, but more than half its population is under 30. Myanmar’s reforms over the past decade benefited young people who eagerly connected to the world. In Thailand, this same cohort is confronting the old hierarchies of military and monarchy.
Regional defenders of democracy, including the besieged dissidents of nearby Hong Kong, have formed what they call the Milk Tea Alliance online, referring to a shared affinity for the sweet brew. (Twitter recently gave the movement its own emoji.) On encrypted apps, they trade tips for protecting themselves from tear gas and bullets. They have also bonded over the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on young workers, in countries where income inequality is growing wider.
“The youth of Southeast Asia, these young digital natives, they inherently despise authoritarianism because it doesn’t jibe with their democratic lifestyle. They aren’t going to give up fighting back,” said Mr. Thitinan of Chulalongkorn University. “That’s why, as bad as things may seem now, authoritarianism in the region is not a permanent condition.”
In Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, protesters have faced the military’s rifles with a sense of an existential mission.
“I’m not afraid to die,” said Ko Nay Myo Htet, a high school student manning one of the barricades built to defend neighborhoods. “I want a better life for the future generation.”
As concerns about climate change push the world economy toward a lower-carbon future, investing in oil may seem a risky bet. For the long term, that may be true.
Yet for the moment, at least, oil and gas prices appear likely to continue to rise as the economy recovers from the pandemic-driven shutdown of millions of businesses, big and small.
These countervailing trends — increasing demand now and falling demand at some point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future — create a dilemma for investors.
The good news is that an array of traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are available to help them navigate these uncertain waters. Some funds focus on slices of the industry, such as extracting crude oil and gas from the ground or delivering refined products to consumers. Others focus on so-called integrated companies that do it all. Some spice their holdings with some exposure to wind, solar or other alternative energy sources.
International Energy Agency forecast that oil consumption was not likely to return to prepandemic levels in developed economies.
“World oil markets are rebalancing after the Covid-19 crisis spurred an unprecedented collapse in demand in 2020, but they may never return to ‘normal,’” the I.E.A. said in its “Oil 2021” report. “Rapid changes in behavior from the pandemic and a stronger drive by governments toward a low-carbon future have caused a dramatic downward shift in expectations for oil demand over the next six years.”
alternative energy funds. Many enable investors to zero in on discrete segments of the industry.
The biggest holdings of the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy E.T.F. are producers of raw materials for solar cells and rechargeable batteries or builders and operators of large-scale solar projects. The $2.9 billion fund yields 0.49 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.7 percent.
The First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund focuses on applied green technology. Its biggest holdings are Tesla, the American maker of electric automobiles; NIO, a Chinese rival in that field; and Plug Power, which makes hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles. Also a $2.9 billion fund, it yields 0.24 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.6 percent.
The First Trust Global Wind Energy E.T.F., as its name suggests, targets wind turbine manufacturers and servicers, led by the Spanish-German joint venture Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark, as well as operators such as Northland Power of Canada. This $423 million fund yields 0.92 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.61 percent.
HONG KONG — The most popular reward for hiking to the top of Fu Shan, a hill near Hong Kong’s westernmost point, is a selfie backed by the setting sun, the gleaming new bridge across the Pearl River or a flight landing at the nearby airport.
But for those who look more closely, there is the chance of a rarer prize: a glimpse of Chinese white dolphins swimming among fishing boats and cargo ships in the milky jade water.
“It’s amazing that Hong Kong still has this kind of rare animal,” said Michelle Chan, as she watched from Fu Shan on a recent day.
On the water below, a half-dozen tourist boats from the nearby fishing village of Tai O surrounded a single white dolphin. People cheered as it breached.
a report by 15 conservation groups and regional universities, as pollution, marine traffic and large-scale land reclamation projects have made the environment increasingly hostile.
coronavirus pandemic, however, has spurred some hope that the dolphins could find respite. Regional travel restrictions led to the suspension of high-speed ferries that crossed the Pearl River Delta between Hong Kong and Macau, a few times each hour, curbing one key threat to the animals.
“All vessel traffic is an issue, but high-speed ferries are a particular issue,” said Laurence McCook, head of oceans conservation for the WWF-Hong Kong. “They move so fast there’s a risk of vessel strike, but they also just physically disturb the dolphins because the dolphins run away from them.”
With the ferry suspension, dolphins are getting a little peace in one of their most favored areas in the region.
“What we have documented fairly clearly is that dolphins are moving back out into the ferry zone,” Mr. McCook said. “That actually is their most prime habitat under current circumstances.”
Still, the increased visibility of the white dolphins in places like the waters off Fu Shan is most likely the result of them being freer to use parts of their preferred territory rather than a sign that their numbers are rebounding, researchers say.
established a marine park to compensate for the loss of habitat, but dolphins have been slow to return, most likely because work continues in the area on a new runway.
“Every time we have a project like the bridge,” Mr. Ho said, “they set up a marine park as some kind of compensation. But we think it’s too late.”
On one recent survey trip, the first dolphin the team identified was number WL79, which Mr. Ho quickly identified by the V-shaped notch near its tail, the result of getting tangled in a fishing line or net.
“If we identify individuals, we can follow their life history — where they like to hang around, whether they have calves,” he said. “This is important, because one of the worries is reproductive rate of dolphins is quite low. To keep the population healthy, we want to see calves. But that’s not happening in Hong Kong.”
Newborn dolphins are gray in color and gradually lighten as they get older, their darker parts becoming distinct spots. Some become completely unspotted. They stay with their mothers for three to four years, but sometimes as long as eight or nine years, and typically live into their 30s.
Soon after the team spots another adult, WL168, identified by a large scar on its back. This one has also been seen near Macau, another Chinese territory 15 miles to the southwest, an indication of how local populations are not bound by political boundaries.
The dolphins eat a variety of fish, including gray mullet and lion head fish, the same sort of food, notes Mr. Ho, that appears in markets around Hong Kong. The overfishing of such species adds to the threats to dolphins, as does pollution from various sources including agricultural and industrial waste, urban runoff, discharge from ships and marine plastics.
Researchers also worry that dolphin viewing boats further stress the mammals, particularly those that race out from Tai O for a 20-minute, $25 trip.
Conservations groups say they hope the benefits of the ferry suspension will encourage regional governments and ferry companies to reconsider routes across the Pearl River. By traveling somewhat farther south, they could bypass key areas of dolphin habitat along Lantau, Hong Kong’s largest island. Such a move would only add a few minutes to the trip, they say.
It would, of course, ease just one of the many threats the dolphins are facing.
“Rerouting the ferries is not a magic cure-all,” Mr. McCook said. “But we think that can help us catalyze other actions and demonstrate it’s not a fait accompli that we lose the dolphins.”
Prabal Gurung, the Nepalese-American designer, has been a vocal proponent of inclusion and diversity since his first show in 2009. In the wake of the Atlanta shootings and an upswing in anti-Asian violence, he talked to The New York Times about his own experiences and what his work has to do with it.
How do you grapple with what’s going on?
To watch a video of a 65-year-old woman being brutally attacked is triggering and heart-wrenching, not just for me but for my friends and people from my community. We all are so worried for our loved ones. My mother goes on walks every morning and evening. She’s 75-years-old. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a blond wig for her, and I said, “You know, just wear it when you go outside, wear a hat, wear glasses.” She tried it on. But the next day she came over to my place, and she was like: “I’m not going to wear it. Just buy me a big, strong cane.” That is the reality of this.
Is that why you were an organizer of a Black and Asian solidarity march with other designers and activists in March?
We didn’t know how many people were going to show up, but thousands and thousands of people showed up across races and gender: L.G.B.T.Q. friends, Latin friends, Black friends, Asian friends, white friends. What we recognize is that for this particular moment to turn into a movement, we have to have all the marginalized groups and our white counterparts coming together.
Oh, a wave of Asian designers.” Then there’s a wave of Black designers, a wave of women designers. We never say a wave of white designers. We are never considered designers on our own. So that kind of implicit bias, that kind of microaggression, we face it all the time.
Did you experience it when you were trying to get financial backing for your business?
For my 10-year anniversary I was at a potential investors meeting, and one asked, “What does the brand stand for?” I said: “The America that I see is very colorful. The dinner table that I see is very colorful. It’s diverse. That’s the America that was promised to me. That’s why I came here, because I was a misfit back home.” And he says to me, “Well, you don’t look American.” I looked at him, and I was like, “You mean to say I don’t look white?”
“It’s OK,” I said. “I’ve been in business in America for 20 years. I’m a citizen. I make more than 90 percent of my clothes in New York City. I am actively involved in social causes. I’ve contributed to my taxes.”
torrent of hate and violence against people of Asian descent around the U.S. began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders say the bigotry was spurred by the rhetoric of former President Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”
In New York, a wave of xenophobia and violence has been compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities. Many community leaders say racist assaults are being overlooked by the authorities.
In January, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was violently slammed to the ground in San Francisco, resulting in his death at a hospital two days later. The attack, captured on video, has become a rallying cry.
Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta massage parlor shootings on March 16. The suspect’s motives are under investigation, but Asian communities across the United States are on alert because of a surge in attacks against Asian-Americans over the past year.
A man has been arrested and charged with a hate crime in connection with a violent attack on a Filipino woman near Times Square on March 30. The attack sparked further outrage after security footage appeared to show bystanders failing to immediately come to the woman’s aid.
Part of what you are trying to do with your work is educate people about the nuances of different Asian cultures, right?
Asian-Americans are the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S. electorate, with roots all over the world. We are diverse. I look East Asian, right? But I’m from Southeast Asia. I sit in the center of the brown Asians and the other Asians. The wealth disparity between the richest Asian-Americans and the poorest is insanely high. I think maybe the largest of any ethnic group in this country. In spite of that, there is a myth of the model minority, of crazy rich Asians. That’s why “Parasite” is important, why “Minari” is important. Give us the platform so we can tell our stories.
This stereotyping doesn’t make you angry?
I’m OK with people making mistakes because it can start a dialogue that leads to a solution. I refuse to cancel people unless there’s something really harmful.
Fashion is one of the hardest and most arduous industries, but it’s also an industry that can reward you in the most splendid, incredible way. And it is the only industry where in 10 minutes on a runway we can really change the narrative of what the culture can be. That’s the power of fashion.
I am a living example of it, coming from a country like Nepal where nobody believed I could be a designer. To be able to live that dream and to have this platform. It’s been really incredible.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, the World Health Organization released a report on Tuesday laying out theories on how the virus first spread to humans — but it is already raising more questions than answers, including from the health body’s own leader.
The report, drafted by a 34-member team of Chinese scientists and international experts who led a mission to Wuhan, China, examines a series of politically contentious questions, including whether the virus might have accidentally emerged from a Chinese laboratory.
Some members of the expert team have raised concerns about China’s refusal to share raw data about early Covid-19 cases. In an unusual move, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general, acknowledged those concerns while speaking about the report on Tuesday. He said he hoped future studies would include “more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”
prepared remarks released to the news media. “Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”
The experts had said that officials at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses a state-of-the-art laboratory known for its research on bat coronaviruses, assured them that they were not handling any viruses that appeared to be closely related to the coronavirus that caused the recent pandemic, according to meeting notes included in the report. They also said that staff members had been trained in security protocols.
Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where many early cases of Covid-19 emerged. The expert team said that there appeared to be no connection, writing that the lab had not reported any “disruptions or incidents caused by the move” and had not been doing research on coronaviruses.
Some critics have suggested that the team seemed to take the Chinese official position at face value and did not adequately investigate lab officials’ assertions.
Raina MacIntyre, who heads the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, said the report seemed to dismiss the idea of a lab leak “without strong evidence.”
“A lab accident is certainly a possibility,” she said.
The role of animal markets is still unclear.
The expert team concluded that the coronavirus probably emerged in bats before spreading to humans through an intermediate animal. But the team said there was not enough evidence to identify the species or to pinpoint where the spillover of the virus from animals first occurred.
Early in the pandemic, Chinese officials floated theories suggesting that the coronavirus outbreak might have started at the Huanan market. More than a year later, the role of animal markets in the story of the pandemic is still unclear, according to the report.
The expert team found that many early cases had no clear connection to Huanan market, which sold sika deer, badgers, bamboo rats, live crocodiles and other animals, according to vendor records cited in the report.
Among those initial confirmed cases, about 28 percent had links to the Huanan market and 23 percent were tied to other markets in Wuhan, while 45 percent had no history of market exposure, according to the report.
“No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn,” the report says.
It says that further studies of farms and wild animals in China are needed, and that more clues about the markets’ role may emerge.
The inquiry’s success will depend on China.
The expert team offers a long list of recommendations for additional research: more testing of wildlife and livestock in China and Southeast Asia, more studies on the earliest cases of Covid-19 and more tracing of pathways from farms to markets in Wuhan.
But it is unclear whether China, which has repeatedly hindered the W.H.O. inquiry, will cooperate. Chinese officials have sought to redirect attention elsewhere, suggesting that the virus could have emerged in the United States or other countries.
Experts say the delays in the inquiry have hurt the ability to prevent other pandemics.
“This delay has obviously compromised the ability of the investigation to reconstruct the origins of Covid-19 and identify ways of reducing the risk of such events happening again in the future,” said Michael Baker, a professor of public health at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
For 27 days, they searched for clues in Wuhan, visiting hospitals, live animal markets and government laboratories, conducting interviews and pressing Chinese officials for data, but an international team of experts departed the country still far from understanding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 2.8 million people worldwide.
The 124-page report of a joint inquiry by the World Health Organization and China — to be released officially on Tuesday but leaked to the media on Monday — contains a glut of new detail but no profound new insights. And it does little to allay Western concerns about the role of the Chinese Communist Party, which is notoriously resistant to outside scrutiny and has at times sought to hinder any investigation by the W.H.O. The report is also not clear on whether China will permit outside experts to keep digging.
“The investigation runs the risk of going nowhere, and we may never find the true origins of the virus,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The report, an advance copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, says that China still does not have the data or research to indicate how or when the virus began spreading. Some skeptics outside the country say that China may have more information than it admits.
new inquiry into the origin of the pandemic. They said such an inquiry should consider the possibility that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan or infected someone inside it.
The lab leak theory has been promoted by some officials in the Trump administration, including Dr. Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in comments to CNN last week. He offered no evidence and emphasized that it was his opinion; the theory has been widely dismissed by scientists and U.S. intelligence officials.
Matt Apuzzo and Apoorva Mandavilli contributed reporting. Albee Zhang contributed research.
LONDON — The world got another warning this week about the perils of its heavy reliance on global supply chains. As a single ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, shutting down traffic in both directions, international commerce confronted a monumental traffic jam with potentially grave consequences.
The troubled craft is not just any vessel. The Ever Given is one of the world’s largest container ships, with space for 20,000 metal boxes carrying goods across the sea. And the Suez Canal is not just any waterway. It is a vital channel linking the factories of Asia to the affluent customers of Europe, as well as a major conduit for oil.
The fact that one mishap could sow fresh chaos from Los Angeles to Rotterdam to Shanghai underscored the extent to which modern commerce has come to revolve around truly global supply chains.
In recent decades, management experts and consulting firms have championed so-called just-in-time manufacturing to limit costs and boost profits. Rather than waste money stockpiling extra goods in warehouses, companies can depend on the magic of the internet and the global shipping industry to summon what they need as they need it.
letter to all employees last March. “Masks remain in short supply globally.”
energy prices rose on Wednesday, though they pulled back on Thursday. Some are carrying electronics, and clothing, and exercise equipment.
None of them are getting where they are supposed to until the waylaid ship is freed. Each day the stalemate continues holds up goods worth $9.6 billion, according to a Bloomberg analysis.
shipping industry, which has been overwhelmed by the pandemic and its reordering of world trade.
As Americans have contended with lockdowns, they have ordered vast quantities of factory goods from Asia: exercise bikes to compensate for the closure of gyms; printers and computer monitors to turn bedrooms into offices; baking equipment and toys to entertain children cooped up at home.
The surge of orders has exhausted the supply of containers at ports in China. The cost of shipping a container from Asia to North America has more than doubled since November. And at ports from Los Angeles to Seattle, the unloading of those containers has been slowed as dockworkers and truck drivers have been struck by Covid-19 or forced to stay home to attend to children who are out of school.
Delays in unloading spell delays in loading the next shipment. Agricultural exporters in the American Midwest have struggled to secure containers to send soybeans and grains to food processors and animal feed suppliers in Southeast Asia.
This situation has held for four months, while showing few signs of easing. Retailers in North America have been frantically restocking depleted inventories, putting a strain on shipping companies in what is normally the slack season on trans-Pacific routes.
The blockage of the Suez Canal effectively sidelines more containers. The question is how long this lasts.
Two weeks could strand as much as one-fourth of the supply of containers that would normally be in European ports, estimated Christian Roeloffs, chief executive officer of xChange, a shipping consultant in Hamburg, Germany.
“Considering the current container shortage, it just increases the turnaround time for the ships,” Mr. Roeloffs said.
Three-fourths of all container ships traveling from Asia to Europe arrived late in February, according to Sea-Intelligence, a research company in Copenhagen. Even a few days of disruption in the Suez could exacerbate that situation.
If the Suez remains clogged for more than a few days, the stakes would rise drastically. Ships now stuck in the canal will find it difficult to turn around and pursue other routes given the narrowness of the channel.
Those now en route to the Suez may opt to head south and navigate around Africa, adding weeks to their journeys and burning additional fuel — a cost ultimately borne by consumers.
Whenever ships again move through the canal, they are likely to arrive at busy ports all at once, forcing many to wait before they can unload — an additional delay.
“This could make a really bad crisis even worse,” said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence.
Fonio, a cereal grain imported from West Africa, was once relegated to the shelves of tiny grocery stores frequented by immigrants primarily from Senegal and Mali. But it has gradually made its way to Whole Foods, where pouches decorated with a painted map of Africa are nestled amid packages of rice and lentils, aimed at a broader range of American consumers.
That journey was pushed in part by a Brooklyn company, Yolélé, which roughly means “let the good times roll” in Fula, a West African language. Yolélé also offers seasoned fonio pilafs, a line of fonio chips and, coming soon, fonio flour.
The company was founded in 2017 by Philip Teverow, a food industry veteran, and Pierre Thiam, a chef from Senegal who grew up eating fonio. Mr. Thiam is confident that Americans would eat fonio, too, if they had better access to it.
American Community Survey by the New American Economy, a research organization. Chinese and Mexican immigrants owned most, selling cuisines familiar to American palates. But entrepreneurs from countries like Guinea, Kazakhstan and Senegal are gaining a foothold with less well-known cuisines.
Marketing these foods in the United States has its challenges, like cultural identity and consumer perception. The savviest entrepreneurs work with designers and brand strategists to make their products more approachable.
One of the biggest hurdles is choosing visual clues — fonts, colors, illustrations and photographs — that channel a product’s physical or conceptual provenance. A brand identity that’s too sleek and polished might appear inauthentic and lose credibility. Yet folksy designs or a reliance on regional symbols can look cliché and dated.
Creating the right visuals is a “subtle balance,” said Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. A new foreign food’s packaging must stimulate curiosity and radiate authenticity, “making you feel like there’s some sort of familiarity that maybe you had not yet discovered in yourself,” she said.
Cultural heritage is crucial for a new product, said Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst known as the Supermarket Guru. “You have to stand out,” he said, adding that there is a strong appetite for foreign cuisines and products, especially among younger generations: “They love to experiment with food.”
The global food industry has changed substantially over the past several decades, Mr. Lempert said. New foreign food brands today tend to celebrate their origins, whereas businesses just 10 years ago might have pushed to Americanize their products.
“There was a stigma there,” he said.
Supermarket distribution has also changed. “A lot of these smaller ethnic brands used to be distributed by ethnic food distributors,” Mr. Lempert said. “Now, these companies are going direct to the supermarket.”
Other strategies include posting on social media, especially Instagram, which is considered an effective, low-cost way to market products, and selling directly to consumers through websites and e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon.
But the key is often packaging. A designer’s ability tends to be a blend of creative thinking, diverse professional experience and wide travels. This often outweighs a shared nationality, ethnicity or culture; in fact, many entrepreneurs prefer working with designers from different backgrounds to better see their story through a fresh lens.
Mr. Thiam wanted to use Yolélé to claim fonio’s West African identity while avoiding labels like “exotic” and “ethnic.” He and Mr. Teverow approached Paula Scher, a partner at the design firm Pentagram, where Mr. Thiam already had connections because of his cookbooks. He said that he would have liked to use a designer of African descent, but that when he saw Ms. Scher’s map of Africa, it was “love at first sight.”
After Ms. Scher’s design hit the shelves last spring, sales surged 250 percent, Mr. Teverow said.
Using product names in foreign languages is a common hurdle for food business owners. To broaden the appeal of her classic Middle Eastern spice blends like hawaij, baharat and ras el hanout, Leetal Arazi, a co-founder of New York Shuk, worked with the graphic designer Ayal Zakin to craft a visual solution.
The labels feature elegant illustrations of the contents in each jar, like turmeric or chili peppers, balanced with a modern gold logo and a tiny stylized camel in silhouette.
“All of a sudden, you are less afraid and intimidated to pick it up,” said Ms. Arazi, whose products are sold at supermarkets like Whole Foods and specialty stores.
Mohammed and Rahim Diallo, brothers from Guinea, faced the same challenge for their intensely flavored gingery drink, Ginjan. The designer Ruen Ellis removed any mystery about the drink by listing the ingredients — ginger, pineapple, lemon, vanilla and anise — on the label below a circular logo that centers on a silhouette of Africa.
A straightforward or celebratory story that can bolster a brand’s identity isn’t always possible. Some immigrant founders have fraught relationships with their homelands, or history has convoluted their story.
In late 2018, Daniyar Chukin and the design firm Little Fury rebranded Mr. Chukin’s vaguely Russian-sounding company, Misha, to the vaguely German-sounding Wünder Creamery.
Mr. Chukin had struggled with how to market quark, a creamy yogurtlike product popular in Germany. He grew up eating it in Kazakhstan, where the Soviets had brought it. “Here I am, a Kazakh guy, marketing a product I knew as a Russian one, as a German one to American consumers,” he said with a laugh. “It’s starting to work now.”
His quark is packaged in a yogurt cup with a clean, Nordic look, and Wünder Creamery’s annual earnings are about $1 million after growing 50 percent a year, he said.
Some immigrant entrepreneurs choose to have zero visual references to their food’s country of origin.
“What if we basically just remove the whole idea of being an ethnic food?” said Nigel Sielegar, a designer from Indonesia and the owner of Moon Man, minimalist Southeast Asia dessert stall in the cavernous basement below Essex Market on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
After pandemic restrictions closed his eatery, Mr. Sielegar pivoted in July to producing sweet kaya jams featuring purple ube, golden palm sugar and green pandan. The coconut milk-based jams are packaged in glass jars with “Moon Man” running diagonally in huge white type across a black label.
The company has sold more than 1,000 kaya jam jars directly to consumers nationwide, Mr. Sielegar said, and recently expanded to selling half-gallon containers wholesale to restaurants.
Package design and brand identity might seem superfluous, even shallow, but they are often the needed prompt for customers to buy, said Dan Formosa, a design consultant.
“There is a expectation of what it’s about and a sense that it’s worth trying,” he said.
Early last December, the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Myrtle Hazard sailed through the night, anchored off the Pacific island nation of Palau and boarded a group of Chinese boats to help seize tens of thousands of dollars worth of sea cucumber that had allegedly been harvested illegally.
The fast-response cutter, operating around 6,600 miles from the continental U.S. and roughly 750 miles from its home port in the U.S. territory of Guam, is part of the Coast Guard’s newest growth area: helping counter China’s growing naval power in the Pacific.
China has used coordinated action by its fishing fleets, coast guard and navy to establish its presence in the South China Sea. It increasingly also has a presence in the South and Central Pacific. Chinese fishing fleets have shown up in force around island nations like the Republic of Kiribati and Tuvalu, which have some of the richest tuna fisheries in the world, and China’s navy has established itself in the area as well, including with a stopover by warships in Sydney in 2019 and visits by a naval hospital ship to Fiji in 2018.
The U.S. Coast Guard is building up in the region in response. In the past few months, it based two of its most advanced new cutters in the U.S. territory of Guam, nearly 4,000 miles closer to Shanghai than it is to San Francisco. One more is due to arrive in the coming months. For the first time, the Coast Guard has an attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia, and another attaché will move to Singapore next year.
The Coast Guard has been steadily increasing its activity in the Western Pacific and near China’s shores. It deployed cutters to the Western Pacific for more than 10 months in 2019 to work with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet. One, the USCGC Bertholf, transited the Taiwan Strait in a show of defiance to China, the first U.S. Coast Guard vessel to make the highly politicized trip.
“All this changed with the National Defense Strategy,” Lyle Morris, a senior policy analyst at Rand Corp., referring to a 2018 Pentagon document. “The biggest transition has been the Coast Guard’s more overt signaling about its role in the great power competition with China.”
While the U.S. Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, its work with the Pentagon is growing. U.S. government data show Coast Guard vessels spent 326 days in support of the Department of Defense in 2019, compared with an average of just 50 to 100 days over the previous five years. All of the 2019 deployments were in the Indo-Pacific. The Coast Guard’s mission has traditionally focused on protecting U.S. maritime borders, but it has at times played a role supporting the Navy.
The Department of Defense has also signaled the need to focus more on the region. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s first overseas trip, which began this week, takes him to the Indo-Pacific.
The U.S. and allies with a strong naval presence in the Pacific, such as Australia and France, are concerned that China, having established a solid hold on the South China Sea, is moving farther afield to find less-depleted fishing grounds and expand its strategic position. The Coast Guard deployments are meant to allow the U.S. to confront those probes with less risk of a military incident than if U.S. Navy ships were involved.
“Sending the Coast Guard to the region to train our partners makes perfect sense,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D., Mass.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “They can do all this without as much of a risk of complication that the Navy would pose doing the same job.”
Much of the work is enforcement activity at the front end of China’s probes—its fishing fleet. In the Republic of Palau, the Chinese fishing boat and six smaller craft had been detained over the sea-cucumber allegations. The Coast Guard came in to help local authorities with the boarding and document checks.
Palau, like Pacific nations Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, is in a compact of free association with the U.S., which allows them to remain independent while gaining some of the benefits afforded to U.S. territories.
While many of the Pacific’s small islands have a growing ability to protect their own waters, the new Coast Guard vessels increased U.S. ability to provide security and stability, said Capt. Christopher Chase, the Coast Guard’s commanding officer in the Guam region.
The Coast Guard is investing more than $19 billion in at least eight national-security cutters, 25 offshore-patrol cutters, and 58 fast-response cutters. If all goes to plan this year, at least eight of those ships will be deployed in a position to counter China. The Coast Guard is also investigating stationing a ship in American Samoa.
The new national-security cutters, the centerpiece of the fleet, are able to travel farther and faster in worse conditions. They are armed with a naval gun system and heavy machine guns, and have decks on which helicopters can land.
The force also will work with nations in the Pacific and Southeast Asia on more mundane but relationship-building tasks like repairing ships, training crews and replacing navigational buoys.
China has used its own coast guard, the world’s largest, to accompany its fishing fleet and harass vessels engaged in oil exploration and other commercial activity in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
In the summer of 2019, the USCGC Bertholf docked in Manila, the Philippines, following exercises with local counterparts.
Cmdr. Gary Gimotea was skipper of a 184-foot Philippine Coast Guard vessel participating in search-and-rescue training with the Americans about 70 nautical miles from the contested Scarborough Shoal. A Chinese ship shadowed them all day.
“They become more aggressive and challenge you as you get closer to the Scarborough Shoal,” Cmdr. Gimotea said of the Chinese ships they often encounter on patrol. “It’s quite reassuring to have the U.S. when we conduct these exercises.”
Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific, said the Indo-Pacific command and countries in the region would like to see a more regular Coast Guard presence in the South China Sea area, and that the force would look for opportunities to return.
“Being a bit smaller than the U.S. Navy and definitely a bit more nimble and flexible is all viewed positively by our partners,” Vice Admiral Fagan said in an interview.
Write to Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com and Ben Kesling at firstname.lastname@example.org
TAIPEI, Taiwan — As the coronavirus has upended lives and economies around the world, Taiwan has been an oasis.
Every day, droplets fly with abandon in packed restaurants, bars and cafes. Office buildings hum, and schools resound with the shrieks and laughter of maskless children. In October, a Pride parade drew an estimated 130,000 people to the streets of Taipei, the capital. Rainbow masks were abundant; social distancing, not so much.
This island of 24 million, which has seen just 10 Covid-19 deaths and fewer than 1,000 cases, has used its success to sell something in short supply: living without fear of the coronavirus. The relatively few people who are allowed to enter Taiwan have been coming in droves, and they’ve helped to fuel an economic boom.
“For a while, Taiwan felt a little empty. A lot of people moved abroad and only came back once in a while,” said Justine Li, the head chef at Fleur de Sel, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the city of Taichung, which she said had been booked up for a month in advance since the fall. “Now, some of those once-in-a-while guests have moved back.”
Eddie Huang, the Taiwanese-American restaurateur and author. About 270,000 more Taiwanese entered the island than left it in 2020, according to the immigration authorities — about four times the net inflow of the previous year.
expects 4.6percent growth in 2021, which would be the fastest pace in seven years.
Steve Chen, 42, a Taiwanese-American entrepreneur who co-founded YouTube, was the first to sign up for the gold card program. He moved to the island from San Francisco with his wife and two children in 2019. Then, after the pandemic hit, many of his friends in Silicon Valley, particularly those with Taiwanese heritage, began to join him — a reverse brain drain, of sorts.
started a campaign encouraging them to take two pounds of trash with them when they left.
Some aspects of pandemic life have permeated Taiwan’s borders. Temperature checks and hand sanitizing are common, and masks are required in many public places (though not schools).
But for the most part, the virus has been out of sight and out of mind, thanks to rigorous contact tracing and strict quarantines for incoming travelers.
Some returnees, like Robin Wei, 35, are dreading their eventual departure.
“We just feel very lucky and definitely a little guilty,” said Mr. Wei, a product manager for a Bay Area tech company who returned to Taipei with his wife and young son last May. “We feel like we are the ones who benefited from the pandemic.”
received its first batch, to be given to medical workers.
Some people, like Tai Ling Sun, 72, are already making plans to leave the bubble.
In January, Ms. Sun and her husband came from California to the city of Kaohsiung, where she grew up, at the urging of friends and family in Taiwan. They were concerned about her safety in Orange County, where coronavirus cases had been on the rise.
After two weeks in quarantine, Ms. Sun stepped out into a Taiwan that — aside from the masks — looked and felt almost exactly as it had on previous visits. She has since been making the most of her stay with a series of routine medical checkups, something that many in the United States have been delaying since the pandemic started.
But a virus-free paradise doesn’t provide immunity to all ailments. Ms. Sun said she had begun to feel homesick. She longed to see her five children and breathe pristine suburban air. And, she added, she wanted a vaccine.
“It’s been great to be here,” Ms. Sun said. “But it’s time to go home.”