When Fan Jianhua had her third daughter last April, she was afraid that she would be fined for violating China’s birth limits.
Ms. Fan was already heavily in debt paying for treatment for her 6-year-old, who has leukemia. To her relief, when she registered her new baby with the police, she didn’t have to pay the $7,500 fine.
“I was really happy and could finally relax,” said Ms. Fan, 34, a stay-at-home mother in the central city of Danjiangkou, in Hubei Province.
Slowly, in fits and starts, China’s ruling Communist Party is loosening its long-held restrictions over childbirth and women’s bodies. Some local governments have tacitly allowed couples to have more than two children. Beijing has said civil servants will no longer be fired for such infringements. Party leaders have pledged to make population policies more inclusive, a signal that some have taken to mean the rules will be eased further.
decline in birthrates. A once-a-decade population census, released on Tuesday, showed that the number of births last year fell to the lowest since the Mao era. Low fertility translates to fewer workers and weaker demand, which could stunt growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
But the party is wary of giving up control and has resisted scrapping birth restrictions wholesale. Instead, Beijing has been taking a piecemeal approach by slowly dismantling the once-powerful family-planning bureaucracy and carving out exemptions. In many places, police officers, employers and city officials are deciding how strictly, or loosely, to enforce the rules.
That can mean more freedom for some, like Ms. Fan, to have more children. But it also creates uncertainty about the risks, adding to a reluctance about having more children.
The strategy could also founder amid broad cultural changes. Anxiety over the rising cost of education, housing and health care is now deeply ingrained in society. Many Chinese simply prefer smaller families, and the government’s efforts to boost the birthrate, including introducing a two-child policy in 2016, have largely fizzled.
“If the restrictions on family planning are not lifted, and they are encouraging births at the same time, this is self-contradictory,” said Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert with the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based research center. He said that removing all birth limits would convey an important message. “I think such a step has to be taken.”
official murmurs about a reconsideration of the one-child policy surfaced but were quickly dismissed. It took years before the government moved to allow all couples to have two children.
Now, the population is aging more rapidly than those of many developed countries, including the United States, and some argue that the government cannot afford to keep any restrictions on procreation.
“We have to take advantage of the fact that a certain number of residents now are willing to give birth but aren’t allowed to,” China’s central bank said in a working paper it published on April 14. “If we wait to lift it when no one wants to give birth, it will be useless.”
harshly enforced family-planning rules in what Beijing has depicted as a fight against religious extremism. The campaign has led in recent years to a rise in sterilizations and contraceptive procedures — forcibly imposed in some cases — in the region’s Muslim-dominated areas.
China’s family-planning policy has long given local officials a powerful weapon of control — one that may be hard, or costly, to wrest back. Before they were unwound, family-planning agencies hired around eight million people, down to the village level, who corralled women to be fitted with intrauterine devices or coerced them into abortions.
The officials also collected large fines from couples who broke the rules. One senior researcher at the Central Party School estimated in 2015 that the fees amounted to between $3 billion and $5 billion annually.
In recent years, the government has been reassigning family-planning employees to roles including in population research and tackling Covid-19. But local governments retain the power to enforce birth limits as they see fit, which has led to inconsistencies.
The central government said in May last year that civil servants did not have to lose their jobs for violating birth limits, yet months later, a village committee in the eastern city of Hangzhou fired a woman after she had a third child — prompting a public outcry.
Ultimately, the fate of China’s family-planning policies may change little. A generation of highly educated women are putting off marriage and childbirth for other reasons, including a rejection of traditional attitudes that dictate women should bear most of the responsibility of raising children and doing housework.
Liu Qing, a 38-year-old editor of children’s books in Beijing, said getting married and having children were never in her future because they would come at too great a personal cost.
“All the things that you want — your ideals and your ambitions — have to be sacrificed,” Ms. Liu said.
Ms. Liu said Chinese society imposed a motherhood penalty on women, pointing to the discrimination that mothers often faced in hiring.
“I’m furious about this environment,” she said. “I’m not the kind of person who would accept this reality and compromise. I just won’t.”
For other Chinese, having fewer children is a matter of necessity when holes in the country’s social safety net mean that a major illness can lead to financial ruin.
Ms. Fan, the woman in Hubei who was spared a fine, said that she and her husband, a laborer, were getting increasingly desperate. Public health insurance had covered half the cost of her daughter’s treatment for leukemia, but they were on the hook for $76,000.
She had a third child only because she heard that a sibling’s cord blood could help in the treatment of leukemia. But she later learned that such treatment would cost more than $100,000.
“I don’t dare think about the future,” Ms. Fan said. She added that if her daughter’s condition deteriorated or they went broke, they would have to give up treatment.
“We can only leave it up to her fate,” she said.
Research was contributed by Claire Fu, Liu Yi, Albee Zhang and Elsie Chen.
Births are falling. The population is aging. The work force of the world’s second-largest economy is shrinking.
China’s latest once-a-decade census, which was conducted last year, showed the slowest population growth since the 1960s, confirming that the country is in the midst of an urgent demographic crisis.
The results may push the government to loosen its family planning restrictions, which have shaped the most intimate aspects of Chinese society — marriage, childbirth and child-rearing — for decades. But the stark need for change has also underscored how reluctant the authorities have been to fully let go of control.
according to World Bank data. Last year, just 12 million babies were born in China, the lowest official number since 1961, as the country was emerging from a devastating famine.
Experts cautioned that the pandemic may have been a major factor, but births have now declined for four consecutive years.
The numbers make clear that China’s aging crisis will not be resolved anytime soon. As older Chinese people occupy a greater share of the population, while the younger work force who would support them declines, China’s pension funds and underdeveloped facilities for older adults are sure to feel strain. Adults above 60 now make up 18.7 percent of the population, compared with 13.3 percent in 2010.
Liang Jianzhang, a demography expert at Peking University, said he expected that the government would lift its remaining limits on fertility soon. Five years ago it ended its one-child policy and allowed families to have two children, but families who have more can still be penalized or denied benefits.
forcing women to have fewer babies as part of an effort to control the Muslim ethnic minorities there.
China’s gender gap is shrinking, but discrimination remains.
Stuart Gietel-Basten, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who studies demography. But that ratio is still higher than normal, suggesting a lingering preference for boys, he added.
The advancement of women faces more official obstacles, too. In an effort to address the fertility crisis, officials in recent years have sought to push women back into traditional gender roles. Feminist activists have been detained or censored online.
39 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had some form of tertiary education.) But it is a tremendous accomplishment for a country that in 1997 had fewer than 3.5 million undergraduate and graduate students.
Still, experts have noted that the surging numbers of college graduates may bring a new problem: a dearth of well-paid jobs to employ them. China’s economy is still largely reliant on blue-collar labor. Ning Jizhe, the head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, acknowledged the gap at a news conference about the census on Tuesday.
“Employment pressure on college students is increasing,” he said. “The pace of industrial transformation and upgrading needs to speed up.”
Unless the new crop of educated young people can find stable jobs, Professor Gietel-Basten said, the fertility rate may drop even further. “If you’ve got a situation where you have graduate unemployment and it’s difficult to access these good jobs,” he said, “why would you have more babies?”
Wealthier centers are continuing to grow, while poorer areas lag.
Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. As the northeast continues to empty out, those disparities may become even more pronounced, he added.
When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.
It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.
“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”
Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, they are forcing them to have fewer, as they tighten their grip on Muslim ethnic minorities.
internment camps and prisons. The authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, sent residents to work in factories and placed children in boarding schools.
By targeting Muslim women, the authorities are going even further, attempting to orchestrate a demographic shift that will affect the population for generations. Birthrates in the region have already plunged in recent years, as the use of invasive birth control procedures has risen, findings that were previously documented by a researcher, Adrian Zenz, with The Associated Press.
crimes against humanity and genocide, in large part because of the efforts to stem the population growth of Muslim minorities. The Trump administration in January was the first government to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as a leading reason; the Biden administration affirmed the label in March.
Ms. Sedik’s experience, reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, helped form the basis for the decision by the United States government. “It was one of the most detailed and compelling first-person accounts we had,” Kelley E. Currie, a former United States ambassador who was involved in the government’s discussions. “It helped to put a face on the horrifying statistics we were seeing.”
Beijing has accused its critics of pushing an anti-China agenda.
in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”
To women in Xinjiang, the orders from the government were clear: They didn’t have a choice.
Last year, a community worker in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Ms. Sedik had lived, sent messages saying women between 18 and 59 had to submit to pregnancy and birth control inspections.
“If you fight with us at the door and if you refuse to cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station,” the worker wrote, according to screenshots of the WeChat messages that Ms. Sedik shared with The Times.
encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.
The contraception campaign appeared to work.
report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”
Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.
“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”
‘The women of Xinjiang are in danger’
leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.
government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.
operated under secrecy — many were subjected tointerrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.
Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her.
“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview fromthe United States,where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”
Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.
The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.
The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.
Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.
‘We are all Chinese’
Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in.
The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.
The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.
When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.
Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?
“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”
But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.
Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.
Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.
She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.
Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.
It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.
“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”
“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”
Amy Chang Chien and Fatima Er contributed reporting.
HONG KONG — The U.S. Embassy in Beijing had good news to share: Student visa applications for Chinese nationals were resuming after a yearlong hiatus.
“Spring has come and the flowers are in bloom,” the embassy wrote in a Chinese-language social media post on Wednesday that included a video of a dog trying to jump over a fence. “Are you like this doggy who can’t wait to go out and play?”
It backfired, big time.
The post on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China, could be read as a ham-handed attempt to be cute. But at a moment of heightened nationalism on the Chinese internet, it set off criticism — and accusations of racism — that were amplified by the ruling Communist Party’s formidable propaganda machine.
The embassy quickly removed the post and apologized, but the damage was done. The spat is the latest thorn in a diplomatic relationship that is prickly at the best of times and has lately been at its most delicate point in decades.
aggregating criticism of the post and criticizing former President Donald J. Trump’s visa policies.
Fang Kecheng, a professor of journalism and communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the response was a typical example of how nationalistic news outlets and social media users in China wage “public opinion warfare.”
“They pay close attention to what the U.S. government and media say, and amplify any inappropriate expressions to discredit them,” he said.
Professor Fang said that such campaigns sometimes drew attention to statements that he said deserved to be criticized, such as Mr. Trump’s use of the term “China virus” to describe the coronavirus. That phrase has been widely criticized in the United States and beyond as racist and anti-Chinese.
“In this case, it’s amplifying a misstep,” he added, referring to the embassy’s social media post.
Early last year, Mr. Trump imposed restrictions on travelers from China, including students, prompting criticism from Beijing. The Weibo post on Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy’s consular section announced that student applications had resumed under President Biden’s administration.
technology Cold War, among other issues. Travel between the two counties has largely been frozen by strict visa controls, a result of both Covid-19 protocols and souring relations. Even attempts to restore diplomatic normalcy have been fraught.
There are potential financial implications for the U.S. education sector, too.
About a million international students enroll in American universities every year. More than a third were from China in the 2019-2020 academic year, according to data compiled by the Institute of International Education.
But experts say that universities in the United States and other English-speaking countries could lose billions of dollars in the coming years because of travel restrictions and anger among Chinese students and parents about what they see as a permissive attitude toward public health during the pandemic.
abandoned a plan to strip international college students of their visas if they did not attend at least some classes in person. Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attorneys general of 20 states had sued over the proposed policy, saying it was reckless, cruel and senseless.
Paul Mozur contributed reporting and Lin Qiqing contributed research.
working out an agreement in December intended to make it easier for European companies to invest in what has become the bloc’s most important trading partner for goods.
But since then relations have gone downhill because of tension over Chinese policy toward minority groups in Xinjiang province.
Legislation proposed by the European Commission Wednesday would give it power to investigate and take measures against foreign companies that use government subsidies to get an unfair advantage over domestic competitors, an accusation often leveled at China. A separate proposal, also announced Wednesday, is intended to make Europe less dependent on China for crucial goods like semiconductors, drugs and batteries.
The proposals came a day after Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for trade, said that work on finalizing the December investment agreement with Beijing was on hold because of repressive Chinese policies.
In March, the European Commission sanctioned four Communist Party officials after accusing them of being responsible for human rights violations against members of the Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang.
China retaliated with sanctions against numerous members of the European Parliament, several scholars, and employees of human rights organizations and think tanks which have been critical of China.
In light of the sanctions war, Mr. Dombrovskis told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday that “it’s clear the environment is not conducive for ratification of the agreement.”
This is what @VDombrovskis told @AFP on the ratification of #CAI with China – not first time he’s said it & not breaking news.
To be clear: this is not a formal suspension decision, just means there’s no political outreach right now to promote the agreement – see end of quote. pic.twitter.com/P1CgzkMu8e
— Vanessa Mock (@vanessamock) May 4, 2021
Europe’s tougher line toward China brings it closer to the stance adopted by the Biden administration, which objected to the investment agreement. But Europe remains divided over how to approach an important trading partner that is also a geopolitical rival.
Markus J. Beyrer, director general of BusinessEurope, a leading business lobby, said in a statement Wednesday that the proposal on subsidies is “a step in the right direction in addressing existing legal loopholes and preventing market distortions.”
But a prominent business group in Germany, which is highly dependent on exports to China, was critical.
“The proposed regulation is very complex and there is a risk that its implementation will lead to considerable additional bureaucracy and legal uncertainty for our member companies,” said Ulrich Ackermann, managing director of foreign trade at V.D.M.A., which represents German makers of industrial equipment.
A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers ruled on Wednesday to uphold the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.
Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court to deliberate the company’s content decisions, said the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after he used the site to foment an insurrection in Washington in January, Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times. The panel said the ongoing risk of violence “justified” the suspension.
But the board also said that Facebook’s penalty of an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate,” and that the company should apply a “defined penalty.” The board gave Facebook six months to determine its final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.
The board is a panel of about 20 former political leaders, human rights activists and journalists picked by Facebook to deliberate the company’s content decisions, explains Cecilia Kang of The Times. It began a year ago and is based in London.
The idea for the board was for the public to have a way to appeal decisions by Facebook to remove content that violates its policies against harmful and hateful posts. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s C.E.O., has said neither he nor the company wanted to have the final decision on speech.
The company and paid members of the panel stress that the board is independent. But Facebook funds the board with a $130 million trust and top executives played a big role in its formation.
Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency that started as a joke, is on a tear. A surge in the past day pushed it to another record, sending it some 14,000 percent higher than it started the year.
One theory is that the upcoming appearance of Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive and noted Dogecoin superfan, as the host of “Saturday Night Live” on May 8 could get more people interested in trading the crypto token. It’s as good a reason as any for those who try to rationalize its movements.
The latest bout of Dogecoin mania has somewhat overshadowed what’s going on in Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, which also set records this week and made its 27-year-old co-creator, Vitalik Buterin, a billionaire (in dollars). The price of Ether, the crypto token built on the Ethereum blockchain, is up more than 350 percent for the year to date, outpacing Bitcoin’s relatively pedestrian 90 percent gain — which, for context, outpaces every stock in the S&P 500 over that period.
Stocks on Wall Street rose on Wednesday, following European markets higher, and rebounding from a decline the day before.
The S&P 500 rose about half a percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 1.4 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain rose 1.2 percent.
In oil markets, Brent crude gained 1.1 percent, to $69.61 a barrel, and West Texas Intermediate rose 1 percent to $66.32 a barrel.
New data on the European economy from IHS Markit reflected continued strengthening. The eurozone composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for April grew for the second consecutive month. Significantly, the service sector grew after seven months of contraction.
“The updated services PMIs for April confirmed that the worst for the eurozone economy should be over,” said Nicola Nobile, the lead eurozone economist for Oxford Economics, in a note to clients. “The vaccination progress and the gradual reopening of some of the economies point to” an increase in economic output already underway, she added.
More chip worries
Stellantis, the name for the merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA, the maker of Peugeot, said the semiconductor shortage caused an 11 percent decline in production of automobiles in the first quarter, representing about 190,000 vehicles.
Dealer inventories were down in all areas, “primarily due to the semiconductor shortage,” the company said. Despite that, Stellantis reported net revenue up 14 percent. Shares gained 3 percent in European trading.
Four weeks before its scheduled end, the federal government’s signature aid effort for small business ravaged by the pandemic — the Paycheck Protection Program — ran out of funding on Tuesday afternoon and stopped accepting most new applications.
Congress allocated $292 billion to fund the program’s most recent round of loans. Nearly all of that money has now been exhausted, the Small Business Administration, which runs the program, told lenders and their trade groups on Tuesday. (An earlier version of this item misstated that the actions it described occurred Wednesday.)
While many had predicted that the program would run out of funds before its May 31 application deadline, the exact timing came as a surprise to many lenders.
“It is our understanding that lenders are now getting a message through the portal that loans cannot be originated,” the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, a trade group, wrote in an alert to its members Tuesday evening. “The P.P.P. general fund is closed to new applications.”
Some money — around $8 billion — is still available through a set-aside for community financial institutions, which generally focus on lending to businesses run by women, minorities and other underserved communities. Those lenders will be allowed to process applications until that money runs out, according to the trade group’s alert.
Representatives from the Small Business Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some money also remains available for lenders to finish processing pending applications, according to a lender who was on a call with S.B.A. officials on Tuesday.
Since its creation last year, the Paycheck Protection Program has disbursed $780 billion in forgivable loans to fund 10.7 million applications, according to the latest government data. Congress renewed the program in December’s relief bill, expanding the pool of eligible applicants and allowing the hardest-hit businesses to return for a second loan.
Lawmakers in March extended the program’s deadline to May, but they have shown little enthusiasm for adding significantly more money to its coffers. With vaccination rates increasing and pandemic restrictions easing, Congress’s focus on large-scale relief effort for small businesses has waned.
The government’s recent efforts have been focused on the most devastated industries. Two new grant programs run by the Small Business Administration — for businesses in the live-events and restaurant industries — began accepting applications in recent weeks, though no grants have yet been awarded.
Last May, Epic Games was making plans to circumvent Apple’s and Google’s app store rules and ultimately sue them in cases that could reshape the entire app economy and have profound ripple effects on antitrust investigations around the world.
Epic’s chief operating officer, Daniel Vogel, sent other executives an email raising a concern: Epic must persuade Apple and Google to give in to its demands for looser rules, he wrote, “without us looking like the baddies.”
Apple and Google, Mr. Vogel warned, “will treat this as an existential threat.” To prepare, Epic formed a public relations and marketing plan to get the public behind its campaign against the tech giants.
Apple seized on that plan in a federal courtroom in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, the second day of what is expected to be a three-week trial stemming from Epic’s claims that Apple relies on its control of its App Store to unfairly squeeze money out of other companies.
Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers of California’s Northern District, who will decide the case, also asked Epic’s chief executive, Tim Sweeney, a series of pointed questions about its potential consequences. She asked whether he had any understanding of the economics of other types of apps, including food, maps, GPS, weather, dating or instant messaging.
“So you don’t have any idea how what you are asking for would impact any of the developers who engage in those other categories of apps, is that right?” the judge asked.
“I personally do not,” Mr. Sweeney said, in his second day on the witness stand.
Apple’s lawyers argued that Epic had attacked App Store fees to shore up a slowing business. Gross revenue on Fortnite, Epic’s flagship video game, shrank in the last three quarters of 2019 compared with 2018, according to an Epic presentation to its board of directors about its plan to fight Apple. The presentation was disclosed in court on Tuesday, along with the executive’s emails.
Under questioning from Apple’s lawyers, Mr. Sweeney said Epic’s own game store was not expected to turn a profit until at least 2024.
Epic’s lawyers said the lawsuit was not just about Epic and Fortnite but about fairness for all apps that must use Apple’s App Store to reach consumers.
“Our contention in this case is that all apps are at issue,” said Katherine Forrest, a lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
Epic is not asking for a payout if it wins the trial; it is seeking relief in the form of changes to App Store rules. Epic has asked Apple to allow app developers to use other methods to collect payments and open their own app stores within their apps.
Apple has countered that these demands would raise a world of new issues, including making iPhones less secure.
On Tuesday afternoon, Benjamin Simon, founder of Yoga Buddhi, which makes the Down Dog Yoga app, testified about his company’s problems with Apple’s policies. Mr. Simon said that he had to charge more for subscriptions on the App Store to make up for the 30 percent fee that Apple charged him, and that Apple’s rules prevented him from promoting inside his app a cheaper price that is available on the web.
Mr. Simon said Apple warned app developers against speaking out about its policies in guidelines for getting their apps approved. “‘If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps,’” he said. “That was in the guidelines.”
When Bill and Melinda Gates announced filed for divorce in Washington State on Monday, grant recipients and staff members alike wondered what would happen to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The message from the headquarters in Seattle was clear: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation isn’t going anywhere.
The foundation’s $50 billion endowment is in a charitable trust that is irrevocable, Nicholas Kulish reports for The New York Times. It cannot be removed or divided up as a marital asset, said Megan Tompkins-Stange, a professor of public policy and scholar of philanthropy at the University of Michigan. She noted, however, that there was no legal mandate that would prevent them from changing course.
“I think there may be changes to come,” she said. “But I don’t see it as a big asteroid landing on the field of philanthropy as some of the hyperbole around this has indicated.”
The foundation, which set a new standard for private philanthropy in the 21st century, has given away nearly $55 billion, giving the couple instant access to heads of state and leaders of industry.
The couple’s prominence has also brought a fair share of scrutiny, throwing a spotlight on Mr. Gates’s robust defense of intellectual property rights — in this case, specific to vaccine patents — even in a time of extreme crisis, as well as the larger question of how unelected wealthy individuals can play such an outsize part on the global stage.
“In a civil society that is democratic, one couple’s personal choices shouldn’t lead university research centers, service providers and nonprofits to really question whether they’ll be able to continue,” said Maribel Morey, founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences.
When I was last in China, in 2019, I met an entrepreneur named Gao Jifan, who told me a story that I’ve been reflecting on during President Biden’s climate summit this week.
Back in the 1990s, Gao received a letter from an old friend who was living in the United States. The letter included a photo clipped from a newspaper, showing President Bill Clinton as he announced a plan to outfit one million homes with solar power.
“It was like a light bulb,” Gao recalled, as we were sitting in his office in Changzhou, about 100 miles northwest of Shanghai. Clinton’s initiative caused Gao — a chemist by training — to think that he should start a company to meet the coming demand for solar equipment. That company, Trina Solar, has since made Gao a billionaire.
For the inspiration, Gao is grateful to the U.S. But he is also befuddled by the American approach to climate change.
the sharp policy changes from one to the next. Those changes, he added, had hurt the solar industry and other clean-energy efforts: If the U.S. took a more consistent approach, the global struggle to slow climate change would be easier.
A ‘lost four years’
Many Americans have come to believe a different story — namely, that U.S. climate policy hardly matters compared with the actions of China, India and other countries that account for a growing share of emissions. As some congressional Republicans have been asking this week, why should the U.S. act to slow climate change unless other countries do so first?
But that view is not consistent with history, either the recent history of climate diplomacy or the broader history of American influence.
“There aren’t many other areas of policy where we say, ‘Why don’t we let everyone else lead, and we’ll follow?’” as Nathaniel Keohane of the Environmental Defense Fund says. The U.S., for all its problems, remains the world’s most powerful country. When it wants to influence the policies of other countries, it can often do so, especially when those countries see it as being in their own interests to change.
more reliant on coal than Biden administration officials wish. But the U.S. can often have an effect. Relative to many other issues, in fact, climate diplomacy is sometimes easier: President Xi Jinping has largely rejected U.S. entreaties on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea, but he has been willing to deal on climate change.
President Barack Obama and Xi came to multiple agreements that involved both countries moving to reduce emissions. They started small, with the relatively narrow topic of refrigerants, and expanded from there. As my colleague Brad Plumer says, “There’s a reasonable argument the Obama administration’s and China’s joint agreement on climate change in 2014 helped set the table for the Paris climate agreement.”
Crucial to these efforts was a U.S. willingness to act at home: It’s much easier to agree to take economic risks when your main global competitor is doing the same. And the U.S. still leads the world in per-person emissions, about 75 percent above China, according to recent numbers.
The Trump administration slowed global efforts on climate change by dismissing it as a threat and allowing more pollution at home. A Chinese official last week mocked the U.S. for “the lost four years.” The Biden administration is now trying to reverse course, with an emissions-reduction goal that’s larger than many advocates expected.
The cynical view — that the U.S. can only follow, not lead, on climate policy — has it backward. As Gao told me, one of the biggest obstacles to progress on climate change has been the lack of consistent American leadership.
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with a red carpet and an in-person ceremony. Here’s what to watch for:
More diversity. This year’s Oscar nominations are the most diverse ever, with 70 women nominated across 23 categories, and nearly half of the acting nominations going to people of color.
A historic Best Director? Chloé Zhao — the front-runner, who directed “Nomadland” — would be the first woman of color to win, as well as the second woman ever. (The first was Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010.)
A posthumous honor? ChadwickBoseman, who died last year, is up for Best Actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” In a prediction roundup, The Times’s Kyle Buchanan writes: “It’s hard to imagine voters won’t seize their only opportunity to give one to Boseman for a flashy role that showcased the late actor’s immense range.”
A close race for Best Actress. Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) are top contenders.
Watch some of the nominated films using this streaming guide. And test your knowledge of Oscars trivia or fill out a 2021 ballot.
WASHINGTON — President Biden has repeatedly pledged to work with China on issues like climate change while challenging Beijing on human rights and unfair trade practices.
But those goals are now coming into conflict in the global solar sector, presenting the Biden administration with a tough choice as it looks to expand the use of solar power domestically to reduce the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions.
The dilemma stems from an uncomfortable reality: China dominates the global supply chain for solar power, producing the vast majority of the materials and parts for solar panels that the United States relies on for clean energy. And there is emerging evidence that some of China’s biggest solar companies have worked with the Chinese government to absorb minority workers in the far western region of Xinjiang, programs often seen as a red flag for potential forced labor and human rights abuses.
This week, Mr. Biden is inviting world leaders to a climate summit in Washington, where he is expected to unveil an ambitious plan for cutting America’s emissions over the next decade. The administration is already eyeing a goal of generating 100 percent of the nation’s electricity from carbon-free sources such as solar, wind or nuclear power by 2035, up from only 40 percent last year. To meet that target, the United States may need to more than double its annual pace of solar installations.
many of which are imported from Chinese-owned factories in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.
China also supplies many of the key components in solar panels, including more than 80 percent of the world’s polysilicon, a raw material that most solar panels use to absorb energy from sunlight. Nearly half of the global supply comes from Xinjiang alone. In 2019, less than 5 percent of the world’s polysilicon came from U.S.-owned companies.
“It’s put the Democrats in a hard position,” said Francine Sullivan, the vice president for business development at REC Silicon, a polysilicon maker based in Norway with factories in the United States. “Do you want to stand up to human rights in China, or do you want cheap solar panels?”
The administration is increasingly under pressure from influential supporters not to turn a blind eye to potential human rights abuses in order to achieve its climate goals.
“As the U.S. seeks to address climate change, we must not allow the Chinese Communist Party to use forced labor to meet our nation’s needs,” Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., wrote in a letter on March 12 urging the Biden administration to block imports of solar products containing polysilicon from the Xinjiang region.
Xinjiang is now notorious as the site of a vast program of detention and surveillance that the Chinese government has carried out against Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups. Human rights groups say the Chinese authorities may have detained a million or more minorities in camps and other sites where they face torture, indoctrination and coerced labor.
In a report last year, Horizon Advisory, a consultancy in Washington, cited Chinese news reports and government announcements suggesting that major Chinese solar companies including GCL-Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy, Xinte Energy and Jinko Solar had accepted workers transferred with the help of the Chinese government from impoverished parts of Xinjiang.
Jinko Solar denied those allegations, as did the Chinese government. Zhang Longgen, a vice chairman of Xinjiang Daqo — a unit of one of the companies cited by Horizon Advisory — said that the polysilicon plants were not labor intensive, and that the company’s workers were freely employed and could quit if they wanted, according to Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper. The report said that only 18 of the 1,934 workers at Xinjiang Daqo belonged to ethnic minorities, and that none were Uyghur.
a sweeping ban on cotton and tomatoes from the region. Those restrictions have forced a reorganization of global supply chains, especially in the apparel sector.
The Biden administration has said it is still reviewing the Trump administration’s policies, and it has not yet signaled whether it will pursue other bans on products or companies. But both Mr. Biden and his advisers have insisted that the United States plans to confront China on human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said that the draconian treatment of Uyghurs “cannot be ignored,” and that the administration was “studying ways to effectively ensure that we are not importing products made from forced labor,” including solar products.
a pledge of 236 companies to oppose forced labor and encouraged companies to sever any ties with Xinjiang by June.
Some Chinese companies have responded by reshuffling their supply chains, funneling polysilicon and other solar products they manufacture outside Xinjiang to American buyers, and then directing their Xinjiang-made products to China and other markets.
Analysts say this kind of reorganization is, in theory, feasible. About 35 percent of the world’s polysilicon comes from regions in China other than Xinjiang, while the United States and the European Union together make up around 30 percent of global solar panel demand, according to Johannes Bernreuter, a polysilicon market analyst at Bernreuter Research.
John Smirnow, the general counsel for the Solar Energy Industries Association, said most solar companies were already well on their way toward extricating supply chains from Xinjiang.
also been reported in Chinese facilities outside Xinjiang where Uyghurs and other minorities have been transferred to work. And restrictions on products from Xinjiang could spread to markets including Canada, Britain and Australia, which are debating new rules and guidelines.
Human rights advocates have argued that allowing Chinese companies to cleave their supply chains to serve American and non-American buyers may do little to improve conditions in Xinjiang and have pressed the Biden administration for stronger action.
“The message has to be clear to the Chinese government that this economic model is not going to be supported by governments or businesses,” said Cathy Feingold, the director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s International Department.
Chinese companies are also facing pressure from Beijing not to accede to American demands, since that could be seen as a tacit criticism of the government’s activities in Xinjiang.
In a statement in January, the China Photovoltaic Industry Association and China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association condemned “irresponsible statements” from U.S. industries, which they said were directed at curbing Xinjiang’s development and “meddling in Chinese domestic affairs.”
“It is widely known that the ‘forced labor’ issue is in its entirety the lie of the century that the United States and certain other Western countries have concocted from nothing,” they said.
mothballed a new $1.2 billion facility in Tennessee in 2014, while REC Silicon shut its polysilicon facility in Washington in 2019.
China has promised to carry out large purchases of American polysilicon as part of a trade deal signed last year, but those transactions have not materialized.
In the near term, tensions over Xinjiang could be a boon for the few remaining U.S. suppliers. Ms. Sullivan said some small U.S. solar developers had reached out to REC Silicon in recent months to inquire about non-Chinese products.
But American companies need the promise of reliable, long-term orders to scale up, she said, adding that when she explains the limited supply of solar products that do not touch China, people become “visibly ill.”
“This is the big lesson,” Ms. Sullivan added. “You become dependent on China, and what does it mean? We have to swallow our values in order to do solar.”
Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, made a case on Thursday for using trade policies to fight climate change, devoting her first speech in her new position to addressing one of President Biden’s top priorities.
“For too long, the traditional trade community has resisted the view that trade policy is a legitimate tool in helping to solve the climate crisis,” Ms. Tai said at a virtual event held by the Center for American Progress.
“As we have so often seen with labor issues, there is a certain refuge in arguing that this is all a question of domestic policy and that we need not tackle the daunting task of building international consensus around new rules,” she said. “But that dated line of thinking only perpetuates the chasm that exists between the lived experiences and expectations of real people on the one hand and trade experts on the other.”
In her remarks, Ms. Tai spoke of the need to address illegal logging and overfishing, and she promised to enforce environmental rules in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
blocked a deal to import liquefied natural gas from the United States because of concerns around emissions of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas. Recent investigations have found that China’s production of cheap solar panels, a technology widely seen as crucial for cleaning up America’s electric grid, may be linked to forced-labor practices in China’s Xinjiang region.
This year, a dispute over intellectual property rights between two South Korean battery manufacturers threatened to disrupt plans to expand electric vehicle manufacturing in the United States. The two companies, LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation, finally reached a $1.8 billion settlement this month before the Biden administration had to decide whether to formally intervene.
In her speech, Ms. Tai called the settlement “a big win for American workers, the environment and our competitive future.”
The United States and China do not agree on much nowadays, but on climate change both countries are publicly pledging to do more to fight global warming. The problem will be working together on it.
On Thursday, President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, met in Shanghai with his counterpart to press China on reducing its carbon emissions, at a time when an emboldened Communist Party leadership has become increasingly dismissive of American demands.
In Beijing’s view, the United States still has much ground to recover after walking away from the Paris climate agreement, the 2015 accord to address the catastrophic effects of warming.
Mr. Biden’s commitments to now make climate change a top priority are, to officials in Beijing, merely catching up to China after its leader, Xi Jinping, last year pledged to accelerate the country’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
article on Wednesday before Mr. Kerry’s visit.
A main purpose of Mr. Kerry’s travels to China and elsewhere has been to rally support for Mr. Biden’s virtual climate summit of dozens of world leaders next week. Mr. Xi has not yet accepted the invitation, but he will join a similar conference on Friday with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
rivalry over technology could spill into climate policy, where innovations in energy, batteries, vehicles and carbon storage offer solutions for reducing emissions. Already, American lawmakers are demanding that the United States block Chinese products from being used in the infrastructure projects that Mr. Biden has proposed.
“If there is a serious lack of basic trust, strategic and political, between China and the U.S., that will inevitably hold back deepening cooperation in the specialized sphere of climate change,” Zou Ji, the president of Energy Foundation China, who has advised Chinese climate negotiators, wrote recently in a Chinese foreign policy journal.
Cooperation between the United States, the worst emitter of greenhouse gases historically, and China, the worst in the world today, could spur greater efforts from other countries. China accounts for 28 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions; the United States, in second place, emits 14 percent of the global total.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and other American officials have said they are prepared to cooperate with the Chinese government on issues like climate, even as they confront it others, including the crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and the menacing military operations against Taiwan and in the South China Sea.
It is not clear that Mr. Xi’s government is prepared to compartmentalize in the same way. Officials have indicated that the souring of relations has spoiled the entire range of issues between the two countries.
“Chinese-U.S. climate cooperation still faces many internal and external constraints and difficulties,” said a study released this week by the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
resume the role of China’s climate envoy.
Both he and Mr. Kerry — a former secretary of state and Senate colleague of Mr. Biden’s — have high-level support from the leaders who appointed them, making them powerful voices in the political bureaucracies they must confront at home.
Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki, who closely follows Chinese climate policy. “His position has the aura of having been installed from the top.”
The Chinese climate official also oversaw a study from Tsinghua University last year that he has indicated helped shape Mr. Xi’s goals to achieve net carbon neutrality for China before 2060.
video talk late last month with António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, Mr. Xie said that wealthy countries should deliver on promises of financial support to help poorer countries cope with global warming and acquire emissions-reducing technology.
official Chinese summary of the meeting. He also appeared to gently suggest that the Biden administration should not assume that it naturally belonged at the head of the table.
“We welcome the United States’ return to the Paris Accord,” Mr. Xie said, “and look forward to the United States striving to catch up and exercise leadership.”
Somini Sengupta contributed reporting. Claire Fu contributed research.
TOKYO — As he visits Washington this week, it would seem as if Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan could take a victory lap.
Mr. Suga is the first foreign leader to be invited to the White House by President Biden, who has vowed to reinvigorate alliances. Japan already had the distinction last month of being the first international destination for the new U.S. secretaries of state and defense. And Mr. Suga will not have to contend with threats of higher tariffs or the need for constant flattery that drove Mr. Biden’s mercurial predecessor.
But even as relations between the two countries are calming, Japan faces a perilous moment, with the United States prodding it to more squarely address the most glaring threat to stability in Asia: China.
It is the latest step in an age-old dance between the two countries. Ever since the United States forged an alliance with Japan during its postwar occupation, Tokyo has sought reassurance of protection by Washington, while Washington has nudged Tokyo to do more to secure its own defense.
Jennifer Lind, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College and a specialist in East Asian international security.
“The U.S.-Japan alliance is at a crossroads,” Ms. Lind said. “The alliance has to decide how do we want to respond to the growing threat from China and to the Chinese agenda for international order.”
Analysts and former officials said it was time for Japan to expand its thinking about what a summit with its most important ally could accomplish.
repeatedly ignored diplomatic or legal efforts to contain its aggressive actions in both the South China and East China Seas, some say Japan needs to be more specific about what it might do in the event of a military conflict.
“Who doesn’t want freedom and openness?” said Jeffrey Hornung, an analyst at the RAND Corporation. “By signing up for those things, you subtly take a jab at China. But what are you going to do when those things you say you’re going to defend come under attack?”
Japanese leaders usually use summits with American presidents to seek assurances that the United States, which has about 50,000 troops stationed in Japan, would defend the country’s right to control the uninhabited Senkaku Islands. Over the past year, China, which also claims the islands, has sent boats into or near Japan’s territorial waters around the islands with increasing frequency.
Taiwan Strait, where China has been dispatching warplanes to menace the democratic island, which Beijing considers a rogue territory. When Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visited Tokyo last month, they and their Japanese counterparts issued a statement stressing “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
statement in which the Japanese leader said that “the maintenance of peace and security in the Taiwan area was also important for peace and security of Japan.”
The gritty details of how Japan might support the United States and Taiwan in the case of an invasion by Beijing are probably beyond the scope of this week’s talks. While Mr. Biden is unlikely to make any blunt demands that Japan pay more for its defense, as President Donald J. Trump did, the current president could amplify recent signals from his administration about efforts to deter China. One possibility is that Japan could be asked to host long-range missiles, a proposal that would probably face significant domestic opposition.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Suga are expected to discuss not just China’s military actions, but also its human rights record, as well as the coup in Myanmar — likely areas of difference between the leaders.
The Biden administration has called China’s repression of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region a genocide and imposed sanctions on Chinese officials. It has also placed sanctions on military generals in Myanmar. But Japan tends to be more circumspect in addressing human rights or taking direct actions such as economic sanctions.
Tobias Harris, an expert on Japanese politics at Teneo Intelligence in Washington, said the Suga administration addressed human rights only “rhetorically.”
fear of backlash, and an understanding that Beijing can turn off the spigot at any time.
Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo, noted that at the outset of the pandemic, China designated certain medicines and surgical masks as “strategic goods” and stopped shipping them to Japan. “We can no longer rely on the free flow of goods from China,” Mr. Watanabe said.
Some Japanese officials say Mr. Suga should not rush to follow Mr. Biden’s harder line on China and Myanmar. Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat who advises Mr. Suga, said Japan’s approach to such countries is “more dialogue than punishment.”
hosting a climate summit next week. One goal is to persuade Japan to stop its financial support of coal projects abroad, which it has already started to reduce.
decision to host the Olympic Games this summer.
The trip’s success may depend in part on whether Mr. Suga develops a rapport with Mr. Biden. Seasoned watchers of Japan will be closely tracking Mr. Suga, who is not known for his charisma, especially after his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, spent considerable time and effort wooing Mr. Biden’s predecessor.
“We have two older and very traditional politicians in a lot of ways,” said Kristin Vekasi, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine. “I will be curious to see what they do.”