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FirstFT: US to hold diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

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Joe Biden has decided not to send a US government delegation to the Beijing Winter Olympics, in a diplomatic boycott designed to send a strong message to China about the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said the administration would not send any officials to the games, which start in February, because of the “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang. But she said the US Olympic team had the “full support” of the president and his administration.

The US has taken a strong stance on the situation in Xinjiang where more than 1m Uyghurs and other minorities have been held in detention camps and used as forced labour.

Antony Blinken, secretary of state, earlier this year followed in the steps of the Trump administration by describing the repression of the Uyghurs as “genocide”. Biden also raised the issue of Xinjiang and human rights during a virtual meeting with President Xi Jinping last month.

Do you agree with Biden’s decision? Tell me what you think at firstft@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Emily

1. Evergrande faces another debt payment deadline China Evergrande Group, the world’s most indebted property developer, was again flirting with a formal default yesterday as the end of a 30-day grace period on $82.5m in debt repayments loomed. Shares in the group tumbled by almost a fifth.

2. Saudi Aramco warns on energy transition risks ‘social unrest’ The chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, has called on global leaders to continue investing in fossil fuels in the years ahead or run the risk of spiralling inflation and social unrest that would force them to jettison emissions targets.

3. US financial regulator’s newest investigations Lucid Motors, an electric-car group taken public in one of the largest Spac deals in history, is being probed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over disclosures and forecasts. Separately, the SEC is investigating Digital World Acquisition Corp, the blank-cheque company set to merge with Donald Trump’s social media start-up.

4. Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison The deposed leader of Myanmar was sentenced to two years in prison for inciting dissent against the military and two years for violating the country’s disaster management law. The 76-year-old politician faces more than 10 criminal charges and has been allowed only limited legal access since her arrest on February 1.

Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted in a military coup in February and faces more than 10 charges
Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted in a military coup in February and faces more than 10 charges © Sakchai Lalit/AP

5. Value of SoftBank’s portfolio companies plummets SoftBank Group shares fell 8 per cent yesterday, their seventh consecutive day of losses, as mounting problems at its portfolio companies Didi Chuxing and Arm revived concerns over the Japanese technology conglomerate’s business model.

Coronavirus digest

  • New Zealand’s runaway house prices could be brought back to earth by low net migration if the coronavirus pandemic keeps the country’s borders closed, according to the central bank’s deputy governor.

  • New York City will require all private sector workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, in what would be the US’s strictest vaccine mandate.

  • Pilita Clark: Don’t despair if Omicron wrecks your holiday plans. Vacations are wonderful but a few days off can be just as useful as a week

  • After suffering one of the world’s worst Covid-19 disasters, Brazil is staging a turnround with a steep drop in deaths and a mass inoculation campaign that has brought the death rate per 100,000 residents below the US, EU and UK.

A pair of line charts showing that while Brazil has a higher cumulative Covid-19 death toll than the US, UK or European Union throughout the pandemic, it is currently experiencing fewer daily deaths than any of those areas.

The day ahead

Putin-Biden phone call US President Joe Biden will seek to cement unity with European powers ahead of a phone call with Vladimir Putin designed to outline punitive measures that would inflict “severe” harm to Russia’s economy in case of an invasion of Ukraine.

  • Commentary: Putin insists that Ukraine is a failed state being led astray by scheming foreigners. This is where his argument takes a truly alarming turn, writes Gideon Rachman.

Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Today marks 80 years since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Expect substantial analysis of relations between the two countries, which have improved significantly on this key event since Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit the site of the attack five years ago.

Sign up to receive the Week Ahead email every Sunday in your inbox for a preview of what’s coming up in global business, politics and economics.

What else we’re reading

Honduras is the new front in US-China struggle over Taiwan While Taipei celebrates support from Japan and the west, they worry over Honduras’s allegiance — one of the few countries with whom they maintain diplomatic ties. A tug of war between the US and China for influence in Central America hangs over the shifting relationship.

La Niña expected to intensify extreme weather The La Niña phenomenon has developed for the second consecutive year, with the weather pattern expected to intensify rainfall as well as droughts around the world. It’s likely to have a continuing effect on agriculture and water supply.

Family-friendly leave policies are key to staff retention The pandemic has encouraged many professionals to reconsider their working patterns. Employers who support paternity breaks and promote flexible working are likely to stand out in a competitive labour market.

Facebook’s fractious relationship with academia A growing number of researchers who are seeking to understand the potentially harmful social effects of Facebook say their work is being stifled, feeding a narrative that Meta operates on a growth-at-all-costs mentality.

China is faltering, but the world is not feeling the effects Beijing is locking down to contain the pandemic, and cracking down on economically critical sectors and high corporate debt with an aggression unmatched by any other government. This goes a long way to explain why China is slowing so fast now, argues Ruchir Sharma.

Wealth

As part of the FT Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign, musician Courtney Love shares her story about making — and losing — a fortune. “My family has been the victim of every single financial crime there is,” she writes.

© Celina Pereira

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