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FirstFT: Pentagon’s top China official to visit Taiwan as tensions mount

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The Pentagon’s top China official is set to visit Taiwan in the coming days, according to four people familiar with his plans, marking a rare trip to the island by a senior US defence policymaker that comes as relations between Washington and Beijing are mired in crisis.

Michael Chase, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for China, is currently in Mongolia for discussions with the country’s military. He would be the first senior defence official to visit Taiwan since Heino Klinck, deputy assistant secretary for east Asia, went in 2019, then the most senior Pentagon official to visit the island in four decades.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the trip to Taiwan. But it stressed that US “support for, and defence relationship with, Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China”.

The expected visit comes as US-China relations have sunk to a new low after the Chinese military flew a large balloon over North America which was later shot down. China says the balloon was a civilian craft, but the US insists it was being used to spy on sensitive military sites.

US president Joe Biden yesterday said he planned to talk to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to “get to the bottom” of the balloon incident.

1. US energy groups queue to go public Energy companies are making plans to go public in the US at the fastest rate in six years, as a sector that has long been out of favour benefits from renewed investor appetite for businesses that generate steady cash flows rather than prioritising long-term growth.

Column chart of Initial public offerings on US exchanges by energy and utility groups showing Energy listings rebound after years of quiet

2. Sunak risks Eurosceptic backlash from Brexit deal gamble UK prime minister Rishi Sunak made a surprise visit to Belfast to rally support from Northern Irish parties for a deal with Brussels, in a high-stakes gamble to resolve a two-year dispute over the region’s trade. Eurosceptics from his Conservative party have warned he is going too far to accommodate the EU.

3. Tesla to recall 363,000 cars over self-driving tech flaw Tesla is recalling nearly 363,000 of its electric cars because flaws in a version of its full self-driving software could “allow the vehicle to act unsafe” at crossroads, according to a filing yesterday by a US regulator. The recall covers certain Model S and Model X vehicles manufactured between 2016 and 2023, as well as Model Ys made since 2020.

4. SEC sues stablecoin operator Terraform and chief Do Kwon In the latest move by US regulators to crack down on prominent crypto groups, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has sued the collapsed stablecoin operator Terraform Labs and its chief executive, Do Kwon, for allegedly arranging a cryptocurrency fraud that led to billions of dollars in losses.

5. Portugal joins clampdown on ‘golden visas’ for wealthy Portugal has become the second EU country this week to scrap “golden visas” for wealthy non-Europeans, joining Ireland in abolishing a programme that helped pull in foreign investment but sparked controversy. The decision was driven by angst over a surge in house prices that has left citizens struggling to find adequate accommodation.

How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.

The day ahead

Economic data France has its consumer price index, the UK reports retail sales figures and Germany has its producer price index, all for January.

Kosovo The Balkan state marks 15 years of independence from Serbia.

London Fashion Week The autumn/winter 2023 edition kicks off.

Super Nintendo World The immersive park themed around the Japanese gaming brand opens at Universal Studios Hollywood in California.

Corporate results Air Canada, Air France-KLM, Allianz, Deere & Co, EDF, Hermès, Kingspan, NatWest, Pod Point, Segro and Swiss Re report.

What else we’re reading

Russia’s crackdown on free speech Last year was the most repressive in Russia’s modern history. Around 20,000 people were detained for political and antiwar protests, according to human rights group OVD-Info, and at least 440 people — artists, priests, teachers, students and doctors — have had criminal cases opened against them. After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the crackdown has been all-embracing, leaving virtually no corner of society untouched.

  • As Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine approaches its first anniversary, join a subscriber-exclusive webinar to discuss how and when the war might end. Register for free today.

A bubble chart showing the number of detentions at Russian protests. In 2020 there were 2,435. There were 23,5000 in 2021 and 20,467 in 2022

Wanted: World Bank chief with climate at heart The US, the World Bank’s largest shareholder by far, is racing to assemble a list of contenders with strong credentials in climate finance to lead an overhaul of the institution, following the early exit of Trump appointee David Malpass. Here are the potential candidates.

How did Hindenburg short Adani stock? When US short seller Nathan Anderson decided to take on Indian conglomerate Adani Group, he faced the ultimate challenge for someone in his line of business: India’s anti short selling rules. Those who have looked at the trade say he may have used single stock futures and the help of western banks in Singapore.

Nigeria’s ‘democracy generation’ makes its voice heard Next weekend, Nigeria will vote in an election analysts say are the hardest to predict since the country returned to democracy in 1999. The largest cohort of eligible voters consists of 37mn Nigerians aged 18 to 34. Their endorsement will go a long way to deciding who triumphs in the presidential and parliamentary polls.

Opinion: The financial system is alarmingly vulnerable to cyber attack The financial sector has quietly slid in recent years into a state of high dependence on third-party tech vendors, as a recent failure at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission caused by a ransomware attack shows. But if regulators do not step up scrutiny of tech vendors and other digital companies, the next attack could be much worse, warns Gillian Tett.

Take a break from the news

As a patient and adviser to Downing Street, Camilla Cavendish has witnessed the National Health Service’s struggles first hand. In this weekend essay, she shares her 20-year journey through the service and charts a way to safeguard its future.

Do you work in the NHS? The FT would like to hear from you. Please take a moment to share your thoughts and experiences with us.

A hospital meal served on a red tray, which includes pasta, corn and mashed potatoes
A hospital meal for acclaimed British photographer Martin Parr, which he took while undergoing treatment for myeloma, a type of blood cancer, at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 2020 and 2021 © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

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