FirstFT: US makes diplomatic concession to Russia

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Joe Biden has made a significant diplomatic concession to Moscow designed to prevent an invasion of Ukraine by signalling he wants to convene meetings between Nato allies and Russia to discuss Vladimir Putin’s grievances with the transatlantic security pact.

Yesterday, a day after Biden held a bilateral call with Russia’s leader, the US president said he hoped to announce by Friday high-level talks “to discuss the future of Russia’s concerns relative to Nato writ large”.

The talks would explore “whether or not we can work out any accommodation as it relates to bringing down the temperature along the eastern front”, Biden added.

The US president said he hoped the participants would include not just Washington and Moscow but also “at least four of our major Nato allies”, although he declined to name specific countries.

Meanwhile, Germany said it would consider halting Nord Stream 2, the pipeline that will bring Russian gas to Europe, as part of a package of sanctions imposed on Moscow if it invaded Ukraine, according to people with knowledge of Berlin’s position.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Emily

1. China to tighten rules for tech companies seeking foreign funding Beijing is preparing a blacklist that is expected to tightly restrict the main channel used by start-ups to attract international capital and list overseas, in an effort to limit the role of foreign shareholders in the country’s next generation of tech companies.

2. Holmes wraps up testimony in Theranos fraud trial During seven days of questioning, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes spoke about her decision-making at the failed blood testing start-up. The end of her testimony yesterday brings one of Silicon Valley’s most closely watched fraud trials closer to a conclusion.

Jurors are expected to start deliberating later this month on the fate of Elizabeth Holmes, who faces a possible prison sentence if convicted © Bloomberg © Bloomberg

3. Instagram chief calls for rules to protect children on social media Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s chief executive, has called an external regulator to set rules for how social media companies protect children during a congressional hearing into how the platform affects its younger users.

4. Australia joins diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games Australia will join the US in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics next year. Scott Morrison, prime minister, said that the decision should come as no surprise given “a number” of issues between the countries that China had not been willing to discuss.

5. Evergrande stock hits new lows Shares of the indebted property developer hit a new low yesterday on widespread expectations of an impending default. Kaisa, one of the Evergrande’s biggest peers, also suspended its shares, as a months-long crisis in the country’s embattled real estate sector comes to a head.

Coronavirus digest

  • A third shot of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine offers protection against the Omicron variant, while just two doses show reduced effectiveness, preliminary research suggests. Pfizer said it expected to have a new vaccine available by March that would be targeted specifically at Omicron.

  • A summer surge of Covid-19 cases led Japan’s economy to shrink faster than expected during the third quarter, official data revealed today.

  • Boris Johnson has apologised “unreservedly” for leaked video footage that showed his aides joking about Christmas parties in Downing Street during lockdown, as the prime minister prepared to unveil new coronavirus restrictions.

  • Tui, Europe’s largest tour operator, has warned that fears about Omicron and rising coronavirus infection rates have started to affect bookings.

Thanks to readers who took our poll. Fifty-nine per cent of those who responded said they are concerned about the efficacy of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.

The day ahead

Verdict for Hong Kong activist Jimmy Lai A Hong Kong court is set to deliver a verdict in the case of pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, who was charged for participating in a banned event commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Lai’s lawyer has argued a conviction would infringe upon his rights. (HKFP)

Inflation data from China and Japan Those watching the global inflation story will be attuned to China’s consumer price index data, and producer index data from both China and Japan. Check out our inflation tracker to compare figures from around the world.

  • Further reading: Some forex traders expect the Bank of Japan will eventually have to respond to the public’s inflation worries, writes Leo Lewis.

Today is day last day of the FT’s Global Boardroom conference. FT’s Robin Harding will be moderating a discussion on Hong Kong’s future as a global financial hub, with Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development and others. Register for free here.

What else we’re reading and listening to

Chinese weddings fall to 13-year low China’s efforts to lower the cost of marriage and boost birth rates have failed to lead to more weddings, dealing a blow to a crucial policy intended to combat a rapidly ageing society.

A study of five provinces found the average value of engagement gifts for rural couples had surged to at least $47,000 over the past seven years © Greg Baker/AFP/Getty

How’s the economy really doing? That depends on your perspective, writes Gillian Tett. Economists and policymakers need to upgrade their systems for tracking the economy right now, to blend quantitative and qualitative perspectives.

  • Related read: The Federal Reserve will end its bond-buying programme by the end of March and raise US interest rates soon after, according to a poll of leading academic economists for the FT.

The challenges facing Olaf Scholz’s cabinet The new German government amounts to an unprecedented political experiment. The three coalition parties — Social Democrats, Greens and liberal Free Democrats — have never governed together before. Here are five of their biggest challenges.

Biden’s big idea for US foreign policy If you could boil down US president Joe Biden’s foreign policy, two things would stand out: competition with China and the return of American values after Donald Trump. But will his emphasis on liberal values push autocracies closer together?

Getting personal on LinkedIn When Jonathan Frostick had a heart attack he posted his thoughts about how he planned to change his life on LinkedIn. That post went viral and people from all over the world contacted Jonathan saying his inspiring words had helped them reassess their work/life balance. Isabel Berwick, host of the Working It podcast, talked to him about what happened next.


FT writers and guests reveal their 2021 travel discoveries, including the Ruaha National Park in Tanzania; Drake Bay, Costa Rica; and space training at an ultra-chic hotel on France’s Atlantic coast.

Participants in Orbite’s Astronaut Orientation experience take a ‘vomit comet’ flight © Novespace

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