FirstFT: China steps up warnings as Pelosi begins Asia trip

Good morning and today we start with Nancy Pelosi’s closely watched visit to Asia.

China has escalated its threats in recent days over the House Speaker’s trip, which starts today in Singapore.

Also on her itinerary are stop offs in Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. But Pelosi’s office has not confirmed whether the Democratic politician will visit Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing claims is a part of its sovereign territory.

The trip has already strained fragile US-China relations. China’s president Xi Jinping last week told president Joe Biden in their first video call since March, that the US was “playing with fire” by not preventing such visits by American delegations.

In a Chinese social media post on Saturday, Hu Xijin, an outspoken former state media editor, said it would be “OK [for the People’s Liberation Army] to shoot down Pelosi’s plane” if it was escorted to Taiwan by US fighter jets.

The former head of a tabloid published by the Chinese Communist party’s flagship newspaper group said over the weekend that China should “punish” Pelosi if she did not cancel her planned visit to Taiwan.

China’s PLA also on Saturday carried out live-fire exercises in Pintang, a coastal area in south-eastern Fujian province about 125km from Taiwan. State media also broadcast footage of a Chinese destroyer firing its weapons in the South China Sea, through which the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group is believed to be sailing after visiting Singapore.

Do you think Nancy Pelosi should visit Taiwan? Email me at firstft@ft.com or hit reply on this email and tell me what you think and I may feature your response in a future edition of FirstFT. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Gordon.

1. Grain exports depart Odesa A vessel carrying corn has left the Black Sea port of Odesa after weeks of negotiations brokered by Turkey and the UN. The 26,000 tonne shipment is the first to set sail from Ukraine since February and is due to arrive in Istanbul tomorrow.

2. HSBC pledges to restore dividend to pre-pandemic levels Europe’s biggest bank promised to restore its dividend to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels “as soon as possible” as it pushed back against its largest shareholder, which is pushing for the bank to split its Asian and non-Asian operations.

3. Alibaba will ‘strive’ to keep New York listing The Chinese tech group said today it would “strive” to keep the company’s New York listing after the US Securities and Exchange Commission said on Friday it would ban the company if it did not provide access to certain audit files. The SEC statement triggered an 11 per cent fall in Alibaba’s New York-listed shares. Alibaba shares in Hong Kong fell 3 per cent today.

4. Emerging markets hit by record streak of withdrawals Foreign investors have pulled funds out of emerging markets for five straight months in the longest streak of withdrawals on record, highlighting how recession fears and rising interest rates are shaking developing economies. The outflows risk exacerbating a mounting financial crisis across developing economies.

5. 12th president of the Philippines dies Fidel Ramos, president of the Philippines between 1992 and 1998, died yesterday at the age of 94. He is likely to be remembered as a leader who brought stability and economic growth to the south-east Asian nation after decades of stagnation and autocracy.

Fidel Ramos with his ever-present cigar © AP

The day ahead

Market outlook US shares are forecast to make a subdued start to August after ending of Friday with their biggest monthly gains since 2020. The S&P 500 index rose 9.1 per cent in July, its biggest monthly gain since November 2020. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index fared even better: it rose 12.3 per cent last month, the most since April 2020.

Economic data Growth in the US manufacturing sector is expected to have declined in July on softening demand. The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers’ index is forecast to have slipped from 53 in June to 52 in July, according to a Refinitiv poll of economists.

Company earnings Mosaic, the fertiliser producer, is expected to report a year-on-year doubling of second-quarter earnings to $5.6bn, on the back of soaring prices triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Video game maker Activision Blizzard, social media group Pinterest, and car rental company Avis also report earnings today.

Military manoeuvres: Indonesia and the US will participate in exercise Garuda Shield 2022 from Monday until August 14, joined this year by the armed forces of Australia, Japan and Singapore. The exercise, involving about 2,000 troops each from the US and Indonesia, takes place at two training areas in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, and off Batam Island in the Singapore Strait.

Voting begins to elect UK’s next prime minister Ballot papers will be sent to more than 150,000 members of the UK Conservative party from today to allow them to begin the process of selecting a new leader. On the ballot is former chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss. The winner will be announced on September 5 and become the UK’s next prime minister.

What else we’re reading

Biden’s surprise win will bring economic as well as political benefits Last week’s passing of the Chips and Science Act by Congress and the shocking turnabout by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin breathed new life into the White House’s industrial policy, writes Rana Foroohar. It also, she says, achieved something almost unheard of in Washington these days — compromise.

Wave of corporate exits sends chill through Chicago’s business elite Google provided a much-needed jolt to Chicago’s central business district last week. But the investment comes amid several high-profile exits that have bruised the city’s reputation as it faces rising gun crime and the upheaval to work routines brought on by Covid-19.

Venture capital’s silent crash Investors of all stripes have crashed the clubby VC world, drawn by the potential of technology start-ups. But there are signs the party is over. But unlike the stock market, there are no daily market indices to broadcast the pain, and no individual share prices for anxious tech employees to watch as their personal wealth evaporates.

Venture capital montage
For many of the investors and entrepreneurs who have just lived through a historic boom in venture investing, it is possible to pretend a crash isn’t happening at all © FT montage: Getty Images, Bloomberg, Dreamstime

Singapore accelerates pace of executions Singapore’s dogged commitment to capital punishment has highlighted the regressive policies in one of the world’s most liberal economies. The affluent city-state has drawn wealthy expatriates, but its treatment of foreigners convicted of trafficking even small amounts of drugs exposes a darker side of Singapore, critics say.

The nightmare of modern air travel Air travel is the only form of transport to have gone backwards over the past 20 years, writes Pilita Clark. Trains go faster. Buses pollute less. Cars are smarter and electric. Flying may be cheaper and safer, but it is considerably more horrible than it used to be.

Generation Z: how to recruit and retain them The old rules have gone as graduates expect a conversation rather than an interview, and want jobs with a wider purpose. Jonathan Black, head of the careers service at the University of Oxford, reports on how employers are having to change their recruitment practices.

Sport

A record number of fans filled Wembley to watch England beat eight-time champions Germany in the final of yesterday’s Euro 2022 final. The Lionesses’ win is the most significant for English football since the men’s team won in extra time against Germany in the final of the 1966 World Cup.

England’s Chloe Kelly celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning goal at the Women’s Euro 2022 final
England’s Chloe Kelly, second from right, celebrates after scoring the winning goal at the Women’s Euro 2022 final © Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images