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    IMF Upgrades Global Economic Outlook as Inflation Eases

    The International Monetary Fund said the world economy was poised for a rebound as inflation eases.WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund said on Monday that it expected the global economy to slow this year as central banks continued to raise interest rates to tame inflation, but it also suggested that output would be more resilient than previously anticipated and that a global recession would probably be avoided.The I.M.F. upgraded its economic growth projections for 2023 and 2024 in its closely watched World Economic Outlook report, pointing to resilient consumers and the reopening of China’s economy as among the reasons for a more optimistic outlook.The fund warned, however, that the fight against inflation was not over and urged central banks to avoid the temptation to change course.“The fight against inflation is starting to pay off, but central banks must continue their efforts,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the I.M.F.’s chief economist, said in an essay that accompanied the report.Global output is projected to slow to 2.9 percent in 2023, from 3.4 percent last year, before rebounding to 3.1 percent in 2024. Inflation is expected to decline to 6.6 percent this year from 8.8 percent in 2022 and then to fall to 4.3 percent next year.After a succession of downgrades in recent years as the pandemic worsened and Russia’s war in Ukraine intensified, the I.M.F.’s latest forecasts were rosier than those the fund released in October.Since then, China abruptly reversed its “zero Covid” policy of lockdowns to contain the pandemic and embarked on a rapid reopening. The I.M.F. also said that the energy crisis in Europe had been less severe than initially feared and that the weakening of the U.S. dollar was providing relief to emerging markets.The I.M.F. predicted previously that a third of the world economy could be in recession this year. However, Mr. Gourinchas said in a news briefing ahead of the release of the report that far fewer countries were now facing recessions in 2023 and that the I.M.F. was not forecasting a global recession.Lukoil oil field in the Baltic Sea. A coordinated plan by the United States and Europe to cap the price of Russian oil exports at $60 a barrel is not expected to substantially curtail its energy revenues.Vitaly Nevar/Reuters“We are seeing a much lower risk of recession, either globally, or even if we think about the number of countries that might be in recession,” Mr. Gourinchas said.Despite the more hopeful outlook, global growth remains weak by historical standards and the war in Ukraine continues to weigh on activity and sow uncertainty. The report also cautions that the global economy still faces considerable risks, warning that “severe health outcomes in China could hold back the recovery, Russia’s war in Ukraine could escalate and tighter global financing costs could worsen debt distress.”Growth in rich countries is expected to be particularly sluggish this year, with nine out of 10 advanced economies likely to have slower growth than they had in 2022.The I.M.F. projects growth in the United States to slow to 1.4 percent this year from 2 percent in 2022. It expects the jobless rate to rise from 3.5 percent to 5.2 percent next year, but that it is still possible that a recession can be avoided in the world’s largest economy.“There is a narrow path that allows the U.S. economy to escape a recession altogether, or if it has a recession, the recession would be relatively shallow,” Mr. Gourinchas said.The slowdown in Europe will be more pronounced, the I.M.F. said, as the boost from the reopening of its economies fades this year and consumer confidence frays in the face of double-digit inflation. In the euro area, growth is projected to slow to 0.7 percent from 3.5 percent.China is projected to pick up the slack with output accelerating to 5.2 percent in 2023 from 3 percent in 2022.Combined, China and India are expected to account for about half of global growth this year. I.M.F. officials said at a press briefing on Monday night that China’s economic trajectory would be a major driver for the world economy, noting that after a period of flux, China appears to have stabilized and is able to fully produce.However, Mr. Gourinchas noted that there were still signs of weakness in China’s property market and that its growth could moderate in 2024. The report described the sector as a “major source of vulnerability” that could lead to widespread defaults by developers and instability in the Chinese financial sector.A surprising contributor to global growth is Russia, suggesting that efforts by Western nations to cripple its economy appear to be faltering. The I.M.F. predicts Russian output to expand 0.3 percent this year and 2.1 percent next year, defying earlier forecasts of a steep contraction in 2023 amid a raft of Western sanctions.A coordinated plan by the United States and Europe to cap the price of Russian oil exports at $60 a barrel is not expected to substantially curtail the country’s energy revenues.“At the current oil price cap level of the Group of 7, Russian crude oil export volumes are not expected to be significantly affected, with Russian trade continuing to be redirected from sanctioning to non-sanctioning countries,” the I.M.F. said in the report.Among the I.M.F.’s most pressing concerns is the growing trend toward “fragmentation.” The war in Ukraine and the global response have divided nations into blocs and reinforced pockets of geopolitical tension, threatening to hamper economic progress.“Fragmentation could intensify — with more restrictions on cross-border movements of capital, workers and international payments — and could hamper multilateral cooperation on providing global public goods,” the I.M.F. said. “The costs of such fragmentation are especially high in the short term, as replacing disrupted cross-border flows takes time.” More

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    Netherlands and Japan Said to Join U.S. in Curbing China’s Access to Chip Tech

    A new agreement is expected to expand the reach of U.S. technology restrictions on China issued last year.WASHINGTON — The Netherlands and Japan, both makers of some of the world’s most advanced equipment for manufacturing semiconductors, agreed on Friday to join with the United States in barring some shipments of their most high-tech machinery to China, people familiar with the agreement said.The agreement, which followed high-level meetings with U.S. national security officials in Washington, will help expand the reach of sweeping restrictions issued unilaterally by the Biden administration in October on the kinds of semiconductor technology that can be shared with China.The countries did not publicly announce the agreement, because of its sensitivity, and details remain unclear. But the deal seems likely to put technology industries in the countries on a more even footing, preventing companies in Japan and the Netherlands from rushing in to claim market share in China that has been abandoned by U.S. firms. American companies have said that possibility would put them at a disadvantage.More on JapanMissing a Successor: An owner’s struggle to find someone to take over his thriving business illuminates the potentially devastating economic effects of an aging society.Tech Workers: Japanese companies are trying to lure highly educated Indians to fill a shortage of IT engineers. Can they make their country appealing to them?Hiroyuki Nishimura: This celebrity entrepreneur and author has become a voice for disenchanted young Japanese. What he talks about much less is his ownership of 4chan.A Policy Change: Japan’s central bank unexpectedly announced in December that it was adjusting its stance on bond purchases. This is why that matters.The White House and the Dutch government declined to comment. The Japanese government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The United States imposed strict controls in October on the sale to China of both semiconductors and the machines used to make them, arguing that Beijing could use the technology for military purposes, like breaking American codes or guiding hypersonic missiles. But well before those restrictions were issued, the United States had been pressing the Netherlands and Japan to further limit the advanced technology they export to China.The October rules also clamped down on certain shipments to China from countries outside the United States. Using a novel regulation called the foreign direct product rule, the Biden administration barred companies that use American technology, software or inputs from selling certain advanced semiconductors to China. But these measures applied only to chips, not the machinery used to make them.Instead, the White House continued to press allies to pass restrictions limiting the sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment by firms like the Dutch company ASML or Tokyo Electron in Japan. The White House argued that the sale of this advanced machinery to China created the danger that Beijing could one day make its own versions of the advanced products it could no longer buy from the United States.The negotiations, which are likely to continue, have had to overcome both commercial and logistical concerns. Like the Americans, the Dutch and Japanese were concerned that if they pulled out of the Chinese market, foreign competitors would take their place, said Emily Benson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Relations, a Washington think tank. Over time, that “could impact their ability to maintain a technological edge over competitors,” she said.The Dutch government has already forbidden sales of its most advanced semiconductor machinery, called extreme ultraviolet lithography systems, to China. But the United States has encouraged the Dutch to also limit a slightly less advanced system, called deep ultraviolet lithography. The deal reached Friday includes at least some restrictions on that equipment, according to one person familiar with its terms.Governments have also faced questions about whether they possess the legal authority to issue restrictions like the United States, as well as extensive technical discussions about which technologies to restrict. Japan and the Netherlands will still likely require some time to make changes to their laws and regulations to put new restrictions in place, Ms. Benson added, and it could take months or years for restrictions in the three countries to mirror one another. More

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    U.S. Pours Money Into Chips, but Even Soaring Spending Has Limits

    In September, the chip giant Intel gathered officials at a patch of land near Columbus, Ohio, where it pledged to invest at least $20 billion in two new factories to make semiconductors.A month later, Micron Technology celebrated a new manufacturing site near Syracuse, N.Y., where the chip company expected to spend $20 billion by the end of the decade and eventually perhaps five times that.And in December, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company hosted a shindig in Phoenix, where it plans to triple its investment to $40 billion and build a second new factory to create advanced chips.The pledges are part of an enormous ramp-up in U.S. chip-making plans over the past 18 months, the scale of which has been likened to Cold War-era investments in the Space Race. The boom has implications for global technological leadership and geopolitics, with the United States aiming to prevent China from becoming an advanced power in chips, the slices of silicon that have driven the creation of innovative computing devices like smartphones and virtual-reality goggles.Today, chips are an essential part of modern life even beyond the tech industry’s creations, from military gear and cars to kitchen appliances and toys.Across the nation, more than 35 companies have pledged nearly $200 billion for manufacturing projects related to chips since the spring of 2020, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group. The money is set to be spent in 16 states, including Texas, Arizona and New York on 23 new chip factories, the expansion of nine plants, and investments from companies supplying equipment and materials to the industry.The push is one facet of an industrial policy initiative by the Biden administration, which is dangling at least $76 billion in grants, tax credits and other subsidies to encourage domestic chip production. Along with providing sweeping funding for infrastructure and clean energy, the efforts constitute the largest U.S. investment in manufacturing arguably since World War II, when the federal government unleashed spending on new ships, pipelines and factories to make aluminum and rubber.“I’ve never seen a tsunami like this,” said Daniel Armbrust, the former chief executive of Sematech, a now-defunct chip consortium formed in 1987 with the Defense Department and funding from member companies.Sanjay Mehrotra, Micron Technology’s chief executive, at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y., in October. The company is building a new manufacturing site nearby.Kenny Holston for The New York TimesWhite House officials have argued that the chip-making investments will sharply reduce the proportion of chips needed to be purchased from abroad, improving U.S. economic security.Kenny Holston for The New York TimesPresident Biden has staked a prominent part of his economic agenda on stimulating U.S. chip production, but his reasons go beyond the economic benefits. Much of the world’s cutting-edge chips today are made in Taiwan, the island to which China claims territorial rights. That has caused fears that semiconductor supply chains may be disrupted in the event of a conflict — and that the United States will be at a technological disadvantage.More on ChinaA Messy Pivot: As Beijing casts aside many Covid rules after nationwide protests, it is also playing down the threat of the virus. The move comes with its own risks.Space Program: Human spaceflight achievements show that China is running a steady space marathon rather than competing in a head-to-head space race with the United States.A Test for the Economy: China’s economy is entering a delicate period when it will face unique challenges, amid the prospect of rising Covid cases and wary consumers.New Partnerships: A trip by the Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia showcased Beijing’s growing ties with several Middle Eastern countries that are longstanding U.S. allies and signaled China’s re-emergence after years of pandemic isolation.The new U.S. production efforts may correct some of these imbalances, industry executives said — but only up to a point.The new chip factories would take years to build and might not be able to offer the industry’s most advanced manufacturing technology when they begin operations. Companies could also delay or cancel the projects if they aren’t awarded sufficient subsidies by the White House. And a severe shortage in skills may undercut the boom, as the complex factories need many more engineers than the number of students who are graduating from U.S. colleges and universities.The bonanza of money on U.S. chip production is “not going to try or succeed in accomplishing self-sufficiency,” said Chris Miller, an associate professor of international history at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and the author of a recent book on the chip industry’s battles.White House officials have argued that the chip-making investments will sharply reduce the proportion of chips needed to be purchased from abroad, improving U.S. economic security. At the TSMC event in December, Mr. Biden also highlighted the potential impact on tech companies like Apple that rely on TSMC for their chip-making needs. He said that “it could be a game changer” as more of these companies “bring more of their supply chain home.”U.S. companies led chip production for decades starting in the late 1950s. But the country’s share of global production capacity gradually slid to around 12 percent from about 37 percent in 1990, as countries in Asia provided incentives to move manufacturing to those shores.Today, Taiwan accounts for about 22 percent of total chip production and more than 90 percent of the most advanced chips made, according to industry analysts and the Semiconductor Industry Association.The new spending is set to improve America’s position. A $50 billion government investment is likely to prompt corporate spending that would take the U.S. share of global production to as much as 14 percent by 2030, according to a Boston Consulting Group study in 2020 that was commissioned by the Semiconductor Industry Association.“It really does put us in the game for the first time in decades,” said John Neuffer, the association’s president, who added that the estimate may be conservative because Congress approved $76 billion in subsidies in a piece of legislation known as the CHIPS Act.Still, the ramp-up is unlikely to eliminate U.S. dependence on Taiwan for the most advanced chips. Such chips are the most powerful because they pack the highest number of transistors onto each slice of silicon, and they are often held up a sign of a nation’s technological progress.Intel long led the race to shrink the number of transistors on a chip, which is usually described in nanometers, or billionths of a meter, with smaller numbers indicating the most cutting-edge production technology. Then TSMC surged ahead in recent years.But at its Phoenix site, TSMC may not import its most advanced manufacturing technology. The company initially announced that it would produce five-nanometer chips at the Phoenix factory, before saying last month that it would also make four-nanometer chips there by 2024 and build a second factory, which will open in 2026, for three-nanometer chips. It stopped short of discussing further advances.Morris Chang, founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, at the company’s site in Phoenix in December. The company said it would triple its investment there to $40 billion.Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York TimesAt the TSMC event last month, President Biden highlighted the potential impact on tech companies that rely on TSMC for their chip-making needs.Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York TimesIn contrast, TSMC’s factories in Taiwan at the end of 2022 began producing three-nanometer technology. By 2025, factories in Taiwan will probably start supplying Apple with two-nanometer chips, said Handel Jones, chief executive at International Business Strategies.TSMC and Apple declined to comment.Whether other chip companies will bring more advanced technology for cutting-edge chips to their new sites is unclear. Samsung Electronics plans to invest $17 billion in a new factory in Texas but has not disclosed its production technology. Intel is manufacturing chips at roughly seven nanometers, though it has said its U.S. factories will turn out three-nanometer chips by 2024 and even more advanced products soon after that.The spending boom is also set to reduce, though not erase, U.S. reliance on Asia for other kinds of chips. Domestic factories produce only about 4 percent of the world’s memory chips — which are needed to store data in computers, smartphones and other consumer devices — and Micron’s planned investments could eventually raise that percentage.But there are still likely to be gaps in a catchall variety of older, simpler chips, which were in such short supply over the past two years that U.S. automakers had to shut down factories and produce partly finished vehicles. TSMC is a major producer of some of these chips, but it is focusing its new investments on more profitable plants for advanced chips.“We still have a dependency that is not being impacted in any way shape or form,” said Michael Hurlston, chief executive of Synaptics, a Silicon Valley chip designer that relies heavily on TSMC’s older factories in Taiwan.The chip-making boom is expected to create a jobs bonanza of 40,000 new roles in factories and companies that supply them, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. That would add to about 277,000 U.S. semiconductor industry employees.But it won’t be easy to fill so many skilled positions. Chip factories typically need technicians to run factory machines and scientists in fields like electrical and chemical engineering. The talent shortage is one of the industry’s toughest challenges, according to recent surveys of executives.The CHIPS Act contains funding for work force development. The Commerce Department, which is overseeing the doling out of grant money from the CHIPS Act’s funds, has also made it clear that organizations hoping to obtain funding should come up with plans for training and educating workers.Intel, responding to the issue, plans to invest $100 million to spur training and research at universities, community colleges and other technical educators. Purdue University, which built a new semiconductor laboratory, has set a goal of graduating 1,000 engineers each year and has attracted the chip maker SkyWater Technology to build a $1.8 billion manufacturing plant near its Indiana campus.Yet training may go only so far, as chip companies compete with other industries that are in dire need of workers.“We’re going to have to build a semiconductor economy that attracts people when they have a lot of other choices,” Mitch Daniels, who was president of Purdue at the time, said at an event in September.Since training efforts may take years to bear fruit, industry executives want to make it easier for highly educated foreign workers to obtain visas to work in the United States or stay after they get their degrees. Officials in Washington are aware that comments encouraging more immigration could invite political fire.But Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, was forthright in a speech in November at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Attracting the world’s best scientific minds is “an advantage that is America’s to lose,” she said. “And we’re not going to let that happen.” More

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    US Cracks Down on Chinese Companies for Security Concerns

    The Biden administration placed severe restrictions on trade with dozens of Chinese entities, its latest step in a campaign to curtail access to technology with military applications.WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday stepped up its efforts to impede China’s development of advanced semiconductors, restricting another 36 companies and organizations from getting access to American technology.The action, announced by the Commerce Department, is the latest step in the administration’s campaign to clamp down on China’s access to technologies that could be used for military purposes and underscored how limiting the flow of technology to global rivals has become a prominent element of United States foreign policy.Administration officials say that China has increasingly blurred the lines between its military and civilian industries, prompting the United States to place restrictions on doing business with Chinese companies that may feed into Beijing’s military ambitions at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions, especially over Taiwan.In October, the administration announced sweeping limits on semiconductor exports to China, both from companies within the United States and in other countries that use American technology to make those products. It has also placed strict limits on technology exports to Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.“Today we are building on the actions we took in October to protect U.S. national security by severely restricting the PRC’s ability to leverage artificial intelligence, advanced computing, and other powerful, commercially available technologies for military modernization and human rights abuses,” Alan Estevez, the under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China.Among the most notable companies added to the list is Yangtze Memory Technologies Corporation, a company that was said to be in talks with Apple to potentially supply components for the iPhone 14.Congress has been preparing legislation that would prevent the U.S. government from purchasing or using semiconductors made by Y.M.T.C. and two other Chinese chip makers, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation and ChangXin Memory Technologies, because of their reported links to Chinese state security and intelligence organizations.The Biden PresidencyHere’s where the president stands after the midterm elections.A New Primary Calendar: President Biden’s push to reorder the early presidential nominating states is likely to reward candidates who connect with the party’s most loyal voters.A Defining Issue: The shape of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and its effects on global markets, in the months and years to come could determine Mr. Biden’s political fate.Beating the Odds: Mr. Biden had the best midterms of any president in 20 years, but he still faces the sobering reality of a Republican-controlled House for the next two years.2024 Questions: Mr. Biden feels buoyant after the better-than-expected midterms, but as he turns 80, he confronts a decision on whether to run again that has some Democrats uncomfortable.The U.S. government added the companies to a so-called entity list that will severely restrict their access to certain products, software and technologies. The targeted companies are producers and sellers of technologies that could pose a significant security risk to the United States, like advanced chips that are used to power artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons, and components for Iranian drones and ballistic missiles, the Commerce Department said.In an emailed statement, Liu Pengyu, the spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said that the United States “has been stretching the concept of national security, abusing export control measures, engaging in discriminatory and unfair treatment against enterprises of other countries, and politicizing and weaponizing economic and sci-tech issues. This is blatant economic coercion and bullying in the field of technology.”“China will resolutely safeguard the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and institutions,” he added.On Monday, China filed a formal challenge to the Biden administration’s chip controls at the World Trade Organization, criticizing the restrictions as a form of “trade protectionism.”The administration said that some companies, including Y.M.T.C. and its Japanese subsidiary, were added to the list because they posed a significant risk of transferring sensitive items to other companies sanctioned by the U.S. government, including Huawei Technologies and Hikvision.The Commerce Department said that another entity, Tianjin Tiandi Weiye Technologies, was added for its role in aiding China’s campaign of repression and surveillance of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region of China, as well as providing U.S. products to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. U.S.-based firms will now be forbidden from shipping products to these companies without first obtaining a special license.Twenty-three of the entities — in particular, those supplying advanced chips used for artificial intelligence with close ties to the Chinese military and defense industry, and two Chinese companies that were found to be supporting the Russian military — were hit with even tougher restrictions.The companies will be subject to what is known as the foreign direct product rule, which will cut them off from buying products made anywhere in the world with the use of American technology or software, which would encompass most global technology companies.The administration also said it would lift restrictions on some companies that had successfully undergone U.S. government checks that ensured their products weren’t being used for purposes that the government deemed harmful to national security.As part of the restrictions unveiled in October, the Biden administration placed dozens of Chinese firms on a watch list that required them to work with the U.S. government to verify that their products were not being used for activities that would pose a security risk to the United States.A total of 25 entities completed those checks, in cooperation with the Chinese government, and thus have been removed from the list. Nine Russian parties that were unable to clear those checks were added to the entity list, the department said.A spokesperson for the Commerce Department said that the actions demonstrated that the United States would defend its national security but also stood ready to work in cooperation with companies and host governments to ensure compliance with U.S. export controls.In a separate announcement Thursday morning, a government board that oversees the audits of companies listed on stock exchanges to protect the interests of investors said that it had gained complete access for the first time in its history to inspect accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong.The agency, called the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, said this was just an initial step in ensuring that Chinese companies are safe for U.S. investors. But the development marked a step toward a potential resolution of a yearslong standoff between the United States and China over financial checks into public companies. It also appeared to decrease the likelihood that major Chinese companies will be automatically delisted from U.S. exchanges in the years to come.Congress passed a law in 2020 that would have required Chinese companies to delist from U.S. stock exchanges if U.S. regulators were not able to inspect their audit reports for three consecutive years.Erica Y. Williams, the chair of the board, said the announcement should not be misconstrued as a “clean bill of health” for firms in China. Her staff had identified numerous potential deficiencies with the firms they inspected, she said, though that was not an unexpected outcome in a jurisdiction being examined for the first time.“I want to be clear: this is the beginning of our work to inspect and investigate firms in China, not the end,” Ms. Williams said. More

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    Global Car Supply Chains Entangled With Abuses in Xinjiang, Report Says

    A new report on the auto industry cites extensive links to Xinjiang, where the U.S. government now presumes goods are made with forced labor.The global auto industry remains heavily exposed to the Xinjiang region of China for raw materials, components and other supplies, a new report has found, despite a recent U.S. law intended to restrict purchases from the area, where the Chinese government has committed human rights abuses against mostly Muslim minorities.The report, from a team of researchers led by Laura T. Murphy, a professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at Britain’s Sheffield Hallam University, details the links between Chinese companies with deep ties to Xinjiang and the automakers that use their supplies, such as metals, batteries, wiring and wheels.The report identifies major Chinese companies that the researchers determined have participated in coercive labor programs in Xinjiang, or have recently sourced their materials and products from the region, where China has engaged in mass internment of Uyghurs and other minorities. Those Chinese firms are major participants in the global supply chain for auto parts, the report says, raising the likelihood that automakers like Volkswagen, Honda, Ford Motor, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz Group, Toyota and Tesla have sold cars containing raw materials or components that have at some point touched Xinjiang.“There was no part of the car we researched that was untainted by Uyghur forced labor,” Dr. Murphy said. “It’s an industrywide problem.”Such links could pose serious problems for the international auto brands. The Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, has taken an increasingly aggressive posture toward Chinese trade violations and imports of goods made with forced labor, which the United Nations estimates affects 28 million people worldwide.Under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, products made wholly or partly in Xinjiang are now assumed to have been produced with forced labor, making them vulnerable to seizure by the federal government if they are brought into the United States. Customs officials say that since the law went into effect in June, they have stopped roughly 2,200 shipments — valued at more than $728 million — that were suspected of having Xinjiang content. More than 300 of those products were ultimately released into the United States.Federal officials did not disclose what kinds of products have been seized. But the new rules have been particularly disruptive for companies making clothing and solar panels, which source raw materials like cotton and polysilicon from Xinjiang.The New York Times has not independently verified the entire contents of the new report, which names roughly 200 companies, both Chinese and international, with potential direct or indirect links to Xinjiang. Many of the Chinese industrial giants named in the report have multiple production sites, meaning they could be supplying international automakers with metal, electronics or wheels made from their factories outside Xinjiang.The global supply chain for auto parts is vast and complex. According to estimates by McKinsey and Company, the average automotive manufacturer may have links to as many as 18,000 suppliers in its full supply chain, from raw materials to components.Many of those suppliers run through China, which has become increasingly vital to the global auto industry and the United States, the destination for about a quarter of the auto parts that China exports annually. Xinjiang is home to a variety of industries, but its ample coal reserves and lax environmental regulations have made it a prominent location for energy-intensive materials processing, like smelting metal, the report says.Chinese supply chains are complicated and opaque, which can make it difficult to trace certain individual products from Xinjiang to the United States. Over the past three years, Xinjiang and other parts of China have been intermittently locked down to keep the coronavirus at bay. Even before the pandemic, the Chinese government tightly controlled access to Xinjiang, especially for human rights groups and media outlets.Determining the extent of coercion that any individual Uyghur worker may face in Xinjiang’s mines or factories is also difficult given the region’s restrictions. But the overarching environment of repression in Xinjiang has prompted the U.S. government to presume that any products that have touched the region in their production are made with forced labor unless companies can prove otherwise.Workers in the region “don’t have a chance to say no,” said Yalkun Uluyol, a Xinjiang native and one of the report’s authors. Goods coming from Xinjiang “are a product of the exploitation of the land, of the resources and of the people,” he said.The report’s researchers identified numerous documents — including Chinese-language corporate filings, government announcements and ocean import records — indicating that international brands, at the very least, have multiple potential exposures to programs in Xinjiang that the U.S. government now defines as forced labor.Dr. Murphy said her team had identified nearly 100 Chinese companies mining, processing or manufacturing materials for the automotive industry operating in the Uyghur region, at least 38 of which had publicized their engagement in repressive state-sponsored labor programs through their social media accounts, corporate reports or other channels.International automakers contacted by The Times did not contradict the report but said they were committed to policing their supply chains against human rights abuses and forced labor.G.M., Volkswagen and Mercedes said their supplier codes of conduct prohibited forced labor. Honda said its suppliers were required to follow global sustainability guidelines. Ford said it maintained processes to ensure that its global operations, including in China, complied with all relevant laws and regulations.Toyota, in a statement, said, “We expect our business partners and suppliers to follow our lead to respect and not infringe upon human rights.”Tesla did not respond to repeated requests for comment.The Chinese government has insisted that there are no human rights violations in Xinjiang, and has called accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang “the lie of the century.”“‘Forced labor’ in Xinjiang is a lie deliberately made up and spread by the U.S. to shut China out of the global supply and industrial chains,” Liu Pengyu, the spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in a statement.Some of the Chinese companies named in the report are enormous industry suppliers that have proudly advertised their role in carrying out the Chinese government’s policies toward Uyghurs in social media postings, or in glossy annual reports.They include China Baowu Steel Group, the world’s largest steel maker, which has a subsidiary in Xinjiang that accounts for at least 9 percent of its total steel production, according to the report. Baowu and its subsidiaries make springs for car suspension systems, axles and body panels, as well as various kinds of steel that feed the supply chains of most international carmakers.In its 2020 corporate social responsibility report, which pledges adherence to China’s leader and the Communist Party, Baowu Group said that its subsidiary had “fully implemented the party’s ethnic policy” and that 364 laborers from poor families from villages in southern Xinjiang had “been arranged with employment.” Human rights advocates say the terms are euphemisms for organized mass transfers of Uyghur laborers into factories.According to the report, Baowu Group subsidiaries have participated in other transfers of workers from poor regions of Xinjiang, and in so-called poverty alleviation programs, which the United States now recognizes as a guise for forced labor. Under the new law, companies that participate in such programs can be added to a blacklist that blocks the products they make anywhere — even outside Xinjiang — from coming to the United States.The new report also builds on a June investigation published by The Times into Xinjiang’s role in producing electric vehicle battery minerals like lithium and nickel, as well as previous research by a firm called Horizon Advisory into the aluminum industry in Xinjiang. The report identifies recent transfers of Uyghur laborers at some of the world’s biggest aluminum companies, and traces these products to major auto industry suppliers, some of whom made shipments to the United States, Canada or Europe as recently as November, shipping records show.It also documents ties to Xinjiang and transfers of Uyghur workers for dozens of other significant auto industry suppliers, such as Double Coin, a tire maker that sells widely in the United States, including online at Walmart and Amazon.And it documents a recent investment by CATL — a Chinese firm that produces roughly a third of the world’s electric vehicle batteries and supplies Tesla, Ford, G.M., Volkswagen and other brands — in a major new lithium processing company in Xinjiang.Zhang Yizhi, a spokesman for CATL, said the company was a minority shareholder in the Xinjiang company and was not involved in its operations or management. CATL is committed to building a responsible supply chain and strictly opposes and prohibits any form of forced labor in its suppliers, he said.Baowu Group, Double Coin and its parent, Shanghai Huayi Group, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Amazon declined to comment about its sale of Double Coin tires, while Walmart did not respond.The research suggests that the United States still has far to go in stopping the flow of goods linked to Xinjiang. Customs officials say they are working to enforce a ban on such products, but they are still hiring aggressively and working to build out the department’s capacity to identify and stop these goods.“We’re still in an upward trajectory,” said AnnMarie R. Highsmith, the executive assistant commissioner of the Office of Trade at Customs and Border Protection, in an interview in October.“Unfortunately,” she added, “the situation globally is such that we are going to have full employment for a while.” More

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    Chinese Unrest Over Lockdown Upends Global Economic Outlook

    Growing protests in the world’s biggest manufacturing nation add a new element of uncertainty atop the Ukraine war, an energy crisis and inflation.The swelling protests against severe pandemic restrictions in China — the world’s second-largest economy — are injecting a new element of uncertainty and instability into the global economy when nations are already struggling to manage the fallout from a war in Ukraine, an energy crisis and painful inflation.For years, China has served as the world’s factory and a vital engine of global growth, and turmoil there cannot help but ripple elsewhere. Analysts warn that more unrest could further slow the production and distribution of integrated circuits, machine parts, household appliances and more. It may also encourage companies in the United States and Europe to disengage from China and more quickly diversify their supply chains.Millions of China’s citizens have chafed under a tight lockdown for months as the Communist Party seeks to overcome the spread of the Covid-19 virus, three years after its emergence. Anger turned to widespread protest after an apartment fire last week killed 10 people and comments on social media questioned whether the lockdown had prevented their escape.It is unclear whether the demonstrations flaring across the country will be quickly snuffed out or erupt into broader resistance to the iron rule of its top leader, Xi Jinping, but so far the most significant economic damage stems from the lockdown.“The biggest economic hit is coming from the zero-Covid policies,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, a research firm. “I don’t see the protests themselves being a game changer.”“The world will still turn to China for what it makes best and cheapest,” he added.Police officers during a protest in Beijing on Sunday.Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesAsked how the Biden administration assessed the economic fallout from the latest unrest, John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, said Monday, “We don’t see any particular impact right now to the supply chain.”Concerns about the economic impact of the spreading unrest in China, nonetheless, appeared to be partly responsible for a decline in world markets. The S&P 500 index closed 1.5 percent lower, while the dollar, often a haven in turbulent times, moved higher. Oil prices began the day with a sharp drop before rebounding.The sheer magnitude of China’s economy and resources makes it a critical player in world commerce. “It’s extremely central to the global economy,” said Kerry Brown, an associate fellow in the Asia-Pacific program at Chatham House, an international affairs institute in London. That uncertainty “will have a massive impact on the rest on the world.”China now surpasses all countries as the biggest importer of petroleum. It manufactured nearly 30 percent of the world’s goods in 2021. “There is simply no alternative to what China offers in terms of scale and capacities,” Mr. Brown said.Delays and shortages related to the pandemic prompted many industries to re-evaluate the resilience of their supply chains and consider additional sources of raw materials and workers. Apple, which recently announced that it expected sales to decline because of stoppages at its Chinese plants, is one of several tech companies that have shifted a small portion of their production to other countries, like Vietnam or India.The tilt by some companies away from China predates the pandemic, reaching back to former President Donald J. Trump’s determination to start a trade war with China, a move that resulted in a spiral of punishing tariffs.Yet even if business and political leaders want to be less reliant on China, Mr. Brown said, “the brute reality is that’s not going to happen soon, if at all.”“We shouldn’t kid ourselves that we can quickly decouple,” he added.China’s size is a lure for American, European and other companies looking not only to make products quickly and cheaply, but also to sell them in great numbers. There is simply no other market as big.Tesla, John Deere and Volkswagen are among the companies that have bet on China for future growth, but they are likely to suffer some setbacks at least in the short run. Volkswagen announced last week that its sales in China had stagnated this year, running 14 percent below expectations.A Volkswagen stand at the Auto Shanghai trade show last year. Volkswagen is one of the companies counting on the Chinese market for sales growth.Alex Plavevski/EPA, via ShutterstockThe protests highlight the political risks associated with investing in China, but analysts say the recent wave doesn’t reveal anything that investors didn’t already know.“Many investors will be looking ahead and positioning their portfolios now for the reopening,” said Nigel Green, chief executive of deVere Group, a financial advisory firm. They will be “seeking to take advantage of the country’s transition from an export economy to a consumption one,” he added.Luxury brands continue to stake their future on growth in China.As interconnected as the global economy is, one way in which China’s slowdown may be helping other nations is by keeping down the price of energy. Over the last 20 years, the growth of the Chinese economy has been a primary driver of global demand for oil and hydrocarbons in general.Energy experts say rising numbers of Covid infections and growing doubts that China will ease restrictions in major cities are a major reason that oil prices have dropped over the last three weeks to levels last seen before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.“Chinese demand is the largest single factor in world oil demand,” said David Goldwyn, a senior energy diplomat in the Obama administration. “China is the swing demander.”As the Chinese economy has softened in the grip of the Covid lockdown, fewer oil tankers have sailed into Chinese ports in recent weeks, forcing the major Middle Eastern and Russian oil producers to lower their prices. Now spreading protests create another uncertainty about future demand.Chinese oil demand is expected to average 15.1 million barrels a day this quarter, down from 15.8 million a year ago, according to Kpler, an analytics firm.Barriers at a security checkpoint in Guangzhou, a southern Chinese manufacturing hub, this month.Associated PressAs for supply chain disruptions, Neil Shearing, chief economist at Capital Economics, a research firm, said he thought excessive blame had been heaped on China. “Everything has been framed around supply shortages,” he said, but in China, industrial production increased during the pandemic. The problem was that global demand surged more.For now, the biggest economic impact will be within China, rather than on the global economy. Sectors that depend on face-to-face contact — retail, hospitality, entertainment — will take the biggest hit. Over the past three days, measures of people’s movements have drastically fallen, Mr. Shearing said.He added that more people were quarantined now than at the height of the Omicron epidemic last winter. The wave of infections and the government’s response to it — not the protests — are what’s having “the biggest impact on China’s economy,” he said.Clifford Krauss More