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    U.S. Signals Little Thaw in Trade Relations With China

    The Biden administration said it would not immediately remove the Trump administration’s tariffs and would require that Beijing uphold its trade commitments.WASHINGTON — The Biden administration offered its strongest signal yet that the United States’ combative economic approach toward China would continue, with senior administration officials saying that President Biden would not immediately lift tariffs on Chinese goods and that he would hold Beijing accountable for trade commitments agreed to during the Trump administration.The comments, in a call with reporters on Sunday, provided one of the first looks at how the Biden administration plans to deal with a rising economic and security threat from China. They indicated that while Mr. Biden may have criticized the Trump administration’s aggressive approach, his White House will continue trying to counter China’s economic threats with trade barriers and other punitive measures.That includes requiring China to uphold commitments it agreed to as part of the Phase 1 trade deal that it signed with the United States in January 2020. So far, China is on pace to fall short of its 2021 purchasing commitments by more than 30 percent, after falling short by more than 40 percent last year, according to Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who tracks the purchases.However, in a move that would offer some relief to businesses that import Chinese products, the administration said it would re-establish an expired process that gives some companies a reprieve by excluding them from the tariffs. Trade officials would make those decisions based on the priorities of the Biden administration, officials said, without elaborating further.Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, is expected to begin talking with her Chinese counterparts in the coming days about the country’s failure to live up to its agreements, senior administration officials said. Officials did not rule out the possibility of imposing further tariffs on China if talks with did not produce the desired results, warning Beijing that they would use all available tools to defend the United States from state-directed industrial policies that harm its workers.China denies that it has failed to live up to the Phase 1 agreement, contending that the pandemic has created unique circumstances.The Biden administration has been drawing up an investigation into China’s use of subsidies under Section 301 of U.S. trade law. If it is carried out, that inquiry could result in additional tariffs on China, according to people familiar with the plans.In excerpts that were released on Monday morning in Washington from a planned speech later in the morning, Ms. Tai said that, “For too long, China’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of Americans and others around the world.”“We continue to have serious concerns with China’s state-centered and nonmarket trade practices that were not addressed in the Phase 1 deal,” she added.Last week, Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, pointed to China’s blocking of its airlines from buying “tens of billions of dollars” of products from Boeing.“The Chinese need to play by the rules,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview with NPR last week. “We need to hold their feet to the fire and hold them accountable.”The Biden administration has given no indication that it plans to lower the hefty tariffs that President Donald J. Trump placed on Chinese goods anytime soon, despite protests by economists and some businesses that they have dragged on the U.S. economy.Mr. Biden has frequently criticized Mr. Trump’s 18-month trade war with China as erratic and counterproductive. But more than eight months into his presidency, Mr. Biden has announced few policies that differentiate his approach. In addition to the tariffs on Chinese goods, the president has maintained restrictions on the ability of Chinese companies to access U.S. technology and expanded the list of Chinese officials under sanctions by the United States for their role in undermining Hong Kong’s democratic institutions.Mr. Biden’s hard-line approach to China comes at a moment of extraordinary tension between the world’s largest and second largest economies, and remarkably little interchange between their governments.President Biden met with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan at the White House last month, aiming to put the major democracies of the region in agreement on how to deal with China.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York TimesIn the past month, the United States has announced a new deal to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, an effort to push back on Beijing’s military modernization and its claims of territory in the South China Sea. Mr. Biden also met at the White House with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India, aiming to put the major democracies of the region in accord on how to deal with China’s influence and authoritarianism. And the United States and China are both seeking technological advantage, even if it means cutting off each other’s access to key goods.China, having repressed dissent in Hong Kong and essentially wiped away its guarantees to Britain about keeping its hands off the territory for decades, is now regularly threatening Taiwan. The United States formally protested some of China’s actions on Sunday, after dozens of military aircraft flew on Friday and Saturday into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, although not over the island itself. While U.S. officials do not expect Beijing to move against Taiwan, they are increasingly concerned about the possibility of an accidental conflict.Trade was one area — along with climate — where mutual interest might steer the two countries to some agreements, even as they compete in other areas. But it is unclear whether they can find a way to reach an accord amid other tensions.Mr. Trump’s deal halted the trade war, but it did not put an end to economic hostilities. China still maintains tariffs on 58.3 percent of its exports from the United States; the United States imposes tariffs on 66.4 percent of the products it brings in from China, according to Mr. Bown.Some Biden officials, like many economists, have made clear that they see the tariffs as counterproductive and taking a toll on American consumers and manufacturers as well as Chinese businesses. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in July that the China deal had “hurt American consumers.”Asked if they would consider additional tariffs on China, officials said the Biden administration would not be taking any tools off the table. The administration planned to use the enforcement mechanism established in the trade deal, they said, which would allow the United States to resort to further tariffs if consultations were unsuccessful.In a planned speech on Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Ms. Tai is set to highlight how some of Beijing’s unfair practices have affected U.S. workers and how the United States is building global coalitions to counter them.The Biden administration could face an even more difficult task in reaching any trade agreement with China than the Trump administration did four years ago. Republican lawmakers are ready to pounce on any perceived weakness on China from Mr. Biden, and diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries have deteriorated.“Against the backdrop of worldwide opposition against Cold War and division, the United States blatantly violated its policy statement of not seeking a new Cold War and ganged up to form an Anglo-Saxon clique,” Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, said on Sept. 28 in response to the Australian submarine deal.The U.S. release of Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive who had been detained in Canada at the request of the United States, and China’s subsequent release of two Canadians and two Americans, have done little to cool tensions.Mr. Trump’s tariffs have discouraged imports of some Chinese goods, but exports to the United States have grown strongly through the coronavirus pandemic, as Americans purchased workout equipment, furniture, toys and other products during lockdown.China’s leaders have also doubled down on the kinds of domestic industrial subsidies that the United States has long objected to. They have greatly expanded programs, started more than a decade ago, aimed at eliminating their need to buy computer chips and passenger jets — two of the United States’ main exports to China — among other industrial products.The Biden administration has been exploring ways to persuade China to limit its broad industrial subsidies, but that will be difficult. The George W. Bush, Obama and Trump administrations all tried with little success for ways to coax China to abandon its long-running use of subsidies to domestic producers as a tool to wean itself from any reliance on imports.China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has called for making sure that other countries remain dependent on China for key goods, so that they will not threaten to halt their own sales to China. The United States has done so over issues like surveillance, forced labor and the crackdown on democracy advocates in Hong Kong.“The dependence of the international industrial chain on our country has formed a powerful countermeasure and deterrent capability for foreign parties to artificially cut off supply,” Mr. Xi said in a speech last year.In the call on Sunday, Biden administration officials acknowledged that talks might not persuade China to abandon its increasingly authoritarian, state-centered approach. So instead, they said, the administration’s primary emphasis will be on building the competitiveness of the U.S. economy, working with allies and diversifying markets to limit the impact of Beijing’s harmful trade practices.Keith Bradsher reported from Shanghai, and More

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    How Asia, Once a Vaccination Laggard, Is Revving Up Inoculations

    Several countries are now on track to surpass the United States in fully vaccinating their populations, lifting hopes of a more permanent return to normality.SINGAPORE — As the United States and Europe ramped up their Covid-19 vaccination programs, the Asia-Pacific region, once lauded for its pandemic response, struggled to get them off the ground. Now, many of those laggards are speeding ahead, lifting hopes of a return to normality in nations resigned to repeated lockdowns and onerous restrictions.The turnabout is as much a testament to the region’s success in securing supplies and working out the kinks in their programs as it is to vaccine hesitancy and political opposition in the United States.South Korea, Japan and Malaysia have even pulled ahead of the United States in the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people — a pace that seemed unthinkable in the spring. Several have surpassed the United States in fully vaccinating their populations or are on track to do so, limiting the perniciousness of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.In South Korea, the authorities said vaccines had helped keep most people out of the hospital. About 0.6 percent of fully vaccinated people who contracted Covid had severe illness and about 0.1 percent died, according to data collected by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency from May to August.In Japan, serious cases have fallen by half over the last month, to a little over 1,000 a day. Hospitalizations have plummeted from a high of just over 230,000 in late August to around 31,000 on Tuesday.“It’s almost like the tortoise and the hare,” said Jerome Kim, director general of the International Vaccine Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Seoul and focused on vaccine research for the developing world. “Asia was always going to use vaccines when they became available.”Pfizer vaccines arriving in South Korea in July. When the country opened vaccinations to people in their 50s, roughly 10 million simultaneously logged on to a government website to sign up for shots.Ahn Young-Joon/Associated PressRisks remain for the region. Most of the countries do not manufacture their own vaccines and could face supply problems if their governments approve boosters.In Southeast Asia, the rollout has been slow and uneven, dragging down economic prospects there. The Asian Development Bank recently lowered its 2021 growth outlook for developing Asia to 7.1 percent from 7.3 percent, in part over vaccination issues.But for much of the region, the shift has been striking, success that is rooted in its different worldviews and governance structures.In a contrast with the United States, vaccines were never a polarizing issue in Asia-Pacific.Although each country has had to contend with its own anti-vaccine movements, they have been relatively small. They have never benefited from an ecosystem — sympathetic media, advocacy groups and politicians — that has allowed misinformation to influence the populace.Overall, most Asians have trusted their governments to do the right thing, and they were willing to put the needs of the community over their individual freedoms.Reuben Ng, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy who has studied vaccine hesitancy globally for the past decade, said that pre-Covid, the discussion around immunization had always been mixed in Asia because of some skepticism about the safety.But Mr. Ng and his team, who have been analyzing media reports, have found that the region now holds mostly positive views on vaccines.An overcrowded hospital in Surabaya, Indonesia, in July, when the country was dealing with a sudden increase in Covid cases.Trisnadi/Associated PressThere is widespread belief in Asia that vaccines are the only way out of the pandemic. This month, when a vaccination center in Tokyo offered 200 walk-in shots for young people, hopefuls queued from the early morning hours, and the line extended for blocks.In South Korea, when the authorities opened vaccinations to people in their 50s, roughly 10 million simultaneously logged on to a government website to sign up for shots. The system, which was designed to process up to 300,000 requests at a time, temporarily crashed.People in poorer nations whose lives were upended by extended lockdowns felt they had no choice but to get vaccinated. Indonesia and the Philippines are home to thousands of daily-wage workers who cannot rely on unemployment benefits to survive.Arisman, 35, a motorcycle taxi driver in Jakarta, Indonesia, said he got his second shot of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine in July because his job involved contact with many people.“If I get sick, I don’t get money,” said Arisman, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. “If I don’t work, I don’t get money.”The lack of social safety nets in many Asian countries motivated many governments to roll out the vaccines quickly, said Tikki Pangestu, a co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Immunization Coalition, a group that assesses Covid-19 vaccine preparedness. “At the end of the day, if they don’t do it, they’re going to end up with social unrest, which is the last thing they want,” he added.A farmer in rural Sabak Bernam, Malaysia, getting vaccinated in July. The lack of social safety nets in many Asian countries motivated many governments to roll out the vaccines quickly.Vincent Thian/Associated PressWhen the United States and European nations were rushing to vaccinate their people late last year, many Asian countries felt they had the luxury of time. They had kept the coronavirus under control by masking, testing and keeping their borders shut. Many nations wanted to wait until the clinical trials were completed before they placed orders.Then came the Delta variant. Despite keeping their countries largely sealed off, the virus found its way in. And when it did, it spread quickly. In the summer, South Korea battled its worst wave of infections; hospitals in Indonesia ran out of oxygen and beds; and in Thailand, health care workers had to turn away patients.With cases surging, countries quickly shifted their vaccination approach.Sydney, Australia, announced a lockdown in June after an unvaccinated limousine driver caught the Delta variant from an American aircrew. Then, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had previously said vaccination “was not a race,” called in July on Australians to “go for gold” in the country’s inoculation drive.He moved to overcome a supply shortage, compounded by the slow regulatory approval. In August, Australia bought one million Pfizer doses from Poland; this month, Mr. Morrison announced a purchase of a million Moderna shots from Europe.When the Delta outbreak emerged, fewer than 25 percent of Australians over the age of 16 had received a single shot. In the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, 86 percent of the adult population has now received a first dose, and 62 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. The country expects to fully inoculate 80 percent of its population over the age of 16 by early November.“There was great community leadership — there were people from across the political divide who came out to support vaccination,” said Greg Dore, an infectious-disease expert at the University of New South Wales. “It really helped us turn around a level of hesitancy that was there.”Many governments have used incentives to encourage inoculations.In South Korea, the authorities eased restrictions in August on private gatherings for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to meet in larger groups while maintaining stricter curbs for others. Singapore, which has fully vaccinated 82 percent of its population, previously announced similar measures.Researchers there have also analyzed the pockets of people who refuse to be inoculated and are trying to persuade them.Dr. Ng from the National University of Singapore and his team recently found out that a group of seniors who lived alone were worried about possible adverse effects from the vaccine, fearing they could die in solitude. The volunteers promised they would visit after the vaccinations, a strategy that worked.“This targeted approach does make a difference, because at the end of the day, the mass communications campaign can only take you so far,” Dr. Ng said.Rangers in the Thai Army built bamboo beds for hospitals in the southern province of Narathiwat last week.Madaree Tohlala/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesOnce countries were able to order vaccines, many had to scramble to set up the infrastructures needed to immunize the masses and quell public anger over the initially slow rollouts.Miharu Kuzuhara, 26, a graphic illustrator in Tokyo, got her Pfizer shots in July and August but was frustrated that she had to wait that long. “We were losing to our other Asian neighbors, like Taiwan and South Korea,” Ms. Kuzuhara said. “I had this feeling of disappointment, like Japan is really the worst.”The Japanese government dispatched the country’s military to run vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka and authorized companies to give shots to their employees. Local governments offered payments to doctors and nurses to administer the shots during their days off.The share of people inoculated against Covid-19 in Japan, at 69.6 percent, recently overtook that of the United States. In some rural areas, vaccination rates are already close to 100 percent. “Normally, people are hesitant, they’re not very enthusiastic about vaccines,” said Dr. Takashi Nakano, a professor of infectious diseases at Kawasaki Medical School. But “there was strong political commitment, a real feeling in the nation that because this is an infectious disease, we need to take steps to prevent it.”Reporting was contributed by More

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    China Power Outages Close Factories and Threaten Growth

    High demand and soaring energy prices have forced some factories to shut down, adding further problems for already snarled global supply chains.DONGGUAN, China — Power cuts and even blackouts have slowed or closed factories across China in recent days, adding a new threat to the country’s slowing economy and potentially further snarling global supply chains ahead of the busy Christmas shopping season in the West.The outages have rippled across most of eastern China, where the bulk of the population lives and works. Some building managers have turned off elevators. Some municipal pumping stations have shut down, prompting one town to urge residents to store extra water for the next several months, though it later withdrew the advice.There are several reasons electricity is suddenly in short supply in much of China. More regions of the world are reopening after pandemic-induced lockdowns, greatly increasing demand for China’s electricity-hungry export factories.Export demand for aluminum, one of the most energy-intensive products, has been strong. Demand has also been robust for steel and cement, central to China’s vast construction programs.As electricity demand has risen, it has also pushed up the price of coal to generate that electricity. But Chinese regulators have not let utilities raise rates enough to cover the rising cost of coal. So the utilities have been slow to operate their power plants for more hours.In the city of Dongguan, a major manufacturing hub near Hong Kong, a shoe factory that employs 300 workers rented a generator last week for $10,000 a month to ensure that work could continue. Between the rental costs and the diesel fuel for powering it, electricity is now twice as expensive as when the factory was simply tapping the grid.“This year is the worst year since we opened the factory nearly 20 years ago,” said Jack Tang, the factory’s general manager. Economists predicted that production interruptions at Chinese factories would make it harder for many stores in the West to restock empty shelves and could contribute to inflation in the coming months.Three publicly traded Taiwanese electronics companies, including two suppliers to Apple and one to Tesla, issued statements on Sunday night warning that their factories were among those affected. Apple had no immediate comment, while Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.It is not clear how long the power crunch will last. Experts in China predicted that officials would compensate by steering electricity away from energy-intensive heavy industries like steel, cement and aluminum, and said that might fix the problem.State Grid, the government-run power distributor, said in a statement on Monday that it would guarantee supplies “and resolutely maintain the bottom line of people’s livelihoods, development and safety.”Still, nationwide power shortages have prompted economists to reduce their estimates for China’s growth this year. Nomura, a Japanese financial institution, cut its forecast for economic expansion in the last three months of this year to 3 percent, from 4.4 percent.A power generator at a shoe factory in Dongguan. The rental and fuel costs make electricity from the device twice as expensive as when the factory was simply tapping the grid.Gilles Sabrié for The New York TimesThe electricity shortage is starting to make supply chain problems worse. The sudden restart of the world economy has led to shortages of key components like computer chips and has helped provoke a mix-up in global shipping lines, putting in the wrong places too many containers and the ships that carry them.Power supplies are little different. Compared with last year, electricity demand is growing this year in China at nearly twice its usual annual pace. Swelling orders for the smartphones, appliances, exercise equipment and other manufactured goods that China’s factories churn out has driven the rise.China’s power problems are contributing in some part to higher prices elsewhere, like in Europe. Experts said a surge in prices in China had drawn energy distributors to send ships laden with liquefied natural gas to Chinese ports, leaving others to scurry for further sources.But the bulk of China’s power problems are unique to the country.Two-thirds of China’s electricity comes from burning coal, which Beijing is trying to curb to address climate change. Coal prices have surged along with demand. But because the government keeps electricity prices low, particularly in residential areas, use by homes and businesses has climbed regardless.Faced with losing more money with each additional ton of coal they burn, some power plants have closed for maintenance in recent weeks, saying this was needed for safety reasons. Many other power plants have been operating below full capacity, and have been leery of increasing generation when that would mean losing more money, said Lin Boqiang, dean of the China Institute for Energy Policy Studies at Xiamen University.A workshop producing shoe parts in Dongguan. Prices for the components have already increased 30 to 50 percent from last year.Gilles Sabrié for The New York TimesChina’s main economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, also ordered 20 large cities and provinces in late August to reduce energy consumption for the rest of the year. The regulators cited a need to make sure that the cities and provinces met full-year targets set by Beijing for their carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.Besides coal, hydroelectric dams supply much of the rest of China’s power, while wind turbines, solar panels and nuclear power plants play a growing role.China’s difficulty in keeping the lights on and the faucets running poses a challenge for Xi Jinping, the country’s top leader, and the Chinese Communist Party. They have taken a triumphalist stance this year, emphasizing China’s success in quickly eliminating outbreaks of the coronavirus and in winning the release of a senior Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, in a dispute with the United States and Canada.But Mr. Xi risks getting tagged for problems as well as successes. He has moved strongly to quell any opposition within the Communist Party and has extended its reach into more sectors of Chinese life. If people in China begin to point fingers, there are few others to blame.China’s economic rebound from the coronavirus has been driven in large part by heavy investment in infrastructure as well as the rise in exports. Overall industrial use consumes 70 percent of the electricity in China, led by the mostly state-owned producers of steel, cement and aluminum.“If those guys produce more, it has a huge impact on electricity demand,” Professor Lin said, adding that China’s economic minders would order those three industrial users to ease back.Disruptions from power shortages have already been felt in Dongguan, at the heart of China’s southern manufacturing belt. Its factories produce everything from electronics and toys to sweaters.The local power transmission authority in Houjie, a township in northwestern Dongguan, issued an order shutting off electricity to many factories from Wednesday through Sunday. On Monday morning, the suspension in industrial electricity service was extended at least through Tuesday night.Air-conditioners outside a worker dormitory in Dongguan. Factories in the city produce everything from electronics to toys to sweaters.Gilles Sabrié for The New York TimesThe throaty roar of huge diesel generators rumbled on Monday morning through the streets and alleys of Houjie, where scores of five-story, concrete-walled factories are nestled among low-rise apartment buildings for migrant workers. Air-conditioners were not running as temperatures climbed into the 90s, and only a few fluorescent lights gleamed in some of the factories’ windows.One of the noisy generators rumbled in a 20-foot yellow shipping container behind a factory where workers in bright blue and orange jumpsuits labored to assemble men’s and women’s leather shoes for American and European buyers.Mr. Tang, the general manager, said his factory had already faced especially strict power usage rules because the government labeled it a “low-profit, high-energy-consuming factory.”Along nearby alleys, a warren of small workshops was making insoles and other shoe components for assembly at Mr. Tang’s factory and other similar plants nearby. Prices for the components have already increased 30 to 50 percent from last year as labor costs and raw material prices rise, Mr. Tang said.“Many of us working in this line of business say that we are basically losing money this year,” he said at his factory on Monday morning, adding that power outages began this summer.Mr. Tang had to turn off his generator for two days last week after residents filed noise complaints with the local government. He also rented a metal cage to cover the generator to reduce the din.Some in the neighborhood, particularly shoe component manufacturers, were sympathetic, voicing a mixture of business pragmatism and nationalism.“Although it’s a bit noisy, I understand it,” said Wang Weidong, the owner of a shoe insole processing workshop. “There’s no other way — we will answer the call of the country.”Li You More

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    The Economy Looks Solid. But These Are the Big Risks Ahead.

    One concern is that political leaders will mismanage things in the world’s largest and second-largest economies.The low-hanging fruit of the pandemic economic recovery has been eaten. As a result, the expansion is entering a new phase — with new risks.For months, the world economy has expanded at a torrid pace, as industries that were shut down in the pandemic reopened. While that process is hardly complete — numerous industries are still functioning below their prepandemic levels — further healing appears likely to be more gradual, and in some ways more difficult.Reopening restaurants and performance arenas is one thing. Fixing extraordinary backups in shipping networks and shortages of semiconductors, among the most vivid examples of supply shortages holding back many parts of the economy, is harder.And a range of risks, including the hard-to-predict dynamics of Covid variants, could throw this transition to a healthy post-pandemic economy off course.One looming risk is if political leaders mismanage things in the world’s largest and second-largest economies. Namely, in the United States, a standoff over raising the federal debt ceiling could bring the nation to the brink of default. And in China, the fallout from the property developer Evergrande’s financial problems is raising questions about the country’s debt-and-real-estate-fueled growth.The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last week projected that the world economy would grow 4.5 percent in 2022, downshifting from an expected 5.7 percent expansion in 2021. Its forecast for the United States shows an even steeper slowdown, from 6 percent growth this year to 3.9 percent next.Of course, a year of 3.9 percent G.D.P. growth would be nothing to scoff at — that would be much faster growth than the United States has experienced for most of the 21st century. But it would represent a resetting of the economy.“We’ve had liftoff, and now we’re at cruising altitude,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global.After the global financial crisis of 2008-9, the great challenge for the recovery was a shortfall of demand. Workers and productive capacity were abundant, but there was inadequate spending in the economy to put that capacity to work. The post-reopening stage of this recovery is the opposite image.Now there is plenty of demand — thanks to pent-up savings, trillions of dollars in federal stimulus dollars, and rapidly rising wages — but companies report struggles to find enough workers and raw materials to meet that demand.Dozens of container ships are backed up at Southern California ports, waiting their turn to unload products meant to fill American store shelves through the holiday season. Automakers have had to idle plants for want of semiconductors. Builders have had a hard time obtaining windows, appliances and other key products needed to complete new homes. And restaurants have cut back hours for lack of kitchen help.These strains are, in effect, acting as a brake that slows the expansion. The question is how much, and for how long, that brake will be applied.“The kinds of growth rates we are seeing were a bounce-back from a really severe recession, so it’s no surprise that won’t continue,” said Jennifer McKeown, head of the global economics service at Capital Economics. “The risk is that this becomes less about a natural cooling and more about the supply shortages that we’re seeing really starting to bite. That may mean that economic activity doesn’t continue to grow as we’re expecting it to, as instead there is a stalling of activity and price pressures starting to rise.”The problem is that the supply shortages have many causes, and it is not obvious when they will all diminish. Spending worldwide, and especially in the United States, shifted toward physical goods over services during the pandemic, more quickly than productive capacity could adjust. The Delta variant and continued spread of Covid has caused restrictions on production in some countries. And the lagged effects of production shutdowns in 2020 are still being felt.Then there are the risks that lurk in the background — the kinds of things that aren’t widely forecast to be a source of economic distress, but could unspool in unpredictable ways.Debt ceiling brinkmanship in Washington is a prime example. Senate Republicans insist that they will not vote to increase the federal debt limit, and that Democrats will have to do so themselves — while also planning to filibuster Democratic attempts to do so. Failure to reach some sort of agreement would risk a default on federal obligations, and could cause a financial crisis. For that reason, a deal in these cases has always ultimately been done — even if, as in 2011, it created a lot of uncertainty along the way.The risk here is that both sides could be so determined to stick to their stances that a miscalculation happens, like two drivers in a game of chicken who both refuse to swerve. And to those who are closest to American fiscal policymaking, that looks like a meaningful risk.“Chances of a default are still remote, and Congress will likely increase the debt ceiling. but the path to a deal is more murky than usual,” said Brian Gardner, chief Washington policy strategist at Stifel, in a research note. He added that the political game of chicken could spook markets in coming weeks.And on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the Chinese government has its own challenge, as Evergrande struggles to make payments on $300 billion worth of debt.Real estate has played an outsize role in China’s economy for years. But few analysts expect the problems to spread far beyond Chinese borders. The Chinese banking and financial system is largely self-contained, in contrast to the deep global linkages that allowed the failure of Lehman Brothers in 2008 to trigger a global financial crisis.“Everyone’s learned a trick or two since 2008,” said Alan Ruskin, a macro strategist at Deutsche Bank Securities. “What you have here is the world’s second-largest economy, and one that has lifted all boats, could be slowing more materially than people anticipated. I think that’s the primary risk, rather than that financial interlinkages shift out on a global basis.”All of which could make for a bumpy autumn for the world economy, but which in the most likely scenarios would lead to a solid 2022. If, that is, everything goes the way the forecasters expect. More

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    Beyond Evergrande’s Troubles, a Slowing Chinese Economy

    Investors are watching whether the property developer defaults. But in the background, the world’s No. 2 economy is flashing numerous warning signs.BEIJING — Global markets have watched anxiously as a huge and deeply indebted Chinese property company flirts with default, fearing that any collapse could ripple through the international financial system.China Evergrande Group, the developer, on Wednesday said it reached a deal that might give it some breathing room in the face of a bond payment due the next day. But that murky arrangement doesn’t address the broader threat for Beijing’s top leaders and the global economic outlook: China’s growth is slowing, and the government may have to work harder to rekindle it.Retail sales were much more weak than expected last month in China, led by slow car sales. Industrial production has slackened, particularly for large freight trucks. And developers sharply reduced new housing projects over the summer, while rushing to finish the projects they had already started.Heavy government spending on new rail lines, highways and other projects is keeping the economy afloat right now, but may not be sustainable through next year.Markets have been riveted by the idea that Evergrande could be China’s “Lehman moment,” a reference to the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank back in 2008 that kicked off the global financial crisis. While many economists in China are pouring cold water over the idea of potential financial contagion, they are pointing to the broad weakness in China’s property market, a mainstay of the economy, and other long-term threats.“This is not a Lehman moment. This is too sensational,” said Xu Sitao, an economist in the Beijing office of Deloitte. “The question is next year.”With Evergrande, it isn’t entirely clear what will happen on Thursday, when bond interest payments are due. On Wednesday, it said in a vaguely worded stock market filing that it had reached an arrangement with Chinese investors to make a payment due the following day, without offering details.It did not mention an $83.5 million payment due Thursday to foreign bondholders. Bloomberg News, citing bond documents, said the company has a 30-day grace period before a missed payment becomes a default. Evergrande did not respond to questions.Chinese policymakers could conceivably step in and rescue Evergrande. But that would run contrary to their efforts to get companies to borrow less and to take some of the steam out of the property market, where apartments for purchase are increasingly unaffordable for many Chinese families in a number of markets.The stock exchange in Hong Kong on Tuesday as the Hang Seng Index dropped over concerns about Evergrande.Jerome Favre/EPA, via ShutterstockPeople familiar with Chinese economic policymaking say that big companies often carry a lot of collateral on their books, so officials believe lenders won’t get fully burned by a collapse. They also cite the tools Beijing has to unwind debts gradually and limit financial disruptions, such as its control of the banking system.Letting Evergrande collapse quickly, on the other hand, risks a broad fall in apartment prices or other potentially unforeseeable shocks to the financial system.Chinese officials have taken short-term measures to shore up confidence. The central bank announced on Wednesday morning that it had temporarily injected about $18.6 billion in credit markets, part of a broader effort in recent days to make sure that ample cash is available.Real estate sales were slowing even before the latest difficulties, in part because of Beijing’s cool-down efforts, depriving Evergrande and other property developers of the cash they need to finish other projects. Sales dropped 7.1 percent by value in July from a year earlier and 18.7 percent in August from the same month last year.Overcapacity in many industrial sectors, coupled with a faltering construction sector, have prompted economists to predict slower growth. Bank of America lowered on Tuesday its forecast for China’s economic growth next year to 5.3 percent from a previous forecast of 6.2 percent.Growth over 5 percent is still strong by most standards. But it would represent a much weaker showing than this year, which many economists project will total 8 percent or higher. It would be considerably slower than the official growth rates China has posted in recent years.Other questions hovering right now over the Chinese economy can be seen in a handful of measures that might at first glance seem to have little to do with the real estate industry, bond prices or Evergrande’s 1.6 million unfinished apartments. The measures gauge the production and sale of heavy-duty freight trucks.Construction companies and manufacturers all over the world tend to stop buying large trucks when they see trouble ahead. Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, used to cite the strength of the freight truck manufacturing industry as one of his favorite predictors of the future health of the American economy.The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers disclosed earlier this month that heavy truck production and heavy truck sales plummeted by nearly half in August compared to the same month last year. Excluding statistical quirks caused by the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, it was the worst performance for both heavy truck indicators since the spring of 2015, when China was struggling to emerge from a botched currency devaluation.Trucks for export at a sea port in Yantai, China, in July. Truck production and sales plummeted by nearly half in August.CHINATOPIX, via Associated PressThe nosedive in freight truck production and sales is about much more than lost economic confidence, however. It also shows how China’s policies over the past few years temporarily inflated demand and produced severe overcapacity.Stringent new standards for air pollution took effect for freight trucks manufactured beginning July 1. Stricter safety standards are also being phased in, such as a requirement that onboard software and sensors warn drivers when they start to drift out of their traffic lanes.Domestic truck manufacturers expanded their factories last year to build as many trucks as they could before the tougher rules took effect.China’s freight truck manufacturing capacity has ballooned to 1.6 million trucks a year in a market where long-term sales estimates are far fewer than a million trucks a year. Truck dealerships across China are now clogged with rows of unsold trucks.Car sales were also weak last month, adding to uncertainty about whether consumer spending will stay strong in China even as Evergrande struggles. After construction and government spending, the auto industry is one of the biggest sectors of the Chinese economy, playing nearly three times as large a role as exports to the United States.An acute shortage of computer chips has separately affected the production and sale of cars in China, muddying the picture.“The market for car sales is generally in a downturn, partly because of the chip shortage,” said Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, a Beijing-based industry trade group.While China faces broad overcapacity and other worries, many economists in China still express more confidence than economists elsewhere that the country can weather its troubles. Economists in China note that the Chinese government has more ability than most to set interest rates and control large movements of money in and out of the country.“China,” said Mr. Xu, of Deloitte, “still has a lot of tools.”Keith Bradsher More

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    Businesses Push Biden to Develop China Trade Policy

    Seven months into a new administration, companies want the White House to drop tariffs on Chinese goods and provide clarity about a critical trade relationship.WASHINGTON — More than seven months into the Biden administration, American businesses say they are growing increasingly frustrated by the White House’s approach to China, with confrontational policies imposed during the Trump era still in place and President Biden offering little clarity about economic engagement with the world’s second-largest economy.The relationship between the two economic superpowers remains deeply fractured. American import duties still exist on roughly $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and almost all of the exemptions that shielded more than 2,000 products from those tariffs have expired. A thicket of export controls and bans are still in place, leaving U.S. technology giants such as Qualcomm, Intel and Google in the lurch over how to approach the Chinese market and offering little hope that the decoupling of the world’s two largest economies will be reversed anytime soon.To the dismay of some American business leaders, Mr. Biden has amplified some of the Trump administration’s punitive moves. In July, the Biden administration expanded the list of Chinese officials under sanctions by the United States for their role in undermining Hong Kong’s democratic institutions. In June, the president issued an executive order adding more Chinese companies to a prohibition on American investments in Chinese firms that have links to the country’s military or that sell surveillance technology used to repress dissent or religious minorities.Yet Mr. Biden and his top advisers have yet to elucidate how they view economic relations with Beijing, saying they will make the administration’s approach known once a broad review of China trade policy concludes. But the review has stretched on for months with no public timeline for its conclusion.As a result, businesses are lobbying heavily for the tariffs to be removed, which would make it easier for them to rely on factories in China instead of making investments in the United States or elsewhere. And they want assurances that they can do business with a financially important market.“There has been frustration for the business community at the lack of concrete China economic policy,” said Charles Freeman, the senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not as if this crowd came in without any experience or any preconceived thinking about China.”The future of the U.S. trade relationship with China is one of the biggest global economic questions confronting Mr. Biden and his advisers. China has thrown huge resources behind its economic ambitions and plans to dominate cutting-edge industries like artificial intelligence and robotics by providing government subsidies to Chinese firms and using other tactics, including espionage. While the Trump administration signed an initial trade deal with China that included purchase commitments for agricultural and other goods, the agreement failed to address a number of major concerns, including China’s state-owned enterprises and industrial subsidies.During his White House bid, Mr. Biden assailed President Donald J. Trump over his trade war and promised to enlist allies to counter China over its trade practices. Since taking office, Mr. Biden has resolved a longstanding trade spat with the European Union and persuaded European officials to adopt a more assertive trade policy toward China this year. And he has pitched his infrastructure plan as a way to counter Beijing, saying it would “put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years.”But the administration has said little about whether it intends to restart economic talks and address outstanding issues, including tariffs. At times, officials have offered somewhat discordant views.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told The New York Times this summer that tariffs had harmed American consumers, but she has also warned that Chinese subsidies for exporters pose a challenge for the United States. The United States trade representative, Katherine Tai, has described the tariffs as providing leverage..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Asked on Wednesday about the administration’s review of the tariffs, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said, “I don’t have any timeline for you on when that review will be completed.”Business impatience with the administration’s approach is mounting. Corporate leaders say they need clarity about whether American companies will be able to do business with China, which is one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets. Business groups say their members are being put at a competitive disadvantage by the tariffs, which have raised costs for American importers.“We should be doing everything we can to increase China’s use and dependence on American technology products,” Patrick Gelsinger, the chief executive of Intel, said in an interview last week. The administration is “struggling to lay out a framework for how they have a policy-driven engagement with China,” he said.“To me, just saying, ‘Let’s be tough on China,’ that’s not a policy, that’s a campaign slogan,” he added. “It’s time to get to the real work of having a real policy of trade relationships and engagement around business exports and technology with China.”In early August, a group of influential U.S. business groups sent a letter to Ms. Yellen and Ms. Tai urging the administration to restart trade talks with China and cut tariffs on imported Chinese goods.“The main kind of dilemma that companies face right now is just uncertainty,” said Craig Allen, the president of the U.S.-China Business Council, which organized the letter. “Will the tariffs remain in place? Are they in place in perpetuity? What is the exclusion process to request an exemption from the tariffs? Nobody knows.”Mr. Allen said his group had organized the letter because it wanted to make sure that businesses’ views, in addition to those of labor and environmental groups, would be taken into account during the Biden administration’s China review.“Many find it ironic that the Biden administration is following so closely the playbook laid down by the Trump administration on China,” he said.Other organizations that signed the letter included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable as well as groups representing sectors of the economy with close business ties to China, such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Semiconductor Industry Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation.“We’re now dealing with all these other supply chain disruption issues that are costing companies millions of dollars,” said Jonathan Gold, the vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, which also signed the letter and represents a sector that has become heavily dependent on imports from China. “To have the tariffs on top of that is difficult for planning purposes.”On Tuesday, the National Association of Manufacturers sent a letter to the Biden administration urging it to “act as quickly as possible to finalize and publicize” a China strategy.Businesses of all sizes have been waiting for Mr. Biden to change course from Mr. Trump’s trade policies. Arnold Kamler, the chief executive of Kent International, a bicycle wholesaler and manufacturer, said the 25 percent tariffs on bicycle imports from China had been a major drain on the cash flow of his business, forcing him to borrow more from his bank. For the last two years, he has been passing on the cost of the additional import duties to retailers.“Honestly, we were hopeful that the Biden administration would realize that the trade war didn’t work,” Mr. Kamler said.Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, has refrained from offering a preview of what steps the Biden administration may seek to take in the coming months.Pete Marovich for The New York TimesAdding to the impatience is that a vast majority of the exclusions to the China tariffs that were granted under the Trump administration have now expired, and the Biden administration has not created a process to allow companies to seek new exclusions.Lawmakers from both parties have written to the Biden administration urging it to restart the exclusion process, and the Senate included a provision to reinstate expired exclusions and set up a process for granting new ones as part of a legislative package to bolster competitiveness with China that passed in June. The Senate provision has been met with resistance in the House, according to a House Democratic aide, so the two chambers may wind up at odds over whether to address tariff exclusions as part of a final China package.Robert E. Lighthizer, who was Mr. Trump’s trade representative and negotiated the trade deal with China, said in an interview that lobbyists were trying to weaken the executive branch’s power to impose tariffs.“People working for China and Chinese importers want to get rid of the last tool that Biden and subsequent presidents will have to deal with Chinese unfair trade practices,” Mr. Lighthizer said.Business groups are not uniformly in favor of lifting tariffs. The National Council of Textile Organizations, which represents the American textile industry, wants the administration to keep tariffs on finished apparel and home textile products from China.“We have been pretty strong in our message to the administration saying please continue this approach on getting tough on China,” said Kimberly Glas, the textile group’s president and chief executive.Any decision on rolling back tariffs could also have domestic political implications in the United States, where a tough-on-China mentality has permeated both major parties. Any steps by the Biden administration to roll back Trump-era policies toward Beijing could be seized on by political opponents seeking to paint Mr. Biden as insufficiently tough on China at a time when the country is engaged in a rapid military buildup.Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a trade group that represents the United Steelworkers and some domestic manufacturers, noted that concern about China on both economic and national security grounds was “one of the few issues that unites Democrats and Republicans these days.”“A dismantling of the tariffs has no upside for Joe Biden,” he said. “At a time when you’re trying to build up U.S. capacity in key industries, it would invite a flood of Chinese imports to just overwhelm that.”The Biden administration has said little about its tariff plans or how it will address China’s failure to meet its commitments under the Trump trade deal. China has not fulfilled its purchase commitments, according to Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who has tracked China’s purchases of U.S. goods. But Chinese economists contend that Beijing has been sincere in wanting to meet its promises, and that the pandemic has affected demand in China.When asked about the administration’s review of China trade policy, Ms. Tai has responded by saying she was aware that “time is of the essence.” However, she has refrained from offering a preview of what steps the administration may seek to take.“In terms of how we need to approach this trade relationship,” Ms. Tai said at a virtual event last week, “we need to approach it with deliberation.”Keith Bradsher More

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    What an Adult Tricycle Says About the World’s Bottleneck Problems

    The supply-chain problems rocking companies may get worse heading into the holidays, as delays continue to snarl global trade and shipping prices jump even higher.Catrike has 500 of its three-wheeled bikes sitting in its workshop in Orlando, Fla., nearly ready to be sent to expectant dealers. The recumbent trikes have been waiting for months for rear derailleurs, a small but crucial part that is built in Taiwan.“We’re sitting on $2 million in inventory for one $30 part,” said Mark Egeland, the company’s general manager.The company’s problems offer a window into how supply-chain disruptions are rocking companies in the United States and around the world, pushing inflation higher, delaying deliveries and exacerbating economic uncertainty.It is unclear when the snarls will clear up — and it’s possible they will get worse before they get better. The holiday season is right around the corner, American companies are running light on inventory, and coronavirus outbreaks continue to shut factories around the world. Demand for goods remains strong as households use money saved during months stuck at home to buy athletic equipment, couches and clothing.That could keep pressure on global goods producers and the transportation routes that serve them even as consumers begin to redirect their spending back toward dinners out and theater tickets — a shift that many analysts had hoped would help supply chains return to normal.The critical questions for economic policymakers are how long the problems will last and how much they will feed into consumer prices, which have jumped sharply this year, both because of data quirks and bottlenecks. Federal Reserve officials regularly say they expect the faster price gains to prove “transitory,” but they are careful to stress that supply chains are a major source of lingering uncertainty, making it unclear how quickly rapid gains will fade.“I’m less in that ‘transitory’ camp,” said Phil Levy, the chief economist at Flexport, which tracks ocean shipments and helps importers plan so that their parts can get in by desired dates. “And more in the ‘we have reason to be concerned’ camp.”Container costs have rocketed up. Earlier this month, container shipping rates from China and East Asia to the United States’ East Coast climbed above $20,000, compared with about $4,000 a year ago, according to data from the freight-tracking firm Freightos. Those attractive high prices are encouraging ships to abandon other routes, causing the problem to spread. And shipping issues have been exacerbated by related imbalances: Boats are backing up at ports, and as demand for goods booms in the United States, empty shipping containers haven’t been able to get back to China fast enough.Chris Miller assembling a wheel for a Catrike. The company thinks that sorting out its supply issues could take 12 to 18 months.Octavio Jones for The New York TimesSome suppliers are eating higher production and transport costs. Full Speed Ahead, which produces crank sets for Catrike, has seen expenses increase as the demand for raw aluminum has risen. Shipping costs are also four to five times what they were a year ago, said Mark Vandermolen, the company’s managing director.Full Speed Ahead has passed “very little, if any at all,” of those cost increases on to customers, he said, and he hopes to “maintain pricing for as long as possible until it is no longer sustainable.”But not all of Catrike’s suppliers have absorbed climbing costs, and whether higher prices for components make for more expensive consumer products — actual inflation, as it is conventionally measured — depends on how companies like Catrike and the dealers they work through decide to adjust.Catrike raised prices by $200 early this year, its first adjustment since 2010, to cover costs. But the company is at a “sweet spot” where it’s outperforming competitors by offering affordable products, so it would prefer to leave prices steady now, Mr. Egeland said.He’s also cautious: Catrike hasn’t printed prices in its newest catalog, in case rising expenses make another increase necessary.The Fed — which has primary responsibility for keeping inflation steady — has made clear that it is content to look past a recent pop in inflation. If companies lift prices once or twice amid reopening challenges, the central bank can tolerate that as a one-off change.Officials would worry more if price increases dragged on for months or years. If that happens, consumers and businesses alike could come to expect consistently higher prices. They might demand higher pay, and a cycle of inflationary increases could take off.It will take time to know whether the bottlenecks will lead to more permanent damage. Supply chains are still badly snarled. The time it takes for parts from one of Catrike’s suppliers to arrive by sea in North America from a factory in Indonesia has jumped to three months, and sometimes it takes four — double what it took before. Estimates from Flexport confirm the problem is widespread along that shipping route. More

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    China’s Vaccine Diplomacy Stumbles in Southeast Asia

    Several Southeast Asian nations are raising doubts about the efficacy of China’s vaccines. The Biden administration has recently offered to provide shots, “no strings attached.”SINGAPORE — The arrival of the Chinese vaccines was supposed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Southeast Asia.Instead, countries across the region are quickly turning elsewhere to look for shots.Residents in Thailand vaccinated with one dose of China’s Sinovac are now given the AstraZeneca shot three to four weeks later. In Indonesia, officials are administering the Moderna vaccine as a booster to health care workers who had received two doses of Sinovac.Malaysia’s health minister said the country would stop using Sinovac once its supply ran out. Even Cambodia, one of China’s strongest allies, has started using AstraZeneca as a booster for its frontline workers who had taken the Chinese vaccines.Few places benefited from China’s vaccine diplomacy as much as Southeast Asia, a region of more than 650 million that has struggled to secure doses from Western drugmakers. Several of these countries have recorded some of the fastest-growing number of cases in the world, underscoring the desperate need for inoculations.China, eager to build good will, stepped in, promising to provide more than 255 million doses, according to Bridge Consulting, a Beijing-based research company.Half a year in, however, that campaign has lost some of its luster. Officials in several countries have raised doubts about the efficacy of Chinese vaccines, especially against the more transmissible Delta variant. Indonesia, which was early to accept Chinese shots, was recently the epicenter of the virus. Others have complained about the conditions that accompanied Chinese donations or sales.The setback to China’s vaccine campaign has created a diplomatic opening for the United States when relations between the two countries are increasingly fraught, in part because of the coronavirus. China has criticized the American handling of the crisis at home and even claimed, with no evidence, that the pandemic originated in a military lab at Fort Detrick, Md., not in Wuhan, where the first cases emerged in late 2019.As more countries turn away from Chinese shots, vaccine aid from the United States offers an opportunity to restore relations in a region that American officials have mostly ignored for years while China extended its influence. The Biden administration has dispatched a crowd of senior officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who is scheduled to arrive on Sunday to visit Singapore and Vietnam. It has also, at last, made its own vaccine pledges to Southeast Asia, emphasizing that the American contribution of roughly 23 million shots as of this week comes with “no strings attached,” an implicit reference to China.Anti-China sentiment runs high in Vietnam, but the country accepted a donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm in June, causing a backlash among citizens who said they did not trust the quality of Chinese shots.Linh Pham/Getty ImagesSeveral countries in the region have been eager to receive the more effective, Western doses. Although they remain far outnumbered by Chinese shots, they present an attractive alternative. China’s “early head-start advantage has lost its magic already,” said Hoang Thi Ha, a researcher with the Asean Studies center of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.For most of the year, many developing countries in Southeast Asia did not have much of a choice when it came to vaccines. They struggled to acquire doses, many of which were being made by richer nations that have been accused of hoarding them.China sought to fill those needs. The country’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, traveled through the region in January, promising to help fight the pandemic. In April, he declared that Southeast Asia was a priority for Beijing. About a third of the 33 million doses that China has distributed free worldwide were sent to the region, according to the figures provided by Bridge Consulting.Much of Beijing’s focus has been directed at the more populous countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and its longstanding allies like Cambodia and Laos.Indonesia was China’s biggest customer in the region, buying 125 million doses from Sinovac. The Philippines obtained 25 million Sinovac shots after the president, Rodrigo Duterte, said he had turned to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, for help. Cambodia received more than 2.2 million of China’s Sinopharm doses. It has inoculated roughly 41 percent of its population, achieving the second-highest vaccination rate in the region, after Singapore.Then, signs started emerging that the Chinese vaccines were not as effective as hoped. Indonesia found that 10 percent of its health care workers had become infected with Covid-19 as of July, despite being fully vaccinated with the Sinovac shot, according to the Indonesian Hospital Association.In July, a virologist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok said a study of people who had received two doses of the Sinovac vaccine showed that their level of antibodies, 70 percent, was “barely efficacious” against the Alpha variant of the coronavirus, first detected in Britain, or against the Delta variant, first detected in India.The governments in both Indonesia and Thailand decided that they had to make a switch to other vaccines, like those provided by the United States, Britain and Russia.“Now that they have more choices, they can make other decisions,” said Nadège Rolland, senior fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research in Washington. “I don’t think it’s politically motivated. I think it’s pragmatic.”Yaowares Wasuwat, a noodle seller in Thailand’s Bangsaen Chonburi Province, said that she hoped to get the AstraZeneca vaccine for her second shot after being inoculated with Sinovac, but that she would take whatever was available.“I have nothing to lose,” she said. “The economy is so bad, we are gasping for air. It’s like dying while living, so just take whatever protection we can.”Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. secretary of defense, met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila in July. The United States said it would deliver millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines to the country.Malacanang Presidential Photo/via ReutersChina’s early moves in the region stand in marked contrast with the United States, which was slow to provide assistance..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}The calculus has now changed under President Biden. Both Lloyd J. Austin III, the American secretary of defense, and Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, had meetings with top officials in Southeast Asia in recent weeks. They noted the donations of roughly 20 million shots.After Mr. Austin visited the Philippines, Manila restored a defense agreement that had been stuck in limbo for more than a year after Mr. Duterte threatened to terminate it. The agreement, which would continue to allow American troops and equipment to be moved in and out of the Philippines, could thwart China’s goal to push the American military out of the region.Part of the reason for Mr. Duterte’s turnaround: the delivery of millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines.Still, some Southeast Asian analysts have misgivings about Washington’s belated vaccine diplomacy.“The fact remains that the U.S. was really slow off the bat,” said Elina Noor, director of political-security affairs at the Asia Society Policy Institute. “And given that rich countries were hoarding vaccines when they became available, I think that sour taste still lingers.”China continues to be seen to be a reliable supplier for the vaccines it has produced. It has delivered 86 percent of the doses that it has promised to sell. And there remain concerns that the American companies have been slow to make deliveries. For those reasons, most Southeast Asian countries have not openly criticized China — and have not abandoned Chinese vaccines.Anti-China sentiment runs high in Vietnam, but the country accepted a donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm in June, causing a backlash among citizens who said they did not trust the quality of Chinese shots.“Even right in the middle of this emergency, I have no reason to trade my life or my family’s for a Chinese vaccine,” said Nguyen Hoang Vy, a manager for health care operations at a hospital in the city of Ho Chi Minh.It later emerged that the donated Sinopharm shots were meant for priority groups outlined by Beijing, deepening the cynicism toward China.“There are always some conditions attached,” said Huong Le Thu, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute who specializes in Southeast Asia, referring to China’s vaccine deals.Vietnam continues to battle an outbreak, and vaccines remain in short supply. Despite the earlier public anger, a private Vietnamese company acquired five million doses of Sinopharm for distribution, which local authorities began to administer this month.Muktita Suhartono More