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    American Firms Invested $1 Billion in Chinese Chips, Lawmakers Find

    A congressional investigation determined that U.S. funding helped fuel the growth of a sector now viewed by Washington as a security threat.A congressional investigation has determined that five American venture capital firms invested more than $1 billion in China’s semiconductor industry since 2001, fueling the growth of a sector that the United States government now regards as a national security threat.Funds supplied by the five firms — GGV Capital, GSR Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Walden International — went to more than 150 Chinese companies, according to the report, which was released Thursday by both Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.The investments included roughly $180 million that went to Chinese firms that the committee said directly or indirectly supported Beijing’s military. That includes companies that the U.S. government has said provide chips for China’s military research, equipment and weapons, such as Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, or SMIC, China’s largest chipmaker.The report by the House committee focuses on investments made before the Biden administration imposed sweeping restrictions aimed at cutting off China’s access to American financing. It does not allege any illegality.In August, the Biden administration barred U.S. venture capital and private equity firms from investing in Chinese quantum computing, artificial intelligence and advanced semiconductors. It has also imposed worldwide limits on sales of advanced chips and chip-making machines to China, arguing that these technologies could help advance the capabilities of the Chinese military and spy agencies.Since it was established a year ago, the committee has called for raising tariffs on China, targeted Ford Motor and others for doing business with Chinese companies, and spotlighted forced labor concerns involving Chinese shopping sites.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Hottest Job in Corporate America? The Executive in Charge of A.I.

    Many feared that artificial intelligence would kill jobs. But hospitals, insurance companies and others are creating roles to navigate and harness the disruptive technology.In September, the Mayo Clinic in Arizona created a first-of-its-kind job at the hospital system: chief artificial intelligence officer.Doctors at the Arizona site, which has facilities in Phoenix and Scottsdale, had experimented with A.I. for years. But after ChatGPT’s release in 2022 and an ensuing frenzy over the technology, the hospital decided it needed to work more with A.I. and find someone to coordinate the efforts.So executives appointed Dr. Bhavik Patel, a radiologist who specializes in A.I., to the new job. Dr. Patel has since piloted a new A.I. model that could help speed up the diagnosis of a rare heart disease by looking for hidden data in ultrasounds.“We’re really trying to foster some of these data and A.I. capabilities throughout every department, every division, every work group,” said Dr. Richard Gray, the chief executive of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. The chief A.I. officer role was hatched because “it helps to have a coordinating function with the depth of expertise.”Many people have long feared that A.I. would kill jobs. But a boom in the technology has instead spurred law firms, hospitals, insurance companies, government agencies and universities to create what has become the hottest new role in corporate America and beyond: the senior executive in charge of A.I.The Equifax credit bureau, the manufacturer Ashley Furniture and law firms such as Eversheds Sutherland have appointed A.I. executives over the past year. In December, The New York Times named an editorial director of A.I. initiatives. And more than 400 federal departments and agencies looked for chief A.I. officers last year to comply with an executive order by President Biden that created safeguards for the technology.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More

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    Microsoft Tops Apple to Become Most Valuable Public Company

    The shift is indicative of the importance of new artificial intelligence technology to Silicon Valley and Wall Street investors.For more than a decade, Apple was the stock market’s undisputed king. It first overtook Exxon Mobil as the world’s most valuable public company in 2011 and held the title almost without interruption.But a transfer of power has begun.On Friday, Microsoft surpassed Apple, claiming the crown after its market value surged by more than $1 trillion over the past year. Microsoft finished the day at $2.89 trillion, higher than Apple’s $2.87 trillion, according to Bloomberg.The change is part of a reordering of the stock market that was set in motion by the advent of generative artificial intelligence. The technology, which can answer questions, create images and write code, has been heralded for its potential to disrupt businesses and create trillions of dollars in economic value.When Apple replaced Exxon, it ushered in an era of tech supremacy. The values of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google dwarfed former market leaders like Walmart, JPMorgan Chase and General Motors.The tech industry still dominates the top of the list, but the companies with the most momentum have put generative A.I. at the forefront of their future business plans. The combined value of Microsoft, Nvidia and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, increased by $2.5 trillion last year. Their performances outshined Apple, which posted a smaller share price increase in 2023.“It simply comes down to gen A.I.,” said Brad Reback, an analyst at the investment bank Stifel. Generative A.I. will have an impact on all of Microsoft’s businesses, including its largest, he said, while “Apple doesn’t have much of an A.I. story yet.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber?  More

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    Microsoft Agrees to Remain Neutral in Union Campaigns

    The pledge is unprecedented for Big Tech and makes it easier for roughly 100,000 workers to unionize.Punctuating a year of major gains for organized labor, Microsoft has announced that it will stay neutral if any group of U.S.-based workers seeks to unionize.Roughly 100,000 workers would be eligible to unionize under the framework, which was disclosed Monday by Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, and the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, Liz Shuler, during a forum at the labor federation’s headquarters in Washington.The deal effectively broadens a neutrality agreement between Microsoft and a large union, the Communications Workers of America, under which hundreds of the company’s video game workers unionized early this year without a formal National Labor Relations Board election. Officially, it provides a framework in which any group of Microsoft workers can negotiate their own neutrality agreements with similar terms.As part of Monday’s announcement, Microsoft and the A.F.L.-C.I.O. said they would collaborate to resolve issues that arise from the adoption of artificial intelligence in the workplace.Mr. Smith and Ms. Shuler said the partnership would include meetings in which artificial intelligence experts from Microsoft brief labor leaders and workers on developments in the field. Microsoft’s experts will also seek input from workers so they can develop technology in a way that addresses their concerns, such as the risk of job elimination.The two sides said they would work together to help enact policies that would prepare workers for jobs that incorporate artificial intelligence.“Never before in the history of these American tech giants, dating back 50 years or so ago, has one of these companies made a broad commitment to labor rights,” Ms. Shuler said at the forum. “It is historic. Not only have they made a commitment, they formalized it and put it in writing.”Liz Shuler, president of A.F.L.-C.I.O., noted polling that found widespread concern among workers about losing their jobs because of artificial intelligence.Susan Walsh/Associated PressWorkers’ anxiety over artificial intelligence appears to have grown over the past few years. Hollywood writers and actors cited concerns about A.I. as a key reason for their monthslong strikes this year, while Ms. Shuler pointed to recent polling showing widespread concern among workers that artificial intelligence could cost them their jobs.“I can’t sit here and say it will never displace a job,” Mr. Smith said at the forum, alluding to artificial intelligence. “I don’t think that would be honest.” But he added that “the key is to try to use it to make jobs better,” saying the technology could eliminate tasks that people consider tedious.The unveiling of the A.I. initiative comes a few weeks after the board of the start-up OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, fired the company’s chief executive, Sam Altman, only to accept his reinstatement days later. The episode added to widespread concerns over how to ensure that companies develop and deploy artificial intelligence safely.Microsoft is OpenAI’s biggest investor and played a role in reinstating Mr. Altman.Asked if the OpenAI controversy was an impetus for the new partnership with organized labor, Mr. Smith demurred and said the labor initiative had been in the works for months.“I wouldn’t say what happened in the board room at OpenAI changed it,” he said in an interview after Monday’s forum. “But it raised questions about how A.I. is governed and perhaps it gave even more credence to the kind of partnership we’re announcing today.”When Microsoft announced a neutrality agreement with the communications workers union in June 2022, the offer was conditional: The company was in the process of acquiring the video game maker Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion. Microsoft pledged to stay neutral in union elections at Activision if the acquisition succeeded. (The acquisition has since been completed.)The key to artificial intelligence, said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, is “to try to use it to make jobs better.”Michael A. McCoy for The New York TimesA few months later, when roughly 300 workers sought to unionize at ZeniMax Media, a video game company owned by Microsoft, Microsoft agreed to abide by the neutrality agreement in that case as well. The agreement allowed them to indicate their preference for a union either by signing authorization cards or anonymously through an electronic platform, a more efficient process than an N.L.R.B. election.The 300 employees unionized — a rarity in Big Tech — and are negotiating a labor contract that includes language restricting the use of A.I. in their workplace.The Communications Workers of America is one of several dozen unions affiliated with the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the country’s largest labor federation. After the ZeniMax campaign, communications union officials believed that Microsoft would probably agree to stay neutral if the union sought to organize workers elsewhere at the company. But Microsoft had never explicitly agreed to do so beyond Activision or ZeniMax. More

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    New York Plans to Invest $1 Billion to Expand Chip Research

    The move is aimed at drawing $9 billion in corporate investment, as New York jockeys to host a new national semiconductor technology center.Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York announced on Monday a plan to invest $1 billion to expand chip research activities in Albany, N.Y., as the state aims to continue as a global semiconductor center.The plan is expected to create 700 new permanent jobs and retain thousands more, and includes the purchase of a new version of one of the world’s most expensive and sophisticated manufacturing machines, along with the construction of a new building to house it.At an event in Albany, Gov. Hochul positioned the investment as a national priority. “The Chinese are attempting to dominate this industry,” she said. “We have no intention of letting that happen. “The initiative should draw $9 billion in additional investments from chip-related companies, according to state officials. They expect it to boost New York’s chances to be selected to host a new National Semiconductor Technology Center, a planned centerpiece of the research portion of federal money that Congress allocated in 2022 as part of the CHIPS Act.“We’re hoping that this level of investment will attract more investment from the U.S. CHIPS Act to make it even bigger,” said Mukesh Khare, an IBM vice president who is general manager of its semiconductor operations.Besides IBM, which has long conducted chip research in Albany, companies participating in the project include Micron Technology, Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron.The focus of the effort is the Albany Nanotech Complex, a cluster of research buildings owned and operated by a state-affiliated nonprofit called NY CREATES. The state plans to spend about $500 million to build a new 50,000-square-foot clean room building.A different building is needed to accommodate the next major advance in a technology called lithography, which projects patterns of circuitry on silicon wafers to make chips. Advances in such equipment are needed to create smaller transistors and other circuitry to boost the power of computers and other devices.The most sophisticated chips are currently made using technology called extreme ultraviolet, or EUV, lithography. The Dutch company ASML is the dominant supplier of the machines, which officials in the United States and the Netherlands have prevented from being sold to China as part of an effort to limit that country’s progress in chip manufacturing.Albany Nanotech has owned prototype EUV tools and currently operates a commercial version. Under the new plan, New York will invest $500 million to purchase a next-generation EUV system — known by the phrase “High NA,” for numerical aperture — that will allow the center to develop much more advanced chips.Besides permanent research jobs, state officials estimated that the Albany project would generate 500 to 600 temporary construction jobs over roughly two years.Albany NanoTech won’t be the first to use the High NA tool. Intel has ordered the first system from ASML, which is expected to begin installing it in early 2024. The comparable machine is expected to arrive in Albany in late 2025, Mr. Khare said.The effort is unusual in several ways, including that the new machine will be owned by the state and operated as a public resource to help the broader U.S. semiconductor industry, he added.States in the Northeast United States seem destined to play a big role in the chip industry’s evolution. U.S. Commerce Department officials also said Monday that BAE Systems in New Hampshire will receive the first grant under the manufacturing portion of the CHIPS Act.Micron, a Boise, Idaho, company that is the only American maker of chips used to store data, has also said it will spend up to $100 billion over a decade or more to develop a new manufacturing site near Syracuse, N.Y. More

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    From Unicorns to Zombies: Tech Start-Ups Run Out of Time and Money

    After staving off collapse by cutting costs, many young tech companies are out of options, fueling a cash bonfire.WeWork raised more than $11 billion in funding as a private company. Olive AI, a health care start-up, gathered $852 million. Convoy, a freight start-up, raised $900 million. And Veev, a home construction start-up, amassed $647 million.In the last six weeks, they all filed for bankruptcy or shut down. They are the most recent failures in a tech start-up collapse that investors say is only beginning.After staving off mass failure by cutting costs over the past two years, many once-promising tech companies are now on the verge of running out of time and money. They face a harsh reality: Investors are no longer interested in promises. Rather, venture capital firms are deciding which young companies are worth saving and urging others to shut down or sell.It has fueled an astonishing cash bonfire. In August, Hopin, a start-up that raised more than $1.6 billion and was once valued at $7.6 billion, sold its main business for just $15 million. Last month, Zeus Living, a real estate start-up that raised $150 million, said it was shutting down. Plastiq, a financial technology start-up that raised $226 million, went bankrupt in May. In September, Bird, a scooter company that raised $776 million, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange because of its low stock price. Its $7 million market capitalization is less than the value of the $22 million Miami mansion that its founder, Travis VanderZanden, bought in 2021.“As an industry we should all be braced to hear about a lot more failures,” said Jenny Lefcourt, an investor at Freestyle Capital. “The more money people got before the party ended, the longer the hangover.”Getting a full picture of the losses is difficult since private tech companies are not required to disclose when they go out of business or sell. The industry’s gloom has also been masked by a boom in companies focused on artificial intelligence, which has attracted hype and funding over the last year.But approximately 3,200 private venture-backed U.S. companies have gone out of business this year, according to data compiled for The New York Times by PitchBook, which tracks start-ups. Those companies had raised $27.2 billion in venture funding. PitchBook said the data was not comprehensive and probably undercounts the total because many companies go out of business quietly. It also excluded many of the largest failures that went public, such as WeWork, or that found buyers, like Hopin.Carta, a company that provides financial services for many Silicon Valley start-ups, said 87 of the start-ups on its platform that raised at least $10 million had shut down this year as of October, twice the number for all of 2022.This year has been “the most difficult year for start-ups in at least a decade,” Peter Walker, Carta’s head of insights, wrote on LinkedIn.Venture investors say that failure is normal and that for every company that goes out of business, there is an outsize success like Facebook or Google. But as many companies that have languished for years now show signs of collapse, investors expect the losses to be more drastic because of how much cash was invested over the last decade.From 2012 to 2022, investment in private U.S. start-ups ballooned eightfold to $344 billion. The flood of money was driven by low interest rates and successes in social media and mobile apps, propelling venture capital from a cottage financial industry that operated largely on one road in a Silicon Valley town to a formidable global asset class akin to hedge funds or private equity.During that period, venture capital investing became trendy — even 7-Eleven and “Sesame Street” launched venture funds — and the number of private “unicorn” companies worth $1 billion or more exploded from a few dozen to more than 1,000.But the advertising profits gushing from the likes of Facebook and Google proved elusive for the next wave of start-ups, which have tried untested business models like gig work, the metaverse, micromobility and cryptocurrencies.Now some companies are choosing to shut down before they run out of cash, returning what remains to investors. Others are stuck in “zombie” mode — surviving but unable to grow. They can muddle along like that for years, investors said, but will most likely struggle to raise more money.Convoy, the freight start-up that investors valued at $3.8 billion, spent the last 18 months cutting costs, laying off staff and otherwise adapting to the difficult market. It wasn’t enough.As the company’s money ran low this year, it lined up three potential buyers, all of whom backed out. Coming so close, said Dan Lewis, Convoy’s co-founder and chief executive, “was one of the hardest parts.” The company ceased operations in October. In a memo to employees, Mr. Lewis called the situation “the perfect storm.”Such port-mortem assessments, where founders announce their company is closing and reflect on lessons learned, have become common.One entrepreneur, Ishita Arora, wrote this week that she had to “confront reality” that Dayslice, her scheduling software start-up, was not attracting enough customers to satisfy investors. She returned some of the cash she had raised. Gabor Cselle, a founder of Pebble, a social media start-up, wrote last month that despite feeling that he had let the community down, trying and failing was worth it. Pebble is returning to investors a small portion of the money it had raised, Mr. Cselle said. “It felt like the right thing to do.”Amanda Peyton was surprised by the reaction to her blog post in October about the “dread and loneliness” of shutting down her payments start-up, Braid. More than 100,000 people read it, and she was flooded with messages of encouragement and gratitude from fellow entrepreneurs.Ms. Peyton said she had once felt that the opportunity and potential for growth in software was infinite. “It’s become clear that that’s not true,” she said. “The market has a ceiling.”Venture capital investors have taken to gently urging some founders to consider walking away from doomed companies, rather than waste years grinding away.“It might be better to accept reality and throw in the towel,” Elad Gil, a venture capital investor, wrote in a blog post this year. He did not respond to a request for comment.Ms. Lefcourt of Freestyle Ventures said that so far, two of her firm’s start-ups had done exactly that, returning 50 cents on the dollar to investors. “We’re trying to point out to founders, ‘Hey, you don’t want to be caught in no man’s land,’” she said.One area that is thriving? Companies in the business of failure.SimpleClosure, a start-up that helps other start-ups wind down their operations, has barely been able to keep up with demand since it opened in September, said Dori Yona, the founder. Its offerings include helping prepare legal paperwork and settling obligations to investors, vendors, customers and employees.It was sad to see so many start-ups shutting down, Mr. Yona said, but it felt special to help founders find closure — both literally and figuratively — in a difficult time. And, he added, it is all part of Silicon Valley’s circle of life.“A lot of them are already working on their next companies,” he said.Kirsten Noyes More

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    Biden Faces Economic Challenges as Cost-of-Living Despair Floods TikTok

    Economic despair dominates social media as young people fret about the cost of living. It offers a snapshot of the challenges facing Democrats ahead of the 2024 election.Look at economic data, and you’d think that young voters would be riding high right now. Unemployment remains low. Job opportunities are plentiful. Inequality is down, wage growth is finally beating inflation, and the economy has expanded rapidly this year.Look at TikTok, and you get a very different impression — one that seems more in line with both consumer confidence data and President Biden’s performance in political polls.Several of the economy-related trends getting traction on TikTok are downright dire. The term “Silent Depression” recently spawned a spate of viral videos. Clips critical of capitalism are common. On Instagram, jokes about poor housing affordability are a genre unto themselves.Social media reflects — and is potentially fueling — a deep-seated angst about the economy that is showing up in surveys of younger consumers and political polls alike. It suggests that even as the job market booms, people are focusing on long-running issues like housing affordability as they assess the economy.The economic conversation taking place virtually may offer insight into the stark disconnect between optimistic economic data and pessimistic feelings, one that has puzzled political strategists and economists.Never before was consumer sentiment this consistently depressed when joblessness was so consistently low. And voters rate Mr. Biden badly on economic matters despite rapid growth and a strong job market. Young people are especially glum: A recent poll by The New York Times and Siena College found that 59 percent of voters under 30 rated the economy as “poor.”President Biden’s campaign is working with content creators on TikTok to “amplify a positive, affirmative message” on the economy, a deputy campaign manager said.Desiree Rios for The New York TimesThat’s where social media could offer insight. Popular interest drives what content plays well — especially on TikTok, where going viral is often the goal. The platforms are also an important disseminator of information and sentiment.“A lot of people get their information from TikTok, but even if you don’t, your friends do, so you still get looped into the echo chamber,” said Kyla Scanlon, a content creator focused on economic issues who posts carefully researched explainers across TikTok, Instagram and X.Ms. Scanlon rose to prominence in the traditional news media in part for coining and popularizing the term “vibecession” for how bad consumers felt in 2022 — but she thinks 2023 has seen further souring.“I think people have gotten angrier,” she said. “I think we’re actually in a worse vibecession now.”Surveys suggest that people in Generation Z, born after 1996, heavily get their news from social media and messaging apps. And the share of U.S. adults who turn to TikTok in particular for information has been steadily climbing. Facebook is still a bigger news source because it has more users, but about 43 percent of adults who use TikTok get news from it regularly, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.It is difficult to say for certain whether negative news on social media is driving bad feelings about the economy, or about the Biden administration. Data and surveys struggle to capture exactly what effect specific news delivery channels — particularly newer ones — have on people’s perceptions, said Katerina Eva Matsa, director of news and information research at the Pew Research Center.“Is the news — the way it has evolved — making people view things negatively?” she asked. It’s hard to tell, she explained, but “how you’re being bombarded, entangled in all of this information might have contributed.”More Americans on TikTok Are Going There for NewsShare of each social media site’s users who regularly get news there, 2020 vs. 2023

    Source: Pew Research Center surveys of U.S. adultsBy The New York TimesMr. Biden’s re-election campaign team is cognizant that TikTok has supplanted X, formerly known as Twitter, for many young voters as a crucial information source this election cycle — and conscious of how negative it tends to be. White House officials say that some of those messages accurately reflect the messengers’ economic experiences, but that others border on misinformation that social media platforms should be policing.Rob Flaherty, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, said the campaign was working with content creators on TikTok in an effort to “amplify a positive, affirmative message” about the economy.A few political campaign posts promoting Mr. Biden’s jobs record have managed to rack up thousands of likes. But the “Silent Depression” posts have garnered hundreds of thousands — a sign of how much negativity is winning out.In those videos, influencers compare how easy it was to get by economically in 1930 versus 2023. The videos are misleading, skimming over the crucial fact that roughly one in four adults was unemployed in 1933, compared with four in 100 today. And the data they cite are often pulled from unreliable sources.But the housing affordability trend that the videos spotlight is grounded in reality. It has gotten tougher for young people to afford a property over time. The cost of a typical house was 2.4 times the typical household income around 1940, when government data start. Today, it’s 5.8 times.Nor is it just housing that’s making young people feel they’re falling behind, if you ask Freddie Smith, a 35-year-old real estate agent in Orlando, Fla., who created one especially popular “Silent Depression” video. Recently, it is also the costs of gas, groceries, cars and rent.“I think it’s the perfect storm,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s this tug of war that millennials and Gen Z are facing right now.”Inflation has cooled notably since peaking in the summer of 2022, which the Biden administration has greeted as a victory. Still, that just means that prices are no longer climbing as rapidly. Key costs remain noticeably higher than they were just a few years ago. Groceries are far more expensive than in 2019. Gas was hovering around $2.60 a gallon at the start of 2020, for instance, but is around $3.40 now.Young Americans Are Spending More and Earning MoreIncome after taxes and expenditures for householders under 25

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey By The New York TimesThose higher prices do not necessarily mean people are worse off: Household incomes have also gone up, so people have more money to cover the higher costs. Consumer expenditure data suggests that people under 25 — and even 35 — have been spending a roughly equivalent or smaller share of their annual budgets on groceries and gas compared with before the pandemic, at least on average.“I think things just feel harder,” said Betsey Stevenson, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, explaining that people have what economists call a “money illusion” and think of the value of a dollar in fixed terms.And housing has genuinely been taking up a bigger chunk of the young consumer’s budget than in the years before the pandemic, as rents, home prices and mortgage costs have all increased.Housing Is Eating Up Young People’s BudgetsShare of spending devoted to each category for people under 25

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure SurveyBy The New York TimesIn addition to prices, content about student loans has taken off in TikTok conversations (#studentloans has 1.3 billion views), and many of the posts are unhappy.Mr. Biden’s student-loan initiatives have been a roller coaster for millions of young Americans. He proposed last year to cancel as much as $20,000 in debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, a plan that was estimated to cost $400 billion over several decades, only to see the Supreme Court strike down the initiative this summer.Mr. Biden has continued to push more tailored efforts, including $127 billion in total loan forgiveness for 3.6 million borrowers. But last month, his administration also ended a pandemic freeze on loan payments that applied to all borrowers — some 40 million people.The administration has tried to inject more positive programming into the social media discussion. Mr. Biden met with about 60 TikTok creators to explain his initial student loan forgiveness plan shortly after announcing it. The campaign team also sent videos to key creators, for possible sharing, of young people crying when they learned their loans had been forgiven.The Biden campaign does not pay those creators or try to dictate what they are saying, though it does advertise on digital platforms aggressively, Mr. Flaherty said.“It needs to sound authentic,” he said. More

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    China’s Xi Jinping Draws Elon Musk, Tim Cook and other U.S. CEOs to Gala in San Francisco

    Amid frosty U.S.-China relations, Xi Jinping emphasized friendship in an address to executives from Apple, Boeing, Nike and others.The streets outside the San Francisco hotel where Chinese leader Xi Jinping addressed a crowd of American business executives Wednesday night were chaotic, echoing with police sirens and the chants of protesters. A woman had strapped herself to a pole 25 feet in the air in front of the hotel, yelling “Free Tibet!” as a cold rain fell.But inside the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency, the atmosphere was warm and friendly. More than 300 executives and officials listened attentively as Mr. Xi — the leader of a country often considered America’s greatest rival — spoke for over half an hour about an enduring friendship between China and the United States that could not be diminished by recent turmoil.Mr. Xi spoke of pandas. He spoke of Ping-Pong. He spoke of Americans and Chinese working together during World War II to battle the Japanese. He addressed the tensions that have rocked U.S. and Chinese relations in the past year only briefly and obliquely, comparing the relationship to a giant ship that was trying to navigate through storms.“The number one question for us is: are we adversaries, or partners?” Mr. Xi asked. Seeing the other side as a competitor, he said, would only lead to misinformed policy and unwanted results. “China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States.”Among those who paid thousands of dollars to attend the dinner and hear Mr. Xi’s message were Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, Larry Fink of BlackRock, and Jerry Brown, the former governor of California. They mingled with executives from Boeing, Pfizer, Nike and FedEx. Elon Musk popped by during the cocktail hour to greet Mr. Xi, but departed before dinner began.Mr. Xi’s tone was welcomed by many of those in attendance, who believe that more engagement between the United States and China will improve the lives of people in both countries, reduce misunderstandings and potentially even deter a war.“I think it’s important Americans and Chinese are meeting again face to face,” John L. Holden, managing director for China of McLarty Associates, a consultancy, said as he queued outside the hotel. “This is not a magic bullet, but it is something that can provide possibilities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.”President Biden met with Mr. Xi earlier in the day at the Filoli Estate outside of San Francisco.Doug Mills/The New York TimesMr. Xi’s positive tone, and the enthusiasm of some of the event’s attendees, struck a sharp contrast with much of the recent conversation in the United States about China, which has focused on potential economic and security threats.Republican lawmakers have blasted President Biden for his “zombie engagement” with China. Recent polls have shown that Americans are more concerned about the rise of China than at any point since the end of the Cold War.At a news conference Wednesday, Mr. Biden celebrated a successful meeting with Mr. Xi earlier that day, which had resulted in agreements to fight drug trafficking and increase communication between the countries’ militaries. But when asked if he still thought Mr. Xi was a dictator, Mr. Biden replied: “Well, look, he is.”China has for decades been an attractive market for American businesses because of its size and growth, but the country’s slowing economy and increasingly authoritarian bent have been cooling the enthusiasm executives feel toward China.Foreign companies say the Chinese government has been slowly squeezing them out in favor of local competitors. While some think Chinese leaders have been shaken by a recent drop-off in foreign investment in China and are motivated to mend ties, executives are still concerned about recent crackdowns in China on foreign business and strict regulations, including on how companies use Chinese data.For companies that manufacture in China, supply chain disruptions during the pandemic also sent a strong message that firms should not rely on a single country for their goods, and kicked off a trend toward “de-risking.” Still, some American businesses are still making a lot of money in China. “I don’t think that anybody thinks that one dinner, or one visit, or one conference is going to reverse all the hostility that has built up between the U.S. and China,” Michael Hart, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said in an interview on Tuesday. But he added that if Mr. Xi had a friendlier stance toward the United States, “that will hopefully mean a slightly more friendly operating environment toward U.S. business in China.”Supporters of Mr. Xi near his hotel in San Francisco on Tuesday.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesIn the ballroom, 34 tables were laid with roses and orchids. They were numbered 1 to 39, skipping any number with a four, which in Chinese sounds similar to death, as well as unlucky number 13. Guests chose between a coffee-crusted Black Angus steak and vegetable curry with jasmine rice and toasted pistachios.Gina Raimondo, the U.S. secretary of commerce who spoke at the dinner, thanked Mr. Xi for a productive meeting earlier that day, where Chinese officials had met with Mr. Biden and his deputies.“We all know that we have differences,” Ms. Raimondo said at the dinner. “I’m not going to pretend otherwise. That being said, President Biden has been very clear that while we compete with China and other countries, we do not seek conflict and we do not seek confrontation.”“We want robust trade with China,” Ms. Raimondo said. She said that many of the people in attendance remained keenly interested in doing business in China. “I know that because many of you come to see me and tell me that,” she said, to laughter.Mr. Xi, who has overseen China’s military modernization and increasingly robust projection of power abroad, emphasized China’s commitment to a rules-based international system, its efforts to eradicate poverty, and its peaceful nature. Mr. Xi also touted his personal connections to the United States, including the time he spent in Iowa in the 1980s and an old photo he said he keeps of himself in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.“China has no intention to challenge the United States or unseat it,” he said.Stephen A. Orlins, the president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, one of the groups sponsoring the event, said he was there when the committee hosted previous Chinese leaders in the United States — Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — and that all had projected a friendly demeanor. He recalled Mr. Deng famously donning a cowboy hat during a U.S. visit in 1979.“When they stand in front of an American, they tend to be more constructive and pro-American. It’s just part of what happens,” Mr. Orlins said. “They’re not going to come to an event like this and put their thumb in the eye of us as the sponsors and the audience.”Mr. Xi touted his connections to the United States during his speech. Jeff Chiu/Associated PressMr. Orlins’ group and the other organizer of the event, the U.S.-China Business Council, went through a logistical Olympics to set up the dinner. Because of security concerns, the organizers could not reveal the location until the day before, and guests received an invitation to an event with an unnamed “senior Chinese leader.”Mr. Orlins said his group knew that Mr. Xi had attended every meeting of the international grouping known as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and concluded that he would do the same when the meeting occurred in San Francisco this week. So they extended an invitation nine months ago to host Mr. Xi.Three or four weeks ago, Mr. Orlin said he was told that Mr. Xi’s presence was still uncertain, but that he should start preparations.The Chinese protocol office peered over every attendee; they were extremely sensitive about security, especially since someone had crashed a sedan into the Chinese consulate in San Francisco just weeks before. The White House insisted that the dinner happen after Mr. Biden’s meeting with Mr. Xi Wednesday, so as not to upstage that event.The groups had to hire copious security and staff, and even fly in translation equipment, since local supplies were already claimed by the Asia-Pacific conference. Even though far more people wanted to attend the event than there was capacity for, Mr. Orlin said the $40,000 the groups charged for some tables would only partially recoup the costs of the event.Mr. Orlins said the Chinese had prepared three versions of a speech Mr. Xi could deliver that night. After Wednesday’s events with Mr. Biden, Mr. Xi had picked the friendliest one. More