More stories

  • in

    How China Pulled So Far Ahead on Industrial Policy

    For more than half a century, concerns about oil shortages or a damaged climate have spurred governments to invest in alternative energy sources.In the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter placed solar panels on the roof of the White House as a symbol of his commitment to developing energy from the sun. In the 1990s, Japan offered homeowners groundbreaking subsidies to install photovoltaic panels. And in the 2000s, Germany developed an innovative program that guaranteed consumers who adopted a solar energy system that they would sell their electricity at a profit.But no country has come close to matching the scale and tenacity of China’s support. The proof is in the production: In 2022, Beijing accounted for 85 percent of all clean-energy manufacturing investment in the world, according to the International Energy Agency.Now the United States, Europe and other wealthy nations are trying frantically to catch up. Hoping to correct past missteps on industrial policy and learn from China’s successes, they are spending huge amounts on subsidizing homegrown companies while also seeking to block competing Chinese products. They have made modest inroads: Last year, the energy agency said, China’s share of new clean-energy factory investment fell to 75 percent.The problem for the West, though, is that China’s industrial dominance is underpinned by decades of experience using the power of a one-party state to pull all the levers of government and banking, while encouraging frenetic competition among private companies.China’s unrivaled production of solar panels and electric vehicles is built on an earlier cultivation of the chemical, steel, battery and electronics industries, as well as large investments in rail lines, ports and highways.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

  • in

    Few Chinese Electric Cars Are Sold in U.S., but Industry Fears a Flood

    Automakers in the United States and their supporters welcomed President Biden’s tariffs, saying they would protect domestic manufacturing and jobs from cheap Chinese vehicles.The Biden administration’s new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles won’t have a huge immediate impact on American consumers or the car market because very few such cars are sold in the United States.But the decision reflects deep concern within the American automotive industry, which has grown increasingly worried about China’s ability to churn out cheap electric vehicles. American automakers welcomed the decision by the Biden administration on Tuesday to impose a 100 percent tariff on electric vehicles from China, saying those vehicles would undercut billions of dollars of investment in electric vehicle and battery factories in the United States.“Today’s announcement is a necessary response to combat the Chinese government’s unfair trade practices that endanger the future of our auto industry,” Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement. “It will help level the playing field, keep our auto industry competitive and support good-paying, union jobs here at home.”On Tuesday, President Biden announced a series of new and increased tariffs on certain Chinese-made goods, including a 25 percent duty on steel and aluminum and 50 percent levies on semiconductors and solar panels. The tariff on electric vehicles made in China was quadrupled from 25 percent. Chinese lithium-ion batteries for electric cars will now face a 25 percent tariff, up from 7.5 percent.The United States imports only a few makes — electric or gasoline — from China. One is the Polestar 2, an electric vehicle made in China by a Swedish automaker in which the Chinese company Zhejiang Geely has a controlling stake. In a statement, Polestar said it was evaluating the impact of Mr. Biden’s announcement.“We believe that free trade is essential to speed up the transition to more sustainable mobility through increased E.V. adoption,” the company said.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

  • in

    Walmart Introduces a New Store Brand for ‘Quality Food’

    The Better Goods store brand will carry plant-based, gluten-free and higher-end food and could help the retailer attract more affluent shoppers.When prices for grocery staples surged in 2021 and 2022, some Americans who had not regularly shopped at Walmart increasingly turned to the retailer, which is known for its affordable prices. Now, the company is trying to keep those new customers and attract others with a new selection of plant-based, gluten-free and deluxe culinary fare.On Tuesday, the retailer unveiled a new store brand that it said would make “quality food accessible.” Executives described the brand, Better Goods, as its largest foray into the private-label food business in 20 years.Better Goods items will include oat-milk frozen desserts, plant-based macaroni and cheese, and frozen appetizers like chicken curry empanadas and Brie Phyllo Blossoms. More than 70 percent of the products will cost less than $5, the retailer said.“All of our research tells us that the customer expects these types of goods,” said Scott Morris, a senior vice president of private food and consumables brands at Walmart. “They expect to have these elevated ingredients and offerings that we provide, and they are also looking for those healthier options.”The retailer says it is seeing growth in its store brands across all demographics, particularly shoppers from Generation Z, a group that includes people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s.Analysts are eager to find out if, as inflation eases, the retailer can retain higher-income individuals who started shopping at Walmart in the last few years. The company is taking a number of steps to make itself more attractive to customers. Walmart has said it plans to open new stores and to remodel existing ones. It has also changed signs, displays and other visual merchandising in ways that analysts say should make stores more appealing to affluent shoppers.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

  • in

    Inflation Is Stubborn. Is the Federal Budget Deficit Making It Worse?

    Economists are divided over whether the growing amount of federal borrowing is fueling demand and driving up prices.A crucial question is hanging over the American economy and the fall presidential election: Why are consumer prices still growing uncomfortably fast, even after a sustained campaign by the Federal Reserve to slow the economy by raising interest rates?Economists and policy experts have offered several explanations. Some are essentially quirks of the current economic moment, like a delayed, post-pandemic surge in the cost of home and auto insurance. Others are long-running structural issues, like a lack of affordable housing that has pushed up rents in big cities like New York as would-be tenants compete for units.But some economists, including top officials at the International Monetary Fund, said that the federal government bore some of the blame because it had continued to pump large amounts of borrowed money into the economy at a time when the economy did not need a fiscal boost.That borrowing is a result of a federal budget deficit that has been elevated by tax cuts and spending increases. It is helping to fuel demand for goods and services by channeling money to companies and people who then go out and spend it.I.M.F. officials warned that the deficit was also increasing prices. In a report earlier this month, they wrote that while America’s recent economic performance was impressive, it was fueled in part by a pace of borrowing “that is out of line with long-term fiscal sustainability.”The I.M.F. said that U.S. fiscal policies were adding about a half a percentage point to the national inflation rate and raising “short-term risks to the disinflation process” — essentially saying that the government was working at cross-purposes with the Fed.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

  • in

    U.S. Economy Grew at 1.6% Rate in First-Quarter Slowdown

    Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, increased at a 1.6 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year.The U.S. economy remained resilient early this year, with a strong job market fueling robust consumer spending. The trouble is that inflation was resilient, too.Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, increased at a 1.6 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was down sharply from the 3.4 percent growth rate at the end of 2023 and fell well short of forecasters’ expectations.Economists were largely unconcerned by the slowdown, which stemmed mostly from big shifts in business inventories and international trade, components that often swing wildly from one quarter to the next. Measures of underlying demand were significantly stronger, offering no hint of the recession that forecasters spent much of last year warning was on the way.“It would suggest some moderation in growth but still a solid economy,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Bank of America. He said the report contained “few signs of weakness overall.”But the solid growth figures were accompanied by an unexpectedly rapid acceleration in inflation. Consumer prices rose at a 3.4 percent annual rate in the first quarter, up from 1.8 percent in the final quarter of last year. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, prices rose at a 3.7 percent annual rate.Taken together, the first-quarter data was the latest evidence that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to tame inflation have stalled — and that the celebration in financial markets over an apparent “soft landing” or gentle slowdown for the economy had been premature.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

  • in

    Blinken’s Visit to China: What to Know

    Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is in China this week as tensions have risen over trade, security, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the Middle East crisis.Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is meeting officials in China this week as disputes over wars, trade, technology and security are testing the two countries’ efforts to stabilize the relationship.The United States is heading into an election year in which President Biden will face intense pressure to confront China’s authoritarian government and offer new protections for American businesses and workers from low-priced Chinese imports.China is courting foreign investment to help its sluggish economy. At the same time, its leader, Xi Jinping, has been bolstering national security and expanding China’s military footprint around Taiwan and the South China Sea in ways that have alarmed its neighbors.Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi have held talks to prevent their countries’ disputes from spiraling into conflict, after relations sank to their lowest point in decades last year. But an array of challenges could make steadying the relationship difficult.Showdowns Over China’s Territory ClaimsThe United States has been pushing back against China’s increasingly assertive claims over swaths of the South China Sea and the self-governed island of Taiwan by building security alliances in Asia.That effort has prompted more concerns in Beijing that the United States is leading a campaign to encircle China and contain its rise.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

  • in

    Yellen Sees ‘More Work to Do’ as China Talks End With No Breakthrough

    Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen was warmly received in China, but it was evident that the level of trust between the two sides does not run deep.Four days of top-level economic meetings between the United States and China concluded in Beijing on Monday with no major breakthroughs, but the world’s two largest economies agreed to hold more discussions to address rising friction over trade, investment and national security.The conversation is poised to become even more difficult, however, as hopes of greater economic cooperation collide with a harsh political reality: It is an election year in the United States, and antipathy toward China is running high. At the same time, Chinese officials appeared unmoved by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s urging that China scale back its recent surge of green energy technology exports, which could threaten American jobs.Despite a warm welcome on her second trip to China as Treasury secretary, which included meetings with the premier and with senior economic and finance officials, it was evident that the level of trust between the two sides does not run deep.“There is much more work to do,” Ms. Yellen said at a news conference in Beijing on Monday. “And it remains unclear what this relationship will endure in the months and years ahead.”The Treasury secretary added that she believed that China was engaging in the discussions in good faith and that progress was being made. “I do not want to see the U.S. economic relationship, or the overall relationship with China, deteriorate and fray,” she said.The most pressing matter that is likely to divide them in the coming months is how the Biden administration plans to address concerns that Chinese exports of electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar panels pose a threat to the very industries that the United States is spending trillions of dollars to develop domestically.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

  • in

    Poor Nations Are Writing a New Handbook for Getting Rich

    Economies focused on exports have lifted millions out of poverty, but epochal changes in trade, supply chains and technology are making it a lot harder.For more than half a century, the handbook for how developing countries can grow rich hasn’t changed much: Move subsistence farmers into manufacturing jobs, and then sell what they produce to the rest of the world.The recipe — customized in varying ways by Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and China — has produced the most potent engine the world has ever known for generating economic growth. It has helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, create jobs and raise standards of living.The Asian Tigers and China succeeded by combining vast pools of cheap labor with access to international know-how and financing, and buyers that reached from Kalamazoo to Kuala Lumpur. Governments provided the scaffolding: They built up roads and schools, offered business-friendly rules and incentives, developed capable administrative institutions and nurtured incipient industries.But technology is advancing, supply chains are shifting, and political tensions are reshaping trade patterns. And with that, doubts are growing about whether industrialization can still deliver the miracle growth it once did. For developing countries, which contain 85 percent of the globe’s population — 6.8 billion people — the implications are profound.Today, manufacturing accounts for a smaller share of the world’s output, and China already does more than a third of it. At the same time, more emerging countries are selling inexpensive goods abroad, increasing competition. There are not as many gains to be squeezed out: Not everyone can be a net exporter or offer the world’s lowest wages and overhead.Robotics at a car factory in China. Today, manufacturing accounts for a smaller share of the world’s output, and China already does more than a third of it. Qilai Shen for The New York TimesWe 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