February 21, 2024

Your Tuesday briefing: China Fights as Economy Sputters

China’s economy slowed this spring, according to official numbers released yesterday, in anticipation of a quick post-pandemic recovery. Analysts said high debt levels, a real estate crisis, weak exports and foreign investment have hampered growth.

The weakened economy appears to have contributed to a change in the willingness of senior Chinese officials to engage in diplomatic talks with geopolitical rivals abroad, and to show more openness about economic policy at home.

This week, Xie Zhenhua, the country’s chief climate official, is negotiating in Beijing with John Kerry, his American counterpart, for the first time in almost a year. Talks began as China sweltered under a heat wave. In the past few days, temperatures have risen above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38 Celsius) in Beijing, and they have reached a record of 126 Fahrenheit in the western region of Xinjiang.

Kerry warned that the United States and China were running out of time to avoid a climate disaster. The US has tried to isolate the climate talks from other geopolitical disagreements such as the fate of Taiwan, but with little success.

“If the United States continues its crackdown on China, increasing tension and hostility between the two sides, it is unlikely to help any kind of cooperation, including on climate change,” wrote one newspaper controlled by the Communist Party.

Analysis: Listen to “The Daily,” which delves into the history of China’s economic challenges.

In other Chinese news:

  • Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, has not been seen in public for three weeks, sparking global speculation in his absence.

  • A US congressional panel focused on national security said it had “deep concerns” about a research partnership between UC Berkeley and Chinese entities.


The Kerch Strait Bridge, which connects the occupied Crimean Peninsula with the Russian mainland, was attacked yesterday morning. Two people were killed and the bridge was temporarily closed.

Rail service over the bridge has resumed, but the damage will complicate Russia’s attempt to resupply its troops in southern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials celebrated the attack, which Russia said was carried out by maritime drones, but refused to officially take credit.

Initial reports indicated that today’s explosions were much less intense than those of a similar attack in October. But after last month’s failed rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group, the attack was cited by major Russian bloggers as more evidence of the failure of Russia’s military leadership.

Grain meal: Hours after the explosions were reported, Moscow announced that it was pulling out of the Black Sea grain agreement, which helped keep global food prices stable. The risk of renewed volatility wheat markets rattledexposing vulnerable countries to the prospect of a new round of food insecurity.


Biden opposed the Israeli leader’s planned reform of the judicial system, which is expected to lead to mass demonstrations today. Netanyahu’s right-wing government could vote on parts of his controversial plan to reduce the power of the Supreme Court as early as this weekend.

Biden’s invitation came a day before he was set to meet with Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, at the White House, which was widely seen as a slight to Netanyahu. No date has been set for Netanyahu’s meeting, and it is unclear whether the White House has received an invitation.

The opposition: Israeli politicians who oppose the overhaul do not have the numbers to vote down the plan. But Israelis have repeatedly protested, and powerful groups – including military reservists, technology leaders, academics, senior doctors and union leaders – are trying to persuade the government to back down.

Every year, thousands of Irish Travelers and Gypsies, as many still refer to themselves, gather in the English countryside for the Appleby Horse Fair. Here, they find a place to celebrate their seminal culture without facing discrimination.

“It gives a sense of place, belonging, a sense of ancestry,” said one organizer. “For that week we really feel like we’re at home.” See photos from the festival.

Since manga was first introduced to the US in the 1980s, American companies have grappled with how to adapt the popular comic genre – which reads, in its native Japanese, right to left – for American readers.

To an English reader, it seems like reading a native language manga from cover to cover. Some publishers solved that issue by flipping the page order, or even creating mirror images of each page so that the panels read from left to right. That was expensive and controversial, which left many characters on the left, for example.

Words were also a challenge: Lettering is meant to be part of art, but few Americans can read it. And it’s hard to provide sound effects, because Japanese dreams with onomatopoeic words that don’t exist in English.

Now, after many years of experimentation, manga adaptations are much closer to the original form. There are subtitles, translations and instructions on how to read the panels. “What we’re trying to do is mimic the experience of a Japanese reader,” said one literati.

Here is the visual article, which shows the adaptations better than I can explain in words.

Do butter chicken at home.

Friendship and jealousy come together in “Afire”, a psychological German film about a bitter young writer and the woman he lusts after.

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