FirstFT: Biden to warn Xi over Ukraine

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Joe Biden will warn Xi Jinping the US is prepared to retaliate if Beijing actively supports Russia in Ukraine, in the first call between the two leaders since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of his neighbouring country.

The Biden administration has become increasingly concerned about China’s possible willingness to assist Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which is now in its fourth week.

The Financial Times reported this week that Moscow had requested several categories of weapons, including drones, from Beijing.

China publicly claims to have a neutral stance to the war and has avoided describing it as an “invasion”, referring instead to the Ukraine “issue” or “crisis”. Beijing has also opposed sanctions and consistently blamed Nato and the EU for pressuring Putin ahead of the war.

In Ukraine on Friday, Russian rockets hit the outskirts of the western city of Lviv, according to local authorities, close to the border with Nato member Poland. The attack signalled Moscow’s willingness to expand its bombardment to residential areas far away from the fierce shelling of cities like Kharkhiv and Mariupol in the east and south of Ukraine.

The FT’s US-China correspondent Demetri Sevastopulo and Greater China correspondent Kathrin Hille discussed China’s position in the war on Twitter Spaces yesterday.

Other news on the war in Ukraine:

  • US secretary of state Antony Blinken yesterday poured cold water on hopes of a diplomatic settlement to the war in Ukraine and vowed to investigate “war crimes” carried out by the Russian military.

  • BNY Mellon, the US custody bank, says it expects to take a $100mn revenue hit in the first three months of this year following its decision to pull back from Russia. Western banks have limited ways to exit Russia: sell up, wind down or pass the business to the state.

  • Russian oil exports to India have quadrupled this month in a sign of the vast reshaping of global energy flows since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • Russian missiles have brought destruction to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv but as Tim Judah reports it is adapting to a wartime footing. Today’s military briefing explains why Ukraine needs air defence and not a no-fly zone. Our Visual Storytelling Team has mapped out how Putin’s invasion has foundered in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

  • The Kremlin’s propaganda campaign is testing the loyalty of Russian citizens. Separately, Wikipedia has become a battleground between Russian and Ukrainian editors.

Follow our live blog and updated maps for the latest on the conflict. Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas. Send your feedback on this newsletter to [email protected]. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Gordon

Five more stories in the news

1. China sails carrier through Taiwan Strait China sailed an aircraft carrier through the sensitive Taiwan Strait earlier today, just hours before the Biden-Xi call. An incursion last month of Chinese fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace, and the war in Ukraine, have led to questions about Taiwan’s military preparedness.

2. Meta sued in Australia for allegedly ‘misleading’ crypto ads Australia’s competition regulator has taken Meta to court for allegedly allowing misleading cryptocurrency advertisements to appear on Facebook.

3. White House Covid tsar resigns Jeff Zients, who has led the Biden administration’s response to Covid-19, is stepping down. He will be replaced by Dr Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who has become one of the most recognisable faces of the pandemic in the US.

4. Amazon closes $8.45bn deal to acquire film studio MGM The ecommerce giant has completed its largest media deal to date after US and European competition regulators declined to block the move. The acquisition comes as Amazon refocuses on efforts to attract and retain new members to its $119-a-year Prime membership scheme.

5. UK paid ‘blood money’ to secure Iran detainees release Britain has been accused paying “blood money” to secure the release of two UK-Iranian dual nationals from Tehran by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. But the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori is a positive sign for an Iran nuclear deal, says the FT in an editorial.

The day ahead

Quadruple Witching Day Today is the day stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single-stock futures expire, creating a flood of trading volume and arbitrage opportunities. (FT, Investopedia)

Economic data The National Association of Realtors is expected to report existing home sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.1mn units in February, compared with 6.5mn the previous month. The Conference Board is expected to report a 0.3 per cent increase in its leading economic index for the month of February, following a drop of 0.3 per cent in January.

Fed speakers President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Charles Evans speaks at an event in the mid-western city two days after the US central bank increased interest rates for the first time since the pandemic struck. Separately, Richmond president Thomas Barkin speaks at an event entitled “Containing Inflation” in Baltimore.

Deadline for Chelsea FC bids American billionaires, sport moguls and property developers interested in buying the Premier League football club must submit their bids today. The sale was triggered after Roman Abramovich, who has owned the club since 2003, was placed under sanctions.

What else we’re reading

The war of Putin’s imagination Maria Stepanova, the award-winning Russian writer, reflects on how fear as well as dictatorship led her homeland to launch its disastrous invasion of Ukraine. “What we are living through might be termed the death of the conceivable,” she writes.

Hong Kong rich race to get their yachts and cars out of the city Fears of ever more draconian Covid-19 restrictions are leading wealthy Hong Kong residents, many of them expats, to sell their yachts and luxury cars or move them out of the city. Fifty-three cars were shipped by just one firm from Hong Kong to the UK last month, a broker told the FT.

Business is finally collaborating on cyber security A decade ago, the Obama administration tried to force US companies to collaborate on cyber defence. It did not go well. But once-taboo concepts such as industrial strategy are back in vogue as western companies fear a Russian attack.

A battery-powered symphony for EVs In their basic form, electric cars are silent. Hans Zimmer wants to change that. The Oscar-winning composer is turning from the silver screen to the open road to answer the question: what should an electric car sound like?

The fastest growing companies in Asia-Pacific The fourth annual ranking of high-growth companies in Asia-Pacific is our most competitive to date. An ecommerce business from the Philippines tops the list, while Japan is home to the most growth champions.


Would you travel across the frozen wilds of Swedish Lapland in a hot-air balloon? One travel operator from the Masai Mara is looking to do just that.

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Source: Financial Times