Friday, December 1, 2023

FirstFT: Tense US hearing for TikTok chief

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Good morning. TikTok’s chief executive was grilled today by US lawmakers, who called the Chinese-owned app a “cancer” and tool of surveillance.

In a tense hearing, Shou Zi Chew told legislators that the viral-video app will be kept “free from any manipulation by any government”, but he struggled to head off a potential US ban.

TikTok has become a flashpoint in rising tensions between the US and China, with Washington concerned that it could be used to steal sensitive US data.

Washington has demanded that the US arm of TikTok should be separated from its Chinese owners, but China is unlikely to co-operate.

“Forcing the sale of TikTok will seriously damage the confidence of investors from all over the world, including from China, on investing in the United States,” the commerce ministry said before the hearing, adding that it would “firmly” oppose such a move.

The other events I will be watching today include:

  • Japan inflation: February consumer price index inflation rate data will be released this morning.

  • UK-Israel meeting: Prime minister Rishi Sunak will host his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in London.

  • Melbourne food and wine festival: The annual festival kicks off today with events in Melbourne and across Victoria.

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Five more top stories

1. Toshiba’s board has approved a $15bn buyout proposal led by Japan Industrial Partners. The deal, in which the 147-year-old conglomerate will be taken private by a consortium backed by 17 domestic companies and six financial institutions, paves the way for the country’s biggest ever take-private deal.

2. Swiss financial regulator Finma has defended its decision to wipe out a huge swath of risky subordinated bonds as part of the Credit Suisse rescue deal. The move, which rendered SFr16bn ($17bn) of investments worthless, has become one of the most controversial elements of the shotgun marriage between Credit Suisse and UBS.

3. The crypto fugitive Do Kwon has been arrested in Montenegro, according to interior minister Filip Adzic. In a statement on Twitter, Adzic said the crypto entrepreneur behind the $40bn implosion of the terraUSD and luna digital tokens had been detained by police at Podgorica Airport with falsified documents.

4. Indian opposition figure Rahul Gandhi has been sentenced to two years in jail for remarks he made about Narendra Modi by a court in the prime minister’s home state of Gujarat, raising the temperature of Indian politics a year ahead of a national election. Here’s what else we know about the sentencing of the best-known figure in the Congress party.

5. China’s population of super-rich fell more than 14 per cent last year as President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy, regulatory crackdowns and a property collapse took their toll on the nation’s largest fortunes. The number of billionaires in China fell by 164 to 969 compared with a decline of 25 to 691 in the US, according to the 2023 M3M Hurun Global Rich List.

How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.

The Big Read

© FT montage/AFP/Getty Images

The EU wants to make solar power its single biggest source of energy by 2030. That would mean almost tripling its solar power generation capacity over the next seven years. The problem is more than three-quarters of the EU’s solar panel imports in 2021 came from a single country: China.

We’re also reading . . .

Chart of the day

There could hardly be a less auspicious time for US business to attend Beijing’s flagship investment conference. But this weekend Americans including former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and investor Ray Dalio will head to Beijing. Recent earnings calls out of the US show that awareness of the geopolitical landscape is tempered by optimism over the Chinese market.

Take a break from the news

As shares of Credit Suisse hover under $1, the price of its memorabilia is on the rise. When the storied Swiss bank ceased to exist practically overnight baseball caps, ski hats and other items bearing its logos were posted on auction sites and racked up bids, as collectors tried to grab pieces of fashion, and financial, history.

Additional contributions by Tee Zhuo and Emily Goldberg

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