A member of Uganda’s Olympic team tested positive for COVID-19 in Japan after being vaccinated and testing negative before travel

tokyo olympics

A member of Uganda’s Olympic team tested positive for COVID-19 in Japan after getting AstraZeneca’s vaccine and testing negative at home, The Washington Post reported.

It’s the first detection of the virus in incoming athletes five weeks ahead of the games.

The member who tested positive was denied entry into the country and was instead sent to a government-run facility while the rest of the team was able to head to Osaka.

Japan is waiving the required two-week quarantine for international travelers for many Olympic teams but athletes will need to be tested daily for the virus.

While vaccines are not 100% effective at stopping infection, the number of people who are fully vaccinated that have tested positive has raised some alarm especially as mutations like the Delta variant that originated in India spread.

Many Japanese residents have protested the hosting of the games as COVID-19 spreads in the country. More than 429,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking the Japanese government to cancel the Games.

Over 70% of the country thinks the Olympics should either be postponed or canceled entirely, according to a Kyodo News poll.

Japan recently lifted its state of emergency, which put limits on gatherings, and restrictions on restaurants and stores in most areas. The country has only fully vaccinated 6.4% of its population, according to data from Bloomberg.

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Tokyo Olympics organizers are handing out more than 150,000 condoms to athletes – but also asking recipients not to use them at the Olympic village

A single bed with a blanket reading Tokyo 2020 in Japan
A bed in the Olympic village in Tokyo.

  • Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics plan to hand out more than 150,000 condoms to athletes.
  • They’ll also ask the more than 11,000 athletes at the games to continue social distancing.
  • “The distributed condoms are not meant to be used at the Olympic Village,” an official told AFP.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics plan to hand out more than 150,000 condoms to the world’s top athletes – but will also ask them to not use them at the Olympic village, according to multiple reports.

The organizing committee made the request last week, Agence France-Presse reported.

The wire service said Japan’s condom industry feared an “anticlimax” at the event, which is expecting to bring more than 11,000 athletes to Tokyo. Many will stay in the Olympic Village.

A guard in blue stands in front of the Tokyo Olympics Athletes Village fence
A guard at the Olympic village in May.

Condoms have been handed out to Olympians since at least the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korea.

At the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, about 110,000 condoms were handed out, Insider reported at the time.

About 100,000 were distributed during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. About 450,000 male and female condoms were handed out at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Athletes arriving in Tokyo this summer will be told to continue social distancing. They’ll be asked to bring the condoms to their home countries as a way of raising awareness of HIV and AIDS, Reuters reported.

When the International Olympic Committee rolled out its rules in February, they included a ban on physical contact between athletes. RT reported on the social media backlash, quoting a Twitter user who said there would be a “0% chance they will not be having sex.”

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The world really, really needs the Olympics this year

tokyo olympics
People in Japan wear masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic in front of Olympics rings.

  • The Summer Olympics in Japan were rescheduled from 2020 to August 2021.
  • Despite concerns over the COVID pandemic and the big logistical work needed to put on the Games, they should go on.
  • The Olympics can be a symbol of hope, and hope is what we need right now.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We really, really need the Olympics this year.

After an unprecedented period apart, holding the Olympics would be a powerful symbol that the world can start to come back together again. They can be a beacon of hope and proof of progress against the pandemic.

The Games must go on.

There are still a lot of challenges. The virus continues to claim thousands of lives around the world each day and has overwhelmed the healthcare system in places like India and Brazil. The distribution of vaccines is moving out far too slowly in most countries, including in Japan. And the organizing effort to bring in thousands of athletes from hundreds of countries to safely compete in a multi-week event will be enormous.

The Games were already pushed back from their original 2020 date, and for these reasons, there are many calling for the Olympics to be delayed again..

But while these challenges are real and the undertaking enormous, it’s important to remember what the games represent. They are a singularly powerful symbol of our common humanity. While the realities of politics are sometimes injected into the event – whether through boycotts, cheating scandals, or the occasional friction on the field – the Olympics show us that at our best it is possible for the whole world to play by the same rules.

The Games are also one of the most iconic illustrations of what humans can achieve by setting seemingly impossible goals and expending tireless effort. That is a desperately needed spirit at this moment. After the harrowing days of COVID-19, we could all use a confidence boost. The exhilarating experience of the Games can reassure us that new possibilities lay beyond the horizon.

The head of communications at the International Olympic Committee, Christian Klaue recently told me that organizers plan to build the event around a “light at the end of the tunnel” theme. This does not mean we have emerged from the darkness. The Games should not serve as a celebration or a victory lap around the track. After more than a year and a half, weariness has started to take hold. The Games can help to reinvigorate spirits for what will hopefully be the final stretch.

Under normal conditions, international coordination on the scale of the Games is an extraordinarily challenging endeavor. Klaue says the Olympics very likely, “has the most stakeholders of any event in the world.” Yet, now, even the most basic health and logistical questions result in major divisions, taking much longer to resolve. From travel to housing, meals to medical facilities, the complexity has been compounded.

Yet, we have learned and advanced enough at this point to stage a global event safely. Smaller sporting events have been able to bring in international participants and sports leagues like the NBA have implemented sophisticated contract tracing programs. Organizers have the ability to vaccinate athletes, staff, and media. Using high-quality, rapid tests, it is possible to verify on site that no one entering the facilities is infected.

In many ways COVID-19 has torn the world apart. Countries have shut their borders, hoarded vaccines, and failed to coordinate an effective global response. There is a real risk that the pandemic will only further serve to exacerbate existing inequity and divisions for years to come. Stitching that frayed fabric back together needs to start now. I can think of no better opportunity to rebuild ties than through the Olympics.

There is also a need to start imagining what comes next. The Olympics provide us with the chance to step back from the stress and struggles we presently face. What can we do better or just differently? Looking out across so much loss and devastation, one can’t help but begin to reimagine how we live.

Not since the end of World War II have we been given an opening to rethink international institutions and ideals. Steps were taken back then with the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to better manage conflicts and global crises. Clearly, there is a lot more work needed and there is no more opportune time than during a crisis.

So, let’s meet this momentous moment. Not only hold the Games, but use them to start a new dialogue with the world. What does our collective future look like and how do we get there? If we can agree to play sports, there has to be more we can do together. Let’s hold the games not because we need a break or a bright spot during a bleak period in history. Let’s hold them because they offer a unique chance for global compromise and to begin imagining how we change the way the world works.

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The State Department is warning Americans not to travel to Tokyo ahead of the Olympics

tokyo olympics
  • Japan is experiencing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.
  • The surge has prompted protests to postpone the Tokyo Olympics.
  • The US State Department just advised citizens not to travel to Japan.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US State Department is warning Americans to not travel to Japan because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Coming just ahead of the Olympics, the department issued a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory on Monday, the highest warning against travel.

There have been mounting calls inside Japan to postpone the Olympics amid the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

An online petition to cancel the Olympics, which went live last Wednesday, has so far garnered more than 388,000 signatures.

Billionaire SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son also joined the calls to postpone the event.

“Currently more than 80% of people want the Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Who and on what authority is it being forced through?” Son wrote on Twitter in Japanese on Saturday.

A state of emergency in Tokyo has been extended until the end of May to combat the spread of the virus as only 3.5% of the population has been vaccinated so far.

Japan has recorded more than 722,600 coronavirus cases, with over 12,300 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank and the 2nd-richest person in Japan, joins the growing chorus of voices calling to cancel the Tokyo Olympics

masayoshi son softbank
Masayoshi Son is Japan’s second-richest person, with a net worth of more than $30 billion.

  • Billionaire SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has joined calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics.
  • “Currently more than 80% of people want the Olympics to be postponed or canceled. On what authority is it being forced through?” Son wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
  • Tokyo and other parts of Japan are still under a state of emergency amid a new COVID-19 wave.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Billionaire SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has joined growing calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics as Japan struggles with a new coronavirus surge and many parts of the country remain under a state of emergency.

“Currently more than 80% of people want the Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Who and on what authority is it being forced through?” Son wrote on Twitter in Japanese on Saturday.

Son, who founded SoftBank in 1981 and has invested millions in financial, healthcare, and tech companies like Uber, ByteDance, and SoFi through the conglomerate, is Japan’s second-richest person with a net worth of $30.3 billion.

The day after his first tweet, the billionaire investor wrote: “There’s talk of a huge penalty (if the Games are canceled), but if 100,000 people from 200 countries descend on vaccine-laggard Japan and the mutant variant spreads, I think we could lose a lot more: Lives, the burden of subsidies if a state of emergency is called, a fall in gross domestic product, and the public’s patience.”

It’s still unclear just how many people will be at the Tokyo Olympics, where about 11,000 athletes are expected to compete. In March, the Japanese government decided to ban foreign spectators from attending the Games due to the emergence of new COVID-19 variants. As for local fans, the organizing committee has not announced how many spectators will be allowed to attend the Games, though it previously said it was considering capping capacity at 50%. Son did not immediately reply to Insider’s request for clarification on the 100,000 number mentioned in his tweet.

Son’s remarks came after International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates said at an online news conference on Friday that the Games would “absolutely” go ahead even if Japan were under a state of emergency.

protesters hold signs at a demonstration against the tokyo olympics, may 9 2021
A protest against the Olympics on May 9, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. With less than three months remaining until the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, concern continues to linger in Japan over the feasibility of hosting such a huge event during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SoftBank CEO’s voice joins growing calls to halt the Olympics as Japan struggles to keep its coronavirus outbreak under control. A poll last week found that more than 80% of Japanese residents want the Olympics to be canceled. In the same week, a group of 6,000 Japanese doctors wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga saying that Japan’s healthcare system could be overwhelmed if the Games are held as scheduled. Many have taken to the streets to protest the Games going ahead.

The Games, which were already postponed from their original dates in 2020, are set to kick off on July 23. Meanwhile, the government said on Sunday that it’s considering extending the states of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, and seven other prefectures beyond their original May 31 end date.

Japan recorded 5,041 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and only 2% of its population is fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

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Why Japanese eel can cost over $90

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: This is the most expensive fish in Japan. In January 2018, a kilogram of these baby eels cost around $35,000. That’s more than bluefin tuna, and almost as much as the price of gold at the time.

But catching these eels is just the beginning. It can take a year of work until they’re large enough to be sold. So what makes these eels so popular? And why are they so expensive?

People in Japan have eaten eel for thousands of years. Restaurants like this can sell 40 to 50 tons of eel each year. Japanese eel, or Anguilla japonica, can be found across East Asia, but overfishing and changing habitats have caused a huge decline in eel populations. Since 1980, the global catch of eel has declined by more than 75%, which has had a huge effect on price.

Rui Kinoshita: What is happening these days is the difference in the price is so much each year. It can be tripled compared to last year. Next year can be a third of the year before.

Narrator: Unlike other types of fishing, the majority of eels are raised, not caught as adults. Young eels, called glass eels, are caught in the wild and raised on farms like this. No farms have been able to efficiently breed the eels in captivity. So farmers depend on the catch of young eels to make a profit.

Michio Tanaka: The amount I raise here varies each year, but roughly speaking it’s about 30 tons. About 150,000 or 160,000 eels.

Narrator: Raising this many eels requires constant attention. Michio has been working as an eel farmer for almost 40 years.

Michio Tanaka: As for farming eels, I don’t think eels are easy fish to grow. If one disease spreads or one accident happens in the pond, you can never make a profit. This can be done only through daily care.

Narrator: After the cost of the eels themselves, feeding them is the most expensive part. Two to three times a day, workers feed eels this. It’s a mixture of fish meal, wheat, soybean meal, and fish oil.

Michio Tanaka: I am trying to feed them in a way that food gets around to all 150,000 baby eels. That is a difficult task. I pay a lot of attention to those baby eels. If something happens to that one pond, everything is gone.

Narrator: After six to 12 months of work, eels are big enough to be sold. Workers unload the eels and sort them by size to determine where they’ll be sold. Experienced workers can quickly tell the difference just by feel. Some of these eels will end up at restaurants like Surugaya, which has been serving eel for over 150 years. That high demand is part of the reason young eels are so expensive. The final dish is called kabayaki. It may look simple, but preparing it takes years to master.

Rui Kinoshita: There is a saying about cooking eel. It takes three years to master the skewering. Slicing takes eight years. Grilling needs a whole life to master.

Narrator: Workers prepare eel alive to maintain freshness, but this makes handling much more difficult. Workers remove the bones and cut eels to the proper size for the skewers.

Rui Kinoshita: Finally, grilling. It takes a whole life to master. Until you die.

Narrator: Eel has to be constantly monitored while it’s cooking to achieve even grilling.

Rui Kinoshita: The best eels for us have good texture. Not too hard, not too soft.

Narrator: Chefs steam, then grill each eel three times, dipping it into sauce between each grilling.

Rui Kinoshita: Presentation and taste have to be equally good. When you open the lid, it has to look beautiful.

Narrator: Kabayaki presented in a lacquer box with rice is called unajū. It can cost up to $91 depending on the price of adult eel. If prices are too high, restaurants struggle to make a profit.

Rui Kinoshita: The amount of eel catch is a matter of life and death for eel restaurants. We all are very concerned about it. I myself am concerned too.

Narrator: In Japan, eels are eaten year-round, but consumption peaks in the summer, and it’s become a big part of some local economies. But the high demand has caused concern. In 2014, Japanese eels were classified as endangered, and because of low domestic catch, the majority of eels eaten in Japan are imported from China and Taiwan.

Kouji Yamamoto: When they can’t catch enough young eel, the price goes up. When the price is so high, what can those farmers do? Finding the right balance is currently the biggest problem.

Narrator: There have been efforts to improve the eel population, like regulating fishing, releasing adult eels back into the water, and researching how to hatch eels in farms. But the future of Japanese eels remains unclear, and the price is likely to increase with demand.

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Japan is rethinking how to use its tanks to prepare for a potential clash with China

Japan Self-Defense Force tanks
Japanese tanks during a live-fire exercise at the foot of Mount Fuji, August 22, 2019.

  • Japan built a large and capable armored force to counter the Soviets during the Cold War.
  • But a rising China poses a new challenge, and Japan is changing how it designs and uses its armor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Despite a few successes early in World War II, Japanese armor was hopelessly outclassed by Allied tanks as soon as they arrived in large numbers.

Those experiences and the threat of a Soviet invasion led the Japanese to put much more effort into post-war tank designs. By the 1990s, Japan had a large and capable armored force.

But the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) has had to recalibrate in recent decades.

The threat from a rising China has forced Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) to shift from an armor- and artillery-intensive force based in its north – where it would’ve responded to a Soviet invasion – to a more mobile one able to reach southwestern Japan at a moment’s notice.

To do this, the JSDF is making a number of changes, including investing heavily in transportation capability, new armored vehicle designs, and reforming the GSDF’s tank arm.

Fending off the Soviets

Japan Japanese Type 61 tank
Type 61 main battle tanks during an exercise at Camp Fuji in Japan, November 18, 1985.

Japan’s tank force was actually quite modern and innovative during its development between the world wars. But while Germany and the Allies had the industrial capacity to update or create new tanks during World War II, Japan’s industry was comparatively limited.

Moreover, since Japanese plans in that war involved pushing south into areas where massive tank battles were unlikely, most funding and resources went to its navy and air services.

After the war, Japan – now with access to Western technology and designs and convinced of the importance of tanks – focused much more on developing a capable armored force to fend off the Soviets.

For most of the Cold War, Japan’s tank force was made up of the Type 61 and Type 74 main battle tanks, armed with 90 mm and 105 mm guns, respectively. They were both capable designs for their time and were fielded in large numbers.

In 1990, the GSDF introduced the Type 90. At 50 tons and with a 120 mm gun, it is by all accounts a first-rate tank. Equipped with modular composite armor, a laser rangefinder, fire-control computer, thermal and night vision, and an autoloader, it is similar to Germany’s Leopard 2A4.

The Japanese believed Hokkaido, the northernmost of the home islands and the closest to Soviet territory, would be the frontline of any invasion, and most of Japan’s tanks were stationed there.

By 1976, the GSDF had some 1,200 tanks and about 1,000 artillery pieces, mostly in Hokkaido, where much of that armored force is still stationed.

Lighter and more mobile

Japan Self-Defense Force Type 74 tank
Type 74 main battle tanks during a live-fire exercise at the foot of Mount Fuji, August 24, 2017.

The threat of Russian invasion was virtually nonexistent after the Cold War, and the JSDF decided to cut down on the overall number of tanks, which fell from about 900 in service in 1995 to about 570 now.

The JSDF plans to reduce the total to 300 in the coming years.

The GSDF continued acquiring Type 90s to replace the older Type 61 and Type 74s, and Japan has continued developing new armored vehicles, fielding the Type 10 main battle tank and the Type 16 Mobile Combat Vehicle in the last decade.

Introduced in 2012, the Type 10 is meant to replace the Type 74 and compliment the Type 90.

At 48 tons fully loaded, the Type 10 is lighter and more maneuverable than the Type 90. Whereas the Type 90’s size limits it to operating in Hokkaido and around Mt. Fuji, the Type 10 can operate anywhere Japanese law allows.

Japan Self-Defense Force tank armored vehicle
A Japanese Type 10 tank, top left, a Type 90 tank, top right, and Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle, bottom, during an exercise, January 12, 2020.

The Type 10 has modular ceramic composite armor with nano-crystal steel. The modules can be added or removed depending on mission or damage. It also has a 120 mm gun and an auto loader.

The electronics suite is perhaps the Type 10’s most impressive feature, with an advanced command-and-control system that allows it to communicate and share information with nearby JGSDF tanks and units.

The Type 16 was introduced a few years after the Type 10. Although it is wheeled, it has a tank turret and functions as a light tank, conducting close combat, counterattacks, and direct-fire infantry support.

Armed with a 105 mm rifled gun and weighing just 26 tons, the Type 16 can operate safely on Japan’s entire road network and be carried in Air Self Defense Force aircraft.

A new southern threat

Japan Self-Defense Force Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle
A Type 16 during a live-fire exercise in Japan, May 23, 2020.

Adopting lighter tanks may seem counterintuitive, but it actually fits perfectly within the force the JSDF is building – one capable of dealing with the new threat posed to Japan’s southwest by China.

“As we got farther from the Cold War and different threats arose, Japan started to shift overall defense thinking about where the real threat is emanating from,” said Jeffrey Hornung, an expert on Japanese security and foreign policies at the RAND Corporation.

“It starts to crystallize, really in the last decade, decade and a half, [to] where it’s the China threat,” Hornung told Insider.

That threat is primarily in the air and at sea, and centers on the Senkaku Islands, which Japan administers but China claims, calling them the Diaoyu Islands.

Japanese leaders believe that since China is not trying to export global revolution like the Soviet Union and is focused on just the Senkakus, a large-scale ground invasion of its home islands is unlikely.

“They don’t anticipate China doing any sort of amphibious invasion of Japanese territory, and so in that environment they don’t see a need for the heavy artillery and tanks.” Hornung said.

“Instead, they see that you have all these islands in the southwest island chain that if the GSDF are going to be involved in, they have to rapidly get there, and they have to have the capability to fight in that environment,” Hornung added.

A need for rapid deployment

GettyImages 2447119
Japanese troops exit an armored vehicle during an exercise, August 30, 2003.

Tanks would still be essential if China were to attack Japan’s larger offshore islands, where thousands of people live. As a result, the GSDF is developing rapid-deployment divisions and brigades, including a new unit trained specifically in amphibious warfare.

It is also acquiring more transportable armored vehicles and artillery systems, emphasizing anti-ship and anti-air capability, and buying V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to help transport its soldiers.

But the GSDF still faces problems – namely its lack of sealift capacity.

Despite the main threat seen as facing Japan’s southwest islands, half of the GSDFs rapidly deployable basic operational units are still based in Hokkaido.

While the Type 16 can be deployed by air, the Type 90 and Type 10 would have to be transported by sea. The majority of its soldiers and hardware would also likely need to be deployed by ship, especially if they are headed to Japan’s outer islands.

The only vessels capable of such tasks that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has are its three Ōsumi-class tank landing ships. Japan plans to acquire three new transport vessels by 2024, but these are considerably smaller, and the total number of capable vessels would remain dangerously low.

“They developed these [rapid deployment] capabilities without more coordination on the airlift and sealift from the other services that’s required, and that’s where there’s a problem,” Hornung said.

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Inside the largest fish market in the world, where a single tuna can sell for up to $3 million

  • The Toyosu Market in Tokyo is the largest fish market in the world, and is home to world-famous tuna auctions.
  • Expert bidders flock to the market each morning for a chance to buy top-tier tuna, sometimes paying as much as $3 million.
  • We followed a veteran tuna bidder, who explained the ins and outs of tuna auctions and his industry’s role in marine sustainability.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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Private equity firm Bain Capital could take Japanese conglomerate Toshiba private, report says

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Toshiba Corp is seen as Window cleaners work on the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
The logo of Toshiba Corp is seen as Window cleaners work on the company’s headquarters in Tokyo

US private equity firm Bain Capital could take the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba private, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Bain Capital has started talks with Japanese banks that could help finance the deal, according to Reuters. The US financial firm may collaborate with peers for a co-investment into the struggling Japanese company.

Toshiba produces a wide range of products such as elevators, nuclear technology, semiconductors, home electronics, batteries, medical equipment and IT products. Until it sold off its majority stakes in its flash memory unit in 2017, it was one of the major players in the chip industry.

Bain Capital was involved in the sell-off of Toshiba’s flash memory unit, now known as Kioxia Holdings. Toshiba still has 40% stakes in its former division.

The company has however faced issues since then, plagued by accounting scandals and running up losses in its US nuclear business. Yet it remains a major producer of Japanese military equipment and plays a role in the country’s energy supply as a leader in nuclear power.

Toshiba’s stock price reached two-year lows in the first quarter, but has since recovered, albeit shakily. On Wednesday, stock fell by 3.3% and closed at 4,205.00 yen ($38.92).

Earlier this month, private equity and advisory firm CVC Capital Partners had made a $20 billion offer to take the firm private, which sparked controversy amongst Toshiba executives. Toshiba’s chief executive Nobuaki Kurumatani stepped down shortly afterwards and has been replaced with the former chairman of the company, Satoshi Tsunakawa.

After the tumultuous reaction, CVC Capital distanced itself from the plans on Tuesday, saying in a letter, it would “step aside” for now, Reuters said.

Various other firms have also been said to be thinking about bidding on a Toshiba takeover, including Japanese banks and North American financial firms.

If the deal goes through, Toshiba would be one of the few companies going against the current wave of companies going public.

Regulatory changes in the US have meant direct listings are more accessible and SPACs have become a thriving market. This has been fueled by an increase in retail investing and companies’ desire to become publicly traded as soon as possible, based on the idea that this will drive profitability. From the start of the year to mid-March, more special purpose acquisition companies had listed than in the whole of 2020, but not all of them have met with red-hot success.

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When it comes to China, the US need to figure out which fights are principled, and which fights are petty

Biden and Xi Jinping
Then Vice President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a California meeting aimed at strengthening Chinese investment in the state. China has now the lead in 5G infrastructure, but experts say don’t count Silicon Valley out yet.

  • John Kerry was in China this week discussing climate change and some people are upset about it.
  • They think cooperation on that issue could stop the US from being aggressive with Beijing about a host of other issues.
  • They’re delusional.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s special envoy on climate, John Kerry, went to Shanghai this week to discuss how best the two largest economies in the world can address the threat of climate change. Despite the meeting being pretty standard stuff, it still has some US-China watchers completely losing their minds.

This freak out crew would prefer to have cordial relations between the two countries end tomorrow and instead have the US put maximum pressure on the Chinese Communist Party. They would prefer a world completely split in two, divided by a “digital iron curtain” with the US and fellow democracies on one side, and China, Russia, and their allies on the other. Economic ties would be cut, the flow of people would slow to a trickle, and the prospect of war would heighten across the world.

To them, Kerry and his message of cooperation on climate change could derail that future. That’s a false choice, but despite it’s absurdity the idea has become pervasive. Over at the Brookings Institution they decided that Kerry could go rogue, becoming a one-man wrecking ball for the entire government’s more muscular China policy. This is ridiculous on its face. Ultimately it is President Biden who will decide the direction of our China policy – and, as one former Obama administration Asia hand told me dismissing this theory, “John Kerry is no panda hugger.”

This is a delicate moment. The boundaries of the US-China relationship are being redrawn. We are watching trust rapidly dissipate between world powers in real time, and we shouldn’t waste what little trust we have now on empty antagonism. There will likely come a time when we wish we had that trust back.

A bomb and the time bomb

In the 1950s and 1960s the end of human civilization was staring its destruction in the face in the form of the nuclear bomb. The bomb was getting bigger and deadlier; spreading to more countries; and had already laid waste to cities and contaminated populations.

And so in 1963 during some of the most frigid times of the Cold War between the United States and USSR, the key nuclear powers of the time (which also included the United Kingdom), signed the Limited Testing Ban Treaty. The treaty regulated how and where countries could test their bombs, and it set up an emergency line of communication between powers to avert disaster – “the hotline.”

This all amounted to one critical thread of cooperation between the US and USSR during an otherwise entirely uncooperative period. The Cold War went on, but the prospect of nuclear winter shrank.

Today the threat facing human civilization is climate change, and the two countries that most need to work together to solve it – the US and China – are on the verge of another conflict that will force the planet to choose sides. In both countries there are people who are calling for a cessation of cooperative interactions. To them, every cooperative meeting is a Trojan Horse, during which one side will magically convince the other to forget every other issue pulling them apart.

But what we learned from the Cold War is that the US and an adversarial superpower are perfectly capable of sustaining fierce competition, while also cooperating enough to keep the world from destroying itself. When it comes to the US and China today, not only are we not in as dark a place as we were with the USSR in 1963, but we also have far more economic and business ties to break before we get there.

Until we’re serious about breaking those ties entirely (we’re not yet), we shouldn’t act like we are. That’s called posturing, and the United States ought to be above that.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t aggressive regarding issues that concern us – like Xinjiang, Hong Kong, North Korea, and Taiwan. It does not mean we aren’t aggressive when China bullies our allies, like Australia, or engages in cyber hacking. It does not shrink our commitment to democracy. But it does mean finding ways to cooperate where we can and keeping lines of communication open.

I mean my God, even in 1963 they had the hotline.

Cooperation

Here’s how I know we’re not serious about cutting commercial and social ties with China just yet. Right now the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is working on a sweeping bipartisan bill to address China’s rising power. In it there’s hundreds of million of dollars for defense and programs to country China’s telecommunications rise. But for companies that want to move their operations and supply lines out of China there’s just $15 million. The US government loses $15 million in the couch cushions. That is not serious money.

But what people who do business in China will tell you is that getting public data, or having the mobility and access to interview customers to do business there, is getting harder. On March 19, Anne Stevenson-Yang, founder of China-focused investment firm J Capital Research Ltd testified before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Capitol Hill.

She told attendees that more and more of China is state run – that it’s not opening it’s economy anymore, that it’s closing it. Public economic data that used to be easy to get started evaporating back in 2015, shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping took power. This back pedaling does not just make Chinese society more brittle, she argued, but it also creates incentives in the Chinese economy that put investors and multinational corporations at risk. The solution, in some of those instances, is more cooperation – not less.

“The practical remedy for faked data, for example, on a corporate, industrial, and macroeconomic level, is to grant American researchers unfettered access to conduct surveys, interview individuals, and review financial records of all sorts in a legal proceeding, including tax records, audit papers, invoices, and communications,” she said. “A key impediment to such data collection is China’s law forbidding independent surveys. Survey teams need to be able to access respondents within a framework of privacy law but not one of data supervision.”

Achieving that requires cooperation, but that doesn’t mean Stevenson-Yang isn’t realistic about where it is not possible. For example, she recommends treating Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese network gear as spyware and supports technology export restrictions.

If China closes and gradually makes itself a terrible place to do business, that is on China. It is on the US government to ensure that our multinational corporations are ethical, transparent, and consider our domestic interests at the center of their business. In the meantime the most productive thing to do is engage with China to protect investors and US businesses as best we can.

Besides, this is America and we do capitalism. If you want to do business in China and don’t mind the uncertainty of having your product randomly barred from military complexes and personnel; or you want to deal with your company being harassed and boycotted for not endorsing cotton from Xinjiang or whatever, knock yourself out.

Separating the principled from the petty

In this fragile moment, there is a danger of confusing the principled with the petty. When that happens, any slight can lead to a stand off.

There are petty new features of this more antagonistic relationship we all just have to get used to rolling off our backs. For example, China forced the world to get used to its hyper-aggressive “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, and now it has to get used to a US strategy that it dislikes – US led multilateralism. To China, when we rally our allies to make joint statements about things like human rights abuses in Xinjiang, that’s bullying.

Too bad. When the US is run correctly, that’s how we do things. Beijing will have to get over it.

This is to make space for the issues that Beijing and Washington cannot get over, most of which was discussed between President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday. Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit the White House since Biden took office. It is a sign of the gravity of the matters they have to discuss – like North Korea, Taiwan and a maintaining “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that Kerry’s and Suga’s meetings fall at the same time, perhaps it’s not. Both are meant to address exigent situations that demand cooperation at highest levels of government and both must be had. Until the day comes when we are serious about ending the US-China relationship – and that day very well may come – we should continue to seek cooperation where it benefits the people and institutions of the United States of America. Anything else is an exercise in fantasy, or worse – just posturing.

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