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China’s Vaccine, TikTok, Pakistan Stock Exchange: Your Tuesday Briefing

Jessica Bennett, who covers gender and culture for The Times, spoke with Zee, Tiana Day, Shayla Turner and Brianna Chandler — four teenage girls who organized a protest and are part of the young generation at the forefront of activism for racial justice.

Zee and Tiana, neither of you had ever led a protest before. What propelled you?

Zee: It’s crazy. I’ve never been to a protest before — like, ever. I got inspired by what people were doing all across America, but there was no protest in Nashville at the time. I was like, why isn’t Tennessee doing anything? Why are they silent?

So I was like, enough is enough. We’re going to do something.

Tiana: For me, I was never really an activist before. But this movement lit a fire in me. I live in San Ramon, a suburban town in California, and I’ve grown up around people who didn’t look like me my whole life. And I’ve been constantly trying to fit in. I would stay out of the sun so I wouldn’t tan. I would straighten my hair every day. There’s so many things that I did to try to suppress who I was and what my culture was. I just never felt like myself.

But I have always had this, like, boiling thing, this boiling passion in my body to want to make a change in the world. We bought three cases of water because we thought it was enough. It was, like, four miles straight of people who were there to support the movement.

How have your families responded?

Shayla: My mom actually found out I was protesting through the newspaper. She was in Walgreens and did a double take because I was on the cover of the The Chicago Tribune.

What’s something about your generation that people get wrong?

Brianna: That our anger is not valid, that we don’t have a reason to be angry, that we don’t have a reason to riot. You know, there is that super popular Malcolm X quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.”

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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Yuan rises as US lifts China’s currency manipulator label — Asian market latest

Responding to the move Tuesday, Zou Zhiwu, deputy head of China’s customs authority, called the decision the “right choice.”

The Chinese central bank continued to guide the yuan higher on Tuesday. The yuan’s daily reference rate against the US dollar increased to 6.8954, the strongest level since last August.

The yuan rose in Asia on Tuesday.

On the onshore market in Shanghai, the yuan traded at around 6.874 per US dollar, its highest level in more than five months.

In offshore trading, where the yuan moves more freely, one dollar could buy 6.873 yuan, also the strongest since last July.

The yuan has been climbing higher lately as the US-China trade deal moves closer toward becoming a reality. The US decision to lift China’s currency manipulator status is a “most precise and definitive” de-escalation of trade tensions to date, said Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader.

“With the yuan strengthening ahead of the [phase one] deal signing, it’s indicating the potential for further improvement in trade relations,” he wrote.

Separately, government data showed Tuesday that China’s global trade fell 1% in 2019 to $4.6 trillion, as measured by the value in US dollars of the country’s imports and exports.

China’s overall trade with the United States plunged nearly 15% last year, according to the data. But a senior customs official said that China’s imports from the United States rebounded in November and December — especially with the trade of soybeans, pork and cars.

Zou also said that China’s increase of US imports after the signing of the initial trade deal will not affect its trade with other countries.

Stocks around the region were mixed after China’s trade data was released.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) pulled back from early gains and was last down 0.2%. Earlier, it briefly rose above the 29,000 level for the first time since last July.
China’s Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) also erased earlier gains and inched 0.1% lower.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225), though, gained 0.6%, while South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) rose 0.4%.

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Asian markets mixed after soaring pork prices push China’s inflation rate to eight-year high — Asian market latest

China’s Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) dropped 0.4%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) dipped 0.1%.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225) opened lower, but then reversed losses and traded flat. South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) started out in negative territory but was up about 0.2% by midday.
China’s consumer price index surged 4.5% in November, the quickest growth rate since January 2012 and faster than market expectations, according to government statistics released on Tuesday morning. It also accelerated from a 3.8% jump in October.
The pickup in inflation was mainly because of a surge in food prices, especially pork. Pork prices soared 110% from a year earlier, as the African swine fever has ravaged the nation’s pig herds.

It might be bad news for the economy, as the higher inflation could leave the central bank less room to ease monetary policy, according to analysts.

Because of the rising inflation, markets may lower expectations for a key lending rate cut by the People’s Bank of China, said Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist for AxiTrader. Innes was referring to the medium-term lending facility rate, a benchmark against which the Chinese central bank lends to commercial banks.

Investors are also looking ahead to other key economic events later this week, including a policy meeting by the Federal Reserve that starts on Tuesday and the interest rate decision by the new European Central Bank on Thursday.

Meanwhile, traders are awaiting clues about the status of US-China trade talks before the next wave of US tariffs on Chinese goods that is due to go into effect on Sunday.

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Apple’s Tim Cook is now top adviser to the business school at ‘China’s Harvard’

The university, known as “China’s Harvard,” has a storied history as a cradle of Chinese political and economic thought. It’s one of the most elite education institutions in the country, and was even attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The School of Economics and Management said Cook chaired the board’s annual meeting last Friday. His appointment was praised by board founder and former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, who said in a letter published Tuesday that he hopes the board “will become better and better” under Cook. Apple (AAPL) declined to comment on the news.

The university’s relationship with western leaders is strong, and the business school has included an A-list of executives — particularly from the United States — on its board since its establishment in 2000.

Facebook’s (FB) Zuckerberg, Tesla’s (TSLA) Musk and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Nadella were all listed as board members during the most recent school year. So were leaders from Walmart (WMT), IBM (IBM) and General Motors (GM). Its previous chairman was Jim Breyer, the American venture capitalist. Former Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO and US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former Walmart (WMT) CEO Lee Scott have also held that post.
China is well represented, too. The country’s top trade negotiator and vice premiere Liu He was listed as a board member during the most recent year, as were tech billionaires Jack Ma, Pony Ma and Robin Li. An annual board meeting was even the setting for Cook’s first meeting with Jack Ma, the former Alibaba (BABA) chairman and one of the most prominent Chinese businessmen, according to the school.

Zhu described the board as an “an important bridge of communication between China and the world” in his letter. But China’s relationship with some parts of the world — and especially the United States — has grown tense in recent years. And though Cook has served on the Tsinghua board since 2013, his elevation to chairman comes at a particularly sensitive time.

The US-China trade war, the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and other global headwinds have complicated the relationship between the world’s economic superpowers. And American companies doing business in China are under an enormous amount of pressure to navigate those relationships in a delicate way without putting their operations at risk.

Now that US-China relations have soured, maintaining the “bridge” that Zhu described “has become all the more important,” said Ronald Wan, chief executive of Partners Capital International in Hong Kong. “There are still a lot of misunderstandings between the world’s two largest economies,” he added. “I think that’s the significance of this brain trust.”

Apple — which recorded $9.1 billion in sales last quarter from Greater China, or 17% of its global total — was recently scrutinized after it pulled a real-time mapping app used by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, from its App Store.
Cook has worked to bolster his company’s relationship with China. Just last week he met with China’s top market regulator to talk about Apple’s investment and business development in China, along with “consumer rights protection and fulfilling corporate social responsibility,” according to the Chinese government.

And in March, Cook told attendees at a conference in Beijing that his company was “grateful” that China has opened its doors to Apple.

“We encourage China to continue to open up,” Cook said at the China Development Forum. “We see that as essential, not only for China to reach its full potential, but for the global economy to thrive. … Our future, therefore, depends on collaboration.”

CNN Business’ Sherisse Pham contributed to this report.

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