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FirstFT: Xi renews support for Putin

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Chinese president Xi Jinping has renewed his support for Russia’s security interests in his first phone call with Vladimir Putin since the early days of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The diplomatic gesture is designed to show that Russia is not isolated as the leaders of France, Italy and Germany prepare to travel to Ukraine and Nato defence ministers convene in Brussels this week to beef up military help to Kyiv.

The Kremlin said Xi noted “the legitimacy of the actions taken by Russia to defend its core national interests in the face of challenges to its security created by external forces”. It added that the conversation, held on Xi’s 69th birthday, was “traditionally warm and friendly”, adding China’s relations with Russia were at “an unprecedentedly high level”.

Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, reported that Xi repeated his previous calls for Russia and other countries to find an end to the war, but said China was “willing to continue mutual support with Russia on issues related to sovereignty, security and issues of major concern”.

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1. New Hong Kong textbook seeks to recast city’s history New textbooks sent to Hong Kong secondary schools teach that the city was not a British colony, but an occupied territory — a recasting of history that is part of Beijing’s ideological clampdown in the city.

2. Fed raises benchmark rate by 0.75 points The Federal Open Market Committee lifted its benchmark policy rate to a new target range of 1.50 per cent to 1.75 per cent, noting in a statement that it “anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate”. Wednesday also marked the start of the mammoth task of shrinking the Fed’s $9tn balance sheet.

  • Market news: US stocks and government bond prices rebounded after five consecutive days of declines, as the Federal Reserve announced its largest interest rate rise in almost 30 years.

3. Bitcoin tumble leaves the average buyer in the red The cryptocurrency industry’s “bloodbath” worsened as bitcoin touched fresh lows for the year that put the average buyer of the world’s most popular digital asset deeper in the red. Bitcoin dropped below $20,000 for the first time since July last year while ether, the token linked to the Ethereum blockchain, fell to nearly $1,000.

4. China retail sales slide China’s retail sales declined for a third consecutive month in May as lockdowns and mass testing campaigns under President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid strategy curtailed growth in the world’s biggest consumer market. Retail sales, an important gauge of consumption, fell 6.7 per cent compared with the same month a year ago.

5. Laos hit by fuel shortages and growing default risk Struggling with acute fuel shortages, rising food prices and growing debt, the Asian country has become the latest in the region after Sri Lanka to come under serious financial strain after a surge in global energy and commodity prices. Moody’s Investor Service yesterday downgraded the country’s sovereign debt rating one notch further into non-investment grade.

The day ahead

India hosts meeting of Asean foreign ministers New Delhi will host a meeting of Asean foreign ministers for the first time as it marks its 10th anniversary of its strategic partnership with the group. (Hindustan Times)

Shanghai’s Disneytown and hotel to reopen After closing on March 21 because of rising Covid-19 cases in the city, Shanghai Disney Resort said Disneytown and the Shanghai Disneyland hotel will reopen today. However, the main park will remain closed for the time being. (Reuters)

Japan trade balance figures Data will be released for the month of May. Trade imports are expected to have increased at the fastest pace in six-months, according to a Reuters poll. (Reuters)

What else we’re reading and listening to

Disney’s India cricket ploy has Wall Street stumped Disney was this week trumped in the race for the sport’s coveted five-year streaming rights by its own former Asia chief, Uday Shankar. Disney still stumped up for cricket rights, however, agreeing to pay $3bn to air the sport on traditional television in India — a move that left analysts and some rival bidders baffled.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India pulled in $6.2bn for the five-year IPL deal, valuing each match at $15mn
The Board of Control for Cricket in India pulled in $6.2bn for the five-year IPL deal, valuing each match at $15mn © AP

BTS is not bulletproof — nor is its talent agency Hybe has had nine years since the debut of BTS to reduce its dependence. It has made aggressive acquisitions of rival agencies and big bets on new artists. None of these moves has made much difference, writes Lex. Investing in this overpriced stock remains a bet on thirtysomething BTS members remaining popular in a business where attention spans are short.

Oil vs human rights: Biden’s controversial mission to Saudi Arabia President Joe Biden’s decision to travel to Saudi Arabia next month and meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a remarkable U-turn for a president who promised to treat the kingdom as a pariah and to engage with King Salman, not his son, MBS.

Image to illustrate poll for Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit

Mr Goldman, Mr Sex When Financial Times reporter Patricia Nilsson started digging into the porn industry, she made a shocking discovery: nobody knew who controlled the biggest porn company in the world. Now, Nilsson and her editor, Alex Barker, reveal who is behind it. Listen to the latest episode of Hot Money, our investigative podcast series on the shadowy power structures of the porn industry.

Sanctions-hit Russian businessmen seek tips from Iran Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, Iranian tour guide Ali’s business has boomed. But where once he hosted Russian tourists interested in Persian art, food and culture, now he welcomes businesspeople. Tehran’s expertise at accessing the world’s black markets is in demand as war in Ukraine offers unexpected benefits

Join the FT in partnership with Seismic at Strategies For Dealing With The Great Resignation on June 30 where we will discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by the Great Resignation, with a focus on training and coaching successful sales teams. Register today for free.

Food & drink

Don’t miss FT Globetrotter’s list of five of the best bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Tokyo, where you can find chocolate at its purest — and all crafted by pioneering artisans — in the Japanese capital.


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