Sony pulls ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ from its PlayStation store over glitches

Sony has removed Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most hotly-anticipated video games of the year, from its PlayStation store following a deluge of complaints.

The title would not be on sale “until further notice”, Sony said, offering full refunds to those who had bought it. More than 8m gamers had pre-ordered the title, which retails for about $60, before its release on December 10.

Users reported serious issues with after Cyberpunk 2077, such as crashes, bizarre visual glitches and malfunctioning game mechanics almost immediately after it became available to play.

“[Sony Interactive Entertainment] strives to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction,” a statement read. “Therefore we will begin to offer a full refund for all gamers who have purchased Cyberpunk 2077 via PlayStation Store.”

It was not clear whether Microsoft would take the same step with its Xbox store after similar issues were reported by players on its platform. A Microsoft spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

Cyberpunk 2077, a dystopian open-world thriller starring a digital Keanu Reeves, was already well behind schedule after its release date was pushed back three times, most recently from November to December.

Many of the problems with the game, which had been eight years in development, stemmed from the hardware on the current generation of gaming consoles, which proved unable to cope with the demands of Cyberpunk 2077’s gameplay and visuals.

CD Projekt Red, the Polish studio that developed the title, apologised for the game’s lacklustre quality, promising a timeline of patches over the next few months.

“We should have paid more attention to making it play better on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,” the team said in a message posted on Twitter.

Prior to the game’s release, only the PC version of the title was made available to review websites. Among those expressing frustration with the game on Twitter was Elon Musk, Tesla chief executive.

CD Projekt Red has seen its stock price fall about 30 per cent since the game’s release. The company is one of the most valuable on Warsaw’s stock exchange, and until now was best known for creating the acclaimed The Witcher, a series that has sold more than 50m copies since it began in 2007.

While it is common for games to be patched up by developers in the weeks and months after an initial release, it is extremely rare for a big store to remove a high-end game entirely from sale due to poor quality.

In October, Amazon’s game studio took the decision to cancel its own title Crucible just six months after its release, following a poor reception.

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BoJ launches policy review after Covid dashes inflation hopes

The Bank of Japan has launched an overall review of its monetary policy for the first time since 2016 after the Covid-19 shock crushed hopes of achieving its 2 per cent inflation target.

Expected to report in March 2021, the review will consider the potential for “further effective and sustainable monetary easing”, beyond the large-scale asset purchases and negative interest rates used since 2013 and 2016, respectively.

The decision to launch a review highlights the depth of the central bank’s concern over this year’s slide back towards deflation and its inability to achieve its mandated price stability goals.

The BoJ did not signal whether it hoped to ease policy further or simply sustain its current trajectory for the long-term. It said there would be no change to “yield curve control”, under which it purchases government bonds as needed to keep 10-year yields around zero per cent.

“Given that economic activity and prices are projected to remain under downward pressure for a prolonged period due to the impact of Covid-19, the Bank will conduct an assessment . . . with a view to supporting the economy and thereby achieving the price stability target of 2 per cent,” the central bank said.

The launch of the review came as the BoJ said it would extend its special coronavirus loan programmes by another six months to September 2021 and adjust the terms to make them more flexible.

Its programme to buy an additional ¥15tn ($145bn) in corporate bonds and commercial paper, which was split 50:50 between the two asset classes, will now be allocated flexibly according to market conditions.

The BoJ will also extend its offer of cheap loans to help banks finance small and midsized companies through the pandemic, removing an upper limit of ¥100bn per institution to encourage take-up of the scheme.

Overnight, interest rates stayed on hold at negative 0.1 per cent. The BoJ’s targets for purchases of real estate and equity funds were also unchanged.

The central bank’s policy meeting came the same day that new inflation data for November showed the headline consumer price index was down by 0.9 per cent compared with a year ago.

Stripping out volatile fresh food and energy prices, the index was down by 0.3 per cent compared with a year ago, and unchanged from the previous month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Under governor Haruhiko Kuroda, the BoJ has made a determined effort to revive inflation, purchasing government bonds worth more than 100 per cent of gross domestic product and cutting interest rates below zero.

But while Japan has recorded an improved macroeconomic performance, it has struggled to change public expectations of stagnant prices, no matter how great the monetary stimulus.

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What will the world look like in 2025? FT and Nikkei reader predictions

The world is not about to reverse a trend towards authoritarian or nationalist government, or make significant progress on combating climate change, according to the first joint survey of Financial Times and Nikkei readers.

Asked to assess the likelihood of various events happening by 2025, readers of the FT and the Japanese and English publications of Nikkei thought Vladimir Putin would still be in power, Brexit would not be reversed, China would become the world’s biggest economy and India its most populous. They did not think the Syrian civil war would be over or that Africa as a whole would achieve the world’s fastest growth.

Readers were more optimistic about gender equality, predicting the US would have its first female president in 2025. Kamala Harris, the US vice president-elect, is considered a frontrunner for the 2024 Democratic nomination while former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is the most prominent Republican woman associated with the race.

The results come from a survey of over 5,000 readers of the FT; of Nikkei, Japan’s leading business daily newspaper; and of Nikkei Asia, the English-­language review of Asian business news.

Special Report: FT and Nikkei readers’ views on the world in 2025

Readers were asked how far they agreed or disagreed with 15 propositions spanning politics, the economy, business and technology.

The responses of the three audiences diverged on a third of the questions, including whether the number of air passengers would have recovered five years after the coronavirus pandemic. More FT readers felt this would not happen, while Nikkei Asia readers thought it would and Nikkei readers were split almost evenly.

International air travel was down 71 per cent in October compared with a year earlier © Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

The result suggests that, in the western world at least, fear of infection, restrictions on foreign travel and the substitution of video conferencing for in-person meetings will damp a recovery in international air travel, down 71 per cent in October from a year earlier.

Another area where opinions diverged significantly was negative interest rates, which reflect the economic stagnation that Japan has been familiar with for many years. Negative rates were introduced in the eurozone in 2014 and Japan in 2016; the UK’s central bank said during the summer they were “under active review”. FT readers thought negative rates would have disappeared from the world’s major economies by 2025 while the largely Japanese Nikkei readers disagreed (Nikkei Asia readers were evenly split).

The World Ahead: an FT-Nikkei special report

FT and Nikkei journalists look ahead to the next five years after a five-year alliance marked by tumultuous events, from Brexit and the Trump presidency to the coronavirus pandemic. Other articles include:

  • Martin Wolf, FT chief economics commentator, on the forces that will shape the next five years

  • Ryosuke Harada, Nikkei senior executive editor, on what the rise of China means for the rest of the world

  • Sector experts forecast what work, finance, tech, retail and energy will look like in 2025

  • A visual guide to the data shaping the 2020s and beyond

One way to overcome the economic stasis implied by negative interest rates would be to invest in “green” technologies, with the additional benefit of mitigating climate change.

But readers appeared sceptical about the likelihood of swift action on climate change given that a majority of those surveyed by all three publications did not think greenhouse gas emissions would be falling by 2025. Moreover, neither Nikkei nor FT readers expected electric vehicles to account for more than half of new car sales in five years’ time.

The surveys were divided on the proposition that Google would be broken up, a proxy for the push to curb tech giants’ power, with Nikkei readers thinking it would, but FT and Nikkei Asia readers disagreeing. Momentum has been building to regulate Big Tech on both sides of the Atlantic, with a US congressional committee declaring in October that “scrappy, underdog start-ups” had become the “kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons”.

Readers seemed to anticipate that digitalisation of our lives would continue: they expected some countries to have eliminated physical cash by 2025. But none believed a human would land on Mars, suggesting some science and tech frontiers will remain unconquered.

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Toshiba’s largest investor escalates clash with management

Toshiba’s largest investor has significantly escalated its clash with management by calling for an extraordinary general meeting and an independent investigation into allegations that a knife-edge shareholder vote was conducted unfairly.

The move by Effissimo, a secretive Singapore-based activist fund that owns 9.9 per cent of Toshiba, breaks almost three months of stalemate that followed the company’s July 31 annual shareholder meeting. 

Despite the steady rise of activism in mainstream Japanese corporate life over the past three years, the threat of the EGM remains powerful and rare. Toshiba now has eight weeks to respond to the request, after which Effissimo can take the matter to court.

Toshiba said it would “carefully review” the request and consider how to deal with it.

In a statement issued along with its demand for the EGM, Effissimo highlighted big concerns surrounding the July shareholder meeting, at which Toshiba’s chief executive, Nobuaki Kurumatani, survived a vote on his reappointment with just 58 per cent support.

Effissimo initially raised these concerns in a letter to the company in September, where it also called for a third-party committee to be established to investigate. That committee has not been formed and, according to people close to the fund, there has yet to be an adequate explanation from Toshiba.

“It remains opaque whether the 181st AGM was conducted in a fair and impartial manner, and this situation has not been rectified,” said Effissimo in its December 17 letter to Toshiba requesting the EGM.

It added that in the name of transparency and the fair and impartial operation of shareholder meetings, it was necessary to “bring to broad daylight the actual state of the 181st AGM through an investigation conducted by independent investigators”. Effissimo offered the names of three senior Japanese corporate lawyers to form the committee.

In September the Financial Times revealed that, ahead of Toshiba’s July AGM, the former head of Japan’s $1.3tn Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) held private discussions with Harvard Management Company, which subsequently abstained from voting.

At the same time, Toshiba had engaged Goldman Sachs to defend it against activists, as part of what some investors described as a campaign that deployed “all the dark arts”. 

Ahead of its call for an EGM, Effissimo said it had interviewed dozens of other Toshiba shareholders and discovered that some had felt pressured to abstain from exercising their voting rights.

Also in September, another large Toshiba shareholder, 3D, discovered that the votes on about 5m of its shares had not been counted by Sumitomo Mitsui Trust, the shareholder services firm that administered the voting for Toshiba.

In an admission that sent shockwaves across the Tokyo market, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust later said it had probably miscounted votes at the AGMs of more than 1,000 Japanese companies over the years. It remains under investigation by the Financial Services Agency.

Toshiba’s AGM in July followed a series of disagreements between Toshiba and Effissimo, which led to the fund and others leading an investor rebellion against Mr Kurumatani.

Unlike the CEOs of other large Japanese companies, Mr Kurumatani’s position was particularly vulnerable to such a move.

In the wake of the 2017 financial crisis that brought Toshiba to the brink of bankruptcy, the group issued $5.4bn in new equity — a move that was strongly resisted in some quarters of the Japanese government and which abruptly filled the Toshiba shareholder register with an unusually large number of foreign hedge funds and activists.

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FedEx results show scale of online shopping boom

FedEx has laid bare the scale of the online shopping boom in the run-up to the peak US holiday season, producing its highest quarterly sales on record after the logistics group handled millions of additional packages and implemented surcharges on shipments.

Earnings released on Thursday showed FedEx Ground, the company’s small-package ground delivery business in North America, handled an average of 12.3m packages every day in the three months to the end of November, up from 9.6m for the same period a year ago.

FedEx, whose global network spans 680 aircraft, 200,000 vehicles, and 600,000 employees, also carried 6.2m pounds of freight daily through its “international priority” freight service — 19 per cent more than 2019 levels.

Demand for parcel delivery has meanwhile boosted the pricing power of FedEx, which has introduced a range of peak charges of more than $1 per package. Revenue per package at its Ground division rose from $8.80 a year ago to $9.42.

“Peak surcharges for the holiday season are the new normal for our industry,” said Brie Carere, executive vice-president. “There’s been some fundamental shifts in the market.”

The results cement the status of FedEx as one of the biggest corporate winners from the coronavirus crisis, with quarterly revenues across the group up 19 per cent year-on-year to $20.6bn. Net income more than doubled to $1.23bn.

Raj Subramaniam, chief operating officer, said FedEx was reaping the rewards from investments it had made in ecommerce, including expanding deliveries on Sundays.

“In many ways, we have been operating at peak-like level since March due to surges in ecommerce volume,” he said.

FedEx shares have gained 88 per cent this year, giving the Memphis-based company a market capitalisation of $77bn. The shares slipped 3.7 per cent in after-hours trade after it declined to provide a financial outlook.

Michael Lenz, chief financial officer, said the resurgence of coronavirus infections added “significant uncertainty” to the company’s ability to predict demand, and “cloud our ability to forecast full-year earnings”.

FedEx also incurred a $215m increase in variable staffing expenses and $50m worth of Covid-19 related costs in the quarter.

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Moderna approval to make US first to authorise two Covid vaccines

The US drugs regulator will grant emergency approval to a second coronavirus vaccine in the coming days, a decision that will make it the first country to have authorised two inoculations against the virus.

The US Food and Drug Administration decided on Thursday night to approve Moderna’s vaccine on an emergency basis, according to people close to the process, following the recommendation to do so by a panel of outside experts.

Stephen Hahn, the head of the FDA, and Peter Marks, the head of the regulator’s vaccine division, issued a statement on Thursday night that said they had informed Moderna they would work towards the “finalisation and issuance” of an emergency approval. Officials close to the process said they had made the decision to authorise the vaccine, and were now working on the written information to doctors and patients to accompany it.

The move will make the US the first country to have approved the vaccines from both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, and will help the Trump administration meet its goal of producing enough doses to vaccinate 20m people by the end of the year.

Moderna’s vaccine, which will be the drug company’s first to gain any kind of regulatory approval, is similar to Pfizer/BioNTech’s, using the same technology and boasting a similar efficacy rate, at 94.1 per cent. An FDA report published earlier this week found it was “highly effective” and raised no significant safety concerns.

Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine however, which is available to anyone over the age of 16, Moderna’s inoculation is only being authorised for over-18s.

But the Moderna shot may prove more widely available in the US than the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, as the government has signed deals for 200m doses, twice many as it has secured from Pfizer so far. The Moderna vaccine also does not need to be kept in ultra-cold storage, so it may be able to be distributed more broadly. 

FDA scientists met to make the decision on Thursday evening following the vote by a group of outside experts to move ahead with approval. All but one of the panel voted in favour of authorisation, with the other member abstaining. 

An emergency use authorisation is not a full approval, which may follow in a matter of months, but it would allow widespread distribution of the vaccine, with only children excluded. 

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Some US states claim Pfizer vaccine allocations have been cut

Several US states have complained that their allocation of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine has been suddenly cut, as tensions build between the pharmaceutical company and government officials who claim they are not being given enough information about production.

Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, on Thursday said that he had been told his state would receive considerably less vaccine than expected over the coming weeks.

Mr Inslee tweeted: “@CDCgov [the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has informed us that WA’s vaccine allocation will be cut by 40 per cent next week — and that all states are seeing similar cuts. This is disruptive and frustrating. We need accurate, predictable numbers to plan and ensure on-the-ground success. No explanation was given.”

Other states have also reported they have been told to expect similar cuts. JB Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, said on Wednesday his state’s allocation for each of the next two weeks had been halved, down from about 8m doses each week to just 4.3m. The Michigan state health department said on Thursday its allocation had been cut by 29 per cent, while Iowa said it was facing a reduction of up to 30 per cent.

Mr Inslee’s comments came hours after Alex Azar, the US health secretary, called for Pfizer to be more transparent about its production processes.

“We don’t have complete visibility into their manufacturing because they have kept that a bit more arm’s length,” Mr Azar told CNBC on Thursday.

Pfizer said in a statement that its manufacturing process was running to schedule and that it had not encountered delays: “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

The CDC did not respond to a request to comment, but the US health department insisted on Wednesday that official allocations had not changed.

The US government authorised Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use last week and has already bought 100m doses. It plans to distribute 40m of those doses before the end of the year, and is in talks with the company to buy 100m more.

The department said in a statement that states had only been provided official allocations up until the end of next week, and that it remained on course to vaccinate 20m people in the US by the end of the year.

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Coronavirus latest: FedEx revenues hit quarterly record in online shopping boom

Greece announced tighter restrictions in three towns in western Attica following a jump in coronavirus cases even though the country is in the sixth week of a nationwide lockdown. The night-time curfew will begin at 6pm on Friday in Eleusis, Mandra and Aspropyrgos, three hours earlier than before.

Hospitalisations related to coronavirus have climbed to record levels in Arizona. The state’s hospitals were treating 3,884 patients with positive or suspected cases of Covid-19, up from 3,809 the day before, data from the state health department showed on Thursday.

Pfizer said it has millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine sitting in warehouses awaiting delivery instructions, denying reports that the company is having production problems. The US drugmaker said on Thursday that no shipments have been held or delayed. Pfizer said it sent 2.9m doses across the country last week.

Poland will go into lockdown from December 28 to January 17 in a bid to regain control of the pandemic, the country’s health minister said on Thursday. Under the new restrictions, hotels, shopping centres — with the exception of food stores and pharmacies — and ski slopes will close.

Another 885,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, as fresh restrictions to fight the resurgence in coronavirus cases continue to strain the jobs market. Weekly jobless claims increased by 23,000, from 862,000 last week. Economists had expected claims to moderate to 800,000.

The Bank of England kept monetary policy unchanged on Thursday as it cited an “unusually uncertain” outlook for the UK economy. The BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee decided to leave interest rates at 0.1 per cent and the target for its asset purchasing programme at £895bn by the end of 2021.

The UK government has placed parts of East and South East of England under the toughest coronavirus restrictions from Saturday while it has eased the rules for Bristol. Infection numbers in the South East region have increased 46 per cent, health secretary Matt Hancock said, while cases in the east have risen two-thirds from last week.

Government incentives for employers in England to take on apprentices have failed to offset a near 46 per cent decline in on-the-job training since the first lockdown. The chancellor’s Plan for Jobs scheme led to 11,520 new apprenticeships since it launched in August, Department for Education figures showed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning to extend the UK’s £68bn coronavirus emergency loan schemes to help support businesses struggling with the combination of further pandemic restrictions and a disruptive end to the Brexit transition, according to Whitehall sources.

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FDA advisory panel backs Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine

A panel of scientific experts has endorsed Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for it to become the second jab to receive emergency authorisation for use in the US by the end of the week.

All but one of the 21-member panel voted that the available evidence indicated the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks for people aged 18 and older, with one member abstaining.

The Food and Drug Administration could announce an emergency use authorisation by the end of the week. The FDA granted the first EUA for a coronavirus vaccine to Pfizer and BioNTech last week.

Hayley Gans, a Stanford professor on the panel, said the evidence had been studied “in great detail” and outweighed any issues. “I think it really supports us being able to get the pandemic in the background . . . and finally, provide a safe and effective way to get to herd immunity,” she said.

Doran Fink, deputy clinical director of the FDA’s vaccine division, kicked off Thursday’s meeting by saying Covid-19 continued to worsen in the US and worldwide. Even though the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available in the US, it remains “unapproved and its quantity is not sufficient for mass vaccination needed to address a pandemic in the US”, he added.

The US is in the midst of the deadliest surge of coronavirus infections yet. On Wednesday, a record new 3,400 deaths were attributed to Covid-19, while hospitalisations continued to increase, compounding the strain on states’ healthcare systems.

Dr Fink said the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating two incidents of healthcare workers in Alaska suffering serious allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The FDA is working with Pfizer to revise factsheets given to providers to ensure they are able to monitor and treat such reactions. 

“The totality of data at this time continues to support vaccinations under the Pfizer EUA without new restrictions,” he said. “These cases underscore the need to remain vigilant during the early phase of the vaccination campaign.”

Last week, the FDA decided not to exclude people with a history of serious allergic reaction from receiving the vaccine, even though the UK regulator has done so. Instead, the US regulator warned against administering it to people who had previously had a reaction to the vaccine components. 

In a report issued this week ahead of the meeting, the FDA’s scientists found that the Moderna vaccine was “highly effective” and there were no significant safety concerns.

Moderna’s vaccine is based on the same messenger ribonucleic acid technology — known as mRNA — as Pfizer/BioNTech’s. A genetic code to the virus’s spike protein is delivered into the body in a bubble of fat, to teach the immune system to respond to the virus.

But there are some differences. Moderna is applying for an EUA for over-18s only, whereas Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine was approved for 16- and 17-year-olds, even though some outside advisers were concerned about the lack of evidence regarding the vaccine’s use in that age group.

Moderna’s vaccine can be stored at normal medical freezer temperatures, so does not require the same special equipment to transport and store as Pfizer/BioNTech’s inoculation. 

The US government has secured a larger supply of Moderna’s vaccine. It signed a second deal with the company last week, bringing its total pre-order to 200m by the second quarter of 2021.

It has pre-ordered 100m doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine and is trying to help the partners increase production in order to secure another 100m. 

Alex Azar, health secretary, told CNBC on Thursday that the US was poised to ship 5.9m doses of Moderna’s vaccines to states once it was approved.

“We’re ready to start shipping this weekend to them for rollout Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of next week. We’re ready to go,” he said.

Additional reporting by Matthew Rocco in New York

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US Treasury seeks to water down Trump’s Chinese securities ban

The US Treasury department is attempting to water down an executive order from Donald Trump that bars Americans from investing in Chinese companies with suspected ties to Beijing’s military.

The effort has been met with furious opposition from the Pentagon and state department, opening up a heated dispute over one of the last big anti-Beijing policies of the Trump era.

Mr Trump last month issued an order barring US investors from investing in Chinese companies that the Pentagon put on a list of groups suspected of helping the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

The effort is part of a broad push to counter China’s “military-civil fusion” strategy which compels Chinese companies to share technology with the PLA. The Trump administration argues that the strategy means US investors who invest in Chinese companies are helping Beijing and damaging America’s national security.

MSCI, an index provider, this week removed the Chinese companies from its indices in response to the order, following a similar move by rivals including FTSE Russell.

But many investors have been waiting for guidance from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to determine if they need to sell shares in the 35 Chinese companies on the Pentagon list, and their subsidiaries.

Three people familiar with the internal debate said Treasury wanted to exclude Chinese subsidiaries from the ban, but that the effort is being fiercely resisted by the state department and Pentagon, which have argued that not including the subsidiaries would significantly weaken the overall impact of Mr Trump’s order.

The state department and National Security Council declined to comment, while Treasury did not respond to a request for comment.

Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, last week raised concerns about the number of subsidiaries of the blacklisted companies that are included in stock and bond indices. He said the subsidiaries of 24 of the 35 Chinese companies on the Pentagon list were included in a major securities index.

“The money flowing into these index funds . . . supports Chinese companies involved in both civilian and military production,” he said. “Some of these companies produce technologies for the surveillance of civilians and repression of human rights, as is the case with Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, China.”

Mr Pompeo said some of the Chinese companies in the MSCI indices presented “significant national security and humanitarian concerns for the United States” which exposed them to possible US sanctions.

One of the people familiar with the situation said the debate was the last big fight over China inside the Trump administration before the president leaves office on January 20 and is replaced by Joe Biden. 

The Pentagon list includes large companies, such as Aviation Industry Corporation of China. But according to the state department, there were at least eight Avic subsidiaries still included in major indices from MSCI and FTSE at the beginning of December. A number of subsidiaries of China Railway Construction Company are also included in the indices from the two providers.

Roger Robinson, a former NSC official who believes the US should take a tougher stance on allowing Chinese companies in its capital markets, said Treasury was trying to dilute the impact of the executive order.

“Treasury is reportedly insisting on narrowing, diluting and otherwise defanging key provisions of the order],” said Mr Robinson, who runs RWR Advisory Group, a risk consultancy. “It appears to demonstrate more interest in protecting Wall Street’s fees and Beijing’s interests than scores of millions of unwitting American retail investors and our national security.”

China hawks frequently accuse Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, of being weak on China due to his efforts to resist some of the more hardline measures proposed during the four years of the Trump administration. His defenders privately say that Mr Mnuchin is adopting a balanced approach that takes into account the effect on the US economy.

After three years of resisting lobbying by his more hawkish officials, Mr Trump recently gave the green light for a string of assertive measures against China as he blamed Beijing for the global spread of Covid-19.

The Financial Times reported earlier this year that the White House had told the Pentagon to publish a list of Chinese companies with alleged ties to the military, which was required under a two-decades old law that was not being complied with.

Congress last week passed a defence spending bill that would require the Pentagon to produce a comprehensive list every year, but Mr Trump has threatened to veto the bill over unreleased measures.

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