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FirstFT: China to put ‘strict’ limits on citizens travelling abroad

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China said it would “strictly limit” unnecessary outbound travel by its citizens amid escalating efforts to stamp out an outbreak of coronavirus that has already prompted weeks of city lockdowns.

The National Immigration Authority’s announcement, made on social media platform WeChat, also referred to the need to prevent people bringing the virus into China and comes on top of existing measures that heavily limit movement within and into the country.

The move reflects the government’s decision to continue with its zero-Covid policies as it battles the most severe outbreak since the pandemic emerged in Wuhan more than two years ago.

Chinese citizens were already advised to avoid all non-essential travel, but the latest announcement suggests a greater degree of strictness in border control and is likely to reflect concerns that citizens who go abroad could bring the virus back with them.

How will China’s decision affect your life and business? Tell me what you think at firstft@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of the day’s news — Emily

1. Crypto industry shaken as Tether’s dollar peg snaps The $1.3tn cryptocurrency industry was on Thursday hit by one of its toughest challenges when stablecoin Tether — a critical cog in the market — failed to maintain its link with the US dollar. Tether tumbled as low as 95.11 cents in European trading, far below its $1 peg.

Line chart of $ per token showing Tether loses its $1 peg

2. Moscow imposes sanctions on EU energy companies Russia’s state-owned gas supplier Gazprom has said it will cut shipments to Europe through a main pipeline, sending prices surging and reinforcing President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to use energy as a weapon against the EU.

  • Related read: Finland’s president and prime minister have vowed to join Nato, an announcement that will also push neighbouring Sweden to apply for membership as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

3. Hong Kong strengthens currency for first time since 2019 Hong Kong’s central bank has intervened to strengthen the city’s currency and defend its US dollar peg for the first time since 2019, threatening to raise borrowing costs while the financial hub’s economy is still reeling from harsh Covid-19 restrictions.

4. SoftBank suffers historic loss SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son said his conglomerate was taking a “defensive” position and slowing down investments after its Vision Fund posted a historic investment loss of ¥3.5tn ($27bn) for the full year. Those falls plunged Son’s conglomerate as a whole into its biggest-ever quarterly net loss of ¥2.1tn

5. The supermassive black hole at centre of Milky Way Astronomers have unveiled the first images of the closest black hole to Earth, located at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, from which they hope to glean new information about the mysterious celestial bodies.

This image of supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* is the product of pooling data from a global network of eight radio observatories © EHT Collaboration

The days ahead

Japanese corporate earnings On a big day for Japan’s corporate sector, Honda Motor Company, Mazda Motor Corporation and Toshiba will report earnings. More on what’s coming up today and this weekend in our Week Ahead newsletter.

Russia GDP and April CPI data The impact of sanctions on Russia’s economy will be laid bare when the gross domestic product and inflation figures are published.

Swedish parliament debates joining Nato The ruling Social Democrats will make a decision on Sunday whether to join Nato. A formal application is expected next week.

Join us in person or online at the FT Business of Luxury Summit on May 18-20 to hear from luxury leaders including British Vogue, Valentino, Zegna and YSL.

What else we’re reading

Can Xi Jinping vanquish Covid without crushing China’s economy? Even before the lockdowns hit, China’s economy had been badly affected by Xi’s “rectification” of the highly leveraged property sector. Now, a series of ad hoc and open-ended lockdowns imposed to salvage the president’s strict zero-Covid policy are making matters worse.

What happens in crypto may not stay in crypto Crypto is creaking. Unfortunately, even those fund managers in normal markets like stocks and bonds who have studiously avoided focusing on this freewheeling asset class, need to pay attention, writes Katie Martin.

Do you think trends in the cryptocurrency will spread to the rest of the financial market? Tell us in our latest poll.

Democracy might be in crisis. But autocracy certainly is ‘Crisis of democracy’ is a cliché of our time. But what about the even more consequential crisis of autocracy? Just watch the meltdowns in China, Russia, Turkey and arguably Africa’s biggest authoritarian state, Ethiopia, writes Simon Kuper.

The mogul, the casino and the heist that rocked Mayfair In the summer of 2017, a man pulled off the first central London casino heist in decades. It was clear to staff that the incident at the Park Lane Club was no random burglary. Perhaps the crime had something to do with their boss. Or, maybe, it had been an inside job.

London’s housing market is making buyers do irrational things Agents speak of “heart-rending” letters that accompany offers, with pictures of people’s dogs and kids (“‘Please give us a home’ — almost like they are penniless,” one agent says).

Fashion

In her monthly column, personal stylist Anna Berkeley explains the wardrobe tweaks that can change the feel of an outfit to look classic — but not staid.

Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert, at New York Fashion Week in 2019, beautifully pairs different items and colours © Getty Images

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