Your Thursday Briefing


We’re covering a scramble for coal in China and the global supply shortage.

China’s electricity shortage is rippling across factories and industries. Authorities announced on Wednesday a rush to mine and burn more coal in response, despite their previous pledges to curb emissions.

Mines that were closed without authorization have been ordered to reopen, along with mines and coal-fired power plants that were shut for repairs. Local governments have been warned to be cautious about limits on energy use.

The shortage laid bare a strategic weakness: China is a voracious energy hog and the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It also called into question whether Beijing can deliver strong economic growth.

Context: China depends on inefficient factories in energy-hungry industries like steel, cement and chemicals, but it practically stopped new coal investments in 2016 amid sustainability concerns. With rising demand as the pandemic eases, prices have jumped. Power plants were losing money, so they ran at lower capacity.

What’s next: The winter heating season officially begins on Friday in the country’s northeast. China’s biggest provinces have only nine to 14 days worth of coal in storage, according to a coal data firm.


Chinese authorities are rolling out third shots of coronavirus vaccines for high-risk groups in at least 10 regions, according to state media, as the country races to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of its population by the end of the year.

After outbreaks of the Delta variant, Wang Huaqing, China’s top immunization official, recommended last month that additional shots be administered to people in frontline professions, including medical workers; people with weaker immune systems; those age 60 or older; and travelers to high-risk countries.

A W.H.O. panel of experts on Monday recommended that an additional dose be administered to people over 60 who were inoculated with vaccines made by the Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac.

Despite its high vaccination rate, China has shown no signs of abandoning its “zero Covid” strategy, and has continued to use a mix of strict border controls, mass testing and snap lockdowns.

Details: Last month, China announced that it had fully inoculated 1 billion people, or about 71 percent of its population of 1.4 billion. The country has administered 2.21 billion doses.

What’s next: Chinese health officials have said that further studies are still needed to determine whether the rest of the population would benefit from boosters.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:


President Biden said Wednesday afternoon that his administration is taking steps to untangle supply chains and clear disruptions that have threatened the holiday shopping season, including extending hours at a key port and some large retailers.

The Port of Los Angeles will begin operating around the clock, he said from the White House. UPS, Walmart and FedEx will also announce they are moving to work more off-peak hours. Biden said the country must “take a longer view” and fix supply chain vulnerabilities exposed by the Covid-19 crisis.

Problems in ports, factories and shipping lanes have helped produce shortages, long delivery times and rapid price increases. It’s unclear how much the White House’s actions will help — blockages stretch up and down supply chains around the world. Some issues could last through the end of next year or longer, analysts say.

The resulting inflation has chilled consumer confidence. On Wednesday, the Labor Department announced that the Consumer Price Index, a key reading of monthly inflation, jumped 5.4 percent in September when compared with the prior year. Federal Reserve officials have struck an increasingly wary tone, and they prepared to slow support for the economy at their last meeting.

Asia Pacific

A pristine beach is one of Japan’s last. Soon, it will be filled with concrete for a sea wall to curb erosion. The project demonstrates how not even the most precious ecological treasures can survive Japan’s construction obsession, which has long been its answer to natural threats. It is also a vital source of economic stimulus in rural areas — but this plan has torn a tiny village apart.

One of the biggest trends from the spring 2022 fashion shows, which recently wrapped, was not an accessory or a color. It was the way many designers showcased men and women in what has long been called “women’s wear.” Raf Simons, for example, showed skirt suits for him and her. At Marni, models donned giant sweaters with flowers. “By the end of season, it had become so common, it barely registered with me,” Vanessa Friedman writes in The Times. “I just saw clothes.”

Friedman and her fellow Times fashion critic, Guy Trebay, discussed how the change reflects societal shifts, particularly among younger people, in self-expression and gender identity.

Some shows in recent years have featured clothes that existed beyond the traditional categories of gendered dressing. But “this was something new. Like … gender agnosticism,” Friedman said. Brightly colored clothing with flowy fabrics and ample decoration was for everybody.

The trend goes beyond the runways, Trebay added. “Spend any time on social media and you know how readily guys are now adopting elements of traditionally feminine apparel and grooming,” he said. “It’s not a huge stretch to imagine normalizing men wearing dresses or whatever in the workplace.”

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