China’s Workers, Hong Kong Protests, SpaceX Launch: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering China’s push to help its young struggling workers, protests in Hong Kong and a milestone on Wall Street for the U.S. reopening.

Beijing’s major focus is getting the economy off the ground after a weekslong deep freeze. Young people are feeling the pressure as they enter perhaps China’s toughest job market in the modern era.

They are reducing their expectations, taking pay cuts and in many cases waiting on the sidelines until things get better. Amid the trade war with the U.S. and tensions with Hong Kong, their future looks uncertain.

Finding jobs for young workers has become a major priority for Chinese leaders, who have long promised a better life in exchange for limits on political freedom.

Details: The jobless rate for people ages 16 to 24 totaled nearly 14 percent, more than twice the official figure for the nation as a whole.

Quotable: “I can’t just keep waiting,” said one recent graduate of a prestigious drama school whose job prospects were gutted in the shutdown.

The result: Only 200 cases were found, mostly people who showed no symptoms.

The blanket testing cost hundreds of millions of dollars and mobilized thousands of medical and other workers.

But this did not deter the government, which saw the testing as critical to restoring the public confidence needed to help restart the economy and return to some level of normalcy, our correspondents write.

Supporters of the testing drive said the true value of the campaign was not so much medical as psychological.

Quotable: “If there is no testing, everyone will still be scared,” said Guo Guangchang, head of Fosun, a Chinese conglomerate. “Many companies will have no way to resume production, and the service industry will have no customers.”

The remarks on Tuesday were made on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, and they came as Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, defended the central government’s contentious plan to draft new national security laws to punish acts of subversion.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists are preparing to hold new protests today, though turnout is expected to be smaller than the throngs of hundreds of thousands we saw last year. The Congress is set to vote on the laws on Thursday.

Analysis: Steven Lee Myers, our Beijing bureau chief, said the mainland government’s move amounted to “rattling the saber,” but added that it was “certainly a chilling message.”

The Taliban are on the verge of realizing their biggest desire: U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan. And the group has managed to do so without changing much of its extremist ideology.

At a pivotal moment in the war, our reporters delved into the insurgents’ strategy, through dozens of interviews, including a rare one with Amir Khan Mutaqi, the chief of staff to the Taliban’s supreme leader.

In Memoriam: Stanley Ho, the casino tycoon who transformed Macau into a global gambling hub, died on Tuesday in Hong Kong. He was 98.

Oil from Iran: An oil tanker has sailed into Venezuela from Iran, the first of five ships expected to arrive in a nation so starved of gasoline that the docking of a single tanker was hailed by government officials as a victory.

Snapshot: Above, traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday for the first day of floor trading in two months. The floor is operating at 10 percent capacity, with most traders still working from home.

What we’re reading: This GQ profile of Steve Buscemi, who opens up about anxiety and loss. The writer’s interview with Buscemi was also her last restaurant meal before the pandemic shut down New York City, and it’s everything you need right now.

Cook: Adding English peas to this green pea guacamole “is one of those radical moves that is also completely obvious after you taste it,” says Melissa Clark.

Do: Now that many homes have become de facto offices, work wardrobes have adjusted. The robe is just one of many cozy styles catching on in isolation. And here are some simple stretches to help you counter the unhealthy effects of all that sitting.

On Wednesday, two NASA astronauts are set to blast off from American soil on an American rocket to space for the first time in nearly a decade. In a first, the launch is being run by a private company, SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk. Sanam Yar, on the newsletters team, spoke with Kenneth Chang, a science reporter at The Times who covers NASA, about the launch. Here’s what he said:

Back in 1968, Pan Am started issuing memberships for its “First Moon Flights” club to space enthusiasts hoping to someday book a commercial flight there. It was a fanciful promotion — the membership card was free — but more than 93,000 people signed up.

Pan Am is long out of business, and we’re still a long way away from someone being able to buy a ticket to the moon, but the SpaceX launch is the first real step toward that dream. Although NASA has been involved in working with SpaceX, this is SpaceX’s operation. In the future, NASA will simply pay the going rate for a ticket to the space station and not be involved with running its own space transportation system to low-Earth orbit.

SpaceX has been somewhat insulated, because although Elon is the visionary (Mars! Internet satellites!) and cheerleader for the company, people look to Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer, to keep an even keel for the company’s day-to-day work. Tesla probably needs someone like that.


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

— Melina and Carole


Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about two Mexican migrant brothers who died of the coronavirus shortly after they got to their new home in the U.S. To fulfill their dying wish, to be buried in Mexico, their family must navigate a patchwork of pandemic laws and bureaucracies.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: The “m” of E = mc² (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Join our Parenting editor for a conversation with Pooja Lakshmin, a perinatal psychiatrist, about balancing parenthood and me time right now.

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