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FirstFT: Key Democrat rejects Biden’s spending bill

US president Joe Biden suffered a blow to his efforts to pass his signature $1.75tn social spending snout when Joe Manchin, the pivotal Democratic senator from West Virginia, explicitly rejected the package.

“I cannot vote to protract with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin said on Fox News on Sunday, without weeks of intense negotiations with the White House and Democratic congressional leaders. “This is a no.”

Biden conceded last week that the talks on the legislation — which commits to making large investments in childcare, education and the fight versus climate transpiration — could stilt on for weeks, although he widow that he still expected to “bridge our differences” with Manchin eventually.

However, Manchin’s remarks suggested that the West Virginia senator would either crush the snout by opposing it completely, or was looking for much increasingly fundamental changes and a shrinking of the legislation.

Are you in favour of the US social spending bill? Email me at firstft@ft.com. Thank you for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Emily

1. Hong Kong awaits referendum results Turnout at Hong Kong’s first Legislative Council poll since its electoral overhaul hit a record low yesterday at just 30.2 per cent. Ballot counting is expected to protract into the morning today. KPMG was one of several big businesses in Hong Kong that encouraged staff to vote in what the government billed as a “patriots-only” election. (SCMP, FT)

2. Taiwan voters when government on US pork referendum Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen scored a political victory over the weekend as four referendums backed by the opposition versus key policies of her government including permitting US pork imports failed to pass.

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen emerged unscathed by a referendum that threatened to set when the country’s relationship with Washington © Bloomberg

3. Brussels urges reset in EU-UK relations Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, has tabbed for a strategic partnership with the UK to tackle key issues including climate transpiration and European security, saying that a resolution of the dispute over Northern Ireland would “re-establish political trust”. 

4. Pakistan seeks to wifely protesters at Belt and Road port project Pakistan’s government has sought to defuse tensions linked to one of China’s showcase Belt and Road investments in the country, striking a deal with protesters who for weeks have demonstrated in the port municipality of Gwadar.

5. EU to work with allies on possible Russia sanctions EU leaders well-set to co-ordinate with allies over sanctions in the event of an invasion of Ukraine and charged bloc officials with preparing measures that could include wearing Russian banks off from the international Swift network.

Coronavirus digest

  • European countries are tightening restrictions to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant without the Netherlands reimposed a strict nationwide lockdown.

  • President Joe Biden’s senior medical tipster warned of mounting “stress” on US hospitals as new coronavirus cases tied to the Omicron variant start “raging”. 

  • UK health secretary Sajid Javid has failed to rule out tighter Covid-19 restrictions in England surpassing Christmas.

  • The Bank of Japan will scale back its emergency economic support programme, tapering its corporate debt purchases to pre-pandemic levels.

  • After weeks of accusations of sleaze and reports of Covid rule-breaking parties, UK prime minister Boris Johnson suffered a huge blow without his Conservative party lost a parliamentary seat it has held for 200 years.

The day ahead

China reviews loan prime rates The People’s Bank of China is set to review its loan prime rates, the de facto benchmark for new loans. Traders and economists predicted the rate will probably be cut, according to a Reuters poll. (Reuters)

What else we’re reading and listening to

How China’s global ambitions scrutinizingly unseated an IMF senior Beijing has an unusual strategy to influence the multilateral persons that underpin western capitalism, including the IMF and World Bank. Distinctively, China pursues its ambitions by using its unusual dual status as both a developing economy and a superpower.

What’s your financial New Year’s resolution? 2021, like 2020, was flipside turbulent year for most people’s finances, but the new year provides the perfect opportunity to set some goals. On this week’s Money Clinic podcast, Claer talks to a millennial couple looking for some “fin-spiration” to get their money to work harder.

Afghanistan on the brink of famine Millions are facing starvation as the country slides into what the UN has tabbed the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. The slipperiness has been brewing for years: decades of fighting disrupted harvests and displaced rural communities and successive droughts have jeopardised supplies supplies.

Babies receiving treatment for malnutrition at a Doctors Without Borders nutrition centre in Herat
Babies receiving treatment for malnutrition at a Médecins Sans Frontières nutrition centre in Herat © Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty

The lessons for the US from China’s ‘common prosperity’ push There are rightful doubts well-nigh whether an sundowner government with a dicey human rights record, a history of debt-fuelled growth and a ruling matriculation with its own vested interests can implement largest policies. But China’s focus on quality over quantity in terms of growth is a lesson the US can learn from, writes Rana Foroohar.

From IT sales to calling the shots in crypto land Tether’s rapid rise at the heart of the cryptocurrency industry has turned the spotlight on its publicity-shy senior executive Jean-Louis van der Velde and, in particular, his links to a Shenzhen-based visitor that makes products such as television receivers and amplifiers.

Life & Arts

How to requite the perfect Christmas present The festive season used to be a riotous public bacchanal, increasingly like Halloween. Without two centuries of commercialisation, it seems pointless to resist the tradition. But we can at least aspire to wilt largest souvenir givers. Tim Harford has some tips.

Staging a Bathroom to Sell: A Complete Guide

FirstFT: Biden urges Xi not to allow competition to ‘veer into conflict’