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Monthly Archives: August 2017

“We’ve come to the point where China has finally caught up with the U.S. in the internet space,” said Hans Tung, a managing partner at venture capital firm GGV Capital.

Mr. Tung, who invests in many Chinese start-ups, said the main advantage for Alibaba and Tencent was that the United States still had efficient “offline” — or non-internet — options for shopping or entertainment. But in China, where there are fewer appealing options offline, Tencent and Alibaba play a central role in how people buy and pay for goods and services, communicate and entertain themselves.

The ascendance of Tencent and Alibaba is evident in their scale. Soon, Tencent will be the only company other than Facebook to have a social network with more than one billion users. (Facebook is still ahead with more than two billion members.) Tencent recently said its messaging app, WeChat — which includes payments and a social network — had 960 million monthly active users.

Alibaba has more than 500 million monthly active users for its online shopping apps. Over the past three months, the revenue for both Tencent and Alibaba jumped more than 50 percent from a year ago, meaning they are growing more quickly than both Facebook and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

In Hong Kong, Tencent’s market capitalization rose above $400 billion in early trading on Thursday before closing just below that threshold at $396 billion. Alibaba closed in New York trading on Thursday with a market value of $415 billion. The two companies still lag Amazon and Facebook, which are valued at more than $450 billion, and are significantly smaller than Apple, the world’s most valuable public company with a market capitalization exceeding $800 billion.

In Silicon Valley, some tech companies have begun taking cues from their Chinese rivals. Tencent’s WeChat offered speedier in-app articles before Facebook, created a walkie-talkie function before WhatsApp, and made use of QR codes as a way to connect on a social network long before Snapchat.

Both Alibaba and Tencent have long been successful in China, but recent events have given them an added push. In China, people often talk about three internet companies that dominate the technology world: Alibaba, Tencent and a search company called Baidu, which is sometimes called the Google of China.

But Baidu has stumbled as Chinese users skipped personal computers entirely and turned to smartphones, and it has had trouble competing in a financial arms race between Tencent and Alibaba. The two companies have been plowing money into new businesses like food delivery and online video.

Alibaba and Tencent owe part of their success to China’s censorship and suspicion of foreign tech firms, which have kept American giants like Facebook and Amazon out of their orbit. But the two have also scored some major technology innovations in their own right. They dominate a smartphone culture that in many ways is superior to that of the United States. Chinese people use their dueling mobile payment systems to settle their restaurant tabs, to shop online, to pay their utility bills, to rent bicycles and even to put money into investments.

Despite their size, Alibaba and Tencent are mostly anchored in China, though both are pushing to expand. Most of Alibaba’s earnings come from its ad and commissions business in China. The company had just under $400 million in revenue from international commerce. While Tencent has games like League of Legends that are played across the world, the bulk of its revenue comes from games and ads in China.

Both have made use of investments and acquisitions to enter into new markets in recent years — with uneven results. Alibaba has invested in a payments company in India, and it bought into three different e-commerce companies in Southeast Asia. With Amazon also readying its own Southeast Asian campaign, the hugely populated region of disparate cultures could be the first place the two e-commerce Goliaths compete face-to-face on neutral ground.

Last year, Tencent paid $8.6 billion for Supercell, the maker of the hugely popular smartphone game Clash of Clans. Tencent also wanted to buy the global messaging app WhatsApp but was outmaneuvered by Facebook.

The two companies and other Chinese technology names have also opened Silicon Valley research centers and become prominent investors in cutting-edge start-ups. They both have backed a Chinese rival to Uber called Didi Chuxing, which trounced the American company in China and is now expanding in other markets. Tencent has been an investor in Snap, the maker of the messaging app Snapchat, and owns some of the world’s most popular games.

Even with their new pre-eminence, Tencent and Alibaba face some daunting challenges. China’s internet world cannot grow forever, and both companies have stumbled in many of their efforts to get their popularity at home to translate into success in the United States and other markets.

Both have made expensive forays into Hollywood with lackluster results. And they face rising pressure from a Chinese government that has become increasingly aware of the power of digital information — and has plans to use it to better track its populations.

Still, there is an opportunity for the companies to emerge as global leaders in areas like gaming, e-commerce and communications, said David Chao, co-founder of the venture capital firm DCM Ventures. “They’re a legitimate force to be reckoned with on the world stage,” he said.

For now, a market of 700 million internet users in China is enough to keep Alibaba and Tencent going.

Consider that the world’s biggest moneymaking smartphone game is a China-only title called Honor of Kings that is more widely played than Pokémon Go at its peak. In the game, players can spend real money to upgrade their online personas and arrange digital fights through social media. Honor of Kings is owned by Tencent.

“The majority of businessmen in China now are playing the game,” said Zhang Guangyi, 25, a businessman from Beijing who estimates he has spent about $1,500 in the game. “Once I met a client and when we added each other on WeChat, I noticed that he was also playing and that my level is higher than his. I proposed that I escort him in the game. Soon after that, we had the contract signed.”


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“It’s like school,” she said.

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4:58 A.M. Sleep is a popular way of passing the first leg of the trip.

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Andrew Burton for The New York Times

ACE ridership has doubled over the past decade, to about 2,500 people a day, though the figure is still dwarfed by the number who commute by car from San Joaquin County to the Bay Area. On that recent early morning, as the train wound toward the Altamont Pass, traffic was already forming on the freeway outside the window.

While drivers sat alert and watched the road, the train looked more like a red-eye flight. Blankets, pillows, earplugs, eyeshades. The few people who were not sleeping distracted themselves with smartphones, laptops and the occasional printed book.

One thing people did not do was talk. Even outside the quiet car, there were few audible conversations.

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5:33 A.M. Ms. James and other commuters make the transfer from train to bus in Pleasanton.

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Andrew Burton for The New York Times

That was starting to change by the time the train pulled into the Pleasanton station. The sun was rising over a bus that waited on the other side of the station’s parking lot.

Ms. James and a crowd of other commuters crossed the parking lot to the bus, which was headed to the Bay Area Rapid Transit station. As the bus idled and waited for stragglers, a woman urged the driver to get going so she could make her next train.

“It’s amazing how this commute makes infants of adults,” Ms. James said.

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5:34 A.M. With dawn breaking, Ms. James is still not halfway through her commute.

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Andrew Burton for The New York Times

Ms. James used to live closer, in Alameda, Calif., about 15 miles across San Francisco Bay from her work. But three years ago, after a developer bought her building and evicted Ms. James and her neighbors, she moved to Stockton.

Stockton has more for the money: Ms. James pays $1,000 a month in rent for her three-bedroom house, compared with $1,600 for the one-bedroom apartment she had in Alameda. She can work from home some of the time, so she now has a home office with a desk and a computer, as opposed to the “home corner” she had in her apartment.

The trade-off is a brutal commute.

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5:47 A.M. Heading for the third leg, a Bay Area Rapid Transit train.

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Andrew Burton for The New York Times

Long commutes are a byproduct of the region’s tech boom, which has given rise to a full-blown housing crisis. As home prices have escalated beyond middle-class reach, areas far inland have become an oasis of (relative) affordability. Ms. James wakes up in a city where the median home price is below $300,000, according to the online real estate database company Zillow. Prices rise steadily along her commute until she gets off her last train in San Francisco, where a typical home costs more than $1 million.

As more people move inland, home prices are rising faster in the Central Valley than anywhere else in the state: In San Joaquin County (which includes Stockton) and neighboring Merced County, prices are up about 12 percent in the last year.

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Taken together, the frenetic, disjointed ways the most striking media moments from Charlottesville and its aftermath unfolded and went viral — across many mediums and at lightning speed — seems emblematic of the way we consume news today.

So, in case you missed them amid the week’s many stories, we’ve compiled a few of the most memorable:

The photo that ‘will define this moment’

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A car struck another vehicle near a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer.

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Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress, via Associated Press

As tensions mounted around Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park on Saturday, Ryan M. Kelly stepped onto the sidewalk. Photographing Saturday’s rally was to be his final assignment for the The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville; he had accepted a job as the digital and social media coordinator at a brewery, where, as he noted on Twitter, he would “get paid to geek out about beer.”

Then a Dodge Challenger came screeching past Mr. Kelly. It plowed into a crowd of people in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions would later call an “evil” act of domestic terrorism that would leave one woman, Heather D. Heyer, dead and injure at least 19 other people.

“Out of instinct, I began taking photos,” Mr. Kelly wrote in an account for the Columbia Journalism Review. “I just brought the camera to my eye and just mashed the shutter down.”

The image he captured — of a man frozen in midair before a fall, of the Challenger barreling through more victims in its path, of shoes having been knocked off their wearers’ feet — was republished widely by news outlets across the country.

Other indelible images would emerge throughout the weekend.

But Mr. Kelly’s picture was quickly deemed “The photo from Charlottesville that will define this moment in American history.”

A ‘breakout’ for Vice News

“Charlottesville: Race and Terror” from VICE News Tonight on HBO. Video by VICE News

With menacing music in the background, a pitch-black screen turns aglow by fire. White men marching with torches chant, “You will not replace us!”

Then, for the next 20 minutes or so, Elle Reeve, correspondent for “Vice News Tonight,” guides viewers through the weekend’s events — including from her place embedded among the white nationalist leaders who helped organize the demonstration.

“I think that a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here, frankly,” Christopher Cantwell, a man identified in the episode as a white nationalist, said Sunday after the rally had resulted in three fatalities. His opponents, he said, “want violence, and the right is just meeting market demand.”

The unvarnished look at the alt-right and its leaders, which aired Monday on HBO, struck a chord with the public. By Thursday afternoon, a Vice News spokeswoman said that the episode had received more than 36 million views across all platforms — including HBO, Facebook and YouTube.

CNN hailed the Charlottesville coverage as a “breakout moment” for Vice News.

“I knew we had something pretty unique and pretty horrifying,” Josh Tyrangiel, the Vice executive overseeing news, told the network.

A Twitter message sent and then deleted

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By Tuesday morning, President Trump returned to his favorite social media platform, Twitter, to share a cartoon of a train running over a person with a CNN logo covering the head.

The tweet was deleted minutes later and a White House official said it had been posted inadvertently.

Mr. Trump took to Twitter again Wednesday to repost other people’s messages that assailed the mainstream media and congratulated a Fox News program for pulling in good ratings.

The chief of staff looks on — or doesn’t

Nothing that Mr. Trump tweeted on either day would garner him as much attention as what he said on Tuesday night.

At an event at Trump Tower where he expected to discuss infrastructure, Mr. Trump asked for questions — something his aides, including his new chief of staff, John F. Kelly, had not expected.

Photographs quickly surfaced of Mr. Kelly, looking grim, as he listened as reporters call out questions and Mr. Trump respond by blaming “both sides” for the deadly violence in Charlottesville.

Soon, media outlets were collecting images of Mr. Kelly and analyzing his facial expressions.

Among the most popular images was one shot by freelance photojournalist Al Drago, who was on assignment at Trump Tower for The Times. By Wednesday, a tweet he sent of the photo had been shared more than 2,600 times.

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John Kelly, White House chief of staff, listened as reporters call out questions to President Trump during a news conference at the Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday.

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Al Drago for The New York Times

In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Mr. Drago said he had been taking photos of the president with different lenses when he looked to his left and saw Mr. Kelly with his arms crossed, staring intently at Mr. Trump.

“I started shooting a couple photos of him and he started to look down a little more,” Mr. Drago said of Mr. Kelly. “It was a pensive stare that helped show the mood of the news event we were in.”

People can draw their own conclusions about what Mr. Kelly was thinking, the photographer said, but “when you see his body language like that, you know something’s up.”

The news conference

During what The Times described as a “wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference,” Mr. Trump defended those who had gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, criticized “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” and questioned whether the movement to pull down Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

President Trump’s news conference on race and violence in Charlottesville, as seen on NBC on Tuesday. Video by NBC News

Mr. Pope, the Columbia Journalism Review editor, said that although the news conference was “messy” and “uncomfortable at times,” it was “appropriate to the moment” and a template for reporters moving forward.

“If someone is saying something that is demonstrably false, we don’t have the obligation to let it unspool; we have the right to stop it,” he said.

“I saw a guttural, emotional reaction from reporters to the news conference in a way I haven’t seen before,” he added. “There was something unleashed on both sides that is new.”

As evidence, Mr. Pope pointed to stories by The Times and The Washington Post about Mr. Trump’s remarks that garnered attention for their bluntness.

CNN, meanwhile, has not shied away from labeling Mr. Trump‘s remarks as “off the rails” in banners that stretch across the television screen. As the network cut away from Mr. Trump’s news conference on Tuesday, the anchor Jake Tapper reacted simply by saying: “Wow.”

Even some right-leaning television hosts could not hide their surprise. On Fox News, Kat Timpf said, “I’m still in the phase where I’m wondering if it was actually real life.” Co-hosts of the network’s show “The Specialists” shook their heads. And later on Fox News, the commentator Charles Krauthammer said, “What Trump did today was a moral disgrace.”

On his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson came to the president’s defense, arguing that Mr. Trump had “fired back at the media” before discussing famous historical figures, including Jefferson and Plato, who owned slaves.

And by Tuesday night, any of Mr. Trump’s other supporters looking for guidance on how to react were in luck. A copy of the talking points the White House sent out to Republicans in Congress was leaked.

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Referring to a tweet by Mr. Trump criticizing Kenneth C. Frazier, the Merck executive who led this week’s corporate retreat from the White House councils, Mr. Sonnenfeld said, “Never in history has a president attacked and threatened the chief executive of a major U.S. corporation like that.”

After provoking a furor with his initial failure to condemn the white supremacists behind last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Trump might have staved off a full-scale exodus with his somewhat stilted but conciliatory comments on Monday. But then he reignited the flames at a news conference on Tuesday at which he said there was “blame on both sides,” including club-wielding members of what he called the “alt-left,” for the Charlottesville violence. The white nationalist leader Richard Spencer and the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke were quick to embrace his remarks.

As pressure mounted on prominent council members like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, Ginni Rometti of IBM and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, as well as other chief executives who remained silent or issued platitudes, corporate boards were hastily meeting to map strategy. “I’ve heard from 24 chief executives in the past two days,” Mr. Sonnenfeld said on Wednesday. “Boards are having ad hoc conference calls. People are very worried and concerned.”

Those conversations have been far more complicated than one might expect. It’s safe to say that no chief executive wants to be identified with white supremacy, racism or domestic terrorism. At the same time the president wields enormous influence over their shareholders, employees and customers.

“Chief executives don’t have the luxury of ventilating their personal political opinions, whatever they might be,” Mr. Elson said. “They shouldn’t let their personal views influence their business decisions. If they really feel strongly about something, they can always resign and then say whatever they want.”

As he told me shortly after Mr. Trump took office, “When the president calls, you should go to see him, regardless of your political persuasion, out of respect for the office.”

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Unlike some companies with a large consumer base to appease, Boeing has thrived by burnishing its ties to Mr. Trump.

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Jason Redmond/Reuters

Back then, Mr. Sonnenfeld, too, praised Mr. Trump’s openness to business views as a welcome change from an Obama administration perceived as anti-business. “He’s very charming and open to new ideas,” Mr. Sonnenfeld said then of Mr. Trump.

This week was a different story. After the Charlottesville events and Mr. Trump’s comments, “chief executives have a moral duty to use their position as a bully pulpit and to speak out,” Mr. Sonnenfeld said, adding that George Weyerhaeuser, a former chairman of the giant timber and wood products company bearing his name, had once told him, “We have a license to operate from society, and if we violate that license it can be revoked.”

Or as Mr. Elson told me, “At some point, if identification with the administration becomes so polarizing that it impairs your ability to run the company, then you may have to do something.”

Weighing the benefits of advising a president steeped in controversy versus the risks to shareholders and other constituents from potential consumer boycotts is a calculus that varies widely from company to company.

At one extreme is a company like Boeing, which, as I noted last week, has thrived by burnishing its ties to Mr. Trump, who posed for photos in front of a 787 Dreamliner at a nonunion Boeing plant in South Carolina. Boeing is one of the federal government’s largest contractors ($1.1 billion was allotted recently for 14 Boeing fighter jets); the Export-Import Bank once threatened by Mr. Trump finances many of Boeing’s buyers; a host of other executive-branch decisions affect its profits; and it has no direct exposure to consumers.

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Stephen Curry is among a number of African-American players who endorse products by Under Armour, an athletic wear company that has pledged to be “a force of unity, growth and optimism for our city and our country.”

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Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Under Armour, the maker of athletic wear, whose chief executive, Kevin Plank, left the president’s council earlier this week. Under Armour’s success depends in part on endorsements from celebrity athletes, many of whom — like Stephen Curry, the basketball star — are African-American. Under Armour customers had already organized a consumer boycott on social media earlier this year, prompting Mr. Plank to issue an open letter pledging to be “a force of unity, growth and optimism for our city and our country” and to oppose “any new actions that negatively impact our team, our neighbors or their families.”

That new action appears to have arrived.

“The risk of consumer blowback is especially acute for companies like Under Armour, and you’ve seen this elsewhere in the retail space,” Mr. Sonnenfeld said. But he noted that speaking out against a social scourge like racism can also enhance a brand. “Taking a public stand doesn’t mean there’s a misalignment with shareholder interests,” he said. “It can be the right thing to do. Howard Schultz has done this very effectively at Starbucks.”

On Monday, Mr. Schultz publicly criticized the president’s response to the Charlottesville events, and on Wednesday he spoke at an emotional companywide meeting. “I come to you as an American, as a Jew, as a parent, as a grandparent, as an almost 40-year partner of a company I love so dearly,” he said. “I come to you with profound, profound concern about the lack of character, morality, humanity and what this might mean for young children and young generations.”

Historically, corporate aversion to politics has at times held firm even under national leadership that threatens the health of the economy, and with it the well-being of every company. The most notorious example was the support of German industry for Hitler and the Nazi regime, which ended up destroying the nation’s economy. American companies also worked with the Nazis before the United States entered the war, including — as the current Amazon production of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon” reminds us — Hollywood studios.

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Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, told employees on Wednesday that he had “profound, profound concern about the lack of character, morality, humanity” that he said was exhibited in Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Comparing the Trump administration to the Nazis may be a stretch, but many business leaders are concerned that stirring up deep-seated racial and nationalist animosities could be destabilizing, leading to riots, property damage and widespread civil unrest reminiscent of the late 1960s. Two Vanderbilt University professors, William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo, documented the devastating economic impact of the 1967 race riots in a widely cited article, “The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots.”

In such circumstances, collective action by business leaders is often the most effective course, as members of the president’s advisory councils appear to have decided this week. That way no one company bears the brunt of the president’s wrath.

After Mr. Trump’s comments about Charlottesville, Mr. Sonnenfeld has been among those calling for collective opposition. “Fomenting racial unrest is not in the nation’s interest and it’s not in businesses’ interest,” he said. “Divide and conquer has always been Trump’s strategy, and somehow it has worked until now. The way to take a bully down is through collective action.”

Correction: August 17, 2017

An earlier version of this column referred incompletely to President Trump’s comments on Tuesday about the instigators of weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va. He said there was “blame on both sides,” including club-wielding members of what he called the “alt-left”; he did not say that group was solely responsible.


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This is what they had to say about Walmart chief executive’s decision to weigh into the political fray this week.

— Michael Corkery

Bloomington, Ind.

‘Somebody’s got to say it. We’ve got to speak up.’

Sitting in the Walmart parking lot, Louise Adamson, 78, shook her head as she thought about the violence in Virginia.

“It’s so saddening to see what’s going on, and it’s getting worse and worse,” she said.

Mrs. Adamson and her husband, who recently sold Bloomington Valley Nursery, a garden and landscaping business they started decades ago, attend services each Sunday at Bloomington Southern Baptist church. She said she had voted for Mr. Trump because she liked that he was not a politician.

But President Trump’s response to the violence made her angry, she said, adding that Mr. McMillon was correct in denouncing the president.

“Somebody’s got to say it,” she said. “We’ve got to speak up. So few of us have any kind of say. If you get too involved, you get yourself killed.”

Ed Congdon, who also voted for Mr. Trump, had a different view.

“I think all C.E.O.s should keep their mouths shut,” said Mr. Congdon, 63, who was listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio show while his wife shopped inside. “You want to be a political pundit, go on CNN.”

Mr. Congdon, who drives tractor-trailers for a living, said he agreed with President Trump’s hesitation to place the blame for the violence solely on the “conservative side.”

“The biggest problem is that they’re not calling out the liberal side of things,” he said, adding that the Virginia protesters should be “investigated” as to who “paid them.”

As for giving his business to Walmart, Mr. Congdon seemed resigned. “My wife’s going to be shopping here till the day she dies,” he said.

Hannah Alani

Union Township, N.J.

The C.E.O. has to worry about stockholders, nobody else

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Peter Caprio suggested it was not appropriate for the chief executive of a big company like Walmart to comment on politics.

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Andrew Seng for The New York Times

Peter Caprio, 64, had just started pulling out of his parking spot when he realized the cooler he had put in his trunk was holding the rear gate of his BMW sport utility vehicle open.

Mr. Caprio, a school business administrator, said Mr. Trump had made fair points in his news conference on Tuesday, when he said the violence was not just the fault of the white supremacists. “He was right; it’s on both sides,” he said.

But even if he might have agreed with Mr. McMillon’s position, he suggested it was not appropriate for the chief executive of a big company like Walmart to comment on politics.

“The C.E.O. has to worry about stockholders, nobody else,” Mr. Caprio said. “If it doesn’t affect stockholders, best to let it go.”

Another shopper, Jose Rivero, 56, said he was heartened that the Walmart chief had spoken out.

“I think it’s wrong that the president doesn’t condemn” racism, said Mr. Rivero, who manages a cleaning company. “I think it makes a difference that all these big companies are making statements. I don’t like this hate.”

Regardless, Mr. Rivero said Mr. McMillon’s statements would not affect his shopping habits. “Everyone has to have an opinion,” he said.

Zach Wichter

Las Vegas

‘To have the president in office not stepping up is a disgrace’

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Michael Ellington said that President Trump had wasted an opportunity.

Credit
Emily Wilson for The New York Times

Michael Ellington, a stay-at-home father, said he keeps an eye on the news — but not when his children are in the room. He prefers that they not be subjected to such anger, even from the president.

“I’m pleased with the C.E.O.’s response,” said Mr. Ellington, 40. “He was spot on. What Trump did was miss a very critical opportunity. Considering today’s society and climate, those types of opportunities are important and not to be wasted. To have the president in office not stepping up is a disgrace to the office.”

Shandra Tenney, 25, agreed. A married dental assistant, Ms. Tenney left the store with a bounty of the 12-packs of soda that were on sale.

“If the C.E.O. had been for Trump after what he said yesterday, I don’t think I could have come here and given them my money,” she said. “I’m really happy they are standing up to this guy. These business guys, and Trump is a business guy, are saying something. And they are saying, to me, they don’t think he’s a good guy to be in business with. It says something.”

— Kimberley McGee


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But after the president delivered a series of stunning remarks in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon, when he again equated far-right hate groups with the groups protesting them, many chief executives had enough.

On Wednesday morning, a dozen of the country’s most influential C.E.O.s joined a conference call, and, after some debate, a consensus emerged: The policy forum would be disbanded, delivering a blow to a president who came into office boasting of his close ties with business leaders.

With the collapse of the councils, the president has all but lost his most natural constituency — the corporate leaders who stood to benefit from his agenda of lower taxes and lighter regulation.

Before they could make a statement announcing their decision, however, Mr. Trump spoke. He had caught wind of their planned defection and wanted to have the last word. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”

This account is based on interviews with more than a dozen people at the companies represented on the council or advising them.

Mr. Trump rose to fame as a businessman. A real estate developer and reality television star, he cultivated an image as the consummate boss, dishing out investment advice and popularizing the phrase “You’re fired!” on the television show “The Apprentice.”

As president, he filled the White House with executives from Wall Street, and installed business and business-friendly leaders in many important government roles. And he convened several business advisory groups stacked with the nation’s top chief executives.

But seven months into his presidency, Mr. Trump is faced with an uncomfortable situation: Fewer and fewer business leaders are willing to be associated with a president who continues to advance opinions and policies that are deeply unpopular.

“There is continuing pressure on C.E.O.s from customers, employees, shareholders and board members to take a position against what’s going on and separate themselves from president Trump’s councils,” said Bill George, the former chief executive of the medical device maker Medtronic and a board member of Goldman Sachs. “These executives cannot live with customers thinking they are in cahoots with someone who supports white supremacists or neo-Nazis.”

For the executives, leaving these groups is no small matter. Presidential advisory groups are largely ceremonial but highly prestigious posts for business leaders, giving them an opportunity to weigh in on policy and try to shape a president’s legislative agenda. But after a few much-publicized events for the groups, momentum was lost, and when the week began, no further meetings were planned.

“They had a few meetings with a bunch of fanfare, but it was more symbolic than anything else,” said Anat R. Admati, a professor of finance and economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Still, executives’ involvement with the groups — or their decision to withdraw — had become a barometer of their support for the president. The recent mass defections have exposed a fundamental divide between Mr. Trump and mainstream business leaders.

“In American history, we’ve never had business leaders decline national service when requested by the president,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. “They’ve now turned their backs on him.”

By Tuesday evening, a consensus had emerged among many of the chief executives on the policy forum. Having stood with the president in recent months even as he advanced positions they vehemently opposed, including tough immigration policies and withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord, many executives felt his apparent tolerance for white nationalist violence was a bridge too far.

Ms. Nooyi was drawing heavy criticism on social media for her involvement in the panel. Others, including Mr. Lesser, the chief executive of Boston Consulting Group, and Mark Weinberger, the head of the accounting firm Ernst & Young, also signaled they would not remain. By 10 p.m., it was clear that many participants were prepared to resign.

As the group disintegrated, Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group, was kept in the loop. Mr. Schwarzman was one of Mr. Trump’s closest business confidants and the chairman of the policy forum, but he was also outraged by the president’s remarks.

On Tuesday evening, he called Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, to inform him that the policy forum was falling apart. At the same time, Mr. Schwarzman began drafting a statement about disbanding the group. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Efforts to schedule a conference call for the chief executives on Tuesday night were unsuccessful, so a call was set for 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, Laurence D. Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, called Ms. Nooyi, Ms. Rometty, Ms. Barra and Douglas McMillon, the chief executive of Walmart.

Mr. Fink decided to step down after seeing the president’s remarks on Tuesday, and now encouraged other executives to join him. Mr. McMillon, who earlier in the week made public a stinging critique of the president, but had not stepped down from the advisory group, had changed his stance after Mr. Trump’s news conference on Tuesday, deciding to step down.

Graphic

The Business Leaders Who Were on Trump’s Advisory Councils

There was a mass exodus of executives from presidential advisory councils as they opposed stances taken by President Trump.


As the call began, more than a dozen of the nation’s top business leaders dialed in from around the country — Mr. Fink was in Aspen, Colo., while Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan, was home in New York.

Leading the discussion, Mr. Schwarzman, gave each participant time to speak.

Two in the group — Jim McNerney, the former chief executive of Boeing and Jack Welch, the former leader of General Electric — proposed issuing a statement condemning the president, but keeping the group together.

Mr. McNerney and Mr. Welch did not respond to requests for comment.

But most others, including Mr. Fink of BlackRock and Ms. Nooyi of Pepsi, leaned toward disbanding.

Mr. Dimon was also furious and wanted off the council, but felt conflicted because of his role as chairman of the Business Roundtable, an industry group.

Ms. Rometty of IBM, who had faced criticism from employees for her role in the group, advocated that the executives “condemn and disband.” That phrase soon drew broad backing.

During the 40-minute phone call, Mr. Schwarzman did not press for continued allegiance to the president. He said that although he had had high hopes for the forum, something had to change in light of the president’s reaction to the violence in Charlottesville. The question, he added, was how to reach a consensus.

As the policy forum was holding its call, other members of the manufacturing council, including Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup and Inge Thulin of 3M, announced they would step down.

By the time the call was over, the group had agreed to disband. After the decision was final, Mr. Schwarzman called the White House to let Mr. Trump know. He was asked to include language that the president had agreed to disband it.

Shortly thereafter, the president claimed on Twitter that he was disbanding the advisory groups.

Companies swiftly disputed that notion. Johnson & Johnson said its chief executive, Alex Gorsky, was leaving the panel before the president’s tweet.

After the announcement of the disbanding, many of the chief executives who had initially lent support to Mr. Trump, publicly separated themselves from him, one by one, in stark language.

“There is no room for equivocation here: the evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned and has no place in a country that draws strength from our diversity and humanity,” Mr. Dimon of JPMorgan wrote.

“In the past week, we have seen and heard of public events and statements that run counter to our values as a country and a company,” Ms. Rometty of IBM said.

And Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman of General Electric, said, “The president’s statements yesterday were deeply troubling.”

Correction: August 16, 2017

An earlier version of this article rendered incorrectly part of a Twitter message from President Trump. He said “rather than putting pressure” on business executives, not “rather than put pressure” on them.

An earlier version of this article misstated the day on which some chief executives discussed withdrawing from a presidential advisory group. It was Tuesday, not Monday.


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“I’ve been on Fox News on and off for five years now,” Ms. Williams, 33, who calls herself politically moderate, said in an interview on Wednesday. “Never in my life had I received the response that I received.”

Ms. Williams is not registered in any political party, and she said last year that she did not vote for Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. She said she had felt compelled to air her indignation with Mr. Trump in part because she believed her audience deserved a diversity of viewpoints.

“I felt utterly compelled in that moment, particularly as a black woman who works on Fox News Channel, and has the privilege and a responsibility to address an audience that otherwise doesn’t necessarily get my point of view, or the point of view of people like me,” she said. “They probably don’t see much of any of the diverse point of view that I can offer.”

Not every viewer has been pleased. “I couldn’t get to the remote soon enough” to change the channel, one Twitter user wrote on Wednesday, after Ms. Williams again criticized Mr. Trump on the air. Another wrote: “I wonder if @FoxNews now regrets the divisive hateful words spewed out of the nasty mouth” of Ms. Williams.

Mr. Hannity and other anchors, including the morning show hosts on “Fox & Friends,” rarely question the president, and several of them recently dined with Mr. Trump at the White House. Rupert Murdoch, Fox News’s executive chairman, is a regular adviser to Mr. Trump, even counseling him on the fate of Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist.

But Mr. Trump has his critics on Fox News. Juan Williams regularly battles with his pro-Trump co-hosts on the prime-time show “The Five.” The daytime news anchor Shepard Smith can offer up tough criticism. “So far we’ve been unable to find the very fine people protesting with the white supremacists,” he said sarcastically on Wednesday’s broadcast, referring to Mr. Trump’s assertion that “very fine people” were among the demonstrators in Charlottesville.

Ms. Williams’s criticism was more scathing. Addressing Mr. Trump directly on the air Monday, she said: “While you personally may not be a racist, President Trump, what you are is all too happy to reap the benefits of their support, and you even tacitly encourage them with evasive, irresponsible statements.”

Ms. Williams, a lawyer who formerly worked at CBS News, said in the interview Wednesday that her superiors at Fox News had not expressed concern.

“I’ll tell you the truth, if they had said anything, it would have shocked me,” she said. “I’m no puppet for the network. I call Fox as I see Fox. And for me it’s been a positive experience. It’s not been a perfect experience, but I’m there because the good outweighs the bad.”

Her “Specialists” co-host, the libertarian commentator Kat Timpf, has also drawn attention for criticizing Mr. Trump on the air, calling his news conference “one of the biggest messes that I’ve ever seen.”

“The Specialists” usually features the anchor Eric Bolling, who was suspended this month after HuffPost reported on accusations that he had sent lewd messages to co-workers. (Mr. Bolling has denied wrongdoing.) Ms. Williams acknowledged that his absence had created some uncertainty. “The future of our show hangs in the balance,” she said.

Rumors have circulated that Fox News might reshuffle its schedule, adding Laura Ingraham in prime time and moving “The Five” from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m., when “The Specialists” now airs. Asked about the speculation, Ms. Williams said, “Your guess would literally be quite as good as mine.”

She added: “We have no idea. They’ve not told us or any of the other co-hosts or producers anything other than they believe in this show.”


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Alibaba’s sales have surged as Chinese statistics show consumers in the country continue to do more and more of their shopping online. In that sense, Alibaba’s growth is tracking China’s efforts to transform its economy to rely more on American-style consumption and less on government spending.

That does not make it infallible. Alibaba’s results rely on its online marketplaces, which face growing competition and could someday be hit by a slowdown in growth either from the Chinese economy or from internet adoption in a still-developing country. To diversify, Alibaba has been expanding into entertainment and cloud computing and looking for new opportunities overseas, where it faces competition from its American peers.

The Technology

The strong growth also cloaks a more complicated picture. Over the past year, Alibaba’s increase in revenue has outstripped the actual value of the goods being sold on its e-commerce websites. That means that the company has been able to earn more off the vendors who sell everything from name brands to knickknacks on its sites.

Alibaba makes money from vendors by charging them for advertising on its platforms, among other services. New technology and some of its corporate deals have given it access to new and better data that give it more power to target those vendors.

That approach has kept Alibaba’s results strong despite a slowdown in growth of the total value of goods being sold on its platform. But it is not clear how long it can keep that phenomenon going, fueling its effort to find new consumers and expand into new businesses.

Jack Ma Goes to Washington

As part of that push, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s charismatic founder, has been barnstorming across the American political landscape over the past year. A sort of ambassador for the company, Mr. Ma met with President Trump and held a conference in Detroit. His goal has been to persuade more American vendors to get on Alibaba and sell to a Chinese middle class that craves foreign goods.

By attracting more vendors from overseas, Alibaba is able to bring in more big advertising spenders, and support its revenue growth.

Helping his cause was a settlement announced this month between Alibaba and Kering, the luxury goods giant that owns the Gucci brand and had filed a lawsuit in 2015 charging counterfeit goods had been sold from Alibaba’s e-commerce websites.

The Amazon Aspect

As Alibaba looks abroad, it may finally directly compete with that other e-commerce giant, Amazon. In Southeast Asia, where Alibaba owns an online commerce platform called Lazada, it will probably face a new Amazon initiative in the region.

Some have wondered whether Mr. Ma is simply following Amazon’s game plan. Just as Amazon has done, Alibaba has started a cloud computing business, bought into a high-profile newspaper, worked to begin creating its own entertainment content, and more recently made bold predictions about unmanned retail stores that will use smartphones to automatically charge customers.

Still, there are some ways in which Alibaba is different. The biggest one is its financial affiliate, Ant Financial, which is responsible for trillions of dollars in money transfers each year. As it looks to expand the business overseas, it has bid for MoneyGram, a remittance company that would give it new exposure to America. As American regulators review that deal, much will depend on Mr. Ma’s political maneuverings.

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“Intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” said a statement released by the council. “We believe the debate over forum participation has become a distraction from our well-intentioned and sincere desire to aid vital policy discussions on how to improve the lives of everyday Americans. As such, the president and we are disbanding the forum.”

Before the president’s announcement, executives from his manufacturing council were expected to have a similar call Wednesday afternoon. The manufacturing panel has seen a wave of defections since Monday, as business chiefs who had agreed to advise the president determined that his remarks left them with no choice but to walk away.

Graphic

The Business Leaders Who Were on Trump’s Advisory Councils

There was a mass exodus of executives from presidential advisory councils as they opposed stances taken by President Trump.


Two additional chief executives — Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup and Inge Thulin of 3M — had announced Wednesday morning they would resign from the manufacturing council.

The defections left Mr. Trump all but isolated from the business leaders whose approval he covets.

Members of the advisory group had stood with the president in recent months even as he advanced policies they vehemently opposed, including tough immigration policies and withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord.

But the president’s equivocating in the wake of the outburst of white nationalist violence in Charlottesville was too much for the C.E.O.s to bear.

“He had put them in a very difficult position,” said Anat R. Admati, a professor of finance and economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “This has ruined his relationships with some of them.”

On Monday, after Mr. Trump’s initial response to the violence, Kenneth C. Frazier, the chief executive of drugmaker Merck, resigned from the manufacturing council. For much of the day Mr. Frazier was alone in his opposition, but that night, two more C.E.O.s, from Under Armour and Intel, left the same group.

Then on Tuesday, three leaders of labor and nonprofit business groups left the council. And in a rebuke to the president, the chief executive of Walmart made public a letter to employees in which he explicitly criticized Mr. Trump’s leadership.

Presidential advisory councils are largely ceremonial, meant to give the business community a line in with the White House. But in the Trump administration, the councils have become politically charged entities, as the executives in the groups have routinely been asked to defend the president’s unpopular opinions and policies.

Moreover, the panels have not been seen to be particularly effective. After a few prominent events for the groups early in Mr. Trump’s presidency, there have been few meetings since, and no more are planned.

“So far they haven’t done much,” Ms. Admati said. “They had a few meetings with a bunch of fanfare, but it was more symbolic than anything else.”

Correction: August 16, 2017

An earlier version of this article rendered incorrectly part of a Twitter message from President Trump. He said “rather than putting pressure” on business executives, not “rather than put pressure” on them.


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But the weakness of inflation, which the Fed now expects to remain below its target annual pace of 2 percent for the fifth-consecutive year, is prompting some Fed officials to hesitate.

Most Fed officials subscribe to a view of inflation in which prices rise more quickly as unemployment declines. The basic idea is that companies must offer higher and higher wages to keep their workers.

Now, the Fed is confronting “the coexistence of low inflation and low unemployment,” a phenomenon that inverts the “stagflation” experience of the 1970s, when both inflation and unemployment climbed.

The meeting account said most officials continued to regard low unemployment as the most important factor. They said inflation was rising slowly because of temporary factors, like a decline in cellphone service prices. And they remain inclined to raise the Fed’s benchmark rate later this year.

Photo

Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman. Low inflation is prompting some Fed officials to hesitate on an interest rate increase.

Credit
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

But as low inflation persists, alternative theories have blossomed. Some Fed officials see evidence that the low unemployment rate overstates the health of the job market, and therefore that the Fed should wait to raise interest rates. Low rates support job growth by encouraging borrowing and risk-taking.

Others see evidence that the connection between unemployment and inflation has been overstated.

Some Fed officials have suggested that the public is losing confidence that the Fed will raise inflation back to a 2 percent annual pace, which could make it harder for the Fed to do so, because inflation expectations can become self-fulfilling.

The account said some voting members of the Fed’s policy arm, the Federal Open Market Committee, wanted reassurance that inflation was rising before voting to raise rates again.

The slow pace of wage growth is driving a parallel debate. Wages have increased modestly in recent years, and the minutes noted again there was “little evidence of wage pressures.”

Some officials see further confirmation that the economy is weak.

Others, however, see the data as misleading. One possibility, advanced by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, is that aggregate wage measures remain low because the baby boomers are retiring. In this view, older, high-wage workers are being replaced by younger workers who make less simply because they are at an earlier stage in their careers. That is holding down measures of average wages, but individual workers may still be seeing healthier wage growth.

And there are also those who contend that wage growth is doing about as well as one would expect given the slow growth of productivity.

Fed officials continue to retreat from the expectation that the Trump administration will deliver a large dose of fiscal stimulus, whether in tax cuts or increased infrastructure spending. The Fed reported that companies, too, are losing hope.

“Uncertainty about the course of federal government policy, including in the areas of fiscal policy, trade and health care, was tending to weigh down firms’ spending and hiring plans,” the minutes said.

The Fed also included in the minutes a warning about the Trump administration’s plans to reduce what it regards as overly burdensome financial regulation.

“It would not be desirable,” the minutes said, “for the current regulatory framework to be changed in ways that allowed a re-emergence of the types of risky practices that contributed to the crisis.”


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