FirstFT: Chinese missile tests constraints of physics

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China’s hypersonic weapon test in July included a technological advance that enabled it to fire a missile as it approached its target travelling at least five times the speed of sound — a capability no country has previously demonstrated.

Pentagon scientists were caught off guard by the advance, which allowed the hypersonic glide vehicle, a manoeuvrable spacecraft that can carry a nuclear warhead, to fire a separate missile mid-flight over the South China Sea, according to people familiar with the intelligence.

Experts at Darpa, the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, remain unsure how China overcame the constraints of physics by firing countermeasures from a vehicle travelling at hypersonic speeds, said the people familiar with details of the demonstration.

Military experts have been poring over data related to the test to understand how China mastered the technology. They are also debating the purpose of the projectile, which was fired by the hypersonic vehicle with no obvious target of its own, before plunging into the water.

What’s your reaction to the news of China’s advance? Tell me what you think at firstft@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. — Emily

1. KKR makes €33bn buyout offer for Telecom Italia The US buyout fund has launched a more than €33bn offer to take Telecom Italia private in what would be one of the largest private equity buyouts of a European company in history.

2. Olympics chief holds video call with missing Chinese tennis star Thomas Bach said he held a 30-minute video call with Peng Shuai on Sunday, with the International Olympic Committee stating she was “safe and well” in Beijing but that she “would like to have her privacy respected at this time”.

Peng Shuai
Peng Shuai signing autographs at a junior tournament © Twitter/@QingQuingParis via Reuters

3. El Salvador plans ‘bitcoin city’ powered by volcano President Nayib Bukele has said the Central American country plans to build a volcano-powered “bitcoin city” financed partly by an issue of $1bn in sovereign bonds backed by the cryptocurrency.

4. Samsung investors look for guidance on $100bn cash pile Samsung’s most powerful executive is touring the US in what investors hope is a sign the company is looking to deploy its $100bn cash pile. Third-generation heir Lee Jae-yong is on his first overseas trip since he was released from jail early on the grounds it was in the national interest.

5. India’s PM abandons unpopular farm reforms India’s prime minister will abandon contentious agricultural market reforms that sparked year-long protests from Indian farmers and a major challenge to his authority.

We forgot to include our quiz last Friday. Apologies for the error! You can still test your knowledge here.

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The days ahead

China policy rate decision Policymakers are expected to keep China’s benchmark interest rate steady as they seek to limit risk in the real estate sector. (Reuters)

Thailand economic data The nation’s third-quarter employment data and household debt figures are set to be published.

World Trade Organization meeting The general council of the WTO will meet in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Key US commission heralds the coming capital wars If there’s one thing both Republicans and Democrats can agree on, it’s that China is America’s biggest long-term strategic threat. And yet US financial firms couldn’t be more bullish on the Middle Kingdom, writes Rana Foroohar.

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The EU’s fiscal rules need more than technical tweaks In Freudian psychoanalysis, neurotic behaviour is the manifestation of repressed feelings. In the EU’s obsession with codified rules, it is politics that is being repressed. That is why the newly relaunched debate on the bloc’s fiscal rules is going to be difficult, writes Martin Sandbu.

The British cup of tea needs a spoonful of sophistication The British are said to love little more than a cup of tea, but that affection is not shared by Unilever. Its €4.5bn sale of some of the world’s biggest tea brands shows how unsentimental companies can be. It also raises an unsettling question: is black tea, brewed in a teapot and served with milk, becoming a relic?

House & Home

Could you work from home in the Alps? During the pandemic, some skiers have been doing just that. FT’s Liz Rowlinson explores whether the romantic vision tallies with the reality.

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