US-China trade war escalates, tariff list aims to hinder China’s high-tech development: expert


China will impose 25 percent in tariffs on 659 US goods worth $50 billion, including soybeans, cars and seafood.

The move came as a tit-for-tat response to the tariffs announced by the Trump  administration Friday morning. An expert  said the US decision does not aim to tackle the trade deficit with China but to block the Chinese government’s efforts in high-tech development.

Tariffs on 545 US goods worth $34 billion will take effect on July 6, involving agricultural products, car parts and seafood, according to a statement released by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Saturday morning. Soybeans, which are China’s biggest import from the US in value, are on the list.

Chemicals, medical equipment and energy products from the US will also be subject to 25 percent tariffs, which will be announced at a later date.

The revised list is longer and involves more categories of products than a preliminary list of 106 US goods published by the ministry in April, but the total value of the products remains at $50 billion.

A Chinese commerce expert found that aircraft were removed from China’s new list, which is noteworthy.

“We need aircraft [from the US]. We have to consider the costs of the countermeasures we plan to take,” Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce’s International Market Research Institute, said on Saturday soon after the Chinese tariffs were announced.

It’s like acting as a soccer referee who will not call out the offenses and let the play continue when the game still benefits the attacking team even though an attacking player is fouled, Bai further explained.

China is one of the fastest-growing civil aviation markets in the world, and 15 to 20 percent of Boeing’s aircraft deliveries are projected to end in the Chinese market over the next two decades, according to Morgan Stanley.

The US has kept changing their mind and ignited a trade war, which China does not want and will firmly oppose, a spokesperson of the MOFCOM said immediately after US took trade measures on China. “This move not only hurts bilateral interests, but also undermines the world trade order.”

“China and the US still have hopes of negotiating and reaching an agreement, as both the tariffs announced by the two countries will not take into effect until next month,” said Wang Jun, deputy director of the Department of Information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

Wang told the Global Times that the removal of aircraft from the new list can be a signal that China still wants to talk, and also aircraft can be a valuable chip in the next round of trade negotiations.

Meanwhile, Wang said the Trump administration’s newly published list is not so much a solution for the trade deficit problem with China as efforts to hinder China’s technology development.

US President Donald Trump on Friday announced 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, containing industrially significant technologies related to China’s “Made In China 2025” strategy.

According to a list published by the office of the US Trade Representative, the tariffs will be applied on more than 1,000 types of Chinese goods, including aircraft engine parts, bulldozers, nuclear reactors and industrial and agricultural machinery.

American industry also opposed Trump’s decision.

“Imposing tariffs places the cost of China’s unfair trade practices squarely on the shoulders of American consumers, manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers. This is not the right approach,” US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement posted on the chamber’s website on Friday.

By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times

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 China vows ‘comprehensive measures’ against US tariff blackmail

China on Tuesday launched a swift and sharp response to the latest trade  rovocations from the US, which threatened to slap tariffs on almost all Chinese exports to the US, calling the US move “blackmail” and vowing to respond with strength to protect its own and the world’s interests.

 

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 China knows better as Trump tariff strategy tricks US voters

Dealing with the US is difficult, but China can easily
refuse theft and coercion. China will remain with the US through
negotiations and war. If a trade war between the two becomes fierce, the
result will not provide a favorable political environment for President
Trump.

China vows powerful retaliation against US tariffs

‍China will launch an immediate, powerful response to US
tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods, threatening to
target US goods on the same scale and intensity, a spokesperson for the
Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said on Friday.

IMF says US trade, fiscal policies could undermine global economy

US President Donald Trump’s trade and fiscal policies are
likely to increase the risks to the US and global economy, the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Thursday.

China decides to impose additional tariffs on 50 bln USD of US imports

China has unveiled a list of products from the United
States that will be subject to additional tariffs in response to US
announcement to impose additional duties on Chinese imports.

 

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Looking East policy with a twist to China ?


 

Japan may have led Malaysia’s Look East policy of yore, but the stakes are heavily tipped in China’s favour now as the leader of the new world order.

PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) has announced that Malaysia is renewing, or to be more precise, upgrading the Look East policy he adopted as a foreign policy 30 years ago.

It was unveiled after he came to power in 1981 and now, as the premier for the second time, he has picked up the pieces of his past and repackaged it.

His inclination to Japan then was understandable since the country was the rising star of Asia.

Although Look East included South Korea and Taiwan, it basically meant Japan.

There were sound reasons to why Dr Mahathir wanted Malaysia to emulate some of the East Asian characteristics, both economically and ethically.

I think any Malaysian who has visited Japan can vouch for the people’s work ethic, honesty, orderliness, politeness, punctuality, cleanliness, precision, dedication to excellence, innovation and good manners.

Malaysians in Japan feel safe – they rarely get cheated despite being tourists, which is more than can be said for many countries.

Personally, Japan remains my No. 1 holiday destination. Like Dr Mahathir, I have the highest admiration for the Japanese. They are certainly exemplary, and that is indisputable.

Dr Mahathir has continued to have high regard for the Japanese and history seems to be repeating itself.

His Look East Policy shocked and confused the Malaysian foreign ministry, with many officials viewing it as undefined and vague.

The Ministry being left in the dark about the Prime Minister’s move led to it being unaware of how to implement the policy.

Fast forward to 2018. It’s likely that his new batch of ministers were also caught off guard with the revival of the Look East policy, more so when the Foreign Minister has yet to be installed.

Without doubt, Japan is an important partner to Malaysia because we have more than six decades’ ties with the country.

In 2016, Japan ranked Malaysia as its fourth-largest trading partner with bilateral trade standing at RM120bil.The strong trade and investment relations between the nations are also underpinned by the Malaysia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

The latest Malaysia-Japan collaboration includes the Bukit Bintang City Centre project, which has managed to attract the leading real estate group in the Land of the Rising Sun, Mitsui Fudisan Co Ltd, to invest in what will be the mega project’s RM1.6bil retail mall.

But Dr Mahathir’s choice of his first foreign visit to Japan as PM has raised many eyebrows. Perhaps it was just the coincidental timing of the annual Nikkei Conference, which he attends without fail.

I was told that his office had informed the Chinese Embassy here, as a matter of courtesy, to avoid reading into the matter, given the long, bitter rivalry between the two nations.

Dr Mahathir was also visiting Japan after a series of announcements, calling for the review, if not cancellation or postponement, of several mega Chinese-driven projects in Malaysia.

The method of repayments with China, involving huge amounts of money, has, of course, been called into question and condemned. One critic even described the terms as “strange.”

It’s apparent the situation is delicate now, and we need to tread carefully because we are dealing with a global leader.


Powerful alliance

The PM admitted that his government was “dealing with a very powerful country. As such, matters affecting both parties will require friendly discussions”.

Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin also said that Malaysia will carefully handle business contracts with China made by the previous administration.

In an interview with The Star, Daim admitted that the economic superpower is a friend to Malaysia.

“China is very important to us,” the Council of Eminent Persons spokesman said.

“We enjoy very close relations, but unfortunately, under the previous administration, a lot of China contracts are tainted, difficult to understand and the terms are one-sided,” said Daim.

There is plenty at stake here. The world has also changed, and Malaysia needs to be mindful of its diplomatic move. These are sensitive times, and to the Chinese, the issue of “face” is an important one.

Whether we like it or not, the whole world is looking towards China because this is where the fundamental building blocks of a future global digital economic model is being curated and built.

Japan’s economy, on the other hand, has been in regression over the last two decades, and open data is easily available to prove this point. Just google it.

That aside, China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in Asean, especially after Malaysia-China bilateral transactions rose as much as 28% to RM139.2bil in 2017’s first half.

The Chinese government has been very positive with bilateral relations with Malaysia over the years, and this great foundation is what we must build on. It doesn’t matter who the Malaysian Prime Minister is now.

With Ali Baba and Tencent coming to Malaysia, SMEs – which comprise more than 95% of Malaysian business entities – exporting to China will be a huge foreign trade opportunity.

Of all the Asean nations, Malaysia has the largest pool of businessmen who speak the relevant Chinese dialects and understand the culture. But it’s not just the Malaysian Chinese businessmen who stand to benefit, but other races too.

Let’s not forget that China will be under steady stewardship for the coming decade since Xi Jinping has strengthened his position as the premier. And with Dr Mahathir rightfully announcing that Malaysia will be a neutral country, this will mean a stable foreign policy which is crucial for the rules of engagement.

The same can’t be said of Japan, though, as it has a history of turbulent domestic politics, with frequent changes in leadership.

Truth be told, China has outperformed Japan. The republic has become a model of socio-economic reform that connects, not only the past with the present, but more importantly, can rewrite the history of human development into our common future.

The One Belt, One Road initiative is the future. It was also reported that China has overtaken Japan in global patent applications filed in 2017 and is closing in on the United States, the long-standing leader, the World Intellectual Property Organization said in a report.

With 48,882 filings, up 13.4% from a year earlier, Chinese entities came closer to their American counterparts, which filed 56,624 applications. Japanese applicants ranked third with 48,208 demands for patents, up 6.6% from a year ago, the report, released Wednesday, revealed. According to the Geneva-based institution, China will likely overtake the US as the world’s largest patent applicant within three years.

“This rapid rise in Chinese use of the international patent system shows that innovators there are increasingly looking outward, seeking to spread their original ideas into new markets as the Chinese economy continues its rapid transformation,” WIPO director-general Francis Gurry said.

The overall filings in 2017 were 243,500, up 4.5% from a year earlier.

Data indicates that China and Japan were key drivers of the surge in applications.

“This is part of a larger shift in the geography of innovation, with half of all international patent applications now originating in East Asia,” Gurry reportedly said.

Two Chinese firms topped the list, led by Huawei Technologies Co with 4,024 patent applications and ZTE Corp with 2,965 submissions. Intel Corp of the United States is placed third with 2,637 filings, followed by Mitsubishi Electric Corp with 2,521.

China has also declared its ambition to equal the US in its AI capability by 2020 and to be number one in the world by 2030.

If there is a single country to take a cue from, then it can only be China. Look at its growth since 1957, 1967, 1987, 1997 and 2017, and see the strides it has made in the shortest time. Remember, China was once poor and backwards. Many Malaysian Chinese used to send money back to their families in China, especially in 1950s and 1960s, and even 1970s. But look where the country is now.

Malaysia is in pole position to take advantage since our neighbour Singapore has always been perceived to be too US-centric. It will be a waste if we let politics get in the way, as no one can dispute that China now plays a respected and vital role.

Anyone can tell that China will reshape the new world order. It is the new Middle Kingdom and is the country to look to.

And Dr Mahathir should pick up on this because at the end of his trip to Japan, the press bombarded him with the predictable and nagging question – when will he be visiting China?

By Wong Chun Wai On The Beat

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

 
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American Ban on ZTE offers much food for thought & pain together with ZTE


This photo taken on April 19, 2018 shows the ZTE logo on a building in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province.AFP/Getty Images
Video

//players.brightcove.net/2111767321001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5764045273001
 

Ban on ZTE offers much food for thought

The US ban on sales of chips and components to China’s telecommunications company ZTE shocked Chinese society. Some Chinese people are furious at US behavior, others think ZTE deserves it, while some advocate Beijing take it as a warning and boost the country’s domestic semiconductor industry. Some are more pessimistic and feel China cannot beat the US in a trade war.

The ZTE case can be argued as a show of high-tech hegemony by the US. It is absurd for Washington to pull this maneuver at the eleventh hour simply because ZTE failed to cut bonuses for its 35 employees as promised. The logic works for US society and the West is watching the case for fun. But certain Chinese people are also taking pleasure in it.  This is the reality.

It must be admitted that the US is powerful and it has started to punch China hard. The rise of China has reached a juncture where Beijing has prompted Washington to ponder its status as the world’s No.1 and provided a somewhat disjointed West with a reason to strengthen its solidarity. The impulse to contain China’s rise is emerging among Western elites. Radical and even risky policies toward China are gaining increasing support.

China needs a strong will, an open mind and the capacity to fight back. Through political solidarity and a robust economy, Beijing should be tough enough to withstand the slings and arrows. China needs to incubate and shape strategic technology research and development.

The reason why chip technology has experienced such limited progress despite years of advocacy is that the Chinese system has not yet formed a key driving force for it.

Beijing must develop its “nuclear weapons” in the field of economics to make the outside world fear strategic confrontation with China.

China should also make friends worldwide, including Western nations, so as to unite all the forces that can be united. It must not overly focus on gains and losses in friction with others. Beijing must protect its interests, but in the meantime it cannot isolate itself doing so.

China needs to accept diverse opinions on the internet, governing them but also adapting to them so as to prevent online opinions from impacting on society’s overall judgment and confidence.

It is hoped that China will develop a greater core competitiveness which other countries cannot match. This is an expectation of all Chinese people.

American business to pain together in ZTE case

The US government sales ban of American components to the ZTE Corporation will surely inflict significant damage to the company. However, the pattern of globalization shows that not only will the US not secure a victory, it will also suffer a harsh blowback. The US stock market came to a similar conclusion, and media from around the world calculated that the US’ future losses will be significant.

Qualcomm is a major mobile chip supplier for ZTE mobile phones. According to Reuters, Qualcomm will be harmed during this strike because ZTE is an important client, and its competitors could benefit from ZTE choosing alternative manufacturers. Furthermore, Qualcomm might suffer more setbacks when China retaliates on the US for this ban.

According to studies by various media organizations, the full implementation of the seven-year sales ban on ZTE will amount to combined loss of $6.8 billion for Qualcomm, Acacia Communications, and Oclaro Inc. It will also affect more than 32,000 employees. Due to this estimation, Acacia Communications stocks dropped 35.95 percent this week. Additionally, Intel and Microsoft will be hit by shockwaves in the tech industry.

Over the years, China has grown to become the largest sales market for US electronic chips, providing US companies with substantial funds for research and development. Losing the Chinese market might cause these US companies to decline in quality, which could result in a bleak financial future.US semiconductor companies are facing real threats as they will likely be taken over by their opponents.

The US will also be hurt from increasing suspicions to its business environment. The US government ended ZTE’s business dealings with American companies by force, due to “35 employees’ bonuses issues” for the company with 80,000 employees. Is the American business environment still trustworthy? Does this not imply that the US government can bully whoever it wishes? Cooperation with American companies is already difficult and being reviewed by the US government for political correctness will not make matters easier.

Some Westerners criticize the risks of doing business with Chinese companies, but not one multinational company has experienced the same mistreatment ZTE has been subjected to. The proper name for ZTE’s case could be called “35 people bonus crisis” and if this is what starts the cooperation breakdown between the US and China, or globalization in general, it will be one of the most bizarre jokes in history.

China will hit back in the best way it knows and inflict losses for American companies in China. Washington should not have any delusions of tolerance from China after causing such damage to its businesses.

With China and the US trading blows in this situation, the US economy and trade relations will delve into chaos. Investments of American companies in China far exceed Chinese companies in the US, meaning that the US has more to lose since these investments will not be spared during this fight.

Most importantly, Chinese society will lose faith in cooperation with American high-tech companies. The “35 people bonus crisis” will also serve as a push for China determination to develop its semiconductor industry to replace America’s components.

China will endure a sting in the high-tech sector confrontation, but the US will suffer lasting pain. China has been slow to develop its semiconductor technology because it is cheaper to purchase American products in the past. Developing chips and operating systems will require massive market support and China’s yearly import of $200 billion can definitely cover the funding for this research.

The consequences of punishing ZTE is now out of Washington’s control. The intertwined economies of China and the US are like “conjoined twins” and separation will cause major pain for both sides. Washington’s thinking that this is a unilateral punishment is naïve, and this short-sighted judgement will be paid at the expense of American companies and enterprises. – – Global Times
Related  

Why China cannot concede in trade war

Washington has unrealistic fantasies about “balancing
China-US trade.” It tries to solve US economic issues with sticks and
threats rather than painstaking reforms. Simply put, it attempts to make
a hard sell. The world is required to buy whatever the US produces at
its convenience, and developing countries like China cannot make
technological progress in the process.

China to open wider: How will US react?

If Washington thinks China’s upgrade of its opening-up
was triggered by US menaces, it is making a historic mistake in its
relationship with Beijing. Whether the Sino-US trade war is aggravated
depends on Washington. It is hoped US actions accord with Trump’s
pleasant tweets rather than more old carrot-and-stick

Opening-up China’s future growth path

The community with shared future for mankind is a goal of
China to lead the world forward into the future. The Belt and Road
initiative is one of the paths toward it. The world has never seen a
major power emerging with a peaceful and cooperative manner. Some people
say that China is only pretending to rise peacefully. After Beijing’s
new measures were announced at Tuesday’s forum, the world should have
gained a better understanding of China.

Trump’s car tariff tweet distorts truth

With the development of China’s economic growth and
strength of science and technology, further opening-up and lowering of
tariffs will be the future trend. But how China will do this will be
decided based on WTO rules and China’s own interests. This is China’s
sovereignty. Beijing will never listen to the command of Washington.

 

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VR gaming gears up for the mainstream


A group of gamers wearing VR headsets at Zero Latency Singapore. The VR arcade in Singapore is the latest to pop up around the world as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream. — AFP

Arcades seek to take virtual reality gaming mainstream

 

SINGAPORE: Gamers wearing headsets and wielding rifles adorned with flashing lights battle a horde of zombies, letting out the occasional terrified shriek.

The virtual reality arcade in Singapore is part of a wave of such venues being opened as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream.

The buzz around virtual reality (VR) gaming has seen Taiwan-based HTC, Sony and Facebook-owned Oculus VR battling to woo consumers with a range of headgear.

But it has been slow to really take off, partly due to the hefty price of top-end headsets, beginning at around US$350 (RM1,362), and the challenges in setting up complex VR systems at home.
But VR arcades, which have been springing up around the world, particularly in Asia, are now giving people the chance to try it out more easily and for a fraction of the price.

“Given the complications of at-home, PC-based VR systems, pay-per-use, location-based entertainment venues can fill the gap,” said Bryan Ma, from International Data Corporation (IDC), a consumer technology market research firm, in a recent note on the industry.

Several VR gaming companies have made forays into Singapore, seeing the ultra-modern, affluent city-state that is home to hordes of expatriates as a good fit.

The zombie fight-out was taking place at a centre where participants stalked a room with a black floor and walls.

“I did paintball before, it’s quite fun… but I think the whole scene is much more interesting here,” said Jack Backx, a 55-year-old from the Netherlands, who was playing with colleagues from the oil and gas industry on a work day out.

The location is run by VR gaming group Zero Latency, which started in Australia and has expanded to nine countries. It uses “free-roam” virtual reality – where gamers move around in large spaces and are not tethered to computers with cables.

It’s not all intense, shoot-’em-ups – VR group Virtual Room has an outlet in Singapore that transports gamers to scenarios in the prehistoric period, a medieval castle, ancient Egypt and even a lunar landing.

Asia leads the way

VR arcades have been springing up in other places. China was an early hotbed for virtual reality gaming although the industry has struggled in recent times, while they can also be found in countries across the region including Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Many key industry milestones over the past two years have been in Asia but arcades have appeared elsewhere – London’s first one opened last year while there are also some in the United States.

Consumer spending on virtual reality hardware, software and services is expected to more than double from US$2.2bil (RM8.56bil) in 2017, to US$4.5bil (RM17.51bil) this year, according to gaming intelligence provider SuperData Research.

For the best-quality experience, it can be relatively expensive – a session in Singapore costs Sg$59 (RM175).

“The equipment here is not cheap,” said Simon Ogilvie, executive director of Tomorrow Entertainment, which runs the Zero Latency franchise in Singapore.

The industry faces huge challenges.

China offers a cautionary tale – according to IDC, VR arcades have struggled there after expanding too quickly.

There have also been warnings that improvements in home-based technology may eventually lead to VR gaming centres suffering the same fate as traditional arcades that were once filled with Pac-Man and Street Fighter machines.

“The rise and fall of coin-operated videogame arcades in the 1980s suggests that such VR arcades may eventually fade in relevance as home-based computing power and prices fall within mass consumer reach,” said the note from IDC’s Ma.

Rebecca Assice, who runs Virtual Room in Singapore, said one challenge was getting people interested in the first place as many still did not know about the arcades.

“VR is still a really new industry,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t know this sort of activity exists.” — AFP

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The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.   VR can make you th…

What parents need to know about VR ?


The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.

 

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. —Dreamstime/TNS
EVERYONE who’s tried it agrees: virtual reality is mind-blowing. Once you strap on that headset, you truly believe you’re strolling on a Parisian street, careening on a roller coaster, or immersed in the human body exploring the inner workings of the oesophagus.

But for all its coolness – and its potential uses, from education to medicine – not a lot is known about how VR affects kids. Common sense Media’s new report, Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of stanford University’s virtual Human Interaction Lab, offers a first-of-its-kind overview of the expanding uses for the technology and its potential effects on kids.

Now that VR devices from inexpensive viewers to game consoles to full-scale gaming arcades are finally here – with lots more coming soon – it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to manage VR when it comes knocking at your door.

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. Other media can give you the sense of “being there” – what’s called psychological presence – but not to the extent that VR can. This unique ability is what makes it so important to understand more about the short- and long-term effects of the technology on kids. Here are some of the key findings from the report.

Even though we don’t yet have all the answers to how vR affects kids, we know enough to consider some pros and cons. And whether kids are using vR through a mobile device like Google Cardboard, on a console like the Playstation vR, on a fully tricked-out desktop rig like the Oculus Rift, or at a mall arcade, these guidelines can help you keep any vR experience your kids have safe and fun.

Pay attention to age ratings. Check the recommended age on the headset package and don’t let younger kids use products designed for older kids. The minimum age isn’t based on medical proof of adverse effects on the brain and vision, but it’s the manufacturer’s best guess as to who the product is safest for.

Choose games wisely. Because the vR game experience can be more intense than that of regular games, it’s even more important to check reviews to make sure the gameplay, the content and the subject matter are appropriate for your kid.

Keep it safe. A few precautions: Once you have the goggles on, orient yourself to the room by touching the walls; stick to short sessions until you know how you’re affected by vR; stay seated if possible; move furniture out of the way; and have a second person as a spotter.

Pay attention to feelings – both physical and emotional. If you’re feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious – give it a rest for a while.

Talk about experiences. since vR feels so real, it’s an excellent time to talk through what your kid has experienced in a game. Ask what it felt like, what the differences are between vR and regular games, and how vR helps you connect to other people’s experiences by putting you in someone else’s shoes.

Find opportunities; avoid pitfalls. Don’t let your kids play vR games that mimic experiences you wouldn’t want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of vR that exposes kids to things they wouldn’t normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country.

Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements – including eye movements – could store that data for purposes that haven’t yet been invented. — Common sense Media/Tribune news service.

Star2 Technology  by Caroline Knorr

Silicon Valley faces tech backlash: maybe needs to be taken down to size


Polarising content and Russian manipulation of social media are fuelling calls for greater regulation of firms like Google and FB. — 123rf.com

 

Demonstrators at a rally in opposition to white supremacists and the postponed right-wing “March on Google” protest of James Damore’s firing that was originally planned the same day. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Once a darling, tech hub Silicon Valley is under attack for its technologies which are damaging our lives.

ONCE upon a time, there was a beautiful land filled with bright minds and gleaming prospects.

People called it Silicon Valley, and out of it flowed knowledge, ideas and innovations that gave us almost-unthinkable powers to learn, to communicate, to transform our lives into exactly what we wanted them to be. The region’s denizens toiled happily at the cutting edge, and day by day, they were making the world a better place.

But today, this beautiful land is under attack from within and without. The products and services it sends out into the world are being called addictive, divisive and even damaging, raising the cry that instead of making the world better, they are making it worse.

As technology plays a deeper and more pervasive role in nearly every aspect of our lives, the industry that has upended everything from shopping and travel to education and human relationships is facing a backlash the likes of which Silicon Valley has never seen.

Polarising online content and Russian manipulation of social media platforms have fuelled calls from the right and the left for greater regulation of firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter. World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Republican US Senator John McCain, leftist billionaire George Soros, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson have all joined the chorus demanding the government take action.


Terrific or terrible?

Critics argue that the big tech firms have become too economically dominant, intruded too far into our lives and have too much control over what gets seen and shared online. At the same time, critics contend, those same companies have failed to take responsibility for the misuse of their services by malevolent actors, for the spread of fake news and for the way their platforms and algorithms can be gamed.

Stanford computer science students are protesting Apple, demanding it make less addictive devices.

The #MeToo movement has amplified a debate over sexual harassment and diversity in Silicon Valley. And conservatives have attacked the whole region as a liberal echo chamber that stifles precisely the open debate it claims to embrace.

Thus the backlash.

“What makes it categorically different now is that this is the first time I have seen that people are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe Silicon Valley needs to be taken down to size,’ said Leslie Berlin, project historian for Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives. “This notion that what Silicon Valley represents actually threatens rather than embodies what makes the country great, that is new.”

Berners-Lee in an open letter recently called the tech giants “a new set of gatekeepers” whose platforms can be “weaponised” to widen social rifts and interfere in elections. Benioff told CNBC in January that social media was “addictive” and should be regulated like cigarettes.

Carlson wants Google treated like a public utility because it “shuts down free speech for political reasons”.

Former president Barack Obama, at a February conference at MIT, said social media was Balkanizing public discourse, creating “entirely different realities” that contribute to “gridlock and venom and polarisation in politics”.

Even Facebook has jumped in with an unusual mea culpa, issuing a news release in February admitting it was “far too slow to recognise how bad actors were abusing our platform”.

Raking in the money

Despite its critics, Silicon Valley remains hugely successful and influential, with 21% of employed people working in tech, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank report. Though the region’s economy has shown some signs of slowing, job growth in Silicon Valley has been more than double the national rate since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2010.

And the region remains home to the two most valuable public companies in the world, Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet, as well as world-class universities. Every day, people around the world benefit from Silicon Valley-built tools that have transformed communication, opened access to information, and made life easier.

The notion that Silicon Valley’s best days are over is far from new – people have been predicting its demise ever since the advent of the microprocessor, said Berlin.

“It was going to be the oil shocks of the 1970s that were going to take it down, and then competition from Japan, India and China, the Dot Com bust, Y2K – it’s just been one thing after another, the 2008 crash,” Berlin said. “Time and again, Silicon Valley has bounced back from these perceived threats. Silicon Valley has always been sort of the golden child of the Golden State.”

But this time, Berlin and others see something shifting.

“It is unprecedented,” UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Abhishek Nagaraj, said of the backlash. “I think this is because of how deeply penetrated tech is in people’s lives.”

Nagaraj, who studies the tech industry, compared the demonisation of Silicon Valley to the outcry against Wall Street after deceptive investment banking practices knocked the United States into the Great Recession.

“It appears as if, basically, tech is the new finance,” Nagaraj said.

Overwhelming force

Increasingly, the public views the tech industry as a force against which they are powerless, said San Jose State University anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck, who researches Silicon Valley’s culture.

“It’s now on people’s radar screen to be a place of the elite, where they’re changing the world in a way that ordinary people don’t have an influence on that change,” EnglishLueck said.

While the devices and social media platforms created by hugely successful Silicon Valley tech firms have given us new ways to connect, they’ve also thrown the worst of human nature into our faces, said English-Lueck.

“You don’t have to look in somebody’s eyes when you’re telling someone something ugly,” English-Lueck said. “That’s really exaggerated people’s ability to hate.”

She believes the optimistic view of technology as the great liberator and connector helped keep major tech firms from building more safeguards into their platforms to prevent vicious online attacks, dissemination of fake news and nation-state intrusions.

“Do we want free speech and free action that’s amplified by the Internet?” she said. “Sometimes we don’t want that.”

Stephen Milligan, CEO of pioneering San Jose data-storage firm Western Digital, doesn’t think technology can solve everything.

But Milligan doesn’t buy the notion that Silicon Valley has lost its bloom. The region’s companies are still trying to solve “real problems” in the world and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It’s still cool,” Milligan said. “I actually think it’s more cool.”

Silicon Valley boosters such as Peggy Burke, CEO of Palo Alto branding agency 1185, will tell you the technology industry can fix the problems it creates.

“You have to weigh the good and the bad, and if the bad gets so bad that it outweighs the good, someone will solve for that,” Burke said. “If there’s a problem – traffic, transportation, housing, stopping Russians, fake news – someone in the Valley right now is working on solving for that problem. I’ve been in the Valley for 30 years and I’ve seen it happen over and over.”

A reckoning for the region is likely, but it won’t be a fatal one, Berkeley’s Nagaraj said. The problems arising from technology will exacerbate the ongoing decentralisation of innovation, as boot camps bring entrepreneurial skills to new regions, and clusters of expertise – in “deep learning” artificial intelligence in Toronto, for example – lead to cooperative projects linking the Valley to other areas, he said.

“It’s going to be a much more collaborative process than one of replacement,” he said. “We are moving to a world where not all the big hits come from Silicon Valley.”

Source: By Ethan Baron – The San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

 

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 BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin

Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating…

What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?

BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin


Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating fake degrees to being able to track the origin of organic products, blockchain is proving to be a reliable solution in trust.

The underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and ethereum is blockchain.

Creating trust in transactions Varanasi: Blockchain can be used to store verified documents so that users don’t have to keep validating important documents every time it’s submitted to a new party.

While blockchain was confined to finanin cial tech the early days, many organisations are starting to employ it in other industries because the technology is highly secure and even allows for transparency.

This encourages trust and in some cases even eliminates the need for a third party to validate the data, making it valuable to many organisations.

WITH fake doctorates and degrees becoming increasingly common, how are employers and graduates to find an efficient way to bridge the gap in trust?

According to Dr Mohamed Ariff Ameedeen, from University Malaysia Pahang (UMP), the solution could lie with blockchain technology.

As director of IBM’s Centre of excellence, which has been based in the university since 2012, he is continuously exploring novel uses for blockchain beyond cryptocurrency.

he said one of the early ideas the team was working on was a secure database that would prevent students from hacking to change their grades.

however, his team then decided to solve a more pressing issue affecting universities – fake degrees.

Mohamed Ariff said some universities are already integrating QR codes into graduates’ certificates to help validate credentials. however, even QR codes are now easily tampered with.

Taking it one step further, the UMP team created a system called Valid8, a QR code linked to a student profile secured by blockchain, which contains the student’s name, photo, title of degree and the year it was awarded.

This made tampering with the QR code pointless, as it only acted as a key to the information on the blockchain.

“even if someone used another person’s QR code, the data would clearly show it was not the person’s name or photo connected to the certificate,” he said.

he added that all the info placed on the blockchain is already publicly available so it would not compromise the students’ privacy.

Mohamed Ariff said making the data trustworthy meant time savings – as employers don’t have to contact the university to verify the certificate, they can be quicker in deciding if they should hire the job applicant.

So far, UMP has run a pilot programme with Valid8 by issuing supplementary certificates to 180 graduates from the industrial Management Faculty.

Mohamed Ariff said it took a couple of days to configure the blockchain node and a few more days to input the 180 students’ data.

“Although entering the information is relatively straightforward, migrating 15 years of old data (of earlier graduates) that includes more than just the initial four data points is going to take a bit longer,” he said.

The full-scale test for Valid8 will be the students graduating at the year-end convocation, estimated to be around 2,000.

To make the student profiles more useful, Mohamed Ariff said the team is planning to add more information such as grades, attendance, courses and maybe even disciplinary records.

“The beauty of blockchain is that it can grow with time and track a student’s academic life. imagine how much data it would have if a profile was set up for students when they entered kindergarten,” he said.

To encourage such a situation, UMP is open to collaborating with other universities that wanted to adopt blockchain for student iDs.

however, eduValue founder Barry Ew Yong warned that even a secured system has an obvious point of failure – human error.

he added that once errors entered the system there is a chance that it will be perpetuated. “Technology does not increase trust. Systems increase trust, though technology can be a useful tool to do so,” he said.

Like with UMP’s Valid8, the quality assurance startup has adopted blockchain to secure graduate certificates, using the technology to store a softcopy of the degree.

The company serves around 30 private schools, mostly tertiary schools offering up to Masters. Founded in Singapore in December 2012, it only just started employing blockchain.

he said the company uses a two stage system to ensure that only qualified students would be given certificates.

in the first stage it will help set up the standard by which students will be evaluated in order for them to graduate, and the approval process will be audited – schools found lacking will be struck off the system.

in the second stage it will vet all data being uploaded to the platform.

For UMP this is just a start – it’s also testing a blockchain based e-wallet called Xchain that students, lecturers, staff and vendors would eventually use for all transactions in UMP.

Beyond the security benefits, Mohamed Ariff said the open-nature of blockchain’s shared ledger meant the spending patterns could be analysed, making the university a giant data pool.

“With a population of 13,000 users, there’s a lot of potential data. And as a university, we love data,” he said.

Xchain is still in beta as the team is waiting to get Bank Negara to issue it an e-wallet license.

Mohamed Ariff concluded that blockchain is promising, especially for the education field, which relies on data that is open to peer review while also being trustworthy and tamper-evident.

ACADEMICIAN hu Dong, who advises Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Zero Bay incubator, said the supply chain industry could see huge advantages by having a more efficient and transparent data manto agement system.

Blockchain can be used track a product’s origin and determine if the materials were sourced as claimed, which is invaluable to sectors such as organic farming and ethical diamond mining. Also, by tracking the product’s trail along each stop on the supply chain, should an issue arise that requires a product to be recalled, the company could zero in on where the fault occurred.

For example, if a company found that the computer it’s making has a faulty hard drive, it would be able to identify which one of its factories was responsible. it then only needs to recall the computers that originated from the affected factory instead of all its products.

This would save cost as the recall will be smaller

and speed up the process which could help limit damage to the company’s reputation.

Dong, who was in Malaysia for a conference by blockchain incubator WeMerge, said the highlight of blockchain is accountability and transparency so it would create a higher degree of trust, which makes it great for smart contracts.

A smart contract can digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the performance of a contract without the need for third parties. And if executed via blockchain, the transactions are trackable and irreversible.

He said smart contracts could ensure factories, for instance, get paid faster, as the payment can be released once the contract is verified through the blockchain instead of waiting for a third-party to process it.

Startup Eximchain, which has raised US$20mil (rM78.41mil) in funding to continue developing blockchain solutions, is offering Smart Contracts.

Its solution allows banks to verify the validity of orders and provide the necessary financing; and the transaction history can be used by suppliers to prove their reliability to buyers and rating institutions. For banker turned blockchain technologist Bobby Varanasi, limiting the technology’s application to Bitcoin is just shortsighted.

The co-founder of Thynkblynk Technologies, along with partner Parag Jain, have developed ChainTrail, a “trust platform” for storing verified documents, including education certificates, medical records and contracts.

By using ChainTrail, you don’t have to keep verifying a document each time it’s presented to a new party.

However, Varanasi said the company was not in the business of certification and that the onus was on the data provider, be it a university or bank, to ensure that the data is correct.

“A lie, once committed to blockchain, would become an immutable one,” said Jain, referring to how data can only be added but not modified on a blockchain.

To mitigate such risks, ChainTrail vets customers by validating their credentials and ensuring that they are authorised to represent stakeholders.

For instance, it would verify that a lecturer is from the university he or she claims to represent.

It also offers templates for agreements such as contracts and term sheets.

“In today’s world, lack of trust is increasingly permeating the world of trade, both politically and financially… blockchain as a tech has finally presented an opportunity to create trust amongst a variety of parties that transact with each other,” said Varanasi.

Chain of trust:

 

Built for cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain is being used in innovative ways in a number of industries.

  

Basics of blockchain

LIKE a lot of complex technologies, blockchain is easier to understand once you break it down.

A blockchain is made up of a block of “transaction data” which is why it’s also called a ledger. Each block also has a hash – a string of numbers which uniquely identifies the block.

And similar to how a person has their parent’s names added to theirs, a block features a portion of the preceding block’s hash.

Put in terms of family lines, it’s like how you could tell that Amir bin Ali is the son of Ali bin Abu, who is in turn the son of Abu bin Bakar, and so on.

Basically, the hash “chains” the blocks together, by affirming their place in relation to the blocks before and after, hence the term blockchain.

Security in numbers

A key feature of blockchain is security. Blockchain runs on the paraphrased adage that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.

So rather than making it tamper-proof, blockchain is tamper-evident – this is done by making a copy of the blockchain available to all members of the network, which is why blockchain is sometimes referred to as a public ledger.

As members of the network all have a copy of the same blockchain, if anyone’s chain is compromised by a hacker, it would look different from others.

If you have ever tried to organise a movie night with an extended group of friends on a WhatsApp group, you’ll get the idea.

Say, you want to watch Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and get the ball rolling by choosing the day and cinema, and then ask whoever that’s interested to add their names to the list.

The original message can’t be altered as it has been sent to the group. Instead everyone adds to the data by including their names and maybe a request for a specific timeslot. This concept is called “persistence”, wherein the older data cannot be retroactively altered.

Though a cheeky friend could change the date to try to troll the group, he wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that earlier messages will show a different date. This is what makes a public ledger like the blockchain tamper-evident.

Blockchain transaction

The blockchain is stored on computers, also known as nodes, that are connected via a peer-to-peer network.

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What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?

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