Washington’s unsustainable deficit hangs over global economy


With the widening US budget gap, it is no longer a secret that such a high level of federal spending is unsustainable and the resulting debt burden has become a worry for the global economy.

According to data from the US Treasury Department, the federal budget deficit went on the rise in 2019, hitting $1.02 trillion and marking the first calendar year the deficit has exceeded $1 trillion since 2012. Given the country’s tax revenues, government spending is obviously on an unsustainable path. While total government receipts grew 5 percent in 2019, federal spending increased at a faster pace of 7.5 percent.

More worryingly, as the economy slows amid headwinds, it is basically impossible for the US government to make ends meet by raising tax revenues. So based on the current trend, it will probably become a norm for the annual federal deficit to top $1 trillion in the future.

Undoubtedly, massive fiscal deficits will prompt a steady rise in public debt. According to data released by the Treasury Department on November 1, the US national debt surpassed $23 trillion for the first time in history. The figure is equivalent to about 110 percent of the country’s GDP.

Of course, it should be acknowledged that US Treasury bonds are still considered safe-haven assets in the current uncertain global markets as they are seen as secure due to their strong ratings. Treasury securities held by foreign holders amounted to $6.78 trillion as of the end of October 2019, up $580 billion compared with a year earlier, according to Treasury data issued on December 16, 2019.

In the meantime, however, the share of US debt held by foreign holders has fallen from a peak of 34.1 percent in July 2012 to about 29 percent today. The decline also reflects the accelerated expansion of US debt issuance.

So far there is no sign of any sort of sustained plan for narrowing the US deficit to at least rein in its debt expansion. Nor does the government show any sign of urgency on this issue. Maybe the only response from the Trump administration is to pressure the Federal Reserve to cut rates, a move that could help lower its interest payments on debt and devalue its currency to ease the debt burden.

Such surge in irresponsibility could be attributed to two factors – its high creditworthiness and the financial supremacy of the US dollar. Since a collapse of the US economy may cause an economic disaster around the world, the US government could be better off counting on the world to pay the bill.

Sadly, there is no way out under the current circumstances, and the only hope now is that Americans will take some concrete measures to reverse the trend before a debt crisis truly breaks out.

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Tweet #Rightways   The year 2019 has been one in which US sought to reconstruct its relations with China. First, the US reset the…

 

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US gains limited from changed China policy


The year 2019 has been one in which US sought to reconstruct its relations with China.

First, the US reset the premise of its policies toward China. From former president Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, Washington used to consider living with a rising China conditionally as the precondition; but since Donald Trump took office, he has changed the relatively friendly premise into a hostile one. Trying to slow down China’s development and preventing the country from surpassing or even replacing the US have become the real intention of his China policy.

Second, the US reframed its relations with China, taking economic and trade ties as the turning point, as well as putting in more efforts in diplomacy, security, politics and culture. The key tools in its reconstruction of economic and trade ties were the war of tariffs, technology and finance.

During 2019, the trade war launched by the US against China saw many ups and downs. The number of products on which the two sides slapped duties reached an unprecedented scale. With the escalating tech war against China, the US Commerce Department added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its “entity list.” Besides, China was listed as a currency manipulator by the US Department of Treasury.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration carried out a whole-of-government approach to compete with China and imposed all-round pressure on China.

The US has continued to meddle in Taiwan-related affairs. The Trump administration approved the sale of 66 F-16 fighters to Taiwan in August, the biggest military transaction between the US and Taiwan. Then US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s meeting with Taiwan’s National Security Council (NSC) head David Lee in the White House in May indicated the upgrade of US-Taiwan relations, which happened for the first time since 1950s.

Most seriously, the US was trying to promote Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state. In the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report issued by US Department of Defense, Taiwan was publicly listed as a country; and the Coordination Council for North American Affairs was changed into Taiwan Council for US Affairs.

In 2019, US so-called freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea were much more aggressive. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was also besieged and smeared by the US. The US Indo-Pacific Strategy is meant to counter China’s BRI.

Additionally, the US has stepped up competition with China politically and ideologically and kept attacking China’s political system.

In terms of the issues of Xinjiang and Hong Kong, US interference was way more blatant than before. The US even passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, in order to legalize its future interference in the Hong Kong issue. Moreover, the US attacked China’s governance in Xinjiang. Not only did the Ministry of Commerce impose export control over 28 Chinese business entities, but the US Department of State also announced visa restrictions against Chinese officials and their relatives. US Congress, furthermore, passed the so-called Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, keeping up the pressure on China even more.

The series of measures the Trump administration employed to restructure the China-US relationship framework are aggressive.

The Trump administration is trying to change the way China and US interact. It believes that Washington should abandon the engagement policy and cooperation should give way to strategic competition and that the US must pressure China to make concessions. That being the case, the Trump administration has changed the approach of engagement and hedging, reduced engagement and cooperation, and increased confrontation and conflicts with China.

When some hawks within the Trump government talk about China-US competition, what they really want are confrontation and conflict. Many working-level dialogue mechanisms established during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations are no longer in operation. Now Washington resorts to trade, technological and financial wars as well as sanctions. How far can the US go in this way?

First, it depends on how much price the US is willing to pay. Competition, decoupling, confrontation, and non-cooperation all come at a price. The US-launched trade war against China has impacted US agricultural and manufacturing industries and forced consumers to pay more, while the technological war has put the US high-tech industry under risk of losing the Chinese market. Escalating military competition with China means a significant increase in US military expenditure. Restricting China-US people-to-people exchanges will also cause losses to American universities and research institutions.

In fact, with the negative effects of the Trump administration’s China policy increasingly becoming apparent, doubts within the US have grown. Although the US elites have generally reached a consensus on a tougher stance against China, they have yet to agree on how much price the US can pay.

Second, China-US relations are the result of bilateral interactions and cannot be unilaterally decided by the US. Facing heightened US pressure, China is exploring more effective ways to respond. Beijing is not afraid of competition.

Finally, the attitudes of the international community and the US allies matter. The China policy and other foreign policies of the Trump administration not only aimed at maximizing US interests, but also have the features of protectionism and unilateralism. The trade war against China has damaged global industrial and value chains, undermining the interests of other countries including US allies.

To sum up, although the US has benefited from its China policy recalibration, its gains are limited. How far will the US move to restructure its relations with China go? It hinges on the changes in US domestic politics as well as China’s will and art in wrangling with the US.

By Wu Xinbo Source:Global Times – The author is dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University.
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US-Iran tensions, who are terrorists?


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Iran launches large attack on U.S.-led forces in Iraq, Pentagon says

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States believes there have been potentially multiple attacks on locations in Iraq, including the al Asad airbase that hosts U.S. forces, a U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday, without providing additional information.It was unclear what other sites may have been attacked. Tensions have mounted with Iran following a U.S. drone strike on Friday that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had confirmed to Reuters earlier that a rocket attack had taken place against al Asad airbase, but did not confirm other sites.

U.S. President Donald Trump visited the base in his December 2018 trip to Iraq.

 

Iran’s parliament designates all US forces as ‘terrorists’

The Iranian parliament approved bill on Tuesday that designates United States military forces as terrorists, days after American airstrikes killed top Iranian military leader General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. The bill is similar to the action the U.S. took last year when the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

Members of parliament passed the bill declaring the U.S. military and the Pentagon terrorist entities, according to Iranian state media. Under the bill, the Iranian government will also provide $220 million to the IRGC to “reinforce its defense power in vengeance for General Soleimani’s assassination,” the news agency reported, as tensions between the U.S. and Iran rise.
Iranian parliament voted to designated the U.S. military and the Pentagon terrorist organizations

 Iranian parliament voted to designated the U.S. military and the Pentagon terrorist organizations

This handout picture shows Iranian lawmakers raising their hands to vote during a parliamentary session in Tehran. Iran’s parliament passed a bill designating all U.S. forces “terrorists” over the killing of a top Iranian military commander in an airstrike last week. Icana News Agency

A senior U.S. official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered a direct attack on American interests in retaliation for the airstrike that killed Soleimani, his top military commander and friend. The official said the U.S. military was “extremely concerned” that the retaliation could come quickly.

When asked by CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer on Tuesday when the Iranian response would come, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would only say that his country would retaliate at the time of its choosing. While a senior Iranian commander threatened at Soleimani’s funeral to “set ablaze” America’s supporters in the region, Zarif told CBS News the response would be “proportionate” and “against legitimate targets.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued leading the Trump administration’s defense of the targeted missile strike that killed Soleimani. He insisted that President Trump was right to order the killing and dismissed Iran’s claim that Soleimani was in Iraq for diplomatic purposes.

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group. The U.S. Defense Department used the Guard’s designation to support the strike last week that killed Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force and one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic
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Industry aims to wean itself off US technology amid trade war


The development of China’s chip industry
A view of Alibaba’s AI chip Hanguang 800 Photo: Courtesy of Alibaba

China makes chip breakthroughs in 2019

China has made up its mind to become self-sufficient in chip technology. Amid a boiling trade war with the US that disrupts the global supply chain, China’s chip industry is witnessing a sweeping change, with investment plowing in apace and breakthroughs being made in high-end chips that will significantly reduce reliance on imports.

In the latest move, China’s government-funded “starlight chip project” announced on Monday that it plans to invest 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) in the next decade on chip technology research, standard-setting study, application development and large-scale industrialization.

Launched in 1999, the project has applied for more than 3,000 patents and formed several chip technological systems including digital media, intelligent security and artificial intelligence.

The project is a vivid example of how investment is shaping China’s semiconductor industry this year, in particular after Washington’s brutal crackdown on Chinese tech companies like Huawei and ZTE that could potentially cut off key US component supplies.

In October, China set up a second national semiconductor fund of 204.2 billion yuan in a bid to nurture the domestic chip industry, a 47-percent increase of the scale of investment compared with the first fund of 138.7 billion yuan, according to media reports.

“Chinese industry insiders and authorities are giving the biggest-ever incentives to the homegrown chip industry. We all feel a sense of urgency to wean ourselves off foreign technology, spurred by a spiraling trade war,” a manager of a Beijing-based chip start-up who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Global Times on Monday.

The whole industrial chain has been shifting its attitude on chips made by Chinese suppliers, according to the manager.

“In the past, downstream vendors tended to prefer foreign chips over homegrown ones. Now, they gravitate toward ours and are willing to help us in accommodating, testing and even in improving functions,” he explained.

The industry-wide effort has helped to fuel a boom in the design of advanced computer and smartphone chips. It has also led to a rapid expansion of the market share of homegrown memory chips.

In September, Huawei’s HiSilicon unveiled its latest mobile application processor – the Kirin 990. The chipset series is widely believed to be the world’s most powerful mobile system-on-chip, with a performance surpassing its foreign competitors such as Qualcomm.

“Huawei’s Kirin series represents a major breakthrough in the chip industry. It shows that Chinese players have the ability to design all ranges of chips and their gap with leading foreign players is closing,” Xiang Ligang, an expert in the telecoms industry, told the Global Times on Monday. “We just need some time to forge industrial chain ability.”

China is on track to achieve its goal of being able to produce 40 percent of the semiconductors it uses by 2020 and 70 percent by 2025. Chinese firms currently supply more than 15 percent of the semiconductors used in the nation, industry insiders estimated.

The nation is also one step closer to producing about 5 percent of the world’s memory chips by the end of 2020 from virtually none in 2018, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, quoting sources close to the matter.

But observers admitted that Chinese firms’ chip manufacturing abilities are years behind their rivals due to their late start. China’s largest chip manufacturer, SMIC, has reportedly begun mass production of chips using its 14-nanometer FinFET manufacturing technology, while top foreign players such as Samsung and Intel already are in a race to supply 7-nanometer chips to the market.

Newspaper headline: China makes chip breakthroughs in 2019

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Xi discusses fresh ties with Trump


Presidents’ phone talk raises hope for final phase one trade deal: experts

WASHINGTON: The China-US phase one trade deal, reached on the basis of equality and mutual respect and against the backdrop of an extremely complicated international environment, will benefit both countries and contribute to peace and prosperity of the world, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump.

In the phone call at the invitation of the US side on Friday, Xi expressed “grave concern” over the recent US “negative statements and actions” on issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, which he said interfered with China’s internal affairs, damaged China’s interests, and are not good for mutual trust and cooperation.

Xi told Trump that China hopes the US side will “conscientiously” implement the important consensuses reached in their multiple meetings and phone conversations, and pay close attention to China’s concerns, thus avoiding disturbing the bilateral relations as well as the important agenda of both countries, according to a statement released by the Xinhua News Agency.

Xi noted that the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries contributed tremendously to the steady development of their bilateral relations and to global economic growth.

As the modern economy and technology have connected the world, the interests of China and the US will become increasingly interlinked, and there will be some differences in the course of their collaboration, he said.

As long as the two sides adhere to mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation, and always respect the dignity, sovereignty, and core interests of the other country, they will be able to overcome the difficulties in the course of development, and push forward Sino-US economic and trade relations under the new historical conditions for the benefit of two countries and two peoples, Xi said.

Xi also said he is ready to maintain contact with Trump through various means, and exchange views on bilateral relations and international issues, and work together to promote a China-US relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability.

In their phone call, Trump said the phase one trade deal is good for both countries and the rest of the world.

It has received positive responses from the markets of both countries and the world, according to the Xinhua report.

The US side is ready to keep close contact and communications with the Chinese side for the deal to be signed earlier and implemented, Trump said. — China Daily/ANN

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China-US economic and trade exchanges ballast stone for bilateral ties: former Chinese official

China-US economic and trade exchanges, instead of bilateral economic and trade relations, is the ballast stone for bilateral ties because there involve more superstructure and actions, and they cannot be entangled , a former Chinese official said Saturday.

West shows ill will to ignore Macao’s boom

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2020 will provide respite from China-US trade tensions: expert

China-US trade tensions will be less fierce in 2020, although disrupting factors like issues concerning Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Taiwan island will remain amid the hubbub generated by the US presidential election next year, an expert said Saturday.

West silent on Xinjiang’s ‘inconvenient truth’

Besides, Chinese media should take the initiative to post reliable information about hot-spot issues, such as the education and vocational training center in Xinjiang. More detailed planning can be made to increase the effectiveness of news diffusion. As long as Xinjiang develops toward prosperity, and Chinese media’s publicity strategy improves, the truth will come to the light eventually. More people will recognize Western media’s selective deafness strategy and break away from its lie of objectivity and freedom of the press.

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Macao-rise with China while Hongkong in decline, why?


Chinese President Xi Jinping (front C) and his wife Peng Liyuan (behind Xi) walk on the red carpet in front of outgoing Macao Chief Executive Fernando Chui (C) and incoming chief executive Ho Iat Seng (blue tie)
after Xi and his wife’s arrival at the Macau International Airport in Macao on Wednesday, ahead of celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the handover from Portugal to China. Photo: AFP :
Xi hails Macao’s prosperity

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China’s ambassador to UK says Macao can show Hong Kong way forward

 The success of Macao’s “One Country, Two Systems” will “light up the path forward for Hong Kong,” said Liu Xiaoming, China’s top envoy to the UK, during a banquet at the Chinese embassy in London to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to China. #HK

Macao in Transition: Witness to History / Macao in Transition: Rising Stars

HK, Macao share more differences than similarities

Hong Kong and Macao, China’s two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) practicing the “one country, two systems” principle, share more differences than similarities, while Hong Kong’s social turbulence offers Macao a lesson, observers and analysts said.

From the former Portuguese colony to the world’s gaming hub, Macao is poised to become the richest place, overtaking Qatar with the highest per capita gross domestic product on a purchasing power parity basis by 2020. The small city, with a land area of 32.9 square kilometers, has seen its economic growth skyrocket by over 700 percent over the past two decades and become a city with high social welfare.

While Macao is embracing the 20th anniversary celebration of its return to China, it has been praised again for setting a good example of implementing the “one country, two systems” principle, especially as Hong Kong, which returned to the motherland two years before Macao, has been engulfed in months of anti-government protests.

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Macao from Wednesday to Friday to attend events marking the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return, he is expected to announce a series of favorable policies aimed at diversifying the city’s gaming-dependent economy into a financial center, according to media reports. And such a move is considered as a reward to Hong Kong’s neighboring city for avoiding anti-government protests, according to observers, and some suggested that promoting Macao as a new financial center could be an alternative to Hong Kong.

However, former officials and experts claimed that though the two SARs shared common ground such as a high-degree of autonomy, judicial independence and freedom of the press, they have differences in the way they handle relations with the central government and interpret the “one country, two systems” principle. Instead of simply labeling Macao a “good student” or “golden child” as the city is immune to anti-government protests spiraling next door, it should take a look at the fundamental reasons why the two cities are different from historical, cultural and social perspectives, local observers suggested.

Two SARs’ differences

As Hong Kong protesters identify themselves as Hongkongers instead of Chinese, Macao people believe that rejecting their Chinese nationality unacceptable, Wu Zhiliang, president of the Macau Foundation, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“Macao people have a deep understanding of the word ‘return’,” Wu said, noting that it is not about changing the national flag, or shifting from the governor of Macao to chief executive of Macao SAR government, it is about integrating into the country’s whole governance and strategic development plans.

Opposition groups in Hong Kong consider any move of the central government as intervention that erodes its high degree of autonomy, as the central government could not take any gesture, which is a misunderstanding of the “one country, two systems” principle, and is not accepted by people in Macao.

“When Macao comes up with new policies, it always takes the country’s development plans into consideration,” Wu said.

For instance, when the central government launched an anti-corruption campaign years ago, Macao imposed restrictions on cross-border financing involving Chinese funds, although it had heavily weighed on its pillar gaming industry, local representatives said.

“Compared to Hong Kong, there is no such mentality of worshiping Western political systems and social values here in Macao, though it has always been under the mixed influence of Eastern and Western cultures, and people treat those two equally,” Wu said.

Unlike Hong Kong, which has been heavily influenced by the West, Macao has a stronger attachment to Chinese culture and values due to its “historical genes.”

In the colonial period of Macao, Portuguese control had seen its influence over local communities declining, drawing a contrast with the relatively sophisticated way British authorities took in ruling Hong Kong before handing it over to China.

“There has been no strong cultural penetration of the West in Macao society, which had not been affected by Western social value either,” Susana Chou, former president of the Legislative Assembly of Macao, told the Global Times on Tuesday. “For example, when the Hotel of Lisboa was inaugurated years ago, many people in Macao did not know where ‘Lisboa’ is. Could you image Hong Kong people not knowing where London is? ” she asked.

While Hong Kong opposition lawmakers turned debates for rolling out policies into political battles, lawmakers in Macao are not against the Constitution, nor the Basic Law and the Communist Party of China, the former president said, noting that they would come up with different ideas to help roll out better policies.

“It’s also inaccurate to say the Legislative Assembly of Macao is the SAR government’s affiliate, as we also criticize our government officials a lot. And the assembly often rejects the proposals made by the government,” Chou said, noting that the opposition is based on concrete arguments rather than disapproving everything because of its political stance.

Lesson to learn

Considering Macao’s historical ties with the mainland, there has been no room for separatism, Wu noted. “But what has happened in Hong Kong would lead us to reflect on deep-rooted questions in Macao, particularly issues concerning Macao youth,” he said.

Behind Hong Kong’s chaos lie deep-seated social problems, as the majority of arrested radical protesters who trashed the rule of law were youngsters. Although Macao is not facing the same issue, the problems with Hong Kong youth could be seen as a warning sign for the city, observers said.

“We lack a fairer and transparent mechanism for Macao young people to climb toward upper society, and also the numbers of skilled positions are limited,” Wu said, noting that the local talent policy is still protective.

“If Macao further opens up its market, could local youth become as competitive as talent from outside? And will talent inflow accelerate social conflicts and anxiety of local youth?” he asked.

While Hong Kong and Macao both share freedom of speech and an open internet, information has been circulating freely on social media and many Macao young people have been well informed about Hong Kong’s social unrest for months. When the students were asked about questions on Hong Kong police brutality, many rationally discuss the matter with teachers instead of arguing with their peers and making one-sided judgments, Wu noted.

“Young people could easily influence each other, which is inevitable. It’s up to how teachers and parents guide them,” he said.

Macao has gained a higher degree of autonomy thanks to the confidence and trust of the central government, which, observers said, creates a positive cycle.

On the contrary, if Hong Kong’s opposition groups continue to touch the redline of the central government, it might lead to reevaluation of political risks in Hong Kong by the central government and the expected political reforms could hardly make any progress in the city, observers said.

The virtuous cycle established between the central government and Macao as well as between Macao and the mainland could to some extent serve as a reference for Hong Kong, they noted.

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YouTube ‘hypocritical’ in removing Xinjiang anti-terrorism video


 

A documentary released by China’s national broadcaster CGTN on the anti-terrorism work in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been blocked by YouTube for “copyright” issues. Some netizens said that YouTube’s move shows how hypocritical some Western media are.

CGTN aired two documentaries on December 5 and 7 focused on anti-terrorism efforts in Xinjiang and terrorist organization the East Turkistan Islamic Movement’s (ETIM) role in plotting terrorist attacks in China.

The two documentaries included rare footages of terrorist attacks in China, including the Urumqi riots in 2009 – which led to 197 deaths and over 1,700 injuries – and the attack on the Kunming railway station on March 1, 2014, which left 31 dead and 141 wounded.

CGTN also uploaded these two documentaries to YouTube, and the first, Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang, was watched hundreds of millions of times.

However, it was taken down by YouTube “due to a copyright claim by Morgenland Festival Osnabruck.”

Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang was re-uploaded and can now be found on CGTN’s YouTube account, but YouTube is asking users to register before watching the video as some of its content may not be “proper” for all users.

Youtube’s actions have angered many users. Some netizens criticized YouTube’s move as “shameful,” and said it shows viewers how hypocritical Western media are.

A netizen commented, “Make sure everyone knows YouTube censorship previously deleted this video in order to wipe its view count, likes and comments!”

“YouTube, what are you afraid about in this video? Is your censorship of the video in line with what you claim about freedom of speech?” a netizen named “David Watson” commented.

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