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
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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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Trapped in US-China trade war when 2 elephantine economic fight …

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Trapped in US-China trade war when 2 elephantine economices fight …


Tit for tat: The trade scuffle between US and China threatened to escalate to a full-scale war when Beijing fired back with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China – Reuters

The dispute between the two countries is real and has escalated. Malaysia is feeling the heat, but its palm oil sector is set to shine in this conflict.

THE US-China trade war drummed up by Washington last month threatened to escalate to a fullscale confrontation when Beijing fired back last week with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China.

And Malaysia, being an open economy with huge exports to China and the United States, is feeling the heat of the tit-for-tat measures rolled out by the two largest economies in the world.

President Donald Trump has given several reasons to act against China. A key reason is trade imbalance and US large trade deficit, which he attributed to China.

In 2017, China exported US$505bil (RM1.95 trillion) in goods to the United States, which in turn exported US$135bil (RM522.4bil) in goods to China.

The Trump administration has also alleged that China sought to misappropriate US intellectual property through joint venture requirements, unfair technology licensing rules, purchases of US technology firms with state funding and outright theft.

Last month, Trump slapped Beijing with punishing tariffs on the import of steel and aluminium products, and warned that there would be higher taxes on about 1,300 Chinese products worth US$50bil (RM193.5bil).

China, which has often stated that it does not want a trade war as it would hurt all, retaliated last Monday by imposing additional duties of 15% to 25% on 128 US products worth up to US$3bil (RM11.6bil). Pork, recycled aluminium, steel pipes, wine and fruits are on the list.

After being criticised by its own elites that it was too soft in its retaliation, China’s State Council announced on Wednesday that it planned to impose additional tariffs of 25% on 106 US products into the country, including soybeans, aircraft and cars. The import value of the goods on the list in 2017 was US$50bil.

Beijing’s Wednesday response came soon after the US Trade Representative Office released details of 1,333 Chinese imports worth about US$50bil that it planned to hit with 25% tariffs, with emphasis on industrial and hi-tech goods.

Global Times, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said in an editorial on Wednesday before its State Council’s statement: “China’s countermeasures should deal a heavy blow, hitting what the United States fears most. We strongly recommend starting with US soybeans and corn products. The ruling GOP will pay a huge price.”

It noted that nervous US soybean farmers, who were big supporters of Trump during the presidential campaign in 2016, had run advertisements to oppose launching a trade war against China.

China’s former finance minister Lou Jiwei reportedly said at a recent forum: “If I were in the government, I would hit soybeans first, and then cars and planes.”

By imposing punishing tariffs on US soybeans, Beijing will hurt US major farmers, given that China was the second largest importer of US agricultural products last year, buying US$19.6bil (RM73.5bil) of goods with 63% spent on soybeans.

As reducing US soybean imports would leave a shortfall for Chinese edible oil consumption and animal feed, this would need to be filled by imports from other countries. One source could be palm oil from Malaysia.

“Malaysia’s palm oil growers would stand to enjoy a windfall gain if China reduces the intake of soybeans from the United States, though our competitors like Indonesia also hope to sell more to China,” says economist Lee Heng Guie, executive director of SocioEconomic Research Centre (SERC).

In fact, the futures contracts of Malaysian crude palm oil (CPO) rose on Wednesday after China’s announcement. The positive impact on CPO prices continued on Thursday.

However, the local stock market – like other markets in the region – plummeted, as many investors believed more tit-for-tat measures covering more industries would be unveiled in this spat. The FBM KLCI lost 1.88% to close at its nineweek low of 1,815.94 points.

The local stock market has been weakening due to fear of this trade war. The technology stocks are particularly jittery as the US tariffs are seen as targeting mainly the Chinese electrical and electronic (E&E) and machinery sectors.

“In our view, the sectors that could be affected by the US-China trade war due to recently proposed import tariffs are semiconductors, building materials and ports in Malaysia,” said CIMB Research in a report on Thursday.

As Malaysia exports many E&E products and parts to China, local players within this supply chain are likely to feel the heat.

“We estimate Malaysia’s ultimate exposure to the United States – including via intermediate goods to China for assembly into final products destined for the United States – at 10% of GDP, about half of which is in electronics products,” Nomura Research says, adding that another 8% is exposed to China’s final demand.

While exports to China account for 13.5% of total annual exports of Malaysia, exports to the United

States make up 9.5%. And E&E products form the biggest export item to both countries.

Nomura sees US trade protectionism and a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China as posing risks to the Malaysian economy, as exports account for 71% of its GDP.

This trade conflict has been listed by Moody’s as a global risk this year.

Consultancy Oxford Economics says the escalation of the trade war could knock 0.5% off global growth in 2019.

Although earlier this year many analysts and business groups in the United States had warned that Washington would not win in this trade war, Trump charged ahead nevertheless.

The modern and economically mighty China, under President Xi Jinping, will punch back decisively and swiftly, many have warned.

The pain points of China are not easy to find. Over a decade ago, Beijing had realised it could not rely on the low value-adding export processing industries.

The country is now focusing on developing its high-technology sector and expanding the domestic consumer market to cut down on reliance on exports.

With so many odds against America, why would Trump insist on taking on China?

According to an analysis by Hong Kong-based International Chinese Newsweekly, the rise of American nationalism and Trump’s gearing up for the mid-term elections is the key reason for the president’s plunge into a trade war.

His focus is on midterm elections and keeping a Republican majority in Senate and Congress. But he will have to deal with the possible backlash from the first round of USChina trade war once it goes full on.

Apart from the soybean sector, the United States’ aircraft and automobile sectors will be hit.

According to South China Morning Post, Boeing Corporation delivered 202 planes to China in 2017, or 26% of its global total. The company has projected that in the next 20 years, China will need 7,240 new planes valued at about US$1.1 trillion (RM4.26 trillion).

On the auto sector, the United States sold more than US$10bil (RM38.7bil) worth of vehicles to China. Last year, General Motors sold 3.9 million cars to China, or almost 39% of its global total. The company expects sales in China to grow to five million by 2020.

The Hong Kong newspaper also warned that if China discourages its nationals from visiting the United States, the impact on US tourism will be painful.

In 2016, three million Chinese visitors and students spent US$33bil (RM127.7bil) while in the United States. The US Department of Commerce expects Chinese visitors rise to 5.7 million by 2021.

The other weapon China could weild against Washington is off-loading its US treasury bonds. This will have an impact on the dollar and US interest rate.

Bejing’s holding of US treasury bonds was close to US$1.2 trillion (RM4.6 trillion) at end-2017.

How long the current trade tension will last is anybody’s guess, given Trump’s unpredictable character. The world still remembers that he showered Xi with praises before turning his back on China.

But one thing is certain: if US protectionism and the trade war escalates, it will hurt not only the two major economies, but also countries which have trade links with the two powers.

“The global repercussions will be highly disruptive and damaging on trade and economy if the US-China trade war deepens and impacts more products and countries. In such widespread trade conflicts, Malaysia’s trade will be significantly dampened,” says Lee from SERC.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star


When 2 elephantine economies fight

Upping the stakes: Trump has ordered his
administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US100bil of
Chinese imports. Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier hit back with
US50bil worth of tariffs on US imports.

Will Malaysia be caught in the middle?

The trade war between the world’s two largest economies is not showing any sign of stopping just yet.

US president Donald Trump initiated the trade confrontation by announcing additional 25% tariffs on Chinese imports worth US$50bil, citing China’s unfair trade advantage. In retaliation, China initially announced higher tariffs on US$3bil imports from the US, but later raised it to US$50bil.

Now, Trump has ordered his administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US$100bil of Chinese imports.

While it remains to be seen whether these tit-for-tat announcements will materialise or eventually fizzle out, economists and fund managers generally agree that the US-China trade fight will affect Malaysia’s local industries and several stocks on Bursa Malaysia.

However, they differ on the extent of the impct from the escalating trade war.

In an email interview with StarBizWeek, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute research and business development director Lau Zheng Zhou says that Malaysia will be hit with losses in trade opportunities, as both the US and China constitute 25% of Malaysia’s total trade.

He points out that investors may adopt a “wait-and-see” approach, which could cause certain sectors to slow down and hence disrupt manufacturers’ resource planning and projection.

“As opposed to exporting finished goods, Malaysian exports have footprints along an extensive supply chains across sectors in Asia such as automobiles, electronics, oil and gas, and machinery.

“With heavy tariffs being imposed by the US, Malaysian firms will be slapped with rising input costs and therefore falling demand for their value-added component products.

“Our logistics sector may also be affected if global trade slows down.

“But China’s tariffs imposed on the US may not directly impact Malaysia as it is strategically designed to cause damage to the US agricultural producers,” he says.

On the other hand, Malayan Banking Bhd group chief economist Suhaimi Ilias indicates that the potential impact from the US-China trade spat is small, or only 0.3% of total trade value, at this juncture

However, greater risks could arise if the additional tariffs spill into services trade and investment.

“In any case, US tariffs on solar panels, steel and aluminum will have some impact on Malaysia but we understand that the International Trade and Industry Ministry is seeking exemptions for these since Malaysia is in talk with the US on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as an alternative following the US pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Meanwhile, China’s tariffs on US products may result in some trade diversions or substitutions that may result in increase demand for Malaysian products from China, and one potential area is chemical or petrochemical products which is a major industry and export for Malaysia,” states Suhaimi.

Currently, the Trump administration has proposed a long list of 1,333 items, which would see the imposition of an additional 25% tariff.

These items include robotics, aircraft seats, machine parts, semiconductors, communication satellites and television components, among others.

It is worth noting that there will be 60 days of public review before the tariffs take effect. Observers believe both China and the US will re-negotiate their trade terms during this period in order to prevent a full-fledged trade war.

More items affected

In the event of the US government imposing tariffs on the additional US$100bil worth of Chinese imports as per Trump’s suggestion, more items will be affected.

China, on its part, has announced that it will slap a similar 25% additional tariff on 106 products from the US, which include soybean, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft.

According to Lau, China’s tariffs are well-targeted to hurt rural, agriculture-dependent communities who were big supporters of Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Many companies in Malaysia have been involved in the export of raw materials and intermediate goods to China and the US, which are later re-packaged or used in the production of other finished goods.

These finished goods, in turn, are exported by both China and the US to one another as well as to other countries.

Indirectly, the Sino-US trade spat will affect these exporting companies from Malaysia.

Suhaimi calls for accommodative monetary policy and the implementations of major investment and infrastructure projects to buttress Malaysia’s economic activities, if the trade dispute continues to worsen.


Fund managers’ take

Fortress Capital chief executive officer Thomas Yong says that the Malaysian semiconductor sector will be most negatively affected due to the trade spat.

“This is because most semiconductor companies in Malaysia export intermediate semi-conductor components to end-product manufactures in the US, and a tariff on these end-products could indirectly lower the demand from these component players,” he says.

He cautions investors to monitor the ongoing trade war between the US and China closely.

“If the tariffs are implemented, the impact will be very detrimental to the ongoing global growth recovery.

“A trade war will negatively affect stock valuations all around the world,” he says.

Similar to Yong’s perspective, Areca Capital chief executive officer Danny Wong also reckons that export-based Malaysian businesses in the electrical and electronics domain could be affected, especially if their exposure to both China and the US is significantly large.

However, both fund managers believe that the Sino-US trade spat may not be entirely bad for companies in Malaysia.

Wong tells StarBizWeek that the US’ Federal Reserve (Fed) may take necessary actions to remedy any unwarranted implications to the economy.

“If the trade war continues to prolong and ultimately weigh down global growth and trade, it could affect the Fed’s future actions.

“Hence, there is a likelihood for the Fed to put the expected interest rate hikes on hold.

“In the event of such decision, dividend stocks in Bursa Malaysia will definitely benefit.

“On top of that, the real estate investment trust (REIT) stocks will also benefit from the situation, as Reits thrive in the low interest rate environment,” he says.

Meanwhile, Fortress Capital’s Yong adds that stocks related to palm oil production may also benefit from the trade spat.

“Since crude palm oil (CPO) is a substitute for soybean oil, the Chinese tariff on American soybeans can potentially allow China to substitute to CPO to meet their vegetable oil consumption needs, in turn supporting the demand and prices for CPO.

“As Malaysia and Indonesia both account for more than 80% of global palm oil supply, oil plantation companies from these two countries could potentially benefit from the much needed price boost amid the current soft CPO price.

“However, it remains uncertain if China will substitute all of the current soybean oil consumption to CPO, as there are quite a number of other vegetable oils available in the market,” he says.

Earlier, StarBiz reported that the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) believes Malaysia may see an increased amount of foreign investments, particularly from the US, if the brewing trade war between the US and China escalates further.

Businesses from the US and other countries could make Malaysia an alternative regional production hub for several goods instead of China, to avoid the additional tariffs imposed by the US on products imported from China.

The additional 25% tariff levied on the imports from China would likely make Chinese goods pricier. Under such circumstances, global manufacturers may opt to establish their operations in Malaysia or outsource their production to a domestic company.

Commenting on whether the Sino-US trade war will place Malaysia as an alternative to China in the eyes of investors, Lau says it is not reasonable for investors to do so.

“However, the trade spat may rather increase foreign direct investments, especially from China, in industries with heavy use of steel and aluminium or value-added manufacturing of innovative consumer products.

“This can avoid a ban, restrictions or high tariffs on products which are associated with China,” he says.

By Ganeshwaran Kana The Star

 

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Lost cause: An employee arranging imported American apples for sale at a grocery store in Beijing, President Donald Trump says the US lost a trade war with China ‘years ago’. In a tweet Wednesday after China announced a list of US products that might be subject to a 25 tariff, Trump said: ‘We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the US.’ — Bloomberg
Trade war – more of letting off hot air so far – Business News

China to fight back US trade tariffs ‘at any cost’ – Business New

China vows to fight US ‘at any cost’ after Donald Trump threatens $100B ..

 China’s import tariff on US soybean can support CPO prices – Business News

 

 

Sign of good faith: Mustapa receiving the Amcham survey report from Wong (right) and Das at the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce Summit.US-China trade spat good for Malaysia – Business News

US tariff to have little impact on global economy

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Did Trump just launch a trade war? 

Trade War! US Trade Protectionism

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Kim Jong-un says he is ‘committed to Korean denuclearisation’ in Beijing talks



North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has promised President Xi Jinping that he will follow through the wishes of his father and grandfather in denuclearising the Korean peninsula, but added he wants assurances from the United States and South Korea.

The leader of the reclusive state made the remarks during a trip to China, his first overseas visit since he became North Korea’s leader, according to the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Kim, the third generation of his family to lead his country, said the situation on the Korean peninsula was improving and that his government has taken steps to ease tensions, Xinhua reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un leaves Beijing after surprise visit >>

Kim added that if the US and South Korea were willing to respond to North Korea’s efforts with sincerity the nuclear issue “can be solved”.

“Our unswerving stance is that we will make efforts towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” Kim was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

President Xi pledged to work with North Korea to achieve denuclearisation.

“China is willing to continue to make a constructive impact on the Korean peninsula problem,” President Xi said. He called upon all sides to solve the problem through dialogue, Xinhua reported.

Tensions have risen on Korean peninsula after North Korea has increased nuclear weapons tests.

The United Nations has enforced a series of sanctions to try to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the crisis have risen since the announcement that North and South Korea’s leaders have agreed to meet.

Beijing is North Korea’s long-standing traditional ally, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s support of UN sanctions.

Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said Kim was securing China’s support ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump, scheduled to be held by May.

“By denuclearisation, Kim actually means the whole Korean peninsula should be denuclearised and that the nuclear weapons deployed by the US in South Korea should be withdrawn,” Pang said. “Can the US really accept that request? The gesture means that the chance of a significant breakthrough between Kim and Trump may be slim.”

Kim’s visit evidence China and North Korea remain allies, analysts say  >>

Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in China, agreed Kim was looking for support from Beijing ahead of his meetings with South Korea’s president and Trump.

”Just as Kim may have felt he had secured some leverage against Xi having independently secured summits with Trump and Moon, he’ll now feel more confident knowing where things stand with Beijing heading into those same meetings,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Chinese government had briefed the Trump administration about the visit on Tuesday.

The Trump administration sees the development “as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea”, she said.

Beijing residents left in the dark during Kim Jong-un’s unexpected visit  >>

Kim arrived by train in Beijing on Monday and left the following day, with his trip to China coming just days before a planned meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and ahead of the possible summit with Trump.

Speculation about a visit by Kim to Beijing came earlier this week after a train similar to the one used by Kim’s father was seen in the Chinese capital.

Ri Sol-ju, Kim’s wife, was also part of the delegation to Beijing, Xinhua reported.

China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, Vice-President Wang Qishan and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning also met the North Korean leader.

The green armoured train carrying the North Korean leader returned to the reclusive state at about 6am on Wednesday across a bridge connecting the two countries in Dandong, Liaoning province.

Chinese police had blocked access to the area around the bridge before the train’s arrival.

Armed police vehicles were also seen in the area.

North Korea agrees to inter-Korean talks to discuss possible April summit  >>

Access to parts of the Yalu River riverbank, which separates North Korea and Dandong, were blocked. Some police officers also stopped people from taking pictures of the bridge before the train’s arrival.

“I can only say that a situation is happening here,” a police officer at one of the blocked roads told the South China Morning Post.

About three minutes after the train passed over the bridge, police officers finally allowed pedestrians to enter the area.
As the Post visited the area in the early hours of Wednesday – before the area was cordoned off – five plainclothes police officers approached and asked staff to leave.

They did not explain why, only saying “it was not safe” to be there so late at night.

Source: South China Morning Post by Phila Siu is reporting from Dandong

Did Trump just launch a trade war?


LAST Thursday, US President Do­­­nald Trump signed a proclamation to raise tariffs for steel by 25% and for aluminium by 10%.

It sent shockwaves across the world not only because of the losses to metal exporters, but due to what it may signify – the start of a global trade war that will cause economic disruption and may damage, if not destroy, the multilateral trade system.

The United States, joined by Europe, has been the anchor of the global free trade system since the end of World War II. In practice, this rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the West continues to have very high protection of their agriculture sector, which cannot compete with those of many developing countries.

Moreover, the developed countries champion high intellectual property rights standards through an agreement in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which their companies create monopolies, set high prices and make excessive profits. This is against the free competition touted by free-trade advocates.

In manufacturing and metals, the developed countries have pressed the others to join them in cutting or removing tariffs and to expand trade, through negotiations in the WTO and its predecessor, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

They have argued that poorer countries can best grow richer by cutting their tariffs, thus benefiting consumers and forcing their producers to become more efficient.

Trump’s move upends the ideology of free trade. According to his America First philosophy, if cheaper imports displaced local steel and aluminium producers, these imports must be stopped because a country must make its own key products.

Since the US has been the flag-bearer of the free-trade religion, this has profound effects on other countries. If the leader has changed its mind and now believes in openly protecting its industries, so too can other countries. The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived.

The WTO rules allow countries adversely affected by imports to take certain measures, but they have to prove that the producers of exporting countries unfairly receive subsidies or set lower prices for their exports. Or they can take “safeguard” measures of raising tariffs but only for a limited period to help affected local producers to adjust.

Trump however made use of a little-used national security clause (Section 232) in the US trade laws to justify his big jump in steel and aluminium tariffs. The clause allows the President to take trade action to defend security. The WTO also has a security exception in GATT Article XXI.

But what constitutes national security is not clearly spelt out either in the US or the WTO laws, and countries can abuse this clause.

The Trump administration tried to justify invoking the security factor by saying steel and aluminium are needed to make weapons of war. But this was undercut by giving exemptions from the increased duties to Canada and Mexico due to their membership of Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agree­ment that includes the US. The exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

Other countries are angry and preparing to retaliate. The European Union has drawn up a list of American products on which its member countries will raise tariffs. China warned it would make an appropriate and necessary res­ponse.

At the WTO General Council on March 8, the US action was attacked. Many countries condemned the unilateral move and the use of the national security rationale. Canada said the security issue “may be opening a Pandora’s box we would not be able to close”.

Brazil expressed deep concern about an elastic or broad application of the national security exception. India said the national security exception under GATT should not be misused and unilateral measures have no place in the trade system. China argued that the over-protected domestic industry would never be able to solve its problems through protectionism.

Many WTO member states will most likely take the US to a dispute panel, and the outcome will have strong consequences. If the panel rules for the US, then other countries will view the decision as permission for all countries to take protectionist measures on the grounds of security.

If the decision goes against the US, it will strengthen the anti-liberal trade faction and tendency in the Trump administration to ignore or even leave the WTO.

Malaysia will be affected by the new tariffs as it exports 96,000 tonnes of steel to the US. But this is small compared to how much steel we import.

The bigger blow to us is the US measure in January to slap up to 30% tariffs on solar cells and panels. Malaysia is the largest photovoltaic cells exporter to the US, with a market share of 30%. The tariff increase will have a big impact on the solar industry, a solar company chief was quoted as saying last month.

The next big protectionist move from the US may come in a few weeks when Trump decides what action, if any, to take against China after considering a Commerce Department report on China’s trade and intellectual property practices.

If strong action against China is announced, China can be expected to take strong retaliatory action.

That may escalate the trade war that is already under way.

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Lift-off in space plane race as China tests hypersonic drone model


China launched a scaled-down model of a multipurpose, reusable space plane from a test site in the Gobi Desert late last month, part of its race to develop space travel technology.

The hypersonic space drone lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Inner Mongolia, accelerated to more than five times the speed of sound and reached orbital altitude before returning safely to ground, according to a researcher with knowledge of the experiment.

China’s goal was to develop a space plane for both military and civilian missions, capable of travelling fast enough to penetrate missile defence systems and with the heft to help rebuild satellite networks or lift tourists to space, the researcher said.

Development of the prototype was led by the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province. Also known as Base 29, the military-run facility has some of the most advanced wind tunnels for hypersonic research in the country.

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Ye Youda, a senior hypersonic vehicle researcher working at the base, confirmed the test took place but said he could not give details because the project was classified for defence purposes.

Without revealing the nature of the vehicle, state-run Science and Technology Daily said on February 23 that the test was a “breakthrough”, with the vehicle landing precisely as planned.

Lead scientist Liu Gang was quoted as saying it was the first time China had conducted this kind of test.

Liu said the mission would help China acquire critical technology for engineering and scientific research in space.

“It signals … a historic breakthrough in speed, altitude and applications,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, a major defence contractor in Beijing, confirmed on Tuesday that it was also working on space plane technology.

Zhang Hongwen, director of the company’s Third Research Academy, said China’s space plane would be very different from the reusable rocket developed by California-based SpaceX.

“It will be able to take off from a normal airport and take spacecraft into orbit. It will be a revolution for space transport,” Zhang told state broadcaster China Central Television.

He said Tengyun, a civilian version of the space plane, would be able to carry both passengers and cargo into orbit or to a space station.

The vehicle would be reusable – bringing down launch costs – and be driven by a hybrid engine that could take in air in the atmosphere and burn rocket fuel once in space.

Space planes are expected to be more attractive than rockets for tourists because they allow for smoother flight.

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Li Junwei, a professor from Beijing Institute of Technology’s school of aerospace engineering, said it was extremely difficult to building an engine that would work both in space and air.

“The aircraft can lose control while going through the boundary of different environments,” he said.

Other nations are developing similar technology. The US military has teamed up with Boeing to develop XS-1, a hypersonic space plane that would launch vertically as a rocket and return to ground as a plane.

Also known as the Phantom Express, the vehicle would be as large as a commercial airliner and be able to put a medium-size satellite to lower-Earth orbit.

The US project was launched last year with the first flight scheduled for 2020.

Stephen Chen
South China Morning Post

Stephen Chen http://www.scmp.com/news

 

More on this story

Researchers say the I-plane’s two layers of wings will mean it can handle significantly heavier payload than existing hypersonic vehicles. Photo: Science China Press


Beijing to New York in 2 hours? Hypersonic plane ambition revealed

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Weapons under development by China and Russia – as well as by the United States – can fly at many times the speed of sound and are designed to beat regular anti-missile defence systems.

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The American dream turned nightmare, President Trump’s first year …


A homeless man sleeps under an American flag blanket on a park bench in New York City in this file picture. As of June 2013, there was an all-time record of 50,900 homeless people, including 12,100 homeless families with 21,300 homeless children in New York – Photos AFP
A young homeless woman panhandles on the streets of Manhattan in New York City. According to a new report released by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development New York City’s homeless population expanded by about 4% in 2017.

American culture and a new tax Bill are exacerbating chronic poverty by helping to widen the wealth gap.

SITTING among a jumble of his few possessions on a San Francisco sidewalk, 41-year-old “Kaels” Raybon has begun to accept the bad choices he made.

He was a drug user, and did jail time. By the time he was let out, his wife and four children – two boys and two girls – had left him. Other family members had died and he had nowhere to live. He has now spent over 15 years on the street.

America may be the land of equal opportunity – but like many other countries, there is a thin line between a life on the street and a roof over one’s head. Poverty creates its own loop; a prison record, for instance, makes it difficult to find employment.

Raybon’s voice trembles as he speaks of his children.

“Emotionally, I’m a wreck most of the time,” he admits. “I see kids and dads, and I want that too. But it’s just not in my cards.”

The children came to visit him one day, he says. He was torn. “I wanted them to stay, but at the same time I didn’t, because I have nothing to offer them.”

Raybon is among those who make up the most visible indicator of America’s worsening poverty and inequality – over half a million urban homeless. They are a stark contrast in arguably the world’s richest, most powerful and most technologically innovative country.

But homelessness is only the visible tip of the poverty iceberg. Large areas outside big cities are mired in chronic poverty. The definition of poverty varies, but a commonly used measure from 2015 is an annual income of US$12,000 (RM47,500) or less.

Forty-one million Americans live in poverty – 12.7% of the country’s population. Some 46% of those live in “deep poverty” – on an annual income below US$6,000 (RM23,700).

Among them are 1.5 million households, including 2.8 million children, who live in extreme poverty or on less than US$2 (RM8) per person per day.

“These are people who cannot find work … who do not qualify for any other (welfare) programmes or who may live in remote areas. They are disconnected from both the safety net and the job market,” Dr Premilla Nadasen, author and professor at Barnard College in New York City, wrote in the Washington Post newspaper on Dec 21.

Poverty is in the news again on the heels of a scathing 15-page statement released late last year by Dr Philip Alston, a tall, lean, 67-year-old New York University law professor from Melbourne, Australia, who is the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. A special rapporteur functions like an investigator and reports back to the UN.

Dr Alston is not known for beating about the bush. After a 15-day swing across six American states and cities, he is warning that worse is in store for America’s poor, at the wrong end of an increasingly widening wealth gap, and in an environment and official culture in which if you are down and out, it is probably your own fault.

The recent passage of the Republican Party’s tax Bill will make their lives worse, says Dr Alston. The Treasury Department has explicitly listed welfare reform as an important source of revenue in part to make up for the deficit that the tax cut is likely to trigger.

More important, however, is the culture.

“In a poor country, there are two starting points – that there are social rights, and citizens have a right to healthcare, a right to education, a right to food,” Dr Alston says at an interview in his booklined office at New York University.

“Second, the only thing standing in our way is resources; we just don’t have the money.”

“In the US, it’s the exact opposite,” he says. “There’s no such thing as social rights. If people are living in abysmal conditions, it’s their fault because we have equality of opportunity.

“Secondly, it’s not a resource problem. We just found US$1.5trillion (RM6trillion) to give to the super rich. The money would have been there to eliminate poverty if there had been any political will. But there isn’t.”

The US$1.5trillion refers to the Republicans’ tax Bill, passed just before Christmas that will bring the middle class some relief but inevitably, analysts say, end up benefiting the wealthy disproportionately.

America’s wealth gap has been steadily widening. On average in 1981, the top 1% of adult Americans earned 27 times more than the bottom 50%. Today, they earn 81 times more.

Meanwhile, since the 1970s, the safety net has been considerably diminished, Dr Nadasen wrote in the Post recently. “Labour regulations protecting workers have been rolled back, and funding for education and public programmes has declined. The poor have been the hardest hit.”

She added: “The shredding of the safety net led to a rise in poverty. The United States has the highest child poverty rates – 25% in the world.

In the course of his tour, Dr Alston saw houses in rural areas of Alabama surrounded by pools of sewage. “The state health department had no idea how many households exist in these conditions, nor did they have any plan to find out, or devise a plan to do something about it,” he says in his statement.

He could not help noticing that most of the area’s residents were black. But while racial divisions are not far below the surface, it would be misleading to assume that poverty is generally worse in the Native American and African American minorities. It cuts across all ethnicities. There are eight million more poor white people than black people.

Like Rudy Damian, 53, who as a teenager ended up homeless in San Francisco after taking drugs and alcohol and being involved in crime – a common pattern contributing to broken families and financial ruin.

He has several missing teeth – dental care is not covered by most health insurance and the poor, at best, can go only to hospital emergency rooms where invariably a tooth is simply extracted.

Damian says he is sober now, and even works part-time as a security guard, but still can’t afford to rent a home. He calls his sister and his 94-year-old mother sometimes, but they avoid talking about his life. “They are disappointed by my lifestyle,” he says. “I was just a loner. I was the youngest when my father died, I decided to leave (home), and that isolation has lasted throughout my life.”

Fragmentation of families and the weakening of community support contribute to the isolation of homeless people in particular. But there is more.

“Caricatured narratives” drive the debate on poverty and homelessness in America, according to Dr Alston. The rich are seen as “industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic, and the drivers of economic success”. The poor are “wasters, losers and scammers”.

“As long as you have the mindset that we’re all on our own, it becomes possible that when my own brother falls off the cliff, I’m able to say, ‘Well, he had the same opportunities as me. He’s failed, he has to cope with it,’ instead of saying, ‘I can’t let that happen. I’ve got to do something.’”

In Los Angeles, he found that the objective for the local authorities was to raise the standard of Skid Row, an area less than a square kilometre but containing many hundred homeless, to that of a Syrian refugee camp.

“One of the richest countries in the world, and we’re aiming to meet the standards of a Syrian refugee camp for a large population in one of our richest cities,” he says. “It is sort of stunning.”

Sources: The Straits Times/Asia News Network, by Nirmal Ghosh who is The Straits Times ’US Bureau Chief.

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Greener pastures: Wang at his company’s headquarters in Shanghai. The successful Silicon Valley alumni was lured back to China by the pro…

 

Goodbye, Silicon Valley


Greener pastures: Wang at his company’s headquarters in Shanghai. The successful Silicon Valley alumni was lured
back to China by the promise of a brighter future.

Chinese-born talents are abandoning California for riches back home with the rise of China’s new titans.

A FEW years ago, Wang Yi was living the American dream. He had graduated from Princeton, landed a job at Google and bought a spacious condo in Silicon Valley.

But one day in 2011, he sat his wife down at the kitchen table and told her he wanted to move back to China. He was bored working as a product manager for the search giant and felt the pull of starting his own company in their homeland.

It wasn’t easy persuading her to abandon balmy California for smog-choked Shanghai.

“We’d just discovered she was pregnant,” said Wang, now 37, recalling hours spent pacing their apartment. “It was a very uneasy few weeks before we made our decision, but in the end she came around.”

His bet paid off: his popular English teaching app Liulishuo or LingoChamp raised US$100mil (RM397mil) in July, putting him in the growing ranks of successful Silicon Valley alumni lured back to China by the promise of a brighter future. His decision is emblematic of an unprecedented trend with disquieting implications for Valley stalwarts from Facebook Inc to Alphabet Inc’s Google.

US-trained Chinese-born talent is becoming a key force in driving Chinese companies’ global expansion and the country’s efforts to dominate next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Where college graduates once coveted a prestigious overseas job and foreign citizenship, many today gravitate towards career opportunities at home, where venture capital is now plentiful and the government dangles financial incentives for cutting-edge research.

“More and more talent is moving over because China is really getting momentum in the innovation area,” said Ken Qi, a headhunter for Spencer Stuart and leader of its technology practice.

“This is only the beginning.” Chinese have worked or studied abroad and then returned home long enough that there’s a term for them – “sea turtles”. But while a job at a US tech giant once conferred near-unparalleled status, homegrown companies – from giants like Tencent Holdings Ltd to up-and-comers like news giant Toutiao – are now often just as prestigious. Baidu Inc – a search giant little-known outside of China – convinced ex-Microsoft standout Qi Lu to helm its efforts in AI, making him one of the highest-profile returnees of recent years.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s coming-out party was a catalyst. The e-commerce giant pulled off the world’s largest initial public offering in 2014 – a record that stands – to drive home the scale and inventiveness of the country’s corporations.

Alibaba and Tencent now count among the 10 most valuable companies in the world, in the ranks of Amazon.com Inc and Facebook.

Chinese venture capital rivals the United States: three of the world’s five most valuable startups are based in Beijing, not California.

Tech has supplanted finance as the biggest draw for overseas Chinese returnees, accounting for 15.5% of all who go home, according to a 2017 survey of 1,821 people conducted by think-tank Centre for China & Globalisation and jobs site Zhaopin.com. That’s up 10% from their last poll, in 2015.

Not all choose to abandon the Valley. Of the more than 850,000 AI engineers across America, 7.9% are Chinese, according to a 2017 report from LinkedIn.

That naturally includes plenty of ethnic Chinese without strong ties to the mainland or any interest in working there. However, there are more AI engineers of Chinese descent in the United States than there are in China, even though they make up less than 1.6% of the American population.

Yet the search for returnees has spurred a thriving cottage industry.

In WeChat and Facebook cliques, headhunters and engineers from the diaspora exchange banter and animated gifs.

Qi watches for certain markers: if you’ve scored permanent residency, are childless or the kids are prepping for college, expect a knock on your digital door.

Jay Wu has poached over 100 engineers for Chinese companies over the past three years. The co-founder of Global Career Path ran online communities for students before turning it into a career. The San Francisco resident now trawls more than a dozen WeChat groups for leads.

“WeChat is a good channel to keep tabs on what’s going on in the circle and also broadcast our offline events,” he said.

Ditching Cupertino or Mountain View for Beijing can be a tough sell when China’s undergoing its harshest Internet crackdown in history. But its tech giants hold three drawcards: faster growth in salaries, opportunity and a sense of home.

China’s Internet space is enjoying bubbly times, with compensation sometimes exceeding American peers’. One startup was said to have hired an AI engineer for cash and shares worth as much as US$30mil (RM119mil) over four years.

For engineers reluctant to relinquish American comforts, Chinese companies are going to them. Alibaba, Tencent, Uber-slayer Didi Chuxing and Baidu are among those who have built or are expanding labs in Silicon Valley.

Career opportunities, however, are regarded as more abundant back home. While Chinese engineers are well represented in the Valley, the perception is that comparatively fewer advance to the top rungs, a phenomenon labelled the “Bamboo Ceiling”.

“More and more Chinese engineers who have worked in Silicon Valley for an extended period of time end up finding it’s much more lucrative for them career-wise to join a fast-rising Chinese company,”

says Hans Tung, a managing partner at venture firm GGV who’s organised events to poach talent.

“At Google, at LinkedIn, at Uber, at AirBnB, they all have Chinese engineers who are trying to figure out ‘should I stay, or should I go back’.”

More interesting than prospects for some may be the sheer volume of intimate data available and leeway to experiment in China.

Tencent’s WeChat, built by a small team in months, has become a poster-child for in-house creative licence.

Modern computing is driven by crunching enormous amounts of data, and generations of state surveillance has conditioned the public to be less concerned about sharing information than Westerners.

Local startup SenseTime for instance has teamed with dozens of police departments to track everything from visages to races, helping the country develop one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance machines.

China’s 751 million Internet users have thus become a massive petri dish.

Big money and bigger data can be irresistible to those itching to turn theory into reality.

Xu Wanhong left Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science PhD programme in 2010 to work on Facebook’s news feed.

A chance meeting with a visiting team from Chinese startup UCAR Technology led to online friendships and in 2015, an offer to jump ship. Today he works at Kuaishou, a video service said to be valued at more than US$3bil (RM12bil), and commutes from 20km outside Beijing. It’s a far cry from the breakfast bar and lush spaces of Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters.

“I didn’t go to the US for a big house. I went for the interesting problems,” he said.

Then there are those for whom it’s about human connection: no amount of tech can erase the fact that Shanghai and San Francisco are separated by an 11-hour flight and an even wider cultural chasm.

Chongqing native Yang Shuishi grew up deifying the West, adopting the name Seth and landing a dream job as a software engineer on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

But suburban America didn’t suit a single man whose hometown has about 40 times Seattle’s population.

While he climbed the ranks during subsequent stints at Google and Facebook, life in America remained a lonely experience and he landed back in China.

“You’re just working as a cog in the huge machine and you never get to see the big picture.

“My friends back in China were thinking about the economy and vast social trends,” he said.

“Even if I get killed by the air and live shorter for 10 years, it’ll still be better.” – Bloomberg

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