Unknown Chinese startup creates the world’s most valuable Bytedance


Independent moves: Bytedance has become among the most successful major Chinese tech companies in creating an
international base without the backing of giants Alibaba and Tencent. — Reuters

 

Building a vision: Over five years, Zhang has grown the app into one of the most popular news services anywhere, with 120 million daily users. — Bloomberg

Said to be valued at over $75 billion in new round of funding.

Bloomberg reports that when  Zhang Yiming first shopped the idea of a news aggregation app powered
by artificial intelligence six years ago, investors including Sequoia Capital were skeptical
.

Back then, the question was how a 29-year-old locally trained software engineer could outsmart the numerous news portals operated by the likes of social media behemoth Tencent Holdings. and extract profit
where even Google had failed.

Zhang, now 35, proved them wrong. Today his company, Bytedance Ltd., is on its way to a more than $75 billion valuation — a price tag that surpasses Uber Technologies. to top the world, according to CB Insights.
The latest in a long line of investors who’ve come around is Softbank Group., which is said to be planning to invest about $1.5 billion.  Bytedance now counts KKR & Co., General Atlantic and even Sequoia as
backers. Much of its lofty valuation stems from the creation of an internet experience that’s a cross between Google and Facebook.

35-Year-Old Unknown Creates the World’s Most Valuable Startup

 

News aggregation app evolves into a multi-faceted media goliath

 

WHEN Zhang Yiming first shopped the idea of a news aggregation app powered by artificial intelligence six years ago, investors including Sequoia Capital were sceptical.

Back then, the question was how a 29-year-old locally trained software engineer could outsmart the numerous news portals operated by the likes of social media behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd and extract profit where even Google had failed.

Zhang, now 35, proved them wrong.

Today his company, Bytedance Ltd, is on its way to a more than US$75bil valuation – a price tag that surpasses Uber Technologies Inc to top the world, according to CB Insights.

The latest in a long line of investors who have come around is Softbank Group Corp, which is said to be planning to invest about US$1.5bil. Bytedance now counts KKR & Co, General Atlantic and even Sequoia as backers.

Much of its lofty valuation stems from the creation of an internet experience that’s a cross between Google and Facebook.

“The most important thing is that we are not a news business. We are more like a search business or a social media platform,” Zhang said in a 2017 interview, adding that he employs no editors or reporters.

“We are doing very innovative work. We are not a copycat of a US company, both in product and technology.”

What’s remarkable is Zhang was able to do it all without taking money from the twin suns of China’s internet: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent.

It’s the first startup to emerge from the dwindling cohort of mobile players that hasn’t sought protection or funds from either of the two. In fact, it has often locked horns with them, in court and elsewhere. And it’s arguably more successful at engaging youthful audiences abroad.

The story of how Bytedance became a goliath begins with news site Jinri Toutiao but is tied more closely to a series of smart acquisitions and strategic expansions that propelled the company into mobile video and even beyond China. By nurturing a raft of successful apps, it has gathered a force of hundreds of millions of users and now poses a threat to China’s largest Internet operators.

The company has evolved into a multi-faceted empire spanning video service Tik Tok – known as Douyin locally – and a plethora of platforms for everything from jokes to celebrity gossip.

But as with Facebook at the same stage of its life, Bytedance now faces questions over when or even how it will start making a profit.

“The predominant issue in China’s internet is that the growth in users and the time each user spends online has slowed dramatically.

“It is becoming a zero-sum game, and costs for acquiring users and winning their time are increasing,” said Jerry Liu, an analyst with UBS.

“What Bytedance has created is a group of apps that are very good at attracting users and retaining their time, in part, leveraging the traffic from Jinri Toutiao.”

Despite its seeming isolation, it’s become the most successful major Chinese tech company in creating an international base, venturing via apps like Tik Tok into the US, South-East Asia and Japan.

Even Tencent’s WeChat had to pump the brakes on its own overseas initiative four years ago.

What Zhang perceived in 2012 was that Chinese mobile users struggled to find information they cared about on many apps.

That’s partly because of the country’s draconian screening of information. Zhang thought he could do better than incumbents such as Baidu, which enjoyed a near-monopoly on search.

The latter conflated advertising with search results, a botch that would later haunt the company via a series of medical scandals.

There was little Toutiao could do about censorship – in fact, the company’s been repeatedly excoriated by authorities for failing to filter content and been forced to clean up its services with alarming regularity.

But Zhang held fast to his early vision of delivering content that mattered to users through AI. The closest American equivalent was Facebook’s news feed.

After falling flat with the bulk of China’s venture capital stalwarts, Zhang eventually secured investment from Susquehanna International Group.

It began offering the news app in August 2012. The platform studied what users read and searched for, then referred information and articles based on those habits. The more people used it, the better the experience, and the longer people stayed.

By mid-2014, daily active users had climbed to more than 13 million.

Sequoia finally came to the table, leading a funding round of US$100mil.

“We push information, not by queries, by news recommendations,” Zhang said in the interview last year.

But it was video that really propelled Bytedance into the big leagues.

Streaming services have always been popular in China. Even during the desktop era, companies like YY Inc championed a model where people sang and danced in virtual showrooms to win online gifts from fans. Later, outfits like Kuaishou fuelled that penchant for zany showmanship.

Bytedance saw an opportunity, but made its videos much shorter: 15 seconds, to be precise.

Around September 2016, it quietly launched Douyin. The app let users shoot and edit footage, add filters and share them across platforms like the Twitter-like Weibo or WeChat.

That format appealed to shorter millennial attention spans and became an instant hit, so much so that WeChat later blocked direct access to the app.

A year after, Bytedance acquired Musical.ly for US$800mil. It saw synergy between the buzzy teen US social video app created by Chinese co-founders and Tik Tok, and is now in the process of combining them. Tik Tok and Douyin had a combined 500 million users as of July.

The challenge now is in translating buzz and viewership into dollars. The company is expanding its ad sales operations, particularly for Toutiao.

Several media buying agencies said its massive reach and the attention it draws is a natural lure for marketers. Many said Bytedance is even pulling spending away from Tencent.

Bytedance, which previously cut a deal with Cheetah Mobile to sell ad space, has brought most of its ad sales in-house, said Kenneth Tan, the chief digital officer for Mindshare China, an agency.

“From a pricing perspective, they are expensive for what they are. They definitely charge a premium,” Tan said. “But that has not been an inhibitor for the large brands.”

There’s a big caveat, however. Brands remain cautious about Bytedance’s regulatory issues, particularly given Beijing’s historic unpredictability around censorship.

This year, it had to shut down a popular joke-sharing app in April just as it appeared to take off. It also suspended Douyin and its bread-and-butter Toutiao around the same time.

That’s “a potential risk to brand collaboration,” said Sherry Pan, general manager for China at the agency Magna Global. — Bloomberg

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China battles US for AI and robotic space: Who’s ahead?


Robot dominates: Ford F150 trucks go through robots on the assembly line at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant in
Dearborn, Michigan. Robots are also entering areas such as logistics warehousing, chemicals and plastics factories and F&B industries. — AFP
Humans vs. Robots

NO doubt, the FAANGs – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – are making the world a better place.

Still, they are being accused of being BAADD – big, anti-competitive, addictive and destructive to democracy.

Regulators fine them, politicians take them to task, and even their backers warn of their power to cause harm. Much of the techlash is undeserved. There’s fake news everywhere.

Nevertheless, there is justified fear that the tech titans will use their power to protect and extend their dominance, often to the detriment of consumers. Indeed, the big tech platforms do raise worries about fair competition in particular.

In Singapore, the merger of Grab and Uber brings on legitimate concerns in the taxi space. The tricky task for regulators is how to restrain them without unduly stifling innovation.

Today, trust busters have granted tech giants the benefit of the doubt in the fight for artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic space. At some point, who takes the moral and legal responsibility for their mechanical creations?

Like it or not, AI-enabled bots and machines are already here, in the form of drones, driverless cars and medical, educational and domestic robots. To muddle the picture still further, AI is now embodied in physical, sometimes humanoid, form in machines designed to engage directly with people.

Talk is rife about the outright banning of killer robots, which cross the moral red line (only humans are permitted to kill humans!). Already, there is a proposal to create a Robotics Commission in US and Europe to be responsible for moral and legal issues surrounding the use of robotics and AI enabled smart machines. High time too.

Robots and cobots

Armies of robots and collaborative robots (cobots) are spreading throughout factories and warehouses around the world, as the accelerating pace of automation transforms a widening range of industries.

And it is not just in advanced countries but in emerging economies as well where machines are a growing force, with global sales of industrial robots increasing by 18% to a record US$13.1bil in 2016.

These groups are benefiting from mounting demand for sophisticated machines that no longer just weld car bodies and lift heavy loads, but also perform complex functions from electronic component production to arranging chocolates neatly into boxes.

Another trend is the increasing range and type of robot, as they vary from flexible mechanical limbs to smart machines that can work alongside humans. Cobots are specifically designed to interact with people.

The robotics market has been growing strongly and will continue to grow. The spread of robots has piqued the debate over the suitability of humans versus robots as workers, with warning that more machines will take jobs. Consultants McKinsey found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be automated.

Advanced automation is partly a response to a shortage of skilled manual labour, with robots often filling “dull, dirty, dangerous and delicate” roles that people simply do not want. Also, the falling cost of robotics systems, and breakthroughs in robotics technology – combining with the rising level of electronic communication between equipment and computers in factories, sometimes called the industrial Internet of Things.

Then there is the shift in some industries from producing a small variety of goods in large batches, to a greater mix of products in smaller batches. All these are basically driven by consumers. Although the largest user remains the car industry (mainly for welding and painting), the main driver of growth is the electronics and electrical sector, chiefly located in Asia and mainly for batteries, chips and display.

But robots are also entering other areas, such as logistics warehouses, chemicals and plastics factories and the food and beverage industries. In total, almost 300,000 units were sold worldwide last year, with three-quarters bound for just five countries: China, South Korea, Japan, US and Germany. Three in every 10 went to China alone.

Once the manual labour “workshop of the world”, it has been the largest buyer of industrial robots since 2013, and its purchases jumped by 27% in 2017. There were increased investments in many developing countries as well, such as Taiwan, Thailand, India and Mexico, as well as in Italy and France.

While there have been improvements in hardware capabilities, such as hydraulics and mobility, perhaps the most important developments are in sensors and software that are making robots more sensitive, flexible, precise and autonomous. The software side of industrial robotics is becoming more and more important.

However, despite the growth, robots still have many limitations when it comes to dexterity, judgment and the ability to improvise. Today, machines are beginning to learn new tasks from humans by imitation. This has opened up big possibilities, especially for cobots, which are smaller, lighter, more flexible and mobile. And, even more critically cheaper, making it more affordable for small and medium-sized enterprises to invest. While usually slower, they have greater adaptability, because they can be assigned to different tasks.

US dominance

True, US roads, airports, seaports and schools are on the slide. But US retains dominance in the most sophisticated fields – defence, elite universities and technology. Sure, US ceded the top spot to China in exports in 2007, in manufacturing in 2011, and absolute GDP by 2030. But Silicon Valley is still where the best ideas, smartest money and the most savvy entrepreneurs reside.

But China is catching up fast: its BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) are in the same league as the FAANGs and new stars are coming on fast (Didi Chuxing, Ant Financial and Lufax). China’s e-commerce sales are 2x US’ and China remits 11x more money by mobile phones than US (still scribbling cheques). China plans to lead globally in AI by 2030.

Its VC industry is booming – the entrepreneurial work-ethic in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shenzhen are a sight for sore eyes. Despite the huge progress, China remains far behind. Studies show that China’s tech industry is only about 42% as powerful as US (only 15% in 2012).

But Chinese tech has weak spots: (i) its total market value is only 32% of US; (ii) has two to three huge companies and lots of small ones; (iii) China is puny in semiconductors and business-facing software; (iv) its tech products has not as yet permeated the industrial economy; (v) Chinese non-techs are primitive – only 2.6% as digitalised as US; (vi) Chinese tech investment budget is only 30% as big as US, with foreign sales 18% of what US makes.

However, the gap narrows in the more dynamic parts of tech industry: (a) in e-commerce and internet, Chinese firms are 53% the size of US (in market value); (b) China’s unicorns are now worth 69% of US; (c) its VC activity, 85% of US in 2016; and (d) in “breakthrough” AI innovations, China’s population of AI experts is only 6% the size of US – with their best minds still working in large US techs; while cited AI papers by Chinese scientists are at 89% of US.

At the present pace, China will need a further 10-15 years to catch up. Viewed from China, US giant techs remain as “comfy monopolists”, while Chinese techs are plain “hungry”. Beijing’s blueprint: to create a US$150bil AI-industry by 2030 underlines its desire to beat US.

China’s advantage: sheer numbers of people, data, talent and superior lines of codes being written! At 730 million, China’s online population alone is more than 2x US size, and more tech-savvy. While US faces cut-backs in research money, China is committing ample money and also political capital into its relentless drive to reign supreme in AI.

However, the quality of fundamental research in China remains a problem. It lags behind EU in terms of the number of AI papers in the top 5% of most cited.

Where’s EU?

Few in US and China seriously regard Europe becoming a force in machine learning – the area AI has made the most progress in recent years. The process involves feeding reams of data through algorithms as AI learns to interpret other data.

Europe simply lacks scale; unlike US and China where tech giants have a surfeit of the most vital resource for AI – data; also attracted the best talent & boost the biggest computer clouds. Here, Europe is way behind.

Since US and China have centralised data systems (controlled by very few large firms), Europe can create a more decentralised option. China is expected to hold 30% of world data by 2030; US with just as much. Europe has data too, but needs to pool its diversified resources in research and data. But, Europe has institutional inertia, with much of its funding centered in academic institutions – not the best place for it. To be relevant, Europe has to do much more. Still, no match for US and China.

Silicon Valley: where next?

The stretch of land in the US Bay Area running from San Jose to San Francisco is home to three (Apple, Facebook, Google) of the world’s five most valuable tech giants. All claim Silicon Valley (SV) as their birthplace and home, as do trailblazers such as Airbnb, Tesla and Uber.

The Bay Area has the 19th largest economy in the world, ranking above Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. SV has become a byword for innovation and ingenuity. It has also been at the centre of several cycles of Schumpeterian destruction and regeneration, in silicon chips, personal computers, software and internet services. Its combination of engineering expertise, thriving business networks, deep pools of capital, strong universities and a risk-taking culture have made SV almost impossible to clone.

There is no credible rival for its position as the world’s pre-eminent innovation hub. But there are signs that SV’s influence is peaking. Yes, something is changing. According to a recent survey, 46% of residents surveyed plans to leave the Bay Area in the next few years, up from 34% in 2016. So, many startups are branching out: “Off Silicon Valleying.”

In 2013, SV investors put half their money into startups outside the Bay Area; now it is closer to two-thirds. Reasons: SV has just become too expensive; among the world’s costliest. Young startups pay at least 4x more to operate here. New technologies, from quantum computing to synthetic biology, make lower margins than internet services. There is also the nastier features of Bay-Area life: clogged traffic, discarded syringes and shocking inequality. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is now ranked first for startup activity, based on the density of startups and new entrepreneurs.

There are others: Los Angeles (which has a vibrant tech scene), Phoenix and Pittsburgh (have become hubs for autonomous vehicles); New York (for media startups); London (for fintech); Shenzhen (for hardware). None of these places can match the SV on its own; between them, they point to a world in which innovation can be better distributed. The problem is that the wider playing field for innovation is being levelled down, away from the dominant effects of tech giants.

Second, the increasingly unfriendly policies in the West. Rising anti-immigrant sentiment and tighter visa regimes have economy-wide effects: foreign entrepreneurs create around 25% of new companies in America. Unfortunately, SV’s peak looks more like a warning that innovation everywhere is becoming harder. SV is fast becoming more an idea instead of a place. Wall Street went through a similar transformation; its name becoming shorthand for a whole industry.

As tech firms set their sights on disrupting old-fashioned industries, like healthcare and logistics, they may find that it helps to be based in cities that claim deep expertise in these areas – and where garages housing startups are just the stuff of museums and memory.

What then are we to do

The time has come to love robots. Asians do. But not in the West where robots receive terrible press. They worry about robots killing jobs. In Asia, robots are today commonly used in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. ADB’s June 2018 report analysing 12 developing Asian economies in 2005-15 concluded that rising demand had more than compensated for jobs lost to automation. The adoption of new technologies, such as modern machine tools and computer systems in factories and offices, had stimulated higher productivity and economic growth. That transformation, it estimated, had created 124 million new jobs, compared with the 101 million jobs lost to technology.

It is worth noting that there are two types of robots: those that do the work of humans and those that enhance their performance. We hear too much about the first type and too little of the second. Sure, their creations help humans deal with the “3 Ds”: dirty, dull and dangerous tasks. But countries that have the highest adoption of robots also have the lowest unemployment rates. Also, they help address the acute demographic squeeze as societies rapidly age. Some Asian societies prefer robots to immigrants to supplement their shrinking workforces. Robots are increasingly moving out of the factory into homes and hospitals, where they will need new capabilities.

I believe that technologies are always a net job creator over the long run, but, as Keynes put it, in the long run we are all dead. As these technologies make their way into every industry, they will benefit those at the very top with the skills and education to leverage the productivity advantages that AI affords.

Medical specialists, for example, could dramatically increase their income by using AI’s productive analytics to better diagnose and treat patients. But workers doing highly repetitive tasks that can easily be done by machines will not fare so well. This has massive consequences.

A McKinsey report shows that, while digitalisation has the potential to boost productivity and growth, it may also hold back demand if it compresses labour’s share of income and increases inequality. We badly need a kind of digital New Deal. For as many jobs as will be replaced by automation, there are other areas – customer service, big data analysis, etc. – that desperately need talent. Companies that pledge to retain workers and retrain them to develop skills to get stable jobs, should be offered tax incentives to do so. And spend the cash on factory upgrades, technical improvements, and re-training costs.

There are plenty of such projects that workers could be deployed now – including helping to expand rural broadband. It is a way for companies and government to turn a potential difficult employment situation into an opportunity by using this disruption to prepare & train a 21st-century digital workforce, and build public infrastructure to support it.

Credit: What are we to do? by Lin See-yan – Former banker, Harvard educated economist and British Chartered Scientist, Tan Sri Lin See-Yan is the author of The Global Economy in Turbulent Times (Wiley, 2015) & Turbulence in Trying Times (Pearson, 2017).

 

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Chinese bishops to join Vatican synod for first time


https://youtu.be/THnnleNxE24

Latest updates: Baldisseri (centre) speaking at a press conference on the synod of bishops at the Vatican.

Move comes after earlier deal where Pope recognized seven clergy ordained by Beijing

VATICAN CITY: Two Chinese Catholic bishops are to take part for the first time from today in a synod, or advisory body meeting, with peers at the Vatican, the Holy See said.

“The Holy Father had invited Chinese bishops in the past but they were never able to come,” said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who is to preside the synod of bishops on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” from Oct 3-28.

The meeting of more than 300 church officials, outside experts and youth delegates will take place in the shadow of an existential crisis faced by the church owing to cases of widespread sexual abuse of minors by clergy and lay officials in several countries.

On Sept 22, the Vatican and China reached a provisional agreement under which Pope Francis recognised seven clergy initially ordained by Beijing without the Vatican’s approval.

The accord could pave the way for the normalisation of ties between the Catholic Church and the world’s most populous country.

One of those recognised, Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, is to attend the synod along with Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaotin, another member of the Patriotic Catholic Association (PCA), a body created by the Chinese government to administer the church.

They will join discussions on how to encourage young people to make the church their vocation, an official theme that could take a back seat to issues raised last March during a pre-synodal meeting of more than 300 youths in Rome along with 15,000 others online that were presented to church leaders.

“We want to say, especially to the hierarchy of the Church, that they should be a transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community,” a statement issued at the end of their meeting said.

“The Church should be sincere in admitting its past and present wrongs,” they added.

Pope Francis acknowledged those concerns last week when he told young Christians in Estonia that many “are outraged by sexual and economic scandals that are not met with clear condemnation”.

The pontiff conceded that many also find the Church’s presence “bothersome or even irritating”.

He has called a meeting next February of senior Church leaders from around the world to take up the question of child protection.

Scandals in Australia, Europe, and North and South America have involved widespread claims of abuse – and cover-ups – by clergymen and lay members with one Vatican archbishop describing it as the church’s “own 9/11”.

Germany’s Catholic Church released last month a damning report showing that in Germany alone, almost 3,700 minors were assaulted between 1946 and 2014.

During their pre-synodal meeting, the Catholic youths also urged Church leaders to “speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues”, which they were “already freely discussing without taboo”.

They noted in addition that young women regretted “a lack of leading female role models within the Church”.

A handful of women were to take part in the synod of bishops as official observers. – AFP

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Trump’s tariffs won’t restore U.S. jobs



The sewing lines at Bernhard Furniture Company which where skilled craft
jobs are growing without the help of tariffs, and company officials

Related image

Trump’s tariffs won’t restore U.S. furniture jobs :
https://www.reuters.tv/v/PvWi/2018/09/27/trump-s-tariffs-won-t-restore-u-s-furniture-jobs

In a town where a 30-feet tall chair is the chief landmark, and which is synonymous with a U.S. furniture industry decimated over the years by imports from China, many greet the possibility of tariffs on Chinese goods with a shrug.

No wonder. Of three once bustling Thomasville furniture plants in the city limits, one is being demolished and cleared for parkland, another may become the site of a new police station, and a third is being converted into apartments.

President Donald Trump is threatening to levy tariffs of up to 25 percent on $500 billion of goods imported from China each year, including roughly $20 billion of furniture, as a way to bring back hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs lost to China and other low-cost competitors.

Yet, the transformation of U.S. industries since China’s emergence as the world’s low-cost producer almost two decades ago means many no longer directly compete with Chinese imports, so tariffs may not translate so easily into more U.S. jobs.

At family-owned Bernhardt Furniture in Lenoir, some 90 miles west of Thomasville, executives say it would take about $30 million in capital investment – some 10 percent of annual sales – to resurrect standard wood furniture lines now mainly made in countries like China and Vietnam.

That is too much to commit based on a policy that a future administration could reverse.

“The theory is you turn (imports) off, the jobs come back. That’s not really true… The buildings don’t exist. The people don’t exist. The machinery does not exist,” to make the sorts of furniture that now gets imported, said Alex Bernhardt Jr., chief executive and the company founder’s great grandson.

What the company needs now, executives say, is the open markets and steady economy that have allowed it to grow its workforce from below 800 at the end of the 2007-2009 recession to almost 1,500 today – partly on the basis of exports to China.

DIFFERENT COMPANY

That growth has been largely driven by demand for more customized, higher end furniture. In expanding, the 129-year-old company has been hiring not only factory workers, but also designers, marketing experts and other professionals.

In all, it is a different firm from what it was three decades ago when it first began dividing product lines between the United States and Asia.

Economists say the same is true across much of U.S. manufacturing. To invest and hire more workers, executives would need certainty, for example, that consumers would prefer U.S.-made products at a potentially higher price. They would need confidence that tariffs would last beyond the Trump administration and that production could not be shifted to other more cost-competitive countries.

Even then, there may be little incentive to go back to old product lines for industries that have changed dramatically because of globalization.

Across the Rust Belt and the former factory towns of the south, the transformation is apparent. In Buffalo, an old steel mill is now a solar panel factory, and a retail goods manufacturer now houses an office and restaurant park. Near Dayton, Ohio, a shuttered GM plant has reopened as a Chinese-owned auto glass company. Abandoned factories throughout North Carolina have landed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of “brownfield” sites that need cleanup.

Some companies are considering moving production from China as a result of the tariffs, but the jobs are unlikely to head home.

Illinois-based CCTY Bearing, for example, said it planned to move U.S.-bound production from Zhenjiang, China, to a new plant near Mumbai in India to keep labor costs down.

JLab Audio’s China-made Bluetooth products are not being taxed yet, but its chief executive Win Cramer had been scouting for suppliers in Vietnam and Mexico.

“I would love to build products onshore, but consumers have proven time and time again that “Made in America” isn’t as valuable a statement as it once was,” Cramer said. “They make decisions based on the cost.”

The price of, say, its Bluetooth earbud would jump from $20 to as much as $50 if it was made in the United States, Cramer said, far more than what tariffs would add to the cost of imports.

To be sure, early reactions suggest that foreign companies that make U.S.-bound goods in China may move some of that production to the United States. Still, countries such as Vietnam may ultimately benefit the most from Trump’s tariffs.

Japanese construction and mining equipment maker Komatsu Ltd < 6301.T > has said it has already shifted some of its production of parts for U.S.-built excavators from China. Part of that production moved to the United States, but some also went to Mexico and Japan.

In South Korea, LG Electronics <066570 .ks=””> and its rival Samsung Electronics <005930 .ks=””> are considering moving parts of U.S.-bound refrigerator and air conditioner production to Mexico, Vietnam or back home, but not to the United States, according to company sources and local media.

STEADY RECOVERY

The responses to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum show how such steps create both winners and losers.

Producers such as U.S. Steel and Century Aluminum have said they will add at least several hundred jobs as a result of the higher prices they can charge.

Mid-Continental Nail, however, laid off 130 workers because of those higher steel prices, and furniture parts maker Leggett & Platt has warned that rising metal prices would prompt it to shift production abroad.

So far, Washington has imposed duties on $250 billion of Chinese imports and Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on all Chinese goods.

Many economists project new tariffs would on balance either slow down hiring or cause job losses in a manufacturing sector where employment has grown by 10 percent over the past eight years without special protection.

(Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Q1AFUW)

The furniture industry, among the hardest hit by Chinese imports, has added 43,000 jobs since its employment hit a low of 350,000 in 2011, helped by the recovering housing market and strong consumer demand.

Industry officials say skilled upholsterers and other workers are hard to find, echoing the Federal Reserve’s concern about the impact of worker shortages on the U.S. economy.

In Thomasville, few expect that tariffs will bring furniture manufacturing back to its heyday, nor does the community need it, says city manager Kelly Craver, whose parents worked in the furniture and textile industries.

Since the recession, Thomasville has become a residential hub for growing nearby cities such as Greensboro and Charlotte. It also has its own mix of manufacturing and white collar jobs.

Mohawk Industries recently expanded its Thomasville laminate flooring facility while the Old Dominion Freight Line transportation firm and the fast-growing Cook Out burger chain have corporate headquarters there.

“We, for the very first time in this city’s existence, are going to have a diversified economy,” Craver said.

By Howard Schneider, Reuters

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 ‘Leadership has always been about generosity to those who are less well endowed and fortunate than you are. Often, it is not generosity of kind, because that would be buying of votes, but generosity of spirit.’ – Tan Sri Andrew Sheng

WHY is it that in the last days of September, 10 years after the failure of Lehman Brothers, the world feels as if it is a dangerous place?

Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers – Wikipedia

The filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by financial services firm Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, with Lehman holding over US$600,000,000,000 in assets. Wikipedia

President Trump’s remarkable speech to the United Nations this week was supposed to re-state the New Order that America has envisioned for the world. And all he got was a laugh.

But it was an important speech, because it spelt out more clearly what everyone knew since January 2017 – his Administration is dismantling what America has stood for since the Second World War.

Out goes the vision of a liberal rule-based stable world under US leadership. What replaces it is a “no holds barred” reality show of bilateral “Art of the Deal” negotiations supposedly to solve what is paining America. Never mind the collateral damage on everyone else, even if they are ultimately American consumers. What everyone heard is that the White House does not care too much about allies or enemies, only what is good for America First, trumped by the speaker’s ego.

Speeches to the United Nations has never been about foreign policy. Speaking in front of 193 member countries, the national leader is actually addressing his home audience, a photo-opportunity to show that as a member of the United Nations, your voice is heard by the whole wide world. Accordingly, other than the famous 1960 case of Soviet Leader Khruschev making his point by banging his shoe at the podium, most national leader speeches to the United Nations are boring homilies. They tend to praise themselves, pay due respect to the UN, and expound what Miss Congeniality says in all beauty contests, “world peace!”

What we got instead from President Trump was raw and edged, “America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again.” That statement made a powerful indictment of “experts”, because his supporters feel that it is the elite experts that have run the country for 70 years who have let them down.

If America is doing so well economically, militarily and technologically, why should her middle class feel so insecure? And it is lashing out at everyone else.

The answer lies in not what the speech said, but what it omitted. Everywhere in the world, not least in America, the greatest existential concerns are inequality and climate change. Almost nothing was said about both issues, which are stressing societies and pushing immigration from poorer neighbours across borders to richer nations with cooler climates.

Instead, what was decided was non-participation in the Global Compact on Migration, withdrawal from the Human Rights Council and non-recognition of the International Criminal Court. There was also a barrage against Opec, which contains some of the US’s strongest allies. If other bodies like the World Trade Organisation or even the United Nations do not do America’s bidding, then the cutting of funds or withdrawal is a matter of time. Does that imply that the US will now veto every World Bank or IMF loan to members that she does not like?

In short, it is all about anti-globalisation. In the same breath that “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” Trump appeals to the passion and pride of nationalism. “The passion that burns in the hearts of patriots and the souls of nations has inspired reform and revolution, sacrifice and selflessness, scientific breakthroughs, and magnificent works of art.”

Never mind if a lot of that sacrifice and selflessness was by immigrants and new arrivals.

Outsiders who used to admire America as an open society founded by immigrants with new ideas on how to build a more just society and free economy find instead one that has an increasingly closed mind to global issues. It does seem strange that American innovation, entrepreneurship and dynamism which drew continuously on new talent initially from Europe and then the rest of the world is now walling up its borders, physically, legally and mentally.

There are 40 million immigrants in the US today, representing 13% of the US population. Immigrants founded nearly one-fifth of the Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Colgate Palmolive, Pfizer, and eBay. Today, much of Silicon Valley talent feel like working in the United Nations, diverse, noisy and creative.

The irony of America drawing on global talent and resources is that she has no need to pay for it from exports, but can easily print more dollars. In other words, the Grand Bargain of global trade was the ability of the US to pay for real goods and services with something that can be printed at near zero marginal cost. Even the Europeans are now creating a separate payment system outside the US dollar dominated SWIFT system to avoid being punished for “trading with the enemy”.

When contracts of trust are being renegotiated, no one can feel at ease. One can never solve global problems unilaterally or even bilaterally, let alone calls for more national patriotism. And as the English writer Samuel Johnson scribbled in 1775, a year before US independence from Britain, “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Leadership has always been about generosity to those who are less well endowed and fortunate than you are. Often, it is not generosity of kind, because that would be buying of votes, but generosity of spirit.

This side of the Pacific, there is awareness that the tensions will not go away with Trump or a change in the November elections. What has happened is that the US establishment has put political interests ahead of economic interests, which means that any settlement will have to go beyond economic considerations.

If trade and political tensions are in for the long haul, can the current US market enthusiasm have sufficient strategic patience?

Now we understand why no one is laughing.

Credit; Think Asian Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.


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After laughs at Trump, globalism or patriotism?


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US President Donald Trump delivered his speech loud and clear at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday covering a spectrum of issues, ranging from global security, trade, and above all – his idea of “sovereignty.” His bragging also attracted some chuckles among the world leaders. What key messages did Trump fixate on? And how is the international community reacting to Trump’s speech and his “America First” policies?

The US has revamped a trade deal with the Republic of Korea (ROK). The new version of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement specifically aims to boost US auto sale, but its effectiveness remains in doubt. Will this deal set a new precedent for more so-called “US wins” in its multi-front trade war?

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Explains Why The UN Laughed At Trump

What’s next in the escalating China-US trade war?

 

China vs USA: Trade war

Trump’s tariff policy has failed: analysts

After China slammed US President Donald Trump’s accusation that China is meddling in the US midterm elections, analysts noted that Trump’s behavior shows he has been shamed as his policy toward China didn’t bring what he wants but has hurt his supporters.

If Trump discovers he is losing support due to China’s trade retaliation, which has hurt the interests of his supporters, then he should blame himself and people who convinced him to impose additional tariffs against China, because it was his administration that started the frictions and led to China’s retaliation, Chinese experts said on Thursday.

“We do not and will not interfere in any country’s domestic affairs. We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China,” Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the UN Security Council at once after Trump made his accusation.

Trump accused China during his remarks at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, saying, “Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 elections in November against my administration,” CNN reported.

Trump offered scant details or evidence, which came during a session meant to focus on nonproliferation issues. He suggested the meddling attempts came as retribution for the budding trade war he has waged with Beijing, CNN’s report said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also responded to Trump’s remarks on Thursday. “China has always stood by the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and this is a Chinese diplomatic tradition, and the international community knows this,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a routine press conference.

“The international community is also clear on which country is most interested in interfering with others’ internal affairs,” Geng noted. He urged the US to stop making groundless accusations and slandering China, and refrain from making wrong statements and actions that damage bilateral ties and the fundamental interests of the two peoples.

‘Not what he wants’

“They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade,” Trump said at the UN Security Council. “We are winning on trade. We are winning at every level. We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming elections.”

However, Chinese analysts disagree with Trump’s rhetoric.

“This shows that Trump has been ashamed into anger due to his unsuccessful policy on China,” said Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of American Studies.

“After a series of tariffs and provocations on the Taiwan question, and sanctions on the Chinese military department and personnel, China has continued to retaliate without any compromise and even refuses to negotiate with the US under the current circumstances. So this situation is not what he wants, which is why he is so angry and tries to make new accusations,” Ni noted.

The US midterm elections are approaching, and the Republicans are facing a serious challenge and might lose the House after the elections. So Trump is trying to “pass the buck,” said Diao Daming, an American studies expert and associate professor at Renmin University of China.

“Blaming China is a good option for him, and some radical Trump supporters will believe him regardless of the truth,” Diao noted.

Due to the interdependency between China and the US, China’s retaliation will definitely hurt US people’s interests, including those of Trump supporters. But don’t forget it was Trump who irrationally began the trade frictions with China, and China is forced to retaliate, Diao said.

“If the US people want to blame someone, they should blame their president. If Trump wants to blame someone for losing support or even the elections, he should blame himself and his advisers who urged him to start the trade row, rather than pass the buck to China,” he noted.

A Chinese State-run English language newspaper inserted a four-page supplement in the Sunday edition of the Des Moines Register, an Iowa-based newspaper, to highlight the negative effects of the trade frictions Trump launched.

“China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, and making them appear like news,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

“According to US laws, foreign media can cooperate with US media,” and many other foreign media companies do the same thing. So, accusing this normal act as evidence of meddling in the elections is far-fetched and groundless, Geng said.

However, the US government, the Congress and the media have done a lot to interfere in China’s internal affairs on Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet, Diao noted. “This is real interference in others’ internal affairs.” – Global Times By Yang Sheng

 

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It would be best if Trump could assert a level of caution when speaking at UN headquarters. Fabricated stories and slogans designed to trick American voters will not have the same effect with UN
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As long as China keeps upholding its opening-up, foreign enterprises, including many US ones, will continue participating in the development of the China market. China should continue cooperating with the Western world and the US on climate change, anti-terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, global poverty and stabilizing the financial
situation. As long as China keeps its development momentum, the US is doomed to lose the trade war.

 

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There are positive aspects as Trump emphasized the idea of national sovereignty in his UN speech. Meanwhile, it is common sense that sovereignty will only play a positive role if it is pre-conditioned on equality, the basic principle everyone abides by.

 

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We also hope that the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event and the steadiness of the Chinese government’s policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled and a
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Tariff war threatens world trading system


TODAY marks another milestone in the escalating global trade war that threatens to shake the foundations of the world trading system and cause economic uncertainty at a time of financial fragility. It’s an altogether bad development that adds more gloom to global economic prospects.

Last week, the United States announced it would slap an additional 10% tariff on US$200bil worth of imports from China. Hours later, China said it would put 5% to 10% extra tariffs on US$60bil of imports from the US.

Both sets of tariff increases come into effect today. But that’s not all.

The US also said it would raise the extra tariffs on the US$200bil of imports from 10% now to 25% at the end of the year. And if China retaliates (which it now has), the US might slap higher tariffs on yet another US$267bil of Chinese imports.

This comes on top of tariffs on an initial US$50bil worth of imports that the US had placed on Chinese imports a few months ago, and equivalent tariffs on US$50bil on US imports that China imposed as retaliation.

And even before that, the US had put extra tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from all countries, except a few that were exempted for the time being.

The US is also threatening to put tariffs on imported auto vehicles and parts, including those from Europe. That is on hold because of a bilateral deal reached, but could be re-ignited if President Donald Trump is not satisfied with Euro­pean behaviour.

The US itself is experiencing negative effects of this trade war. The prices of the initial US$50bil of imported Chinese products have started to go up in the US, raising costs for both consumers and producers.

The Chinese are similarly affected. Exports of both countries are also bound to decline, and this will eventually affect their overall economic growth.

There will be collateral effects on other countries. In Asia, those that are integrated in the global supply chain will find less demand for their exports of components to China. The effect on Malaysia is projected by analysts to be around 0.4 to 0.7 percentage point of GNP in 2019.

This could be offset by positive effects. Some companies producing in China are considering relocating to other countries, including Malaysia, to escape the US’ punitive tariffs. And some Malaysian products may become cheaper than Chinese products, which will now attract extra duties.

But it is likely that the bad effects will outweigh any such good effects, at least in the short run.

It is clear that the US is to blame for the trade war. Its unilateral actions are against the spirit and rules of the trading system, and have in fact undermined its legitimacy and viability.

The steel and aluminium tariffs were imposed under the US security clause of its domestic trade law, while the other tariff increases are under Section 301 of the trade law. The US actions are against various World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Challenges to the US unilateral measures have been taken by China and other countries at the WTO. If the US is found in violation, which is quite likely, it has to stop its actions or face retaliation: the countries that win the cases heard by the WTO panels of experts are allowed to impose equivalent tariffs on US products.

However, the US has engineered a crisis in the WTO’s dispute settlement system so that soon the outcome of successful cases against it cannot be implemented.

This is because the US is now paralysing the WTO’s Appellate Body by refusing to allow new members of the body to be appointed to replace those retiring. Soon there will be only three members left, out of a full body of seven. Two more will be retiring in January 2019. A minimum of three members is needed to sit on a case.

Thus, if a lower-level panel rules against the US’ unilateral actions, and the US lodges an appeal that cannot be heard because there are not enough appellate body members, the panel decision cannot be enforced.

This would make the WTO quite a toothless organisation. There would be no legal remedy to enforce penalties for breaking the WTO laws. Countries that impose unilateral tariff increases can get away with it. In turn, other countries would also do the same.

The rules-based trade system is already starting to break down. We are now seeing blatant protectionism by the US and retaliation by affected countries. Within months, the trade war could spread, with the law of the jungle becoming more prominent.

Tears will not be shed in the developing countries if some rules cannot be upheld anymore, such as the WTO’s TRIPS agreement on intellectual property. The free trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati has said the TRIPS treaty does not belong in the WTO.

But what all members like about the WTO is its role in ensuring the predictability that their exports can sell in the markets of its members, with tariffs at rates agreed to at the WTO.

If that predictability is lost, then there can be a lot of uncertainty, as one country after another can unilaterally impose extra tariffs on other countries, which may then trigger retaliation.

This breakdown of the trading system may be the more serious effect of what started as a US-initiated trade war.

Trump may not care what happens to the system, as he has said many times that the WTO is a terrible organisation that the US should leave. And his recent actions, in fact, seem calculated to undermine, if not destroy it.

It is a new world we are looking at, in a scenario that would not have appeared possible a year or even months ago.

Policy makers, companies, analysts and the public should ponder about this, even as they follow the details of the tit-for-tat trade war that the US is waging against China and other countries.

Martin Khor is adviser of the Third World Network. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Credit: Global Trend by Martin Khor

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We also hope that the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event and the steadiness of the Chinese government’s policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled and a major trade power with intensive strengths. No one can take us down.

US hysterical in blocking sci-tech exchanges

The US is anxious about its temporary gains and losses. One minute it wants Sino-US exchanges, but the next it worries China is taking advantage. Its relevant policies are bound to change all the time. Its latest decision is like the trade war. Washington’s purpose is to drag Beijing down, but it will mostly hurt itself.

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