Trade War Spurs Recession Risk in Singapore


The Tanjong Pagar container terminal in Singapore.
  • Shock contraction in quarterly GDP raises risk of job losses
  • Officials already grappling with aging, productivity threats

Singapore’s economic data have gone from bad to worse this month. Exports slumped to their second-worst rate since the global financial crisis, the purchasing managers index slipped into contraction for the first time since 2016, and the economy shrank the most in almost seven years in the second quarter.

Exports, manufacturing PMIs sink to multi-year lows

 

After spending much of early 2019 enjoying relative resilience, a recession 
is now looming. That’s a warning shot for regional and global economies, since Singapore’s heavy reliance on trade makes it somewhat of a bellwether for the rest of Asia.

The severity of the slump may be down to trade tensions and a global slowdown, but Singapore has been grappling with longstanding economic threats that have been slowly eroding the city state’s growth potential: rapid aging, labor market shrinkage, and sluggish productivity among them. Those risks will become more acute for policy makers now.

“Any undue turbulence or prolonged stresses from the trade war are only
going to compound the challenges of all the other issues — productivity, demographics, anything else,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics & strategy at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Singapore. “External demand concerns will be at the top of the list for now, because if you don’t get that one right it’s that much more difficult to solve everything else.”

Singapore remains one of the most export-reliant economies in the world, with trade equivalent to 326% of gross domestic product, according to World Bank data. That puts the city state at the center of the storm stirred up by its top two trading partners sparring
over tariffs.

The shock GDP figures earlier this month prompted some analysts to downgrade
their Singapore forecasts for the year to below 1%. The government is set to revisit its own 1.5%-2.5% range next month, but for now, it’s remaining calm, seeing no recession for the full year.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say…

“Barring a swift rapprochement in U.S.-China trade relations, our forecast for a 0.2% year-on-year contraction in Singapore in 2019 remains on course.

The government has ample firepower to cushion the blow, but it may not be enough to avoid a recession.”

-Tamara Henderson, Asean economist

The slump is largely contained so far to manufacturing, which makes up about a fifth
of the economy, but could soon spread to other sectors such as retail and financial services. That increases the risk of job losses at a time when businesses like International Business Machines Corp. are already laying off workers and banks such as Nomura Holdings Inc. cut staff.

The number of retrenched  workers in Singapore rose to the highest in more than a year in the first quarter, though the unemployment rate has remained fairly steady at 2.2% amid a recovery in construction.

“The labor market looks to be on two tracks at the moment — there’s a weak market in the manufacturing sector but a steady one in the services sector,” said Shaun Roache, chief Asia-Pacific economist at S&P Global Ratings in Singapore. “High-frequency indicators including industrial production and trade suggest that the environment will remain challenging in manufacturing for the year.”

While those cyclical headwinds buffer the outlook, policy makers are also grappling with structural impediments to growth.

SINGAPORE AGING
An employee clears tables at a food center in Singapore.

Faced with a rapidly aging population, the government has been on an aggressive campaign to re-skill its labor force and prepare workers for a postponed retirement.
The median age is set to rise to 46.8 years in 2030 from 39.7 in 2015, faster than the other top economies in Southeast Asia as well as the world as a whole, according to United Nations projections.

Tied to its rapid aging is Singapore’s productivity conundrum.

As the labor pool shrinks and gets older, the city state’s answer to the productivity challenge has been to automate and digitize. With an ambition to become a “Smart Nation,”  the government has poured money and energy into digitization projects
of all kinds, from helping seniors fine-tune smartphone skills at digital clinics to attracting financial technology giants to set up shop and test their ideas.

Silver-Medal Race

It’s that technological advancement, along with its world-beating infrastructure and efficiency, that continues to make Singapore attractive to businesses like Dyson Ltd., the U.K. manufacturer that picked the city state for its location to build its first electric cars. It’s also a reason why officials are confident Singapore can meet its foreign investment targets for this year.

“They’re saying the right thing, doing the right thing,” said Edward Lee, chief economist for South and Southeast Asia at Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore, who has penciled in 1% growth for 2019. “Retraining, ongoing structural reforms on the labor side — those are the right things.”

By

— With assistance by Cynthia Li

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Recession? No, not this year 2019


 

THE influential International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted slower global growth this year on the back of financial volatility and the trade war between the United States and China.

Turkey and Argentina are expected to experience deep recessions this year before recovering next year.

China, apart from fighting the trade war, is also experiencing its slowest quarterly growth since the 1990s, sending ripples across Asia. In the last quarter of 2018, China recorded an economic growth of 6.4%, which is the third consecutive quarter of slowing growth.

This has led to fears of China’s economy going into a hard landing and it possibly being the catalyst to spark global economic turmoil.

After all, it has been more than 10 years since the world witnessed the last recession in 2008 that was caused by a financial crisis in the US. If we are to believe the 10 to 12-year economic turmoil cycle, the next downturn is already due.

However, the economic data so far does not seem to suggest that the world will go into a recession or tailspin this year.

The bigger worry is what would happen next year.

The narrowing spread between the two-year and 10-year US Treasury papers would lead to banks being more selective in their lending. It is already happening in the US.

The impact is likely to be profound next year. When banks are more selective in lending, eventually the economy will grind to a halt.

But that is the likely scenario next year, assuming there is no fresh impetus to spur global growth.

At the moment, there is a significant amount of asset price depression due to slowing demand. The reason is generally because of the slower growth in China and the trade war.

China has fuelled demand for almost everything in the last few years. Companies and individuals from China drove up the prices of everything – from property and valuations of companies to commodities.

China itself is experiencing a slowing economy and the government has restricted the outflow of funds. Its overall debt is estimated at 300% of gross domestic product and banks are reluctant to lend to private companies for fear of defaults.

China’s manufacturing sector has slowed down because of the trade war. Companies are not prepared to expand because they fear the tariffs imposed by the US.

Nevertheless, the world’s second-largest economy is still growing, albeit at a slower pace. A growth rate of 6.4% per quarter is still commendable, although it is far from the 12% quarterly economic growth it recorded in 2011-2012.

The US, which is the world’s largest economy, is also facing slower growth this year. The Federal Reserve has predicted a slower economic growth of 2.3% in 2019 compared to the 3.1% the country recorded last year.

The ongoing US government shutdown is not going to make things easy.

As for Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) has warned of a slowdown this year. The warning came just six weeks after the ECB eased off on its bond-buying programme that was designed to reflate the economy.

Business sentiments on Germany, which is a barometer of what happens to the rest of Europe, is at the lowest.

As for Malaysia, the country is going through an economic transition of sorts following the change in government. Government spending has traditionally been the driver of the domestic economy when global growth slows.

The new government has cut back on spending, which is a necessary evil, considering that many of the projects awarded previously were inflated. Generally, the cost of most projects is to be shaved by at least 10% – and some by up to 50%.

However, the projects with revised costs have not got off the ground yet and contractors have not been paid their dues. For instance, contractors in the LRT 3 project had complained of not getting payments for work done a year ago.

Fortunately, a new contract for the LRT 3 has been signed. Hopefully, the contractors will be paid their dues speedily and work recommences on the ground fast.

The volatile oil prices are not helping improve revenue for the government.

Domestic demand is still growing, although people complain of their income levels not growing. This is because companies as a whole are also not doing as well as in previous years.

Nevertheless, even the most pessimistic of economist is looking at Malaysia chalking up a growth rate of more than 4.5% this year, which is respectable. The official forecast is 4.9%.

One of the reasons for the optimism is that they feel government revenue is expected to be much higher than expected, giving it the flexibility to push spending if the global economic scenario takes a turn for the worse.

According to the Treasury report for 2019, federal government revenue is to come in at about RM261bil, which is 10.7% higher than in 2018.

The amount is likely to be much higher, allowing the government the option to put more money in the hands of the people. It also allows the government to reduce corporate taxes, a move that would draw in investments.

Malaysia has a new government in place. What investors are looking for are signs of where all the extra revenue earned will go. They are also looking for the next growth catalyst.

The trade war and financial volatility is causing structural shifts in the global economy. It is impacting China, the US and Europe.

Eventually, the global crunch will come, but it is not likely to happen this year.

By m. shanmugam

 

Huawei unveils server chipset as China cuts reliance on imports


New chip: A Kunpeng 920 chip is displayed during an unveiling ceremony in Shenzhen. Huawei is seeking growth avenues in cloud computing and enterprise services. — AP

HONG KONG: Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has launched a new chipset for use in servers, at a time when China is pushing to enhance its chip-making capabilities and reduce its heavy reliance on imports, especially from the United States.

Huawei, which gets the bulk of its revenue from the sale of telecommunications equipment and smartphones, is seeking growth avenues in cloud computing and enterprise services as its equipment business comes under increased scrutiny in the West amid worries about Chinese government influence over the firm.

Huawei has repeatedly denied any such influence.

Chinese firms are also seeking to minimise the impact of a trade dispute that has seen China and the United States slap tariffs on each other’s technology imports.

For Huawei, the launch of the chipset – called the Kunpeng 920 and designed by subsidiary HiSilicon – boosts its credentials as a semiconductor designer, although the company said it had no intention of becoming solely a chip firm.

“It is part of our system solution and cloud servicing for clients. We will never make our chipset business a standalone business,” said Ai Wei, who is in charge of strategic planning for Huawei’s chipsets and hardware technology.

The Shenzhen-based company already makes the Kirin series of smartphone chips used in its high-end phones, and the Ascend series of chipsets for artificial intelligence computing launched in October.

It said its latest seven nanometre, 64-core central processing unit (CPU) would provide much higher computing performance for data centres and slash power consumption.

It is based on the architecture of British chip design firm ARM – owned by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp – which is seeking to challenge the dominance in server CPUs of US maker Intel Corp.

Huawei aims to drive the development of the ARM ecosystem, said chief marketing officer William Xu. He said the chip has “unique advantages in performance and power consumption”.

Xu also said Huawei would continue its “long-term strategic partnership” with Intel.

Huawei’s new ARM-based CPU is not a competitor to the US company’s x86 CPUs and servers, but complementary, Xu added. Redfox Qiu, president of the intelligent computing business department at Huawei, said the company shipped 900,000 units of servers in 2018, versus 77,000 in 2012 when it started.

Huawei was seeing “good momentum for the server business in Europe and Asia Pacific” and expects the contribution from its international business to continue to rise, Qiu added.

Huawei also released its TaiShan series of servers powered by the new chipset, built for big data, distributed storage and ARM native applications.

The firm founded chip designer HiSilicon in 2004 to help reduce its reliance on imports.

In modem chips, Huawei internally sources 54% of those in its own devices, with 22% coming from Qualcomm Inc and the remainder from elsewhere, evidence presented at an antitrust trial for Qualcomm showed. — Reuters

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Apple faces brewing storm of challenges


Shrinking share: People walk outside an Apple store in Beijing. Apple’s market share in China in the third quarter of 2018 was around 9, and has dipped from above 14 in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. — Reuters

Video: 5G …https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/iJfCBqPUKHQ

 

SHANGHAI: Apple Inc’s chief executive Tim Cook has his work cut out in China this year: the iPhone maker faces the looming threat of a court-ordered sales ban, the uncertain outcome of trade war talks and the roll-out of a new 5G network, where it finds itself behind rivals like Huawei and Samsung.

The complex outlook raises a challenge for Apple as it looks to revive its China fortunes after weakness there sparked a rare drop in its global sales forecast, knocked US$75bil from its market valuation and roiled global markets.

Cook told investors that the main drag on the firm’s performance in China had been a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the country’s economy, exacerbated by the impact of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” he said.

Chinese shoppers told Reuters another element had been key: the high price-tag on Apple’s flagship phones.

Analysts said the firm faced a brewing storm of challenges: an economic slowdown, stronger rivals like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd bringing out comparable tech at lower prices and bubbling patriotic sentiment amid the trade war.

A Chinese court has also issued a preliminary injunction banning some Apple phones, part of a legal battle with chip maker Qualcomm Inc. This ban, potentially hitting iPhone models from the 6S through the X, has yet to be enforced.

Last Thursday a local industry body, the China Anti-Infringement and Anti-Counterfeit Innovation Strategic Alliance, called on Apple to heed the court order and not “trample the Chinese law by leveraging its super economic power and clout.” Apple declined to comment on the group’s statement but has previously said it believed its current phones complied with the Chinese court’s order.

“These are tough times for Apple in China,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, adding the iPhone could see its market share slip to 7% this year in the face of stronger local rivals and worry about the sales ban.

Apple’s market share in the third-quarter of 2018 was around 9%, and has dipped from above 14% in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

Another question mark for Apple is its 5G strategy in China, where the US firm is not expected to have a 5G-enabled phone until 2020, behind rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi Corp and Samsung Electronics.

China is looking to push ahead with its rollout of a faster 5G network, with a pre-commercial phase this year and a commercial network in 2020.

Some are looking to make an early bet on the technology.

Huawei is planning a 5G phone mid-year, while Xiaomi is aiming for the third quarter. Samsung is expected to unveil a 5G phone in the first half of the year.

Industry insiders, however, said Apple would likely hold off until the fall of 2020 to have its own 5G-enabled phone, a strategy that would bypass the untested early period of the technology, but which could mean Chinese shoppers delay iPhone purchases or buy another brand that switched to 5G earlier.

“I’ll definitely be paying attention to 5G functionality when I buy my next phone,” said Wu Chengjun, a graduate student in Beijing who currently uses an iPhone X.

With the exception of Huawei, which makes it own 5G chips, Qualcomm is providing the technology to many of the major phone makers releasing 5G handsets this year.

“If you’re a (phone maker) looking for a ‘super cycle’ (of sales), if you don’t have 5G, your situation won’t get any better,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, told Reuters in an interview. ”

The carrier channel is going to be incentivised to start selling 5G phones in the second half of 2019, he said. — Reuters

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Employees believe Huawei will survive widespread bans in West with ‘Wolf spirit’ culture


A true multinationalNewspaper headline:

A Huawei Technologies Co logo sits on display inside an electronic goods store in Berlin on December 17. Photo: VCG

Former Huawei employee in US laments government’s ‘endless assaults on the company’


○ Huawei’s so-called ‘wolf culture’ helped it become successful in foreign countries

○ The top global telecom equipment provider has been going through a tough year in 2018

○ Chinese and foreign employees hold different views on Huawei’s rapid expansion and aggressive corporate strategy

When Jason Li was assigned to the Mobile World Congress at the beginning of 2011, shortly after he joined China’s Huawei Technologies, he impressed Ren Zhengfei, the former military officer who founded the company in 1987, with a presentation about the company’s products in English.

“He [Ren] came to the company’s stand the day before the congress kicked off and asked me where I studied before joining the company. I said New Zealand,” Li said, noting that Ren immediately suggested that this newly recruited employee should fly to the UK office and help build a local talent center as part of Huawei’s global expansion.

The Shenzhen-based company has experienced a rapid expansion over the past 30 years, and has footprints in more than 170 countries and regions. However, it has been under the spotlight recently as Meng Wanzhou – its chief financial officer – was arrested by the Canadian authorities in Vancouver on December 1 at the request of the US on suspicion of violating US trade sanctions.

Under pressure from the US, more governments in the West have been considering blocking Huawei’s core products over security concerns, which is considered as a major setback in its development into a multinational giant.

Former employees of Huawei like Li spent years working overseas, and describe Huawei’s corporate culture as a “wolf culture” that helped it become successful.

However, this “wolf culture” also sparked controversy, and might have harmed its current operations.

Arduous journey

When Li started working at Huawei’s London office, he started everything from zero. From 2012 to 2014, he had traveled to over 20 countries and spent most of his days in countless hotels and airports, sacrificing much of his spare time to reach out to more foreign telecom carriers and companies.

“As soon as I left Egypt after a business trip to Cairo years ago, the country plunged into civil conflict, and some of my former coworkers were stuck in the hotel. And one time in Nigeria, we were exposed to yellow fever,” he told the Global Times, referring to those days at Huawei as an unforgettable memory.

Long working hours on challenging projects with constant business trips to remote areas are common descriptions of the workplace culture at the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker.

“Employees at Chinese telecom companies such as Huawei and ZTE endured hardships in an earlier stage of global expansion,” Xiang Ligang, a veteran industry analyst close to Huawei, told the Global Times in a recent interview.

Ren, the founder of Huawei, is considered one of the most successful Chinese executives during the country’s reform and opening-up. He was influenced by the military theories of Mao Zedong, according to a book on Huawei’s development published in April.

Like Mao’s military theories, which advocated taking small and medium cities and extensive rural areas first as part of a revolution, Ren started from remote and less developed areas to avoid fierce competition with foreign rivals.

“In some countries in Africa and South America, telecom operators could not afford expensive products. They also lacked staff members for maintenance and operations. This gave more room for companies like Huawei and ZTE, which continuously assigned staff to those areas, to grow,” Xiang said.

Huawei beat Ericsson and Nokia in the global mobile infrastructure market in 2017, as the Chinese company took 28 percent of the market share and became the largest mobile infrastructure provider worldwide, according to the latest industry report from IHS.

“In the early days, Huawei assigned most of its senior executives to the overseas market to explore business opportunities,” Xiang said, noting that accepting these assignments later became an unwritten rule.


Lingering conflicts

Huawei’s corporate culture has a long-lasting influence on its staff. An former employee who worked as a programmer at Huawei’s then headquarters in Nanshan district, Shenzhen in the early 2000s said that he worked for Huawei for about one year and a half shortly after he graduated from college but the short experience there has instilled a lasting impact on his future career. He learned to be hardworking, persistent and low-key.

Even after he left Huawei, he sometimes, as if he had been brainwashed, still would read aloud the internal letters written by Ren Zhengfei circulated online to his then-girlfriend-now-wife, partly as a way to woo and impress her, and partly as a way to draw inspiration and strength for himself.

The employee in his early 40s who only spoke on condition of anonymity said he worked long hours from about 10 am to 10 pm every working day at Huawei. When he was tired, he would sleep on the mattress under his desk. “All co-workers did the same, especially the managers,” he said. “When a new project kicked in, we would work overnight.”

This so-called wolf spirit – a high-pressure workplace – is also known as a “mattress culture,” as many of its engineers work so hard that they use blankets and mattresses to sleep at the office. And this military-style management was sometimes rejected by its foreign staff overseas, which led to deeper culture clashes.

“As far as I know about this so-called military style management, it’s implementing the corporate policy in the most efficient way,” Li said.

For example, when he worked at the company’s London office, all the staff there were required to punch in and out every day, following strict discipline.

“Sometimes, foreign employees preferred more flexible working hours, especially when it was bad weather. But the headquarters rejected this request,” he said, noting that localizing its business in foreign markets was a bumpy road over some similar daily issues.

For some foreign employees, being part of a growing Chinese company is still remarkable experience.

“I have great respect for what the company has achieved… Huawei’s growth and expansion have been amazingly impressive. It was exciting to be a part of that,” William Plummer, the company’s former US vice president of external affairs, told the Global Times.

Plummer, who is considered an eight-year veteran bridging the Chinese company with the US government, was reportedly laid off by Huawei in April amid rising tension between China and the US.

He noted that the experience with Huawei was sometimes frustrating both “due to the US government’s endless assaults on the company, and the company’s inability to trust and listen to non-Chinese experts in dealing with such matters.”

The company has been going through a tough year in 2018. In January, major US carrier AT&T suspended potential cooperation with Huawei in its mobile business over security concerns.

And the “Five Eyes” nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, US) decided to take aim at all Chinese telecoms equipment companies. Australia slashed its use of Chinese-made products in August, followed by New Zealand and the UK.

In particular, the US government targeted Huawei for years, as American counterintelligence agents and prosecutors began exploring possible cases against its leadership back in 2010, according to the New York Times.


Focus on own work

After Meng’s arrest, several of Huawei’s Chinese employees shared posts on their social media accounts to support each other, claiming that the company can definitely get through this difficult time.

“It will survive widespread bans in Western countries … and we should focus on our own work,” a current employee at the company told the Global Times.

Some observers suggested that Huawei’s foreign and Chinese staff, who often hold different attitudes in the workplace, may see its struggles in a different light.

Many Chinese staff work very hard overseas because of Huawei’s incentive stock options. “Three years after I joined Huawei, I earned about 300,000 yuan ($43,500) a year, and my bonus was almost the same as my basic salary,” said a former Chinese employee “Eric,” who worked at Huawei from 2009 to 2013 and spent a year in Mumbai, India.

Working long hours is driven by growing business. Many employees understand that the better financial performance Huawei has, the more profits its employees could share in accordance to employee stock ownership plans.

However, to become a true global tech firm, Huawei will need to diversify its leadership, Plummer suggested.

As the case of Meng has entered the judicial system, some believe that Huawei’s situation will get worse, even though there is no proof for the US allegations.

Looking into this dilemma, the company’s aggressive and customer-centered business strategies might have helped its take over as much market share as possible.

“But in the long run, as a private company that insists on not going public, its opaque financial status also raises questions over its sustainability,” Eric said.

By Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times

Newspaper headline: A true multinational

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World economy set to feel trade war pain in 2019


 

Data points to slowing exports, companies warn of ongoing disruption

While 2018 was the year trade wars broke out, 2019 will be the year the global economy feels the pain.

Bloomberg’s Global Trade Tracker is softening amid a fading rush to front-load export orders ahead of threatened tariffs. And volumes are tipped to slow further even as the U.S. and China seek to resolve their trade spat, with companies warning of ongoing disruption.

Read more: A Fragile Truce Keeps Global Trade on Edge

Already there are casualties. GoPro Inc. will move most of its U.S.-bound camera production out of China by next summer, becoming one of the first brand-name electronics makers to take such action, while FedEx Corp. recently slashed its profit forecast and pared international air-freight capacity.

“Any kind of interference with commerce is going to be a tax on the economy,” said Hamid Moghadam, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Prologis Inc., which owns almost 4,000 logistics facilities globally. “And the world economy is probably going to slow down as a result of it.”

Financial markets have already taken a hit. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that the trade war news has accounted for a net drop of 6 percent in the S&P 500 this year. China’s stock market has lost $2 trillion in value in 2018 and is languishing in a bear market.

Recent data underscore concerns that trade will be a drag on American growth next year. U.S. consumers are feeling the least optimistic about the future economy in a year, while small business optimism about economic improvement fell to a two-year low and companies expect smaller profit gains in 2019.

Synchronized Slowdown

Global growth is set to decelerate in coming years

Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

What Our Economists Say...

For the world economy, the threat of trade war has dissipated, not disappeared. Three risks stand out. First, 90 days of talks between China and the U.S. might end in failure, with higher tariffs following. Second, even without an increase in tariffs, front-loading of exports in 2018 will reduce shipments in 2019. Finally, looking beyond the trade war, early warning signs from PMI surveys to FedEx profit warnings flag a softening of demand.
–Tom Orlik, Bloomberg Economics

The International Monetary Fund forecasts trade volumes will slow to 4 percent in 2019 from 4.2 percent this year and 5.2 percent in 2017. They warn that trade barriers have become more pronounced.

Europe isn’t insulated either. While Germany’s key machinery sector will produce a record 228 billion euros ($260 billion) this year, the trade disputes are among reasons why growth will slow, according to the VDMA industry association. Output will increase about 5 percent in real terms in 2018, the most since 2011, before growth slows to 2 percent next year.

Then there’s the risk of the U.S. placing tariffs on auto imports from Europe and Japan, a move that would damage relations between some of the world’s biggest economies. The arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou illustrates the risk of unexpected developments that can quickly inflame already tense relations.

“‘Trade divergence’ since 2018 and the ‘Tariffs-Limbo’ into 2019 are likely to keep a high degree of uncertainty and continue to have an impact on trade and investment plans,” New York-based Citigroup global markets economist Cesar Rojas wrote in a recent note.

The critical question is whether Washington and Beijing can strike a deal by the March 1 deadline. If they succeed, a cloud will be lifted off the world economy. But for now, the threat that tensions will linger is a brake on business expansion plans, and thereby the global economy.

Dippin’ Dots LLC is among those caught in the crossfire. The U.S.-based maker of ice cream and other frozen products spent three years breaking into the Chinese market and opened its first stores in the country this year, only to pay double-digit tariffs on imported dairy products. CEO Scott Fischer said if the U.S.-China talks fail and additional tariffs are added, he’d be forced to rethink strategy, supply chains, and where in the world he expands.

“From an entrepreneur’s perspective, our question is how long will this continue?” Fischer said. “It’s hard to plan business in this environment.”

— Bloomberg With assistance by Sveinung Sleire, and Christian Wienberg

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More than just a trade war, US in skirmises with China over IT, trade and ‘national security’


American economist Jeffrey D. Sachs says Canada is doing the Trump administration’s bidding in its handling of the Huawei case. To read more: https://www.cbc.ca/1.4947966

Nobody is supposed to win any war, and the US is anxiously proving that true in skirmishes with China over IT, trade and ‘national security’.

CHINA will not have Ivanka Trump arrested if she were to transit through Hong Kong airport, even now.

Beijing does not have the intent or capacity for that – nor the recklessness required for it, particularly in the throes of a trade war.

But US authorities had Sabrina Meng Wanzhou arrested while transiting through Vancouver airport. Ivanka and Sabrina are prominent businesswomen, but there are also differences between them. Ivanka is the daughter of President Donald Trump. In China and elsewhere, Sabrina is the daughter of modern China and its historic rise.

Critics of Sabrina’s arrest call it a kidnapping. The charges against her are unclear, the intent lacks transparency, and the action itself is unprecedented even for US double standards and a maverick president.

British politician George Galloway condemned Sabrina’s arrest as piracy, a death wish and an act of war. Prof Jeffrey Sachs calls it almost an act of war on China’s business world exposing Washington’s “supreme hypocrisy.” He finds the official pretext lacking credibility. Sachs says that in the past nine years alone, the US penalised 25 other companies from almost as many countries for violating unilateral US sanctions on doing business in third, fourth or fifth countries.

Yet in all these cases the US held the company responsible rather than an individual officer of the company. The case against Huawei had taken an unprecedented and disturbing character from the start.

Jack Ma says the trade war itself is only part of the complicated and now troubling relationship between the US and China. It is so messy that he sees any resolution only in another 20 years.

At one level, today’s US phobia about doing business with China relates to what Washington calls security concerns. Huawei founder and Sabrina’s father Ren Zhengfei was reportedly an elected official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1982.

What would that mean for Ma of Alibaba, confirmed only two weeks ago as a current card-carrying member of the CPC? Nobody outside Washington seems too bothered.

Business, especially international trade, is supposed to be above petty political differences in a very diverse world. But apparently, pettiness matters in a trade war scenario veering towards a cold war. The trade war mindset and the persecution of Huawei are situated within global superpower and geopolitical rivalry between the world’s two biggest economies.

China is still a developing country despite its many achievements, and is determined to press ahead with more growth to develop its poorer regions. Huawei is in the forefront of this national resurgence.

The US remains the world’s technology leader and sole superpower – and intends to stay that way. Since a hyper-competitive international environment does not always favour it, it has resolved to block any challenge while complaining about trade with China.

Owing to China’s population size, significant GDP growth per capita would mean development on a massive scale. And because of reliance on international markets and global supply chains, connectivity makes infrastructure and IT vital.

The current US position on China consists of the phobias and manias of senior administration officials around Trump.

Among the most prominent is economics hawk Prof Peter Navarro, head of the White House National Trade Council. The author of Death By China was conspicuously left out of Trump’s cordial visit to China last year.

Since then, Navarro has moved closer to the Oval Office. So have other hawks circling China.

John Bolton is a Bush-era neo-conservative savouring entry into Trump’s inner circle. That did not happen in the first year, but now he is National Security Adviser. Bolton is notorious as instigator of the Iraq invasion. Now he has focused his foreign aggression on a trade war, indicating he had more to do with Sabrina’s arrest than Trump himself.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is another hawk eager to target Beijing. He regards China as a “trade threat” and has grown personally close to Trump.

The Economist called US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross a protectionist, and he has submitted to the hawkish trend against China. His shares in some China companies are no longer an issue, especially after he has turned his China experience to serve US nationalist interests.

Yet for all their devices, the attack on China by targeting Huawei will not dampen – much less stop – China’s rise. It will teach China to be more vigilant about trade partners, steel it for future pitfalls, and redouble its efforts to grow stronger.

Already there are signs of Sabrina’s arrest being counter-productive, with other forms of blowback against US interests virtually assured.

First, Beijing’s support for Chinese firms like Huawei operating internationally will grow. Even greater state-industry collaboration in China’s national interests, particularly when abroad, can be expected.

Second, China’s corporate sector will offer even greater support for the Government and the CPC in return. As this happens at multiple levels, China’s international competitiveness can only heighten.

Third, public support in China for Chinese companies has also grown, fuelling the rise of Chinese nationalism. Even before Sabrina’s arrest, a nationwide survey found majorities in 300 Chinese cities would boycott US companies.

Fourth, public support for the Chinese state and the CPC continues to accumulate. Whenever the national interest is threatened, all sectors close ranks against the common foe.

Fifth, the action against Huawei has provoked China and triggered its people’s national pride. The extent to which this will multiply is still uncertain, but a clear sense of it is evident in social media.

Sixth, international support for China and its campaign for free trade are set to grow. This involves more than just companies fearful of similar actions for violating US sanctions, since the US has alienated itself from even its allies.

Seventh, the Chinese diaspora in Canada has come out in support of Sabrina and other unfortunate Chinese nationals caught in such a situation. It has become more than just a national or criminal matter.

Eighth, Chinese Americans may also feel the racist pinch of US policy and act similarly. Will they then become suspects to their own Government?

Malaysian entrepreneur and Harvard MBA Tan Hock Eng’s Singapore-based Broadcom was supposed to take over California-based Quallcom in the biggest IT deal in the world. But in March this year the US scrapped the deal in the name of “national security interests.” To many ethnic Chinese that was a racist move.

Ninth, while some countries may sympathise with China over Huawei, others may just be put off by the US action and attitude. The result would be a net loss for US standing and prestige.

To provoke a rising China and get away with it requires consistently deft handling and masterful strategies. Both are lacking in Washington.

Trump has not been focused enough to even make senior administration appointments after two years. Melania Trump has also been pressuring her husband to dismiss the Deputy National Security Adviser.

The departure of senior staff has already been peaking on its own, many for personal reasons. Then Robert Mueller’s continuing investigations and indictments will add further to the dismissals.

All this is what comes of a “trade war” that is about more than just trade, involving more than any conventional notion of war.

Bunn NagaraBehind The Headlines

By Bunn Nagara, a Senior Fellow at ISIS  Malaysia.

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