Google just published a blog post revealing that it has disabled 210 YouTube channels that the company says “behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.” Google cites the behavior as being “consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.” The accounts were disabled earlier this week.
Both Facebook and Twitter recently uncovered and suspended accounts that the social media companies believe were operated by the Chinese government and designed to seed doubt about and undermine the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Twitter suspended nearly 1,000 accounts tied to China, and Facebook removed various pages, groups, and accounts linked to the effort to spread information opposing the protests.
“We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations,” Shane Huntley, from Google’s Threat Analysis Group, wrote in the blog post. “These actions are part of our continuing efforts to protect the integrity of our platforms and the security and privacy of our users.”
Google also used the opportunity to address moves it recently took to counter the government of Kazakhstan, which recently forced citizens to install a security certificate that gave the government broad power to spy on internet activity and “decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords.”
“These actions are part of our continuing efforts to protect the integrity of our platforms and the security and privacy of our users,” said Huntley, adding that Google’s teams “will continue to identify bad actors, terminate their accounts, and share relevant information with law enforcement and others in the industry.”
(ZH) According to Fathom Consulting, a global independent macro research consultancy, it’s proprietary China Momentum Indicator 2.0 has slowed to 4.6% in June, the lowest reading since Aug. 2016.
There is also a growing gap between the China Momentum Indicator 2.0 at 4.6% and official GDP data at 6.2%. Might suggest China’s economy hasn’t yet bottomed, could continue to decline through 2H19 into 1H20.
Gary Cohn, the former chief economic advisor to Donald Trump, has said the slowdown predates the trade war and reflects a strategic decision by China to rebalance the economy.
Fathom notes that China’s economy was even slowing before the rebalancing.
The global macro research firm said, “with the consumer share of total import demand on a downward trend since 2016, we also find little evidence to suggest that China is successfully rebalancing.”
To combat dangerous crosscurrents of the trade war disrupting global supply chains in and out of China, Chinese policymakers resorted to the same playbook as before, pump the economy with record amounts of the stimulus earlier in the year.
Currency depreciation came into the picture when President Trump escalated the trade war by raising tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion of Chinese goods in May. Then a massive devaluation of the renminbi followed in early August, when the president slapped 10% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective Sept. 1.
“Trade talks are continuing, and during the talks the U.S. will start, on Sept. 1, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country…We look forward to continuing our positive dialogue with China on a comprehensive Trade Deal, and feel that the future between our two countries will be a very bright one!” Trump said in a tweet last month.
Since the trade war began last March, the renminbi has weakened 13% against the U.S. dollar, neutralizing some of the tariffs imposed by the U.S. on imports from China.
Currency devaluation undermines hopes for a soft landing, while further infuriating the Trump administration who has recently branded China as a currency manipulator.
And for more bad news, China has said its rebalancing will continue through 2020 and offered a pessimistic view of how Beijing won’t sign a trade deal until after the November 2020 election. This would almost guarantee China is allowing its export economy to weaken while stimulating its domestic economy, all in the attempt to trigger a recession in the U.S. to diminish President Trump’s probabilities of getting reelected.
China’s fury is certain; its retaliation unpredictable
FOR TAIWAN, there is nothing like an American president who is not squeamish about outraging China. Even before he took office, Donald Trump stirred indignation in Beijing by taking a congratulatory phone call just after his election from Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan. (China saw this as a breach of the “one-China principle”, under which it demands that countries that maintain formal diplomatic ties with it do not also have them with Taiwan, which it views as part of China.) America recently allowed Ms Tsai to visit New York for one of the longest stays ever granted to a Taiwanese president, and sold Taiwan tanks and anti-aircraft missiles worth $2.2bn. But this week Mr Trump thrilled Taiwan with a step that China will see as an even bigger affront.
On August 18th Mr Trump decided to sell Taiwan 66 new F-16 fighter jets. The sale, worth $8bn, still needs congressional approval. But leading Republicans and Democrats alike have championed it, seeing Taiwan as a bulwark against Beijing’s expansion in the Asia-Pacific.
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The new fleet of F-16s will boost Taiwan’s ageing air force, but hardly tip the military balance against China’s increasingly powerful armed forces. The real power they embody is that of a psychological shock for the one-party state across the strait. The last time America sold fighter jets to Taiwan was in 1992.
Taiwan first asked America for more F-16s in 2006, under the previous president from Ms Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, which typically has especially testy relations with China. His successor, Ma Ying-jeou, of the more China-friendly party, the Kuomintang (KMT), reiterated the request. But China persuaded the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama to refuse. During Mr Obama’s presidency in particular, China portrayed a potential sale of F-16 planes as crossing a red line. It never tires of reminding America that in 1982 it promised to reduce arms sales to Taiwan.
Ms Tsai, who is campaigning for re-election in early 2020, was delighted with the news. Her campaign presents her as a foil to an ever more repressive, assertive China. Her KMT challenger, Han Kuo-yu, whom critics accuse of being too cosy with China, also applauded Mr Trump’s decision and pledged to deepen military ties with America if elected. Arthur Ding, of National Chengchi University, thinks the deal, despite its hefty price tag, will fly swiftly through the sometimes combative legislature.
China was not so happy. A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry said on August 16th that American arms sales “severely violate the one-China principle”. But it is not clear if it plans anything more than a rhetorical response, such as suspending military exchanges with America. The impact on other disputes between the two countries—over trade, for example—is also uncertain.
A worker at the UK’s Hong Kong consulate has been detained at the border for allegedly violating the law, China has confirmed.
Media reports on Tuesday said Simon Cheng, who is thought to be from Hong Kong, went missing on 8 August during a business trip.
China’s foreign ministry said Mr Cheng was detained at Shenzhen for 15 days.
The UK said it was “extremely concerned” and the embassy in Beijing was providing support to his family.
China said Mr Cheng, 28, had been detained for violating public security laws, although the foreign ministry gave no details of the alleged offence.
Following large-scale protests in Hong Kong, travellers have reported heightened security measures on the mainland side, with people passing through being subjected to police checks of their mobile phones.
The protests, now entering their third month, were sparked by a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong to send criminal suspects to China for trial.
A small group of protesters gathered outside the British consulate in support of Mr Cheng. Max Chung, a spokesman for the protesters, told Reuters the case had serious consequences for everybody in Hong Kong.
“We want to urge the UK government to step up and act now. Save Simon now,” he said, adding that Mr Cheng had not taken part in anti-government demonstrations.
“Simon is a very good guy, and he’s a smart guy – he finished his Masters at LSE (London School of Economics) – so I don’t think he would do anything stupid.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said they had made “stern representations” to the UK over comments made since the protests began in Hong Kong.
“We request they stop making these irresponsible statements, stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs,” he said.
He said Mr Cheng was a Chinese citizen and his detention was an internal affair.
BBC China correspondent Robin Brant said the detention was short compared to many sentences in China and that Mr Cheng should be due for release in the next 48 hours.
He said China insisted the detention was not a diplomatic incident, but he said the Foreign Office had likely been working out of the public spotlight over the last 13 days to find out what had happened to Mr Cheng and secure his release.
It said on 8 August he travelled to a business event in Shenzhen in south-east China, which links Hong Kong to the mainland.
His girlfriend told HKFP that he planned to travel home the same day, but did not return. In online messages, he wrote that he was passing through the border, adding “pray for me”.
Hong Kong police said they had inquired about Mr Cheng’s whereabouts with the mainland authorities but “results are still pending”.
Earlier this year, China also arrested two Canadians, accusing them of espionage after detaining them for several months. It followed the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the US.
(ZH) Hong Kong was already one of the world’s most unaffordable cities before the unrest over the extradition bill started 11 weeks ago. But now, it’s both unaffordable and not particularly safe, more residents are looking to maybe find somewhere less expensive, that’s not quite such a political powder keg.
Given that most people in the region would probably like to live somewhere local where they speak the language, the top beneficiary of HK’s recent wave of emigration has been Taiwan.
According to the Taipei Times and Bloomberg, the number of people moving to Taiwan from Hong Kong has risen rapidly – it’s up 28% over the first seven months of this year compared with the same period a year earlier – driven in part by the anti-government protests that have rocked the city-state over the past three months.
Those who have been making the move, typically wealthier entrepreneurs, salespeople and managers, have cited a better quality of life in the democratically run Taiwan, cheaper property, business opportunities and a safer living environment as incentives to make the move.
Meanwhile, protesters have clashed with police in an extremely violent manner. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who leads a pro-independence party in Taiwan, has verbally supported the Taiwan protests. But many residents are beginning to worry that the clashes might never end.
And who wants to pay all that money in rent if you can’t even catch a flight on time without worrying about mobs of protesters.
Just take a look at this quote:
“I want to move to Taiwan because Hong Kong is in a period of white terror and ruled by the police, which scares me,” said 37-year-old retail salesperson Steven Chen, a Hong Konger who said he was working to move to Taiwan. “I saw no future for the city when it returned to China some 20 years ago, but now it’s dangerous to live in, as the police are not protecting people.”
Not only is there ‘no future,’ but many now worry that it’s ‘dangerous’ to live in Hong Kong.
Greenland is gaining attention from global super powers including China due to its strategic location and its mineral resources
Icebergs float behind the town of Kulusuk in Greenland. Photo: AFPUS President Donald Trump’s reported wish to buy Greenland may have been rejected by Denmark, but it underscores the rapidly rising value of the massive, ice-covered island due to global warming and to China’s drive for an Arctic presence.
The accelerating polar ice melt has left sparsely populated Greenland, a self-governing part of Denmark, astride what are potentially major shipping routes and in the crosshairs of intensifying geopolitical competition between superpowers.
It also has untapped natural resources like oil, minerals and valuable rare earth elements that China, the United States and other major tech economies covet.
A Chinese government-backed group’s offer last year to build three new international airports on Greenland sparked alarms in Copenhagen and Washington.
The Chinese plan was finally nixed in exchange for Danish funding and a pledge of support from the Pentagon.
But, “The administration has awoken to the Arctic as a geostrategic issue,” she said.
Trump is not the first US president to consider such an offer – the Truman administration reportedly offered Denmark US$100 million for Greenland’s purchase after World War II.
In 1917 Denmark sold off the then Danish West Indies islands for US$25 million to the United States, which renamed them the United States Virgin Islands.
Greenland has been essential to US defence since that war when it was a base for monitoring Nazi ships and submarines passing through the “Arctic Avenue”, the sea gateway to the north Atlantic.
In 1943 the US Air Force built its farthest-north airbase at Thule, Greenland.
Thule Airbase in Pituffik, Greenland. File photo: AFPShare:
Thule was crucial in the cold war, a first line of monitoring against a potential Russian attack.
With a population of 600, the base today is part of the Nato mission, operating satellite monitoring and strategic missile detection systems and handling thousands of flights a year.
“The early warning radar system in northern Greenland helps protect North America and is a key part of our missile defence apparatus,” said Luke Coffey of The Heritage Foundation.
With no geographical claim to the region, but whose massive commercial shipping industry would benefit from new polar routes as the ice melts, China is the newcomer whose presence could shift the balance.
It began sending scientific missions in 2004. In the past several years, a Chinese company has gained mining rights for rare earths, partnering with an Australian company in the Kvanefjeld project.
In January 2018 Beijing unveiled its “Polar Silk Road” strategy to extend its economic footprint through the Arctic.
To gain favour in Nuuk, Chinese have wined and dined government officials, said Coffey.
“China’s role in the Arctic has been more about expanding its economic influence, soft power,” said Coffey.
“Ice melting is part of the interest, it is opening up new economic opportunities, but it’s also opening up challenges. The US is aware of that,” he said.
Japan increased its holdings of US bonds, bills and notes by US$21.9 billion to US$1.12 trillion, the highest level in more than two and half years
China’s ownership rose for the first time in four months to US$1.11 trillion, up by US$2.3 billion
A yen note is seen in this illustration photo taken June 1, 2017. Photo: REUTERS
Japan surpassed China in June as the top holder of US Treasuries as the trade war between the world’s two largest economies intensified.
Japan increased its holdings of US bonds, bills and notes by US$21.9 billion to US$1.12 trillion, the highest level in more than two and half years, according to data released by the Treasury Department on Thursday. Meanwhile, China’s ownership rose for the first time in four months to US$1.11 trillion, up by US$2.3 billion.
The last time Japan held the position as America’s largest foreign creditor was May 2017. The nation has added more than US$100 billion worth of Treasuries at a fairly steady pace since October 2018. Treasuries have become more attractive as the globe’s pool of negative yielding debt grows, according to BMO Capital Markets.
While benchmark 10-year US yields have plunged to the lowest level since 2016 in recent months, the rate on 10-year Japanese government bonds is currently negative 0.23 per cent.
“The buying we have seen from Japanese investors is really a reflection of the globally low and negative yield environment,” said BMO strategist Ben Jeffery.
A cautious months-long calm in the US-China trade war was interrupted in May when talks between the two sides broke down. In June the US raised tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.
While Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a ceasefire in late June, that only lasted about a month before the US president announced that on September 1 he’ll impose a 10 per cent levy on virtually every import from China not yet subject to duties.
This week, Trump partially backed down by delaying the 10 per cent charge on certain items, including mobile phones and laptops, until December 15 to stem the impact on holiday shopping. Beijing says it still plans to retaliate.China’s US debt hoard has come under increased scrutiny in the trade dispute amid speculation that the Asian nation could sell Treasuries in response. Earlier this month, the US formally labelled China a currency manipulator after the yuan weakened past 7 yuan per dollar.
An estimated 1.7m people marched through Hong Kong on Sunday, even though the police refused to sanction the demonstration. The FT’s global China editor James Kynge says that the peaceful protest was an act of defiance against Beijing, which last week called protesters terrorists and shared videos of paramilitary police near the Hong Kong-China border
State media outlets videos with a rousing choral soundtrack show armoured troop carriers purportedly driving to Shenzhen, the south-eastern state that borders Hong Kong. Chinese officials have released a series of threatening statements about Hong Kong’s protesters, with one claiming ‘terrorism’ was emerging in the city on Monday after flights were cancelled
(FT) Events in both places show how single-grievance protests can evolve into wider movements
According to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, “the liberal idea has become obsolete”. Maybe so. But illiberalism does not seem to be doing so well either, to judge from my recent visits to Moscow and Hong Kong.
(Reuters) LONDON (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten on Tuesday cautioned that if China intervened in Hong Kong it would be a catastrophe and that Chinese President Xi Jinping should see the wisdom of trying to bring people together.
Patten said it was counter productive of the Chinese to warn of “other methods” if the protests did not stop.
“That would be a catastrophe for China and of course for Hong Kong,” Patten told BBC radio. “Since President Xi has been in office, there’s been a crackdown on dissent and dissidents everywhere, the party has been in control of everything.”
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee that under a ‘one country, two systems’ mode of governance, the city would retain a high degree of autonomy, an independent judiciary and freedoms not allowed in mainland China.
Demonstrations have plunged the Chinese-ruled territory into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader Xi with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012.
Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement.
Patten said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson should ask U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton who is in London this week to get Washington to agree that it would be a “catastrophe” if China was to intervene in Hong Kong.
“I very much hope that even after 10 weeks of this going on, the government and President Xi will see the sense in establishing a way of actually bringing people together,” Patten said.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the city’s recovery from protests that have swept the Asian financial hub could take a long time and that she would be responsible for rebuilding its economy “after the violence eases”.
Her comments followed serious developments in the growing crisis over the past week. Beijing said on Monday the protests had begun to show “sprouts of terrorism” and the city’s airport was closed.
“There is a degree of frustration and anger at the government refusing to give any sensible ground at all which probably provokes more violence,” Patten said.
“I can’t believe that any rational person in Carrie Lam’s position would actually argue the case against a commission of inquiry,” he said.
“What’s clearly needed is a process of reconciliation. It’s the only way I think you’ll put a cap on this and get back to peace and stability in Hong Kong.”
Thousands of protesters forced Hong Kong to shut its airport on Monday as they expressed their anger at aggressive police tactics. The FT’s South China Correspondent Sue-Lin Wong looks at the potential economic impact and Beijing’s growing frustration.
Huawei Technologies Co.’s billionaire founder intends to kick off a three- to five-year overhaul of the networking giant, creating an “iron army” that can help it survive an American onslaught while protecting its lead in next-generation wireless.
Major structural shifts are around the corner as U.S. sanctions threaten the survival of its cash-cow smartphone business, Ren Zhengfei warned in an internal memo seen by Bloomberg News and verified by a Huawei spokeswoman. The consumer business faces a “painful long march,” Ren wrote, a possible reference to the Communist Party’s historic cross-country trek.
China’s biggest technology company is grappling with an existential threat after Washington blocked Huawei from buying American technology, cutting off vital components from Qualcomm Inc. chipsets to Google’s Android operating software. Ren, 74, said an internal revamp was now needed to meet war-time needs, meaning organizations deemed unnecessary or redundant will be removed. He didn’t provide details about how such a restructuring might unfold.
“We have to complete an overhaul in harsh and difficult conditions, creating an invincible iron army that can help us achieve victory,” Ren wrote in the letter dated Aug. 2. “We absolutely have to complete this re-organization within three to five years.”
Ren, a former engineer with the People’s Liberation Army, has a penchant for militaristic language. The entrepreneur has spoken previously about a “strategic withdrawal” from certain markets in response to escalating U.S. scrutiny. Huawei itself hasn’t been clear about how Trump administration curbs would impact its 190,000-some employees worldwide but the company has begun to lay off U.S.-based staff, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
Huawei reported slower sales growth in the second quarter compared to the first as the ban started to bite, especially into a consumer business encompassing smartphones and laptops. The company unveiled its in-house HarmonyOS last Friday, saying it can replace Android if Google’s software was barred from its future smartphones. But Ren said the company needed a lot more time to build an apps ecosystem, a major requirement for any operating software to thrive in the long run.
“Two bullets fired at our consumer business group unfortunately hit the oil tanks,” Ren said in his letter, without elaborating.
Still, Ren talked about Huawei’s edge against the U.S. in fifth-generation telecommunication technologies. The Chinese company’s dominance in 5G has been cited as motivation for a U.S. campaign to contain its ascendancy, because the technology is expected to propel future modern economies.
“The U.S. doesn’t use the most advanced 5G technology,” he wrote. “That may leave it lagging behind in the artificial intelligence sector.”
(GUA) Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, underlines ‘one country, two systems’ in call to Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive
China has lashed out at the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, after he spoke to Hong Kong’s leader about protests that have morphed from a campaign against a controversial extradition bill into rolling street demonstrations demanding electoral reforms.
Raab spoke to Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and stressed the need for “meaningful political dialogue and a fully independent investigation into recent events as a way to build trust” in the territory, the UK Foreign Office said.
The former British colony has seen widespread protests in recent months which began with a campaign against a controversial extradition bill and has gone on to include a push for electoral reforms in the Chinese territory.
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said the days where Britain ruled Hong Kong were “long gone … The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of supervision over Hong Kong. Affairs of Hong Kong brook no foreign interference. It is simply wrong for the British government to directly call Hong Kong’s chief executive to exert pressure.”
A UK foreign office spokesperson said: “The foreign secretary underlined the strength of the relationship between the UK and Hong Kong, noting our support for Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy as provided for in the joint declaration and our commitment to the principle of ‘one country, two systems’.
“The foreign secretary condemned violent acts by all sides but emphasised the right to peaceful protest, noting that hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people had chosen this route to express their views.”
The former British colony is part of China but enjoys more autonomy. It has a free press and judicial independence under the “one country, two systems” approach – freedoms activists fear are being increasingly eroded.
They have called for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality during the protests, the complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill, and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam.
What is the feud?
On Thursday, China asked the US to explain reports its diplomats were in contact with Hong Kong protest leaders.
Ta Kung Pao newspaper – a pro-Beijing publication – had published a photo of US diplomat Julie Eadeh meeting student leaders at a hotel, under the headline “Foreign Forces Intervene”.
China has repeatedly accused the US of interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.
The US rejected the accusation, saying its diplomats meet wide a range of people – including from the government and from businesses – and criticised the report.
“I don’t think that is a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters, adding it was “not how a responsible nation would behave”.
China in turn has dismissed “gangster logic” from the US, and said the country should stop interfering in its affairs.
What’s happening at the airport?
The feud comes as demonstrators gathered at Hong Kong airport for three days of protests.
Activists waved banners written in different languages denouncing Carrie Lam and the police, and handed out leaflets with artwork explaining the recent protests.
Authorities are so far tolerating the peaceful rally, which have not overly disrupted passengers. There are as yet no police at the scene.
“It will be a peaceful protest as long as the police do not show up,” one demonstrator told Reuters news agency.
Earlier on Friday, authorities confirmed that former deputy police commissioner Alan Lau has been brought out of retirement to help handle protests in the territory.
The commander previously oversaw Hong Kong’s pro-democracy rallies in 2014.
Beijing has issued increasingly stern warnings about the continuing demonstrations, and the military recently released a video showing them conducting anti-riot drills.
The footage – believed to have been filmed in the territory – shows heavily armed troops descending from helicopters and shooting their way through the streets and into people’s homes.
Why are there protests in Hong Kong?
Demonstrations began in opposition to a proposed extradition bill, which would have allowed suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Critics said it would undermine Hong Kong’s legal freedoms, and could be used to silence critics.
Police were then accused of using excessive force against protesters. Even though Hong Kong authorities agreed to suspend the bill, demonstrations continued, with calls for it to be fully withdrawn and for an independent investigation into police actions.
Protests have become increasingly confrontational.
On Monday, Ms Lam gave her first media address in two weeks, warning that Hong Kong was “on the verge of a very dangerous situation”.
She also accused activists of using the extradition bill as a cover for their real goal, which was to “destroy Hong Kong”.