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  1. A new website exposes the extent to which Apple cooperates with Chinese government internet censorship, blocking access to Western news sources, information about human rights and religious freedoms, and privacy-enhancing apps that would circumvent the country’s pervasive online surveillance regime. The new site, AppleCensorship.com, allows users to check which apps are not accessible to people in China through Apple’s app store, indicating those that have been banned. It was created by researchers at GreatFire.org, an organization that monitors Chinese government internet censorship. In late 2017, Apple admitted to U.S. senators that it had removed from its app store in China more than 600 “virtual private network” apps that allow users to evade censorship and online spying. But the company never disclosed which specific apps it removed — nor did it reveal other services it had pulled from its app store at the behest of China’s authoritarian government. In addition to the hundreds of VPN apps, Apple is currently preventing its users in China from downloading apps from news organizations, including the New York Times, Radio Free Asia, Tibetan News, and Voice of Tibet. It is also blocking censorship circumvention tools like Tor and Psiphon; Google’s search app and Google Earth; an app called Bitter Winter, which provides information about human rights and religious freedoms in China; and an app operated by the Central Tibetan Authority, which provides information about Tibetan human rights and social issues. Some bans – such as those of certain VPN apps and the Times – have received media coverage in the past, but many never generate news headlines. Charlie Smith, a co-founder of GreatFire.org, told The Intercept that the group was motivated to launch the website because “Apple provides little transparency into what it censors in its app store. Most developers find out their app has been censored after they see a drop in China traffic and try to figure out of there is a problem. We wanted to bring transparency to what they are censoring.” Smith, who said that the website was still in a beta phase of early development, added that until now, it was not easy to check exactly which apps Apple had removed from its app stores in different parts of the world. For example, he said, “now we can see that the top 100 VPN apps in the U.S. app store are all not available in the China app store.” The site is not able to distinguish between apps taken down due to requests from the Chinese government because they violate legal limits on free expression versus those removed because they violate other laws, such as those regulating gambling. However, it is possible to determine from the content of each app – and whether it continues to be available in the U.S. or elsewhere – the likely reason for its removal. Radio Free Asia, for instance, has been subject to censorship for decades in China. The Washington, D.C.-based organization, which is funded by the U.S. government, regularly reports on human rights abuses in China and has had its broadcasts jammed and blocked in the country since the late 1990s. That censorship has also extended to the internet – now with the support of Apple. Rohit Mahajan, a spokesman for Radio Free Asia, told The Intercept that Apple had informed the organization in December last year that one of its apps was removed from the app store in China because it did not meet “legal requirements” there. “There was no option to appeal, as far as we could discern,” said Mahajan. Libby Liu, Radio Free Asia’s president, added that “shutting down avenues for credible, outside news organizations is a loss – not just for us, but for the millions who rely on our reports and updates for a different picture than what’s presented in state-controlled media. I would hope that Western companies would be committed to Western values when it comes to making decisions that could impact that access.” An Apple spokesperson declined to address removals of specific apps from China, but pointed to the company’s app store review guidelines, which state: “Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where you make them available.” The spokesperson said that Apple, in its next transparency report, is planning to release information on government requests to remove apps from its app store. The Chinese government expects Western companies to make concessions before it permits them to gain access to the country’s lucrative market of more than 800 million internet users. The concessions include compliance with the ruling Communist Party’s sweeping censorship and surveillance regime. In recent years, the Chinese state has beefed up its repressive powers. It has introduced a new “data localization” law, for instance, which forces all internet and communication companies to store Chinese users’ data on the country’s mainland — making it more accessible to Chinese authorities. In accordance with the data localization law, Apple agreed to a deal with state-owned China Telecom to control and store Chinese users’ iCloud data. Apple claims that it retains control of the encryption keys to the data, ensuring that people’s photographs and other private information cannot be accessed by the Chinese state. However, human rights groups remain concerned. Amnesty International has previously stated, “By handing over its China iCloud service to a local company without sufficient safeguards, the Chinese authorities now have potentially unfettered access to all Apple’s Chinese customers’ iCloud data. Apple knows it, yet has not warned its customers in China of the risks.” Apple CEO Tim Cook has presented himself as a defender of users’ privacy. During a speech in October last year, Cook declared, “We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right.” It is unclear how Cook reconciles that sentiment with Apple’s removal of privacy-enhancing software from its app store in China, which helps ensure that the country’s government can continue to monitor its citizens and crack down on opponents. Cook appears to have viewed compliance with Chinese censorship and surveillance as worthwhile compromises. “We would obviously rather not remove the apps,” he said in 2017, “but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business. … We’re hopeful that over time the restrictions we’re seeing are lessened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate.” Source
  2. Ren Zhengfei speaks days after the arrest of another Huawei employee, this time in Poland Ren Zhengfei, founder and chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies Co. SHENZHEN, China—The founder and CEO of Huawei Technologies Co. said his company has never spied for the Chinese government—and never would—as he made a rare public appearance following the arrest of his daughter in Canada. “No law requires any company in China to install mandatory back doors,” Ren Zhengfei said Tuesday. “I personally would never harm the interest of my customers and me and my company would not answer to such requests.” Ren didn’t say what specifically he would do to resist such requests. All companies doing business in China are required by law to hand over customer data to the government in cases that touch on national security. In China, national-security threats are broadly defined and can include speech critical of the Communist Party. Ren said he missed his daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, but was optimistic justice would prevail. Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities, which accuse her of lying about the company’s business with Iran. She denies the charges. Huawei’s reclusive 74-year-old founder, a former army engineer, also praised President Trump as a “great president” and maintained Huawei is owned by its employees. The U.S. has raised concerns about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese state and that its telecom equipment could be used by Beijing to spy. More At [WSJ] Source
  3. Ransomware threatens to overheat and destroy mining rigs if victims don't infect 1,000 other devices or don't pay a 10 Bitcoin ransom. A new strain of ransomware has been observed targeting Bitcoin mining rigs. At the time of writing, most of the infections have been reported in China, the country where most of the world's cryptocurrency mining farms are located. Named hAnt, this new ransomware strain was first seen in August of last year, but a new wave of infections has been reported hitting mining farms earlier this month. Most of the infected mining rigs are Antminer S9 and T9 devices, used for Bitcoin mining, but there have also been reports of hAnt infecting Antminer L3 rigs, used for mining Litecoin. In rare instances, Avalon Miner equipment (used for Bitcoin), were also reported as infected, but in much smaller numbers. It is unclear how crooks first infect a mining farm's data center or equipment, but some Chinese security experts suggest that hAnt comes hidden inside tainted versions of mining rig firmware that has been making the rounds online since last summer. According to reports in Chinese media, once hAnt infects a mining rig, it immediately locks the device and prevents it from mining any new currency. When equipment owners connect to devices remotely (via a CLI) or manually (using LCD screens) the first thing they see is a splash screen depicting an ant and two pickaxes in green ASCII characters, similar to the red skull splash screen displayed by the NotPetya ransomware. Clicking anywhere on the screen or pressing any key loads the hAnt ransom note, in both English and Chinese text. The ransom note is somewhat unique when compared to ransom demands seen on desktop ransomware variants because victims are given a choice. They can either pay a 10 Bitcoin ($36,000) ransom to remove the ransomware from the mining rig, or they can download a malicious firmware update that they have to apply to other mining rigs to further spread the ransomware. If victims fail to pay the ransom or infect at least 1,000 other devices, the ransom note threatens to turn off the mining rig's fan and its overheat protection, leading to the device's destruction. There haven't been reports of any destroyed equipment just yet, suggesting that this is an empty threat, however, experts say hAnt could theoretically abuse an overclocking feature in the Antminer firmware to overheat and compromise devices. Instead, there have been reports that hAnt can also spread on its own, automatically, to other mining equipment connected to the same network, however, this mechanism hasn't been explained in more technical details, as of yet. However, an hAnt worm-like component would explain a report from Yibenchain, the Chinese news site which first broke the story. The news outlet cited an executive from BTC.Top, a local Bitcoin mining company, who claimed that hAnt infected over 4,000 devices within minutes. Besides financial losses caused by hAnt after the ransomware stopped normal mining operations, victims also reported losses caused by the time needed to reflash the infected mining equipment's SD card to remove the ransomware and install clean firmware. Last year, Bitmain, the company behind the Antminer line of mining rigs issued a security alert warning customers not to install firmware downloaded from other sites. The alert also includes basic advice on securing all types of mining rigs, not just Antminer equipment. The English version hAnt ransom note is available below: Source
  4. January 17, 2019 China company forces employees to crawl on road If you are one of those employees who fails to complete their targets on time, just thank the gods that you are not part of a Chinese company, which is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Workers from a Chinese company were recently forced to crawl on a road as punishment for failing to hit their year-end targets. The staff were on all fours as they made their way through the busy traffic with a man walking ahead of them holding a flag. Thankfully, the shocking process stopped when the police intervened, but not before the video made it online. In the video, it can be seen that the pedestrians were left shocked by the scene, as they witness the employees. According to reports, the company was temporarily shut down after the incident. After the video was posted, the incident received huge backlash over the insensitive behaviour. While someone commented saying, "I hope these companies which trample on their workers' dignity would be closed down." Some people also targeted the employees for silently accepting such kind of behaviour. People said, "How could they give up their dignity for money?" But this is not the first time that workers in a Chinese company were subjected to humiliating punishments. Remember when last year a footage of workers getting slapped for performing poorly went viral online? This is a prime example of taking insensitive behaviour and toxic workplace environment to despicable level. Source
  5. SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s plans for tax cuts targeting smaller companies will help to support employment and economic stability, and will expand the country’s tax base over the long term, Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as saying on Saturday. China's Premier Li Keqiang “Implementing tax cuts for small and micro enterprises is mainly to support employment,” Li said in comments posted on the Chinese government’s website. Developing and strengthening small companies is linked to economic stability and stable employment, he said. “Looking at the long term, this will continue to expand the tax base, conserve tax resources and ultimately achieve wins for mass employment, corporate profits and fiscal revenues,” he was quoted as saying, referring to the corporate tax cuts. Li’s comments come amid growing official concern over China’s slowing economic growth and its impact on the labor market. Chinese authorities plan to set a lower economic growth target of 6 to 6.5 percent in 2019, compared with “around” 6.5 percent in 2018, sources told Reuters, as weakening domestic demand and a damaging trade war with the United States drag on business activity and consumer confidence. Analysts expect that China’s economy grew around 6.6 percent last year, its slowest pace since 1990, and it is expected to cool further in coming months before a slew of support measures start to kick in. “The bottom line for the policymakers is social stability, which is crucially tied to the unemployment rate and job creation,” analysts at BoAML said in a recent note. “With U.S.-China trade risks still looming large, we believe policymakers would not hesitate to take pre-emptive measures to stabilize expectations on job stability.” More growth boosting steps are expected this year as policymakers seek to avert the risk of a sharper slowdown. China’s State Council, or cabinet, said on Jan. 9 that it would further reduce taxes for smaller companies. On Friday, Finance Minister Liu Kun said authorities would step up tax and fee cuts to lower corporate burdens. Source
  6. Times are tough in 2019 thanks to the US-China trade war and an escalating war of words between Washington and Beijing over tech leadership Chinese companies at CES all agreed though that while the trade war has adversely impacted their business in the US, it remains a very important market CES, the world’s largest client electronics commerce present held yearly in Las Vegas, has historically been an occasion for firms, from international names reminiscent of Sony, Samsung and Huawei to smaller Shenzhen-based suppliers, to indicate off their expertise, services – normally to an keen crowd. It has even been known as the ‘Chinese language Electronics Present’ lately due to the growing presence of members from China. However for Chinese language suppliers hoping to make use of the occasion as a technique to achieve new enterprise leads, occasions are robust in 2019 due to the US-China commerce struggle and an escalating disagreement between Washington and Beijing over management in a spread of innovative applied sciences and improvements, reminiscent of synthetic intelligence and 5G cell networks. China cools on world’s largest tech present as commerce struggle bites The US and China, the 2 largest economies on this planet, have slapped billions of {dollars} in tariffs on one another, sending markets reeling and commentators right into a frenzy over the long-term implications for US-China relations. However on the Design and Supply tent, the place part suppliers set out their wares, it was extra quiet then ordinary as rows of Chinese salespeople manning small cubicles stood forlornly in entrance of product shows, making an attempt exhausting to catch the attention of passers-by within the hope of snaring a sale. Chinese firms that the Publish spoke to at CES all agreed that the US-China commerce struggle has adversely impacted their enterprise with US clients, however all stated that whatever the lowering margins, the US market stays extraordinarily essential. “We’re positively affected by the tariffs, in actual fact certainly one of our large US clients is shifting their manufacturing operations outdoors of China to Vietnam to keep away from a rise in the price of doing enterprise,” stated Yuki, a saleswoman from Dongguan-based Ruiheng Digital Co. Ltd., which manufactures energy adaptors and circuit boards. Source
  7. New reports from The New York Times detail some of the mind-boggling statistics and gravity that the sensationally popular WeChat messaging app yields across China. In a separate report, the paper details a government led initiative to silence Chinese Twitter users via family related threats to even go so far as physically detaining violators. Although Twitter is blocked on China’s heavily censored internet, that isn’t halting President Xi Jinping’s efforts to eliminate what his government calls “suspicious internet activity”. The report recalls a specific interaction between a young Twitter violator who was caught by police. A Chinese Twitter user cried: As per the popularity of WeChat — the numbers are truly astounding. With approximately 800 million active internet users in China, there are over 1 billion active WeChat accounts. Basically, pretty much every single resident in China has at least one WeChat account, with many having multiple. If you’re unfamiliar with what exactly WeChat is, 9to5Mac’s Cam MacMurchy recently took a closer look at the expansive app, which you can read here. Source
  8. China’s internet censorship agency has approved a set of regulations for blockchain service providers in the country that will take effect in mid-February. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) published its new “Regulation for Managing Blockchain Information Services” on Thursday, defining blockchain information service providers as “entities or nodes” that offer information services to the public using blockchain technology via desktop sites or mobile apps. The rules become official on February 15, according to the release. Among the 23 articles listed in the document, one requires blockchain service providers to register with the CAC within 10 working days of starting to offer services to the public. The agency also mandates that blockchain startups must register their names, service types, industry fields and server addresses. Further, it bans startups from using blockchain technology to “produce, duplicate, publish, and disseminate” information or content that is prohibited by Chinese laws. If blockchain startups fail to comply with the rules, the CAC said it would first issue a warning, while failure to act within the specified timeline would bring a fine ranging from 5,000 yuan ($737) to 30,000 yuan ($4,422), depending upon the offense. The CAC first published draft rules in October of last year. At that time, one of the articles also recommended that blockchain startups operating in fields such as news reporting, publishing, education and the pharmaceutical industry must also obtain licenses from relevant authorities prior to registration with the CAC. The final rules have dropped this article altogether. Previously, blockchain technology has been utilized to bypass China’s strict internet censorship – often dubbed “The Great Firewall.” For example, as part of the #Metoo movement and a recent pharmaceutical scandal in the country, individuals posted information on the ethereum blockchain to avoid censorship. Source
  9. BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China and the United States made progress on “structural issues” such as forced technology transfers and intellectual property rights in talks this week and more consultations are being arranged, China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday. The three-day talks in Beijing that wrapped up on Wednesday were the first face-to-face negotiations since U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Buenos Aires in December and agreed on a 90-day truce in a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods. The negotiations were initially scheduled to last two days but went on for three because both sides were “serious” and “honest”, Gao Feng, spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, told a news conference. Asked about China’s stance on issues such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, tariff barriers and cyber attacks, and whether China was confident it could reach agreement with the United States, Gao said those issues “were an important part of this trade talk”. “There has been progress in these areas,” he said. He did not elaborate. The United States has presented China with a long list of demands that would rewrite the terms of trade between the world’s two largest economies. They include changes to China’s policies on intellectual property protection, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and other non-tariff barriers to trade. China has repeatedly played down complaints about intellectual property abuses, and has rejected accusations that foreign companies face forced technology transfer. Nearly halfway into the 90-day truce, there have been few concrete details on any progress made. Gao did not address questions on what demands both sides raised, or if the United States had agreed to drop its plan to implement additional tariffs by the March 2 deadline. In a brief statement earlier, the ministry said the talks were extensive, and helped establish a foundation for the resolution of each others’ concerns, but gave no details. On Wednesday, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office (USTR) said officials from the two sides discussed “ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations”, and focused on China’s pledge to buy a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured, and other products and services from the United States”. At stake are scheduled U.S. tariff increase on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Trump has said he would increase those duties to 25 percent from 10 percent if no deal is reached by March 2, and has threatened to tax all imports from China if it fails to cede to U.S. demands. U.S. officials have long complained that China has failed to live up to trade promises, often citing pledges to resume imports of American beef that took more than a decade to implement. No schedule for further face-to-face negotiations was released after the talks. The USTR said the American delegation was returning to Washington to report on the meetings and “receive guidance on the next steps”. Both sides agreed to maintain close contact, the Chinese commerce ministry said. “For the next step, work teams from both sides will continue to work hard and push forward consultations as originally planned,” Gao said. CORE ISSUES Since the Trump-Xi meeting in Argentina, China resumed purchases of U.S. soybeans. Buying had slumped after China imposed a 25 percent import duty on U.S. shipments of oilseed on July 6 in response to U.S. tariffs. China has also cut tariffs on U.S. cars, dialled back on an industrial development plan known as “Made in China 2025”, and told its state refiners to buy more U.S. oil. Earlier this week, China approved five genetically modified (GM) crops for import, the first in about 18 months, which could boost its overseas grains purchases and ease U.S. pressure to open its markets to more farm goods. Big spending on commodities and goods would send a positive signal on China’s intent to work with the United States, but would do nothing to resolve the U.S. demands that require difficult structural change from China. China has said it will not give up ground on issues that it perceives as core. One of the biggest challenges to any deal would be to ensure that China enforces whatever is agreed to stop technology transfers, intellectual property theft and hacking of U.S. computer networks. Source
  10. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China has pledged to purchase “a substantial amount” of agricultural, energy and manufactured goods and services from the United States, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Wednesday after U.S.-China trade talks wrapped up in Beijing. In a statement that gave few details on the specific outcomes of the latest talks, USTR said the two sides discussed “ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations between our two countries.” U.S. and Chinese officials also discussed issues related to intellectual property protections and the need for any agreement that resolves the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies “to provide for complete implementation subject to ongoing verification and effective enforcement,” USTR said. The meetings this week were the first face-to-face talks since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in December to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has roiled global financial markets. If no deal is reached by March 2, Trump has said he will proceed with raising tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, at a time when China’s economy is slowing significantly. Beijing has already retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. products. Companies in both countries are feeling pain from the effects of the tariffs. Apple Inc rattled global markets last week by cutting its sales outlook, blaming weak demand in China. Source
  11. December 25, 2018 Image used for representational purpose only. December 25, 2018 BEIJING: Police have detained an unemployed man who hijacked a bus in southeastern China after a dispute with a neighbourhood official that resulted in eight people being killed, state media reported. The 48-year-old man, with the family name Qiu, hijacked the bus on Tuesday (Dec 25) afternoon in Longyan in the southeastern province of Fujian, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Tuesday. "The initial police investigation showed that on that day, the suspect had a conflict with an official of the neighbourhood committee, with whom he had long been at odds, during the official's visit to his home," Xinhua said. "He then attacked people with a knife, hijacked a bus and used it to hit pedestrians," it said. As well as the eight people killed, 22 others were injured, one seriously, the report said. The government had initially put the death toll at five. Pictures on Chinese social media, picked up by some Chinese news outlets, showed a chaotic scene on the street, with crushed motor-bikes and injured people on the ground. Source Source
  12. BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU governments voted on Tuesday to impose duties on Chinese electric bicycles to curb cheap imports that European producers say benefit from unfair subsidies and are flooding the market, EU sources familiar with the case said. The European Commission, which is investigating on behalf of the 28 EU members, has proposed that definitive or final tariffs of between 18.8 and 79.3 percent should apply for all e-bikes coming from China. The anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties are the latest in a series of EU measures against Chinese exports ranging from solar panels to steel, which have sparked strong words from Beijing. Unlike the United States, the European Union has not launched a trade war against China, but it shares U.S. concerns about forced technology transfers and Chinese state subsidies. The electric bicycle imports are already subject to the duties set on a provisional basis in July. Definitive duties typically apply for five years. Taiwan’s Giant, one of the world’s largest bicyclemakers, which has factories in China as well as in the Netherlands, would be subject to a rate of 24.8 percent. The Commission found Chinese exports of e-bikes to the European Union more than tripled from 2014 until September 2017. Their market share rose to 35 percent, while their average prices fell by 11 percent. It has also said Chinese producers benefit from controlled aluminum prices as well as advantageous financing and land rights conditions and tax breaks. EU producers include Dutch groups Accell and Gazelle, Romania’s Eurosport DHS and Germany’s Derby Cycle Holding. Source
  13. A panel of censors set up to vet mobile video games in China has signalled it will be hard to please. State media reports that of the first 20 titles it assessed, nine were refused permission to go on sale. The Xinhua news agency added that developers of the other 11 had been told they had to make adjustments to remove "controversial content". There has been a clampdown on new video game releases in the country since March. The authorities have voiced concerns about the violent nature of some titles as well as worries about the activity being addictive. President Xi Jinping has also called for more to be done to tackle a rise in near-sightedness among the young - something that the country's ministry of education has linked to children playing video games at the cost of spending time on outdoor pastimes. It was announced in August that a new body - the State Administration of Press and Publications - had taken over responsibility for approving games and that it would limit the number of online titles available. And although it has not been specified, some experts are assuming that the new panel will operate under its auspices. Games backlog Until an announcement by China's Communist Party's central committee on Friday, the online video games review panel's existence had not been made public. Xinhua said it is comprised of gaming experts, government-employed researchers, and representatives from the media and video games industry. But it provided no other information about who they were or the titles they had already examined. Nor was there any hint of when the freeze on new releases might end. The Wall Street Journal suggested publishers might have to wait until at least March after the next annual meeting of parliament. Analysts appear split over how to interpret the latest development. A research note from the US-based Jefferies Financial Group described the move as being "progressive" and speculated that a timetable for approved video games releases would soon follow. But South Korea's Kiwoom Securities said the committee's existence indicated that the Chinese government intended to tighten regulation of the industry. One industry-watcher observed there was a big backlog to clear, meaning it could be a long while before matters settled down. "China is the biggest games market globally - there had always been some stiffness of regulation around certain games but the mobile space had been relatively unscathed from that and there seemed to be a lot more freedom for smartphone titles," said Piers Harding-Rolls, research company IHS Markit's games expert. "But you now have a new organisation and what sounds like more stringent criteria. "There will be a learning process involved in that for publishers and I think we could be waiting six to 12 months before things return to some sort of normality." Source
  14. BEIJING/OTTAWA (Reuters) - China warned Canada on Saturday that there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] chief financial officer, calling the case “extremely nasty.” Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s global chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions. The executive is the daughter of the founder of Huawei. If extradited to the United States, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, a Canadian court heard on Friday, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge. No decision was reached at the extradition hearing after nearly six hours of arguments and counter-arguments, and the hearing was adjourned until Monday. In a short statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said that Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng had issued the warning to release Meng to Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, summoning him to lodge a “strong protest.” There was no immediate reaction from the office of Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Saturday. When asked about the possible Chinese backlash after the arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday that Canada has a very good relationship with Beijing. Canada’s arrest of Meng at the request of the United States while she was changing plane in Vancouver was a serious breach of her lawful rights, Le said. The move “ignored the law, was unreasonable” and was in its very nature “extremely nasty,” he added. “China strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detained person, and earnestly protect their lawful, legitimate rights, otherwise Canada must accept full responsibility for the serious consequences caused.” The statement did not elaborate. “There will probably be a deep freeze with the Chinese in high-level visits and exchanges,” David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, said on Friday. “The ability to talk about free trade will be put in the ice box for a while. But we’re going to have to live with that. That’s the price of dealing with a country like China.” Meng’s arrest was on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump met in Argentina with China’s Xi Jinping to look for ways to resolve an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies. The news of her arrest has roiled stock markets and drawn condemnation from Chinese authorities, although Trump and his top economic advisers have played down its importance to trade talks after the two leaders agreed to a truce. A Huawei spokesman said on Friday the company has “every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach the right conclusion.” The company has said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and other regulations. Source
  15. BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke on Tuesday with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, exchanging views on pushing forward the next stage of trade talks, China’s Commerce Ministry said. Source
  16. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-China trade negotiations need to reach a successful end by March 1 or new tariffs will be imposed, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Sunday, clarifying there is a “hard deadline” after a week of seeming confusion among President Donald Trump and his advisers. Global markets are jittery about a collision between the world’s two largest economic powers over China’s huge trade surplus with the United States and U.S. claims that China is stealing intellectual property and technology. “As far as I am concerned it is a hard deadline. When I talk to the president of the United States he is not talking about going beyond March,” Lighthizer said on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” referring to President Donald Trump’s recent decision to delay new tariffs while talks proceed. “The way this is set up is that at the end of 90 days, these tariffs will be raised,” said Lighthizer, who has been tapped to lead the talks and appeared to tamp down expectations that the negotiation period could be extended. After a turbulent week in markets, investors “can be reassured that if there is a deal that can be made that will assure the protection of U.S. technology...and get additional market access...the president wants us to do it,” Lighthizer said. “If not we will have tariffs.” In Argentina last weekend, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce that delayed the planned Jan. 1 U.S. hike of tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods while they negotiate a trade deal. However, the arrest of a top executive at China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] has roiled global markets amid fears that it could further inflame the China-U.S. trade row. In Beijing on Sunday, China’s foreign ministry protested the arrest to the U.S. ambassador. In a series of appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, Lighthizer, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser Peter Navarro insisted the trade talks with China would not be derailed by the arrest, which they deemed solely a law enforcement matter. U.S. equity markets have staked much on the outcome of the talks. Stocks climbed early in the week on optimism tensions between the two sides were easing, then cratered after Trump claimed he was a “tariff man” after all. He also seemed to indicate the talks could be extended. But Lighthizer, in his first comments since being appointed to lead the negotiations, said the United States will need concessions across a number of areas in coming weeks if the higher tariffs are to be voided. That includes demands for increased purchases of U.S. goods in a more open Chinese market, as well as “structural changes” to a system that, for example, forces American firms to turn over technology to Chinese partners as a condition of doing business. “We need agricultural sales and we need manufacturing sales. We need structural changes on this fundamental issue of non-economic technology transfer,” Lighthizer said. The demands are similar to those made under previous Democratic and Republican presidents, but Lighthizer said he felt Trump’s willingness to go beyond “dialogue” and impose tariffs will produce results. Source
  17. The B.C. government is suspending a trade mission to China due to an ongoing court case against a senior Huawei executive arrested earlier this month in Vancouver. The B.C. government is suspending a trade mission to China due to an ongoing court case against a senior Huawei executive arrested earlier this month in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested Dec. 1 at Vancouver International Airport while en route to Mexico and is being sought for extradition to the U.S. on allegations of fraud. It’s alleged the tech giant used a subsidiary named Skycom to conduct business with an Iranian telecommunications company, a violation of U.S. sanctions against trade with Iran. Meng is accused of misrepresenting Huawei’s connection with Skycom to several banks involved in the case, leading to one bank clearing more than $100 million dollars worth of transactions. In a statement shared Sunday, B.C. Minister of Trade Bruce Ralston said a number of upcoming meetings in China would be rescheduled. The meetings were a part of an ongoing trade mission in Asia. “The Province of British Columbia has suspended the China leg of its Asian forestry trade mission due to the international judicial process underway relating to a senior official at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.,” read the statement. “British Columbia values its strong trade relationship with China, one based on mutual respect and close economic and cultural ties that have been established over many decades. Our forest products industry remains committed to our relationship with our valued Chinese customers.” The mission was being led by Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson and included a number of industry representatives. The team has already completed a series of meetings in South Korea and will wrap up its schedule meetings in Japan on Tuesday after which the trade delegation will return to Canada. The cancelled Chinese meetings will be rescheduled “at the earliest convenient moment,” according to Ralston’s statement. Meng, who father is the founder of the company, returns to court on Monday to continue seeking bail. She was arrested using a provisional arrest warrant issued by a New York state judge in August. A federal Justice Department lawyer had argued that Meng’s vast resources and lack of meaningful connection to Canada made her a flight risk, while Meng’s defence lawyer said she would do no such thing to prevent humiliation to her family. Some commentators have likened Meng’s arrest to the hypothetical detention in China of a Mark Zuckerberg sibling or a cousin of Steve Jobs, with one even describing Meng as being an Ivanka Trump-like figure in her father’s company. Source
  18. BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s foreign ministry called in the U.S. ambassador on Sunday to lodge a “strong protest” over the arrest in Canada of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] chief financial officer, and said the United States should withdraw its arrest warrant. Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s global chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions. The executive is also the daughter of the founder of Huawei. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told U.S. ambassador Terry Branstad that the United States had made an “unreasonable demand” on Canada to detain Meng while she was passing through Vancouver, China’s Foreign Ministry said. “The actions of the U.S. seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty,” Le told Branstad, comments similar to those he made to Canada’s ambassador the night before. China strongly urges the United States to pay attention to China’s solemn and just position and withdraw the arrest warrant on Meng, Le added. “China will respond further depending on U.S. actions,” he said, without elaborating. Le also told the Canadian ambassador on Saturday that there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Meng. Source
  19. BEIJING (Reuters) - China reported far weaker than expected November exports and imports, showing slower global and domestic demand and raising the possibility authorities will take more measures to keep the country’s growth rate from slipping too much. November exports only rose 5.4 percent from a year earlier, Chinese customs data showed on Saturday, the weakest performance since a 3 percent contraction in March, and well short of the 10 percent forecast in a Reuters poll. Analysts say the export data showed that the “front-loading” impact as firms rushed out shipments to beat planned U.S. tariff hikes faded, and that export growth is likely to slow further as demand cools. The customs data showed that annual growth for exports to all of China’s major partners slowed significantly. Exports to the United States rose 9.8 percent in November from a year earlier, compared with 13.2 percent in October. To the European Union, shipments increased 6.0 percent, compared with 14.6 percent in October. Exports to South Korea fell from a year earlier, while in October they rose 7.7 percent. SLOWEST IMPORT GROWTH SINCE 2016 Import growth was 3 percent, the slowest since October 2016, and a fraction of the 14.5 percent seen in the poll. Imports of iron ore fell for a second time, reflecting waning restocking demand at steel-mills as profit margins narrow. “The sluggishness in imports and exports is in full swing,” said Wang Jun, chief economist of Zhongyuan Bank in Beijing. The soft imports “show a relatively significant pullback in domestic demand”, he added. In recent months, Chinese exports had expanded robustly, which economists said reflected front-loading of cargoes before a now-postponed plan to hike U.S. tariffs of $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on Jan. 1. The November trade numbers came out less than a week after Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day truce delaying that tariff hike as they negotiate a trade deal. November’s China numbers might add a sense of urgency. Stirring fears of a reignition of trade tension, the daughter of Huawei Technologies’ founder, a top executive at the Chinese technology giant, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 and faces extradition to the United States, threatening to drive a wedge between the U.S. and China. TALKS ‘GOING VERY WELL’ U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday sounded an optimistic note about trade negotiations with China as his top economic advisers downplayed friction from the arrest of Meng Wanzhou. “China talks are going very well,” Trump said on Twitter, without providing any details. In a note, analysts at Haitong Securities in Shanghai said “Growth in shipments of Chinese goods on U.S. 200 billion tariff list has started to pull back, indicating that frontloading effects may be starting to recede.” “Now with U.S. and China agreeing not to escalate trade tensions any longer, China will start purchasing U.S. agricultural goods, which may narrow China-U.S. trade surplus in the future,” they said. China’s November trade surplus with the United States was a record $35.55 billion. The October surplus was $31.78 billion. But China’s imports from the U.S. in November fell 25 percent from a year earlier, while the annual decline in October was only 1.8 percent. For trade with all countries, China’s surplus was $44.74 billion for November, compared with forecasts of $34 billion and October’s surplus of $34.02 billion. On Thursday, the U.S. reported that its global trade deficit in October jumped to a 10-year high, and that the deficit with China surged 7.1 percent to a record $43.1 billion. THE WEAKER YUAN Economists say one factor helping keep up Chinese exports this year is that the yuan CNY=CFXS has weakened more than 5 percent against the dollar, helping to make Chinese products more competitive abroad. Jonas Short, head of the Beijing office of brokerage Everbright Sun Hung Kai, said the weaker yuan “should boost industrial exports over the coming months. Typically there is a six-month lag between the value of industrial export orders and currency movements.” Economists in recent months have penciled in a deterioration in China’s export outlook in 2019, factoring in higher U.S. tariffs on a wider range of Chinese goods. Chinese policymakers are expected to offer more policy support and deliver more support measures if domestic and external conditions continue to deteriorate. China’s central bank has cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves four times this year, as policymakers seek to steady the slowing economy amid the trade war with the United States. The government aims for growth of around 6.5 percent this year, compared with 2017’s 6.9 percent pace. Yang Yewei, an analyst at Southwest Securities in Beijing, said that as global demand cools, “domestic growth-boosting measures should be more effective”. Source
  20. Gamers fear Valve’s PC gaming platform will be heavily restricted in China Valve officially signs with Shanghai’s government to launch Steam China in Shanghai, as well as bringing the next The International for Dota 2 to the city. Right now, the global version Steam is in a weird position in China. It’s not officially approved for the country, and yet it’s there -- despite the fact that China has blocked thousands of websites ranging from Facebook, Google to Twitch, Steam somehow remains accessible. But Steam hasn’t been immune to China’s censorship, either. Chinese regulators have blocked Steam’s community feature and applied pressure on Valve to ensure the storefront is as compliant as it can be. Now gamers worry that the official version of Steam China -- which will presumably contain a much more limited subset of games, the ones that are approved for sale in China -- will mean that the government will shut off access to the global version. Not helping the tension -- the Chinese government’s moves to tighten its grip on gaming. It’s planning tough new regulations to curb video game addiction and myopia. And it has not approved any new games since March. Since new games can’t be published through other legitimate channels, more and more gamers and game publishers alike inside China turn to the global version of Steam. The biggest example? PUBG. The game quickly became a viral sensation around the world, but wasn’t officially available in China -- so Chinese gamers flocked to Steam, buying 15 million copies. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a "battle royale" shooting game. It's a little like the Hunger Games: 100 players have to scavenge for weapons and kill everyone else to be the last player standing. The surprising success of The Scroll of Taiwu is another case in point. The small-budget indie game, only available in Chinese, ranked among Steam’s top-sellers for weeks. Shocked by their own success, the developers said that they chose to publish the title on Steam given China’s approval freeze. A developer said, “My team has an urgent need to survive.” Within three hours following the announcement of Steam China, posts linked to its related hashtag have been read over 5 million times on Weibo. Weibo is a Twitter-like microblogging service used by hundreds of millions of users. Launched by Sina in 2009, it regularly censors topics deemed sensitive or inappropriate by the Chinese government. Many netizens say that they are bleeding green blood following the news. Why green blood? Because blood and violence is censored in Chinese games, the color of blood in video games in China is often changed to green. A Weibo user sardonically wrote, “Pow! And I spit out a mouthful of green blood. Source
  21. Xi Jinping and Donald Trump discussed a range of issues — among them the trade dispute that has left over $200 billion worth of goods hanging in the balance. "President Trump has agreed that on January 1, 2019, he will leave the tariffs on $200 billion worth of product at the 10 percent rate, and not raise it to 25 percent at this time," the White House said. Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump put their bilateral trade war on pause momentarily, striking an agreement to hold off on slapping additional tariffs on each other's goods after January 1, as talks continue between both countries. In a White House readout of a dinner at the G-20 summit in Argentina, Xi and Trump discussed a range of nettlesome issues — among them the trade dispute that has left over $200 billion worth of goods hanging in the balance. "President Trump has agreed that on January 1, 2019, he will leave the tariffs on $200 billion worth of product at the 10 percent rate, and not raise it to 25 percent at this time," the statement read. Over the next 90 days, American and Chinese officials will continue to negotiate lingering disagreements on technology transfer, intellectual property and agriculture. "Both parties agree that they will endeavor to have this transaction completed within the next 90 days. If at the end of this period of time, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the 10 percent tariffs will be raised to 25 percent," the statement added. Meanwhile, "China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries. China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately," the White House said. Xi also plans to designate Fentanyl as a controlled substance, according to the statement. As the U.S. opioid crisis continues to rage, it would suggest that people selling the drug to parties in the U.S. would be subject to stiff penalties in China. The Trump administration had threatened to more than double the tariffs it has already slapped on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, while Xi's government has put targeted tariffs on $110 billion in U.S. goods. The standoff has raised fears among investors and businesses that the global economy could be dragged down by the dispute between the world's two largest economies. Trump, who made U.S. trade policy a central plank of his platform as a presidential candidate in 2016, wants to address specific gripes with China's trade practices, especially its alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property. Trump touted the G-20 meeting thus far as a "great success" in a pair of tweets Saturday. But he postponed a press conference, which was scheduled to follow a summit meeting, until after the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, who died at age 94 on Friday. In a joint declaration, the group of nations said the current multilateral trading system is "falling short of its objectives and there is room for improvement," and supported reforms to the World Trade Organization. Source
  22. The secrecy surrounding the work was unheard of at Google. It was not unusual for planned new products to be closely guarded ahead of launch. But this time was different. The objective, code-named Dragonfly, was to build a search engine for China that would censor broad categories of information about human rights, democracy, and peaceful protest. In February 2017, during one of the first group meetings about Dragonfly at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California, some of those present were left stunned by what they heard. Senior executives disclosed that the search system’s infrastructure would be reliant upon a Chinese partner company with data centers likely in Beijing or Shanghai. Locating core parts of the search system on the Chinese mainland meant that people’s search records would be easily accessible to China’s authoritarian government, which has broad surveillance powers that it routinely deploys to target activists, journalists, and political opponents. Yonatan Zunger, then a 14-year veteran of Google and one of the leading engineers at the company, was among a small group who had been asked to work on Dragonfly. He was present at some of the early meetings and said he pointed out to executives managing the project that Chinese people could be at risk of interrogation or detention if they were found to have used Google to seek out information banned by the government. Scott Beaumont, Google’s head of operations in China and one of the key architects of Dragonfly, did not view Zunger’s concerns as significant enough to merit a change of course, according to four people who worked on the project. Beaumont and other executives then shut out members of the company’s security and privacy team from key meetings about the search engine, the four people said, and tried to sideline a privacy review of the plan that sought to address potential human rights abuses. Zunger — who left his position at Google last year — is one of the four people who spoke to The Intercept for this story. He is the first person with direct involvement in Dragonfly to go on the record about the project. The other three who spoke to The Intercept are still employed by Google and agreed to share information on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Their accounts provide extraordinary insight into how Google bosses worked to suppress employee criticism of the censored search engine and reveal deep fractures inside the company over the China plan dating back almost two years. Google’s leadership considered Dragonfly so sensitive that they would often communicate only verbally about it and would not take written notes during high-level meetings to reduce the paper trail, two sources said. Only a few hundred of Google’s 88,000 workforce were briefed about the censorship plan. Some engineers and other staff who were informed about the project were told that they risked losing their jobs if they dared to discuss it with colleagues who were themselves not working on Dragonfly. “They [leadership] were determined to prevent leaks about Dragonfly from spreading through the company,” said a current Google employee with knowledge of the project. “Their biggest fear was that internal opposition would slow our operations.” In 2016, a handful of Google executives — including CEO Sundar Pichai and former search chief John Giannandrea — began discussing a blueprint for the censored search engine. But it was not until early 2017 that engineers were brought on board to begin developing a prototype of the platform. The search engine was designed to comply with the strict censorship regime imposed by China’s ruling Communist Party, blacklisting thousands of words and phrases, including terms such as “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize.” It was developed as an app for Android and iOS devices, and would link people’s search records to their personal cellphone number and track their location. (Giannandrea could not be reached for comment.) The company managed to keep the plan secret for more than 18 months — until The Intercept disclosed it in August. Subsequently, a coalition of 14 leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, condemned the censored search engine, which they said could result in Google “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.” Employees who opposed the censorship staged protests inside the company. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators called Dragonfly “deeply troubling,” and Vice President Mike Pence demanded that Google “immediately end” its development. Google employees who had worked on Dragonfly watched the furor unfold and were not surprised by the backlash. Many of the concerns raised by the human rights groups, they noted, had already been voiced inside the company prior to the public exposure of the plans, though they had been brushed aside by management. Every new product or service that Google develops must be reviewed by legal, privacy, and security teams, who try to identify any potential issues or problems ahead of the launch. But with Dragonfly, the normal procedure was not followed: Company executives appeared intent on watering down the privacy review, according to the four people who worked on the project. In January 2017, Zunger, the 14-year veteran engineer at the company, had been tasked with producing the privacy review. However, it quickly became apparent to him that his job was not going to be easy. His work was opposed from the outset by Beaumont, Google’s top executive for China and Korea. Beaumont, a British citizen, began his career in 1994 as an analyst for an investment bank in England and later founded his own company called Refresh Mobile, which developed apps for smartphones. He joined Google in 2009, working from London as director of the company’s partnerships in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In 2013, Beaumont relocated to China to head Google’s operations there. He described himself in his LinkedIn biography as a “technology optimist” who cares about “the value and responsible use of technology in a range of fields.” According to Zunger, Beaumont “wanted the privacy review [of Dragonfly] to be pro forma and thought it should defer entirely to his views of what the product ought to be. He did not feel that the security, privacy, and legal teams should be able to question his product decisions, and maintained an openly adversarial relationship with them — quite outside the Google norm.” Three sources independently corroborated Zunger’s account. Beaumont did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and Google declined to answer questions for this story. During one meeting, Zunger recalled, Beaumont was briefed on aspects of Dragonfly that Google’s privacy and security teams planned to assess. He was told that the teams wanted to check whether the Chinese search system would be secure against state and non-state hackers, whether users in China would have control over their own data, and whether there may have been any aspects of the system that might cause users to unintentionally disclose information about themselves. “I don’t know if I want you asking those questions,” Beaumont retorted, according to Zunger, who said the comment was “quite surprising to those in the room.” Beaumont micromanaged the project and ensured that discussions about Dragonfly and access to documents about it were tightly controlled. “Different teams on the Dragonfly project were actively segmented off from one another and discouraged from communicating, except via Scott’s own team, even about technical issues,” said Zunger. This was “highly unusual,” according to Zunger. Normally, even for extremely confidential work inside the company, he said, there would be “open and regular communication within a project, all the way up to senior leadership.” With Dragonfly, the opposite was true. The restrictions around the project limited the ability for discussion and seemed intended “to prevent internal objections,” Zunger said. Some members of the Dragonfly team were told that if they broke the strict confidentiality rules, then their contracts at Google would be terminated, according to three sources. Despite facing resistance, the privacy and security teams — which together included a total of between six and eight people — proceeded with their work. Zunger and his colleagues produced a privacy report that highlighted problematic scenarios that could arise once the censored search engine launched in China. The report, which contained more than a dozen pages, concluded that Google would be expected to function in China as part of the ruling Communist Party’s authoritarian system of policing and surveillance. It added that, unlike in Europe or North America, in China it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Google to legally push back against government requests, refuse to build systems specifically for surveillance, or even notify people of how their data may be used. Zunger had planned to share the privacy report and discuss its findings during a meeting with the company’s senior leadership, including CEO Sundar Pichai. But the meeting was repeatedly postponed. When the meeting did finally take place, in late June 2017, Zunger and members of Google’s security team were not notified, so they missed it and did not attend. Zunger felt that this was a deliberate attempt to exclude them. By this point, Zunger had already decided to leave Google, due to a job offer he had received from Humu, a startup company co-founded by Laszlo Bock, Google’s former head of human resources, and Wayne Crosby, Google’s former director of engineering. Had Zunger not received the offer to join Humu when he did, he said, he would likely have ended up resigning in protest from Google over Dragonfly. “The project, as it was then specified, was not something I could sign off on in good conscience,” he told The Intercept. Zunger does not know what happened to the privacy report after he left Google. He said Google still has time to address the problems he and his colleagues identified, and he hopes that the company will “end up with a Project Dragonfly that does something genuinely positive and valuable for the ordinary people of China.” Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006 but stopped operating the service in the country in 2010, saying it could no longer tolerate Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack activists’ Gmail accounts. At that time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin had advocated inside the company to pull out of China because he was uncomfortable with the level of government censorship and surveillance. The “key issue,” Brin said, was to show that Google was “opposing censorship and speaking out for the freedom of political dissent.” The Dragonfly revelations prompted questions about whether Brin had dramatically reversed his views on censorship in China. But in a meeting with Google employees in August, Brin claimed that he knew nothing about Dragonfly until The Intercept exposed it. According to three sources, employees working on Dragonfly were told by Beaumont, the company’s China chief, that Brin had met with senior Chinese government officials and had told them of his desire to re-enter the Chinese market, obeying local laws as necessary. However, the Dragonfly teams were instructed that they were not permitted to discuss the issue directly with Brin or other members of Google’s senior leadership team, including Pichai, co-founder Larry Page, and legal chief Kent Walker. Two sources working on Dragonfly believed that Beaumont may have misrepresented Brin’s position in an attempt to reassure the employees working on Dragonfly that the effort was fully supported at the highest levels of the company, when that may not have been the truth. “How much did Sergey know? I am guessing very little,” said one source, “because I think Scott [Beaumont] went to great lengths to ensure that was the case.” Inside Google, a deep ideological divide has developed over Dragonfly. On one side are those who view themselves as aligned with Google’s founding values, advocating internet freedom, openness, and democracy. On the other side are those who believe that the company should prioritize growth of the business and expansion into new markets, even if doing so means making compromises on issues like internet censorship and surveillance. Pichai, who became Google’s CEO in 2015, has made it clear where he stands. He has strongly backed Dragonfly and spoken of his desire for the company to return to China and serve the country’s people. In October, Pichai publicly defended the plan for the censored search engine for the first time, though he tried to play down the significance of the project, portraying it as an “experiment” and adding that it remained unclear whether the company “would or could” eventually launch it in China. Staff working on Dragonfly were confused by Pichai’s comments. They had been told to prepare the search engine for launch between January and April 2019, or sooner. The main barrier to launch, the employees were told, was the ongoing U.S. trade war with China, which had slowed down negotiations with government officials in Beijing, whose approval Google required to roll out the platform in the country. “What Pichai said [about Dragonfly being an experiment] was ultimately horse shit,” said one Google source with knowledge of the project. “This was run with 100 percent intention of launch from day one. He was just trying to walk back a delicate political situation.” The launch plan was outlined during a July meeting for employees who were working on Dragonfly. The company’s search chief, Ben Gomes, instructed engineers to get the search engine ready to be “brought off the shelf and quickly deployed.” Beaumont told employees in the same meeting that he was pleased with how things were developing for the company in the country, according to a previously undisclosed transcript of his comments obtained by The Intercept. “There has been a really positive change in tone towards Google during [Pichai’s] recent visits” to China, Beaumont said. “Part of our task over the past few years has been to re-establish that Google can be a trusted operator in China. And we’ve really seen a pleasing turnaround, relatively recently in the last couple of years. We are fairly confident that, outside of the trade discussions, there is a positive consensus across government entities to allow Google to re-engage in China.” A few weeks later, details about Dragonfly were emblazoned across international newspapers and the internet, and the company was scrambling to contain the outpouring of internal and external protest. Beaumont was furious that information about the project had leaked, said two sources familiar with his thinking, and he told colleagues that he feared the disclosures may have scuppered the prospect of Google launching the platform in the short term. “[Beaumont’s] endgame was very simple — his ideal circumstance was that most people would find out about this project the day it launched,” said one Google source. “He wanted to make sure there would be no opportunity for any internal or external resistance to Dragonfly, but he failed.” Source
  23. Hope that free lunch was delicious WHEN JANET JACKSON and Luther Vandross sang that "the best things in life are free", they probably didn't have VPN apps in mind, given the year was 1992 and the song was recorded for a 5.5-rated crime comedy caper. Just as well, because if you currently do get your VPN fix free of charge, it's worth considering what the payoff might involve. As the old adage says: if you're not paying for the product, you are the product. According to a new investigation from Metric Labs - the company behind Top10VPN - the majority of the top-ranking free VPN apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store are either based in China, or have some kind of Chinese ownership. If that doesn't immediately raise a flag as red as China's, this is why it should: the Chinese government has been clamping down on VPN software in recent years, and any private data funnelled through them may well not remain private for long. In all, 17 out of the 30 apps analysed had links to China, and 86 per cent had huge privacy issues to boot. Some simply provided no information about whether data was logged or shared with third parties, while others used generic privacy policies with no relevance to VPNs. Others had no policy at all, but several explicitly revealed sharing information with China. If these weren't alarming enough, the professionalism of the outfits should also be called into question. 64 per cent didn't have a dedicated website, with several having no online presence at all. 55 cent of those that bothered with a privacy policy stuck them on a WordPress site with ads, or whacked them straight into a file on PasteBin. And 52 per cent of support email addresses used free, personal domains like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Oh, and 83 per cent ignored emails sent to them. While none of these things are proof of dubious practices, it should at least give you pause for thought. If you care enough about privacy to download a VPN, maybe pay the people you're relying on protecting it in future? Source
  24. Employees are asking management to end the project, citing human rights concerns. Google workers signed a public letter asking their company’s management to cancel controversial plans to build a censored version of the company’s search product in China, referred to as Project Dragonfly. “Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” the letter reads. It goes on to state that the project “comes as the Chinese government is openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control” and “would establish a dangerous precedent, at a volatile political moment.” The letter is in support of Amnesty International’s public campaign against the project, which includes planned protests outside several Google offices today. About nine workers have signed the letter so far, including two of the organizers of the recent Google Walkout protests. This isn’t the first time Google employees have taken issue with Google’s ambitions to build a censored search app for China. But it’s the first time employees have publicly called for it to end. In August, around 1,400 employees signed a letter internally raising ethical concerns about the project. The app was reportedly designed to blacklist phrases such as “human rights,” “Nobel Prize,” and “student protest,” according to the Intercept, which first reported on its existence. Several employees including a senior research scientist resigned over the issue. There has also been increasing pressure to end the project from U.S. politicians. Six senators have asked for more information about the project and Vice President Mike Pence publicly criticized the project, saying that it “will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers” and called on Google to halt development. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has defended the company’s decision to enter the Chinese market, arguing that the company is always balancing its values when abiding by local laws in other countries. “We are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world’s population.” said Pichai speaking at the WIRED25 conference last month. Google previously cancelled plans to expand its business to China in 2010 over concerns about the government’s involvement in cyber attacks and regulations on citizens’ free speech. In the past year, Google employees have become increasingly outspoken about ethical implications of how the company’s technology is used. In April, thousands of employees criticized the company’s involvement in a project with the Pentagon to use Google artificial intelligence technology for military purposes. Two months later, the company decided not to renew that contract. Source
  25. The Chinese are making doubly sure public displays of displeasure with their totalitarian regime such as occurred in Tiananmen Square in 1989 will never be repeated. They are instituting a technological surveillance program so pervasive that when completed -- quite soon, it seems -- it will enforce conformity throughout their giant country on a scale that would stupefy Orwell and Huxley. China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident. The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult. The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan. Bloomberg has more to say about this incipient "brave new world." The final version of China’s national social credit system remains uncertain. But as rules forcing social networks and internet providers to remove anonymity get increasingly enforced and facial recognition systems become more popular with policing bodies, authorities are likely to find everyone from internet dissenters to train-fare skippers easier to catch -- and punish -- than ever before. Bad news for Winston Smith. Or is it Winston Chang? Thank God, it's China! Or is it? Perhaps the Chinese are only being public, and therefore somewhat more honest and transparent, about their plans and the world in which we all already live. After all, when it comes to technological surveillance, they are merely playing catch-up to our NSA, which has been monitoring us all for decades with only sporadic protest. Does the NSA have their own form of a rating system? We don't know, but they surely have some way -- various algorithms, one assumes -- for deciding who deserves more attention. Meanwhile, Google -- lord on high of the internet -- works with the NSA through the PRISM program and with the Chinese on a new China-only search engine that will be subject to Communist Party regulation, an equal opportunity silicon behemoth. Google's experience with NSA makes this outreach to the Chinese almost seamless. When you think about it, the similarity of approach and method is blood-curdling. It wouldn't be surprising if important components of the new surveillance technology for this latest Chinese initiative to control the behavior of their entire population were "borrowed" in part from Google. What does this all mean to us -- the common man and woman of the USA (and elsewhere really)? Whether we choose to think about it or not, almost all of us realize we have no private life any more, no secrets the government couldn't easily ascertain should it be the slightest bit interested. Even a presidential candidate was not exempt from such surveillance. What possibility do we have? This has already been factored into our personalities and behaviors, at the very least unconsciously, in ways we can only begin to guess as it is now such a mundane occurrence. I would imagine many phenomena such as political correctness and its attendant virtue signaling are amplified by the knowledge that we are constantly observed. It also contributes to the extraordinary uniformity and group think pervading our educational system and media. The employees of Google themselves behave much like a cult, eager to drum out the mildest of apostates. The self-styled social justice warriors on our campuses act similarly, ever searching for the most "victimized" person as the eye in the sky watches and, hopefully, approves. All the to-ing and fro-ing on our supposedly contentious social media are just fodder for the homogenization to come. It's all very Chinese, if you think not very far back to the Cultural Revolution. But Mao and Jiang Qing didn't have the technological weapons available today and were beaten back, temporarily anyway. Now the battle for freedom is global. Source
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