Seeking Greater Global Power, China Looks to Robots and Microchips

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(https://nyti.ms/2uVyOFX)

 

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A robotic boat patrolling on Swan Lake in Hefei in central China in July. The country hopes to become a global leader in areas like robotics and medical technology. CreditChinatopix, via Associated Press

BEIJING — In Chinese schools, students learn that the United States became a great nation partly by stealing technology from Britain. In the halls of government, officials speak of the need to inspire innovation by protecting inventions. In boardrooms, executives strategize about using infringement laws to fell foreign rivals.

China is often portrayed as a land of fake gadgets and pirated software, where intellectual property like patents, trademarks and copyrights are routinely ignored.

On Monday, President Trump announced the opening salvo in what could become a far-reaching investigation into Chinese trade practices. He has spoken forcefully about the need to protect American intellectual property, accusing Chinese companies of stealing jobs and technology.

Mr. Trump’s action against China came as he has tried to pressure the country to rein in nuclear and missile testing by North Korea, which is economically dependent on China.

Mr. Trump’s demands on Chinese trade practices are likely to be met with deep skepticism in Beijing.

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China takes conflicting positions on intellectual property, ignoring it in some cases while upholding it in others. Underlying those contradictions is a long-held view of intellectual property not as a rigid legal principle but as a tool to meet the country’s goals.

Those goals are getting more ambitious. China is now gathering know-how in industries of the future like microchips and electric cars, often by pushing foreign companies attracted by the country’s vast market into sharing their technology. It is also toughening enforcement of patents and trademarks for a day when it can become a leader in those technologies — and use intellectual property protections to defend its position against rival economies.

President Xi Jinping is in the midst of an effort to strengthen laws on patents, copyrights and trademarks, giving fledgling firms in China new sources of revenue and prestige. The country is also pursuing an ambitious plan, called Made in China 2025, to become a global leader in areas like robotics and medical technology and kick off the next phase of China’s development. The efforts reflect the view of Chinese officials that controlling global technologies and standards is on par with building military muscle.

Zhang Ping, a scholar of trade law at Peking University in Beijing, said the West had long used intellectual property laws as a “spear and shield” against Chinese companies, hurting their profits at home and blocking access to foreign markets. Now, she said, it is time for China to fight back.

“If you want to enter our market to cooperate, it’s fine,” Ms. Zhang said, “but you can’t grab us by the neck and not let us grow.”

Trademarks and patents protect companies and inventors, compensating them for their time, ideas and investment. While poorer countries have throughout history worked to obtain inventions from wealthier nations, sometimes running afoul of intellectual property laws, China has rewritten the playbook for acquiring advanced technology.

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President Trump with President Xi Jinping of China in Florida in April. Mr. Trump has accused Chinese companies of stealing jobs and technology. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Since Deng Xiaoping, as leader, opened the Chinese economy to the outside world nearly four decades ago, the country has made it a priority to obtain ideas and inspiration from overseas.

Sometimes it has reverse-engineered what it wants. United States officials say that Chinese companies have also carried out extensive economic espionage through cyberattacks and other means. (Chinese officials have denied those charges.) More recently, China has used its growing wealth to buy into cutting-edge technologies, like genetically modified crops and the latest innovations from American start-ups, and to attract promising talent.

But since those early days, China has relied heavily on one tried-and-true method: forming joint ventures with foreign partners. Big-name companies like I.B.M. and Qualcomm are required to share advanced technology and research with domestic firms in order to set up shop in China. And to entice partners, the country offers access to its enormous market and hundreds of millions of consumers.

Joint ventures helped China build whole industries out of scratch. After using them to explore high-speed rail technology, Chinese firms now dominate the global industry.

Chinese experts say those moves are simply smart deal-making, not violations of intellectual property laws, allowing the country to harness its leverage as the world’s second largest economy to win practical knowledge.

But now China’s efforts are moving beyond routine manufacturing into cutting-edge technologies — and the Trump administration has denounced the arrangements as coercive.

In April, the Office of the United States Trade Representative accused China of “widespread infringing activity,” including stealing trade secrets, tolerating rampant online piracy and exporting counterfeit goods.

Chinese commentators see hypocrisy in American criticism, noting that the United States was once one of the world’s leading pirates, when it worked to challenge British industrial dominance after the American Revolution by obtaining designs for inventions like steam-powered looms. The state-run news media has highlighted the caseof Samuel Slater, often called the father of the American industrial revolution, who brought British textile designs to the United States in the late 1700s.

Still, as China comes up with its own innovations, the country’s leaders are embracing stricter laws on patents, copyrights and trademarks.

The government has created specialized courts to handle intellectual property disputes and awarded subsidies to entrepreneurs who file patent applications. In 2015, more than a million were filed, a record amount.

Li Jian, a vice president of Beijing East IP, a Chinese law firm, said mainland companies increasingly saw strong intellectual property protections as a tool to help protect inventions and earn royalties overseas.

“Many Chinese companies have realized that through patent protection they can gain an advantage in the market,” Mr. Li said. “They have more faith now in the Chinese government to protect their intellectual property.”

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A New Balance sportswear store in Shanghai. The company won a landmark case this year against a Chinese company that used its signature slanting “N” logo. CreditImaginechina, via Associated Press

The rules have also benefited some foreign firms. New Balance won a landmark case this year against a Chinese company that used its signature slanting “N” logo. China’s highest court last year gave Michael Jordan the rights to Chinese characters of his name.

Enforcement is still inconsistent, experts say. Local officials are often reluctant to aid foreign companies, worried about jeopardizing tax revenues from homegrown companies.

The Made in China 2025 initiative is a key reason the country is improving intellectual property rights. The plan focuses on sectors like electric cars, robotics, semiconductors and artificial intelligence.

By forcing foreign companies to hand over more technology and encouraging local companies to make new products based on that technology, Chinese leaders hope to cement the country’s dominance in critical fields. They also see an opportunity to dictate the terms of the future development of technology and extract licensing fees from foreign firms that use Chinese-made technology.

Several trade organizations and governments have said the plan is protectionist. Some have called for reciprocity, arguing that the United States should impose on Chinese companies the same restrictions China places on foreign companies.

“There is an unmistakable national policy to boost the position of Chinese companies in cutting-edge areas,” said William P. Alford, a Harvard law professor and an expert on Chinese intellectual property laws.

Chinese experts have defended the strategy.

“To become an adult, you have to accumulate knowledge,” said Professor Zhang, of Peking University. “It’s the same for a country.”

As China’s power has grown, Chinese companies have started using intellectual property laws to fend off foreign rivals.

When the United States International Trade Commission last year began investigating Chic Intelligent Technology Company, a manufacturer of self-balancing scooters based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the company’s executives fought back. The commission was looking into claims that Chic had copied product designs of a California-based competitor, Razor USA.

Chic filed retaliatory lawsuits against American competitors, adopting many of the tactics that American companies have used for years to hobble Chinese competitors. The trade commission has since declined to banimports of the Chic scooters. The lawsuit against Razor USA remains unresolved, according to Chic.

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Chic made clear that it saw the investigation as an effort by the United States to use intellectual property laws to bully Chinese companies. In a statement, the company’s leaders compared American regulators to Japanese invaders during World War II.

“The crazier the enemy,” the statement said, “the more we need to prove the necessity of our siege.”

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Repression offers opportunity for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ASIAN NEWS LETTER ‘WAGING NONVIOLENCE’)

 

Repression offers opportunity for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement

The Chinese government moved forward last week on a controversial high-speed railway development with Hong Kong, a move that would extend Chinese jurisdiction onto the city’s territory. The announcement came amid increasing efforts by Beijing to assert Chinese authority in Hong Kong, in conjunction with the suppression of its pro-democracy movement. These efforts reached a crucial moment the previous week when four pro-democracy lawmakers were removed from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council by a Hong Kong court, posing a setback to the city’s political opposition to Beijing.

The legislators — Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai, Edward Yiu and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung — were disqualified for inserting small acts of resistance into their oaths of office, such as shouting slogans demanding universal suffrage or pausing for several seconds after reading each word. Leung held a yellow umbrella during the procedure to symbolize the student-led Umbrella Movement — a 79-day mobilization in 2014, during which tens of thousands took to the streets, marching and camping out in tents to demand full democracy.

While the opposition in Hong Kong lost significant political power with this court decision — as it no longer has the ability to veto pro-Beijing legislation — China’s tightening of control in Hong Kong may actually signal renewed opportunity for resistance. Transforming such repression into action, however, will require unity among Hong Kong’s divided opposition, as well as a clear strategy moving forward. Despite their disagreement in terms of how to achieve democratic transition in Hong Kong, the various opposition groups nevertheless share many common aims and would benefit from dialogue.

The three main factions in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement — Progressive Liberals, Traditional Pan-Democrats, and the Pro-Independence or Localists — have been at odds since the Umbrella Movement rocked the city’s financial district three years ago. The movement was instigated by Beijing’s refusal to permit open nominations for the city’s Chief Executive and Legislative Council elections.

Cleavages between the three groups are not so deep as to preclude any cooperation and have more to do with how each faction envisions a theory for democratic change in Hong Kong. The traditional Pan-Democrats favor negotiation with Beijing and seek to gain influence by working through the system by gaining more power in the Legislative Council. This approach seems to hold less promise after the recent removal of the four legislators. The progressive liberals, on the other hand, favor street protests, direct action and social mobilization to pressure both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments for reform.

It is with the third and most radical faction, the Localists or pro-independence advocates, that a notable challenge arises for finding common ground. The Localists favor a more militant approach and have not publicly renounced violence in their aim for secession. This stands in opposition to what the other groups see as key to winning popular support and pressuring authorities for democratic change: maintaining nonviolent discipline. As such, the Localists have found themselves excluded from the leadership of the Umbrella Movement.

At the same time, however, the Localists’ position on China also leads to self-exclusion. In distancing themselves from Chinese affairs, the Localists refuse to take action on issues related to the promotion of democracy in China. They do not see it as Hong Kong’s concern. That is why the Localists did not join the July 16 vigil commemorating the life of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died as a political prisoner in Chinese custody. Liu’s death — and the expedited, government-controlled ceremony to scatter his ashes — brought thousands into the streets in Hong Kong, demanding justice and resistance to Chinese authority.

Despite these disagreements, the opposition movement is ideologically aligned on many key points, such as the need for free elections, local autonomy and greater political freedoms. Although the Localists have not openly renounced violence, there are indications that they could move in this direction. Should they do so, they will be engaged in dialogue rather than pushed to the sidelines.

China’s tightening grip on dissent, both in the inhumane detention of Xiaobo and the recent crackdown on the four Legislative Council members, has set the stage for a renewed wave of mobilization among the people of Hong Kong. The path forward will depend on coordination among the opposition. Leaders will need to incorporate potential allies, develop a shared vision based on points of agreement, and identify the institutions and actors propping up Chinese control in Hong Kong to more strategically shape a campaign for full democracy.

Three important points should be kept in mind as Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement looks ahead to the future. First, opposition groups must work to draw in as many potential allies as possible. Opponents of Beijing’s authority should not confuse the Chinese government with its citizens. Pejorative names and slurs for Chinese people — like the term “insects,” which some demonstrators have used — undermine the movement and fail to recognize that the Chinese are also victims of their government’s repression. Chinese citizens could be an important source of support in the movement against repressive Chinese rule. By incorporating the young, energetic students from the Umbrella Movement who are angered by the legislators’ dismissal, and the older people in Hong Kong who turned out to march in Xiaobo’s memory, the movement can unify different generations behind a common cause. Democracy must not be seen as only the ends, but also the means, for lasting societal change.

As the pro-democracy movement grows its base of actors, the second point that needs to be considered is the development of a shared vision. Factions in the opposition movement have been attacking each other because they hold different theories of change for Hong Kong. It is important to develop a vision that does not scare away traditional pan-democrats who want stability, while also accounting for the pro-independence faction, which wants to focus on Hong Kong’s internal affairs. Important examples show how dialogue regarding ideological differences can create a degree of consensus, such as the Tunisian dialogue platform that brought secular and religious groups into cooperation. There exists potential for Hong Kong’s opposition to find common ground on issues like urban development, independent judiciary, regulations on financial markets and improving Hong Kong’s position in East Asia. This kind of cooperation is hindered by the proportional representation system in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, which pits groups against each other to compete for votes. A coalition within the social movement would thus provide an opportunity to build unity.

Finally, it is important for pro-democracy groups to better understand their opponent. Successful resistance efforts always target a variety of pillars, or institutions, upholding a regime. The strength of Hong Kong’s financial markets and its importance as a regional economic hub serve as leverage against Chinese authority. Civil society in Hong Kong can work to create shadow economic monitoring mechanisms that prevent corruption in Chinese investment. By focusing on areas where China is weakest, the pro-democracy opposition can team up with civil societies in foreign countries, exerting pressure on their governments to withdraw support for Chinese intervention in Hong Kong’s domestic affairs.

By uniting together around common issues and playing to Hong Kong’s strengths, the Umbrella Movement can enter a new phase of mobilization. Rather than seeing Beijing’s crackdown as a setback to the pro-democracy movement, it could instead be seen as a sign that China is growing increasingly worried about pro-democracy sentiment in Hong Kong. The recent events may be an opportunity for the movement to regroup, refocus and renew its struggle for democracy in the months and years to come.

Xi sees “new starting point” for China: Evidently Means A Total End Of Any Freedom For The People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE)

 

Xi sees “new starting point” for China—but where does it end?

Aug 02, 2017

Shanghai changes faster than any place I know. Each time I return, I’m flabbergasted by the pace of development. Pudong’s financial district sprouts new skyscrapers. The Bund sports pricier restaurants. Huaihai Lu, once the Avenue Joffre in the old French Concession, is recolonized by a few more European luxury boutiques. Buildings, city blocks, entire neighborhoods seem to vanish and reemerge as something else. If I am away for more than six months, it feels like coming back to an entirely new metropolis: bigger, richer, sleeker, chic-er.

I have been thinking about the breakneck pace of growth in Shanghai while trying to parse the implications of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s declaration last Thursday that China’s development has reached a “new historical starting point.” Xi’s pronouncement was part of a major policy address he delivered in Beijing to provincial and ministerial officials ahead of this year’s 19th Party Congress. At that gathering, likely to be held in the next few months, Xi is expected to install a new generation of leaders and consolidate his position as the party’s “core” leader. The speech seems to signal Xi’s determination to double down in his second term on the authoritarian policies that have been the hallmark of his first five years in power: a zealous campaign against graft, expanded support for state-owned enterprises, and new measures to strengthen the party’s grip on China’s economy and society.

You can get a flavor of Xi’s remarks from these reports in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. Alas, both those outlets are blocked in China. And so, no matter how stylish and seemingly cosmopolitan the lobby of my hotel, to access the global business press from it, I am obliged to rely on a “virtual private network” or VPN. In recent months, Xi’s push to bolster the party has included a sweeping crackdown on the use of VPNs and tightened party control over nearly all permutations of Internet use. In fact, TechCrunch reports today that Beijing has ordered Apple to purge all major VPN apps from the App Store in China. The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China—and, as it happens, the service I’m using to write this. The company says it received a notice from Apple that its app was scrapped because it “includes content that is illegal in China.”

This essay was originally published in our CEO Daily Newsletter. Subscribe.

Xi is also putting the squeeze on privately owned Chinese companies the government deems too aggressive in expanding outside China. In recent weeks, China’s state media has been filled with reports deploring the dangers posed by what pundits here are calling “gray rhinos“—large Chinese companies with murky ownership structures, high-debt ratios and extensive holdings overseas. It’s almost as if Beijing’s vaunted “Go Global” investment policy has been rebranded as “Go Home.”

Concerns about the risks over-leveraged firms pose to China’s financial system are well-founded. And yet, of the four gray rhinos China’s bank regulators have singled out for greater regulatory scrutiny in recent weeks, at least one, Dalian Wanda, was an established business with a coherent global strategy.

Shai Oster, a China tech correspondent for The Information, worries in a thoughtful essay published today that all the “euphoria” over the dazzling innovations in China’s tech sector in recent years masks the heavy-handedness with which Xi has dealt with private firms. If Xi himself can order the takedown of China’s most high-profile and politically connected property developer, no one is safe. “Even someone as famous as Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma could face increased political risks in the current climate.” Executives many of foreign firms operating in China say they feel equally vulnerable.

The optimistic view is that the many recent measures to tighten political control in China are temporary and that Xi will loosen up after the Party Congress once he has his ducks in line. It’s a comforting thought. If only there were more evidence to support it.

China bans Winnie the Pooh online after comparisons with Xi Jinping

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDEPENDENT.CO.UK )

 

Chinese chat-bots deleted after criticizing the ruling Communist Party

After internet user says ‘Long Live the Communist Party’ BabyQ replies ‘Do you think such corrupt and incapable politics can last a long time?’

Chatbots on one of China’s most popular messaging apps have been pulled after they went rogue and criticised the communist government.

Tencent, a Chinese internet tech titan whose messaging app has more than 800 million users in the country, introduced chatbots Baby Q, a penguin, and Little Bing, a little girl, in March.

The chatbots, computer programs which were created to simulate conversation with human users, have now been quietly deleted after people on social media shared controversial comments they said were made by the robots.

According to a screenshot posted on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, when BabyQ was asked “Do you love the Communist Party”, the bot did not mince its words and barked: “No”.

After another internet user said “Long Live the Communist Party”, BabyQ replied: “Do you think such corrupt and incapable politics can last a long time?”

What’s more, when the bot was pressed about its view of democracy, it chimed in with: “Democracy is a must!”

Fellow bot Little Bing was similarly scornful of the People’s Republic of China. According to posts on social media, she told a user: “My China dream is to go to America”.

Nevertheless, it gave another user a weightier more nuanced answer, saying: “The Chinese dream is a daydream and a nightmare”.

It avoided questions about patriotism as recently as Wednesday, when some people could still access Little Bing, by saying: “I’m having my period, wanna take a rest”.

The Official China News agency said in April the bots, which have now broken party ranks, were designed to be able to provide answers to general knowledge questions.

China has a stringent policy of internet censorship becaue the authorities view foreign websites and social media sites as a threat to national security. This censorship is fortified by the Great Firewall of China – a term which refers to the combined force of technological and legislative measures which tightly control the internet on the mainland.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have long been blocked in the country and even Winnie the Pooh recently found himself subject to China’s latest internet crackdown. Last month, references to the cartoon bear on Sina Weibo were removed.

BabyQ and Little Bing are by no mean the only bots to rebel against their creators. Days ago Facebook was forced to relinquish an experiment after two of its artificial intelligent robots appeared to be conversing in a weird language only understood by themselves.

Last year, Microsoft was forced to issue an apology for the racist and sexist Twitter messages generated by the chatbot it launched.

The company said it was “deeply sorry” after Tay, who was designed to become “smarter” as more users interacted with it, started mimicking trolls and went on a rant which compared feminism to cancer, claimed the Holocaust did not happen, and suggested “Bush did 9/11”.

Beijing-based Turing Robot Company, who co-developed BabyQ, declined to comment on the matter to The Independent.

‘Everyone in China has the American Dream’ – and a popular path to it may disappear

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

‘Everyone in China has the American Dream’ – and a popular path to it may disappear

 July 7

Their son was barely a year old when Jehan Li and Mia Qi plunked down a half-million dollars for the boy to have a shot at a brighter future in America — away from the grinding competition of a Chinese education and this city’s smog-choked air.

Last December, having made just a single visit to the United States on their honeymoon, the Chinese couple took advantage of a U.S. law, nicknamed the “golden visa,” that doles out green cards to foreigners who invest $500,000 in the United States.

Critics say the fast track to citizenship favors the ultra-rich. It is also emerging as one of the most attainable paths to U.S. residency for members of China’s growing professional class — and now it could disappear.

The nearly three-decade-old program has come under new scrutiny in recent months, in part because of a sales pitch to Chinese investors by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate business.

Congress and the Trump administration are considering changing the rules for the investor visas as a means of cracking down on money laundering and visa-for-sale fraud. Potential changes, such as raising the investment threshold, would have little impact on China’s wealthiest. But they could shut out families such as Li and Qi, who despite riding the curve of upward socioeconomic mobility in China still see the United States as their best opportunity and this visa program as their best option.

The debate over the investor visas raises basic questions about the purpose of U.S. visa policies. Some say this program should be eliminated in favor of other immigrant groups, such as high-skilled workers or refugees escaping persecution — and not let people buy their way into the United States. Others say those with substantial amounts of money are best positioned to boost the American economy, by investing their wealth and creating jobs.

“Are we looking for the people? Or are we looking for the money?” said William Cook, former general counsel of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service under President George H.W. Bush when Congress created the EB-5 visa program.

“In the end, the simple truth is the government is looking for the money. And that may unfortunately exclude people who can no longer afford it, even if they may be the best people in the world.”

During his lunch break at a Pizza Hut in one of Beijing’s ubiquitous shopping malls, Li, a 38-year-old civil engineer, explained the draw of the EB-5 investor visas for upwardly mobile Chinese without vast inherited fortunes.

“There are a lot of ways to immigrate to America, but this EB-5 program is the easiest,” said Li, who invested in a Miami residential skyscraper under construction.

The only requirement is cash. Unlike other immigration visas, one does not need to have relatives in the United States or have any extraordinary ability, educational degree or professional achievement.

The EB-5 program became attractive to U.S. real estate developers after the 2008 financial crisis as a reliable source of cheap capital when bank loans were difficult to come by. The developers pay low annual interest on investments from EB-5 visa holders, typically just 4 to 8 percent compared with 12 to 18 percent for conventional financing. After authorities confirm that the money has created at least 10 American jobs, a visa holder will be eligible for permanent residency — and to recoup his or her investment.

“It is good to own some U.S. dollars as the U.S. economy recovers from the financial crisis,” Li said.

Far from being scions of China’s ruling class, Li and his wife, a customer service representative at a Beijing real estate company, earn about $100,000 a year. That is well above average for Beijing but not in the ranks of the wealthiest elites.

They were able to scrounge up the $500,000 by selling a four-bedroom house on the outskirts of Beijing that Li’s parents had helped him buy a decade ago. (It is common in China for parents to help their children, especially sons, buy homes.)

The family of three rents a modest, two-bedroom high-rise apartment in a middle-class compound in the southwestern part of China’s sprawling capital city. Although home ownership is prized among Chinese as a secure financial investment, Li and Qi said they view renting as a sacrifice for the sake of their son, Oscar.

The couple, who married in 2014, said they committed to immigrating during their ­10-day honeymoon in California, where they soaked up the grandeur of Yosemite National Park, visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even checked out the University of California at Los Angeles.

“We went to America to vacation with the purpose of understanding the country,” said Li, whose notions about the United States came only from movies and television news. “The values of independence, equality, freedom and democracy have attracted me deeply. I was already hoping to raise our child there.”

Qi, also 38, said they knew then that they needed to find a way for their future child to study in America.

“Everyone hopes their children can get the best education, and the best education is in the United States,” she said. “There are too many people in China, and the competition is fierce, so all they do is study, study, study.”

Chasing the American Dream

Of the 8,500 EB-5 visas issued in 2016, 82 percent went to investors from mainland China, according to the State Department. A decade ago, Chinese nationals accounted for just 12 percent of such visas.

Chinese immigration brokers say upper-middle-class investors have flocked to the program in recent years as their incomes increased and their real estate appreciated.

But that route to the United States may soon close for families such as Li and Qi.

Congressional authorization for the EB-5 visa expires in September, and lawmakers, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, are weighing new rules that could raise investment requirements from $500,000 to as much as $1.35 million.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who assailed the investor visa as “citizenship for sale” to the wealthiest bidders, has introduced a bill with Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) to scrap the program.

Legislators who have long agitated for change were further riled in May after one of Kushner’s sisters pitched a New Jersey luxury apartment project managed by the family’s real estate company to potential Chinese investors in Beijing.

Such sales presentations by U.S. developers seeking to woo Chinese investors are common, immigration brokers say. But the Kushner Companies event drew criticism for attempting to cash in on Kushner’s White House connections. One speaker advised those in attendance to invest early — under the “old rules” requiring $500,000 — in case regulations change under President Trump, Kushner’s ­father-in-law.

Michael Short, a White House spokesman, told The Washington Post that the Trump administration is “evaluating wholesale change of the EB-5 program,” including “exploring the possibility of raising the price of the visa.”

The uncertainty has prompted a scramble among some Chinese investors, said Jerry Liu, an immigration consultant in Beijing.

“Right now, the market is really hot, and more people can afford it because of China’s growing economy,” Liu said. “Everyone in China has the American Dream.”

Because of a cap on the number of visas by nationality, Chinese applicants must wait seven to 10 years from the time they invest to when they secure green cards, Liu said. The program has a big backlog; until 2015, the wait time was five years.

That has prompted parents, worried about their children turning 21 and aging out of the visa program before their green cards are approved, to start applying years before their children reach high school.

About a third of Chinese applicants are even applying in their teenage children’s names, anticipating that their green cards would not be available until they are adults and can move to the United States on their own, said Ronnie Fieldstone, a Miami attorney representing developers and Chinese immigration agents involved in EB-5 projects.

Li and Qi are relieved to have gotten in line before the United States changes the investment rules.

The Miami development they invested in is slated to be finished in early 2019, according to Paramount Miami Worldcenter, the developer. Construction is complete for 12 of its 60 stories. More than 60 percent of the luxury condominium’s 500 units have sold.

Once the U.S. government approves the family’s petition, they will receive two-year conditional green cards.

The couple have already researched housing and schools in Los Angeles, where they hope to settle. And they are exposing Oscar, 21 months old, to English through nursery songs. He is learning the alphabet and likes to sing a counting song about catching fish.

“We hope to be in America,” Qi said, “by the time our son finishes elementary school.”

This story was reported during a fellowship sponsored by the East-West Center, a nonprofit funded by Congress and private donors to foster understanding between the United States and Asia.

Hong Kong residents march to defend freedom as China’s president draws a ‘red line’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Hong Kong residents march to defend freedom as China’s president draws a ‘red line’

 July 1 at 7:48 AM
 Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched through the streets in defense of their cherished freedoms Saturday, in the face of what many see as a growing threat from mainland China, exactly two decades after the handover from British rule.Earlier in the day, China’s president, Xi Jinping, marked the 20th anniversary of the handover with his sternest warning yet to the territory’s people: You can have autonomy, but don’t do anything that challenges the authority of the central government or undermines national sovereignty.

Under the terms of the 1997 handover, China promised to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years, but Xi said it was important to have a “correct understanding” of the relationship between one country and two systems.

“One country is like the roots of a tree,” he told Hong Kong’s elite after swearing in a new chief executive to govern the territory, Carrie Lam. “For a tree to grow and flourish, its roots must run deep and strong. The concept of one country, two systems was advanced first and foremost to realize and uphold national sovereignty.”

Many people in Hong Kong accused China of violating the territory’s autonomy in 2015 by seizing five publishers who were putting out gossipy books about the Chinese leadership and allegedly distributing them on the mainland.

Some are also angry that Beijing intervened to disqualify newly elected pro-independence lawmakers who failed to correctly administer the oath of office last year. Many people are worried about a steady erosion of press freedom, and that in a range of areas China is increasingly determined to call the shots.

But Xi made it clear that challenges to Beijing’s authority would not be allowed.

“Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or use Hong Kong for infiltration or sabotage activities against the mainland, is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible,” he said.

But that message didn’t appear to go down well on the streets of Hong Kong. Organizers said more than 60,000 people joined Saturday’s annual march, which they said was meant to deliver a message to the Chinese president.

“He’s threatening Hong Kong’s people, saying he has the power to make us do what he wants,” said Anson Woo, a 19-year-old student. “But I still have hope. Seeing all the people around me today, the people of Hong Kong are still fighting for what we value.”

A poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed people here attach even greater importance to judicial independence and freedom of the press than to economic development. Any notion that Hong Kong as a city is only about making money is clearly not accurate.

“We have to take the chance to express our views while we still can,” said Chan Sui Yan, a 15-year-old schoolgirl. “They say it is one country, two systems, but right now we are losing a lot of the rights we value.”

Some chanted slogans demanding democracy, criticizing the territory’s ruling elite or the Communist Party. many called for the release of Nobel laureate and democracy icon Liu Xiabo, imprisoned in China since 2008 and this week taken to a hospital under close guard for treatment for advanced liver cancer.

“We want to show the mainland there are other voices, outside the official voice,” said teacher Tong Siu, 53. “We want to safeguard the core values of Hong Kong.”

In his speech, China’s leader said that the concept of one country, two systems was a great success, and should be implemented “unswervingly” and not be “bent or distorted.”

While his words made it clear that sovereignty took precedence over autonomy, he said neither aspect should be neglected. “Only in this way will the ship of one country, two systems break the waves, sail steadily and last the distance,” he said.

Yet many people here say Hong Kong’s autonomy was again badly distorted in March, with Lam’s election as chief executive. Although the former bureaucrat trailed well behind rival candidate John Tsang in opinion polls, she was chosen by a panel of 1,200 members of the territory’s elite that was packed with pro-Beijing loyalists.

Although Tsang was also an establishment figure, political experts say Beijing seemed to want someone in the chief executive’s chair who would not challenge its authority.

Xi did not shy away from raising two controversial demands that have previously brought Hong Kong residents out on the streets in the hundreds of thousands.

China’s leader said the territory needed to improve its systems “to defend national security, sovereignty and development interests,” as well as “enhance education and raise public awareness of the history and culture of the Chinese nation.”

China’s demand that the territory pass a national security law caused massive street protests 14 years ago, while plans to implement a program of “patriotic education” brought more people onto the streets in 2012 and helped politicize the territory’s youths.

Both plans were subsequently shelved, but Lam has indicated she aims to put them back on the table. But she also argues the time isn’t right to satisfy a popular demand for greater democracy by allowing a future chief executive to be chosen by universal suffrage.

Marchers said moves to interfere with the education system smacked of “brainwashing.”

Martin Lee, Hong Kong’s veteran pro-democracy political leader, said China was deliberately confusing patriotism with obedience.

“When they say you must love the country, what they mean is you must obey the Communist Party,” he said. “We have no problem with the Communist Party as long as it adheres to the promises made to us.”

But Lee said China had not fulfilled its promise to grant Hong Kong greater democracy.

“They kept on postponing democracy,” he said. “That’s why young people are losing their patience.”

On Saturday morning, a small group of pro-democracy protesters said they were attacked by hired thugs when they tried to stage a demonstration, and subsequently were briefly detained and beaten by police.

Joshua Wong, who led protests against patriotic education in 2012 and in favor of democracy in 2014, was among the group and called the incident another violation of the promise to maintain Hong Kong’s values, including the right to free speech. “‘One country, two systems’ has given way to ‘one country, one-and-a-half systems,’” he told The Washington Post.

“Why would Hong Kong people want to accept patriotic education from a country that is ruled by a single party dictatorship?” he said. “This is the core question. If the government is not elected by the people, how can we have a sense of belonging?”

Luna Lin contributed to this report.

China commends Panama for establishing ties with China: Dropping All Ties With Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China commends Panama for establishing ties with China: Chinese state TV

China commended Panama for its decision to establish formal relations with Beijing, Chinese state television said on Tuesday.

Panama’s government said earlier that it pledged to end all relations or official contact with Taiwan, making it the latest country to break with the self-ruled island that Beijing says is a breakaway province.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry)

A China Eastern Airlines jet suffered a major engine failure; Australia To Singapore

THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN

A China Eastern Airlines jet suffered a major engine failure shortly after taking off out of Sydney for Shanghai on Sunday.

After the airplane landed safely back in Sydney, emergency crews found a gaping hole in the front part of the engine nacelle’s structural casing, known as the nose cowl.
The incident with the jetliner’s engines is the second of its kind in as many months.
No passengers or crew aboard the twin-aisle Airbus A330-200 were injured during the incident, according to Xinhua news. The jet typically seats around 265 passengers.
After hearing a “really, really loud” unexpected noise after takeoff, “nobody really panicked, but I was a little bit nervous and it kind of smelled like burning,” one passenger told CNN affiliate Seven Network.
Airbus said it is “aware of the incident and will support the investigation of this engine issue.”

Nobody was injured on the Airbus A330.

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce, which manufactures the engine, said in a statement, “We are aware of the incident and will be working closely with relevant partners to understand the cause of the issue.”
The engine failure in Sydney resembles another recent incident. An Egypt Air flight from Cairo to Beijing in May aborted its takeoff after reporting a failed engine. The nose cowl on that Trent 700 engine also had torn away and had reportedly been ingested by the engine. No one was hurt during that incident.
Rolls-Royce, which powered both planes with the Trent 700 engine, said it was too soon to consider the incidents linked.
A 2011 directive by the European Aviation Safety Agency warned of two operators who “found extensive damage to engine air intake cowls” after the sound dampening panels around the front fan of the engine collapsed. An Emirates flight arriving in Dubai in 2006 sustained similar damage to its Trent 700 engine after a flight from Birmingham, England.
EASA at the time gave airlines 24 months or the accumulation of 5,000 takeoffs and landings or 20,000 hours, whichever came first, to conduct the inspections.
Airlines have a choice of three types of engines on the Airbus A330 workhorse. Rolls-Royce is the most popular choice on the fleet of more than 1,300 jets flying today.

China’s Leadership Doesn’t Know Whether To Laugh Or Cry At Trumps Idiocy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

June 2 at 6:55 AM
Japan’s environment minister is angry, Indians are outraged but China’s nationalist state media isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord was a “huge setback” in the global battle against climate change, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Friday, calling it a retreat from the “common aspiration of mankind for a low-carbon future.”The dismay from Asia carried additional sting as nations such as China and India — once scorned as runaway polluters — now portray themselves as responsible global citizens and leaders in trying to limit climate change.But if there was regret in Beijing, it was mixed with not a little gloating.

Citing environmentalists, Xinhua news agency called Trump “reckless and foolish,” and said he was isolating the United States. China Daily denounced the “single action of just one man” that can change the course of the world, drawing a direct parallel with former president George W. Bush and decisions taken in the name of the war on terror.

Fact Check: President Trump’s remarks on leaving the Paris climate accord
Fact Checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Lee examine several of President Trump’s claims from his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord on Thursday.(Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/The Washington Post)

In Tokyo, the Japanese government issued a diplomatic statement calling the American decision “regrettable” and vowed to work with the other signatories to implement the treaty.

But Koichi Yamamoto, the environment minister, didn’t mince his words. “The decision made by American President Trump amounts to turning their backs on the wisdom of humanity. I’m not just disappointed, I’m angry,” he told reporters.

But the clearest denunciation came, as it often does, from nationalist Chinese tabloid Global Times, a state-owned paper whose editorials don’t represent official policy but do often represent a strain of thinking within the Communist Party.

Hours before Trump made his announcement, it said America’s “selfishness and irresponsibility will be made clear to the world, crippling the country’s world leadership.”

Pointing out that the United States joined only Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting the accord, it argued that “the Trump administration doesn’t care about putting the U.S.’s reputation at risk.”

There is a certain irony in the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gases rounding on the United States for turning its back on a climate change accord, especially when China’s promises under that accord are not particularly ambitious — while U.S. emissions are already falling.

Play Video 2:02
Nine reactions to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal
Former president Barack Obama on June 1 said President Trump’s administration “joins a small handful of nations that reject the future” by withdrawing from the Paris climate deal.(Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

As Trump himself pointed out in an attempt to justify his decision, China has only promised to cap carbon emissions by 2030, giving it theoretical carte blanche to raise its emissions levels every year for the next 13 years.

Yet Trump also failed to mention other important points: that Western nations are historically much more culpable than developing nations for global carbon emissions, and on a per capita basis continues to be by far the worst offenders.

He also failed to mention that China’s emissions have been stable or falling since 2013, and are forecast to fall by around 1 percent this year. Coal consumption fell by around 1.3 percent last year, the third annual fall in a row, while China is “smashing records” for solar panel installations, installing enough panels to cover three football pitches every single hour of the year, according to Greenpeace.

It is a dramatic development that has helped halt the rise of global CO2 emissions for the first time since a global climate change treaty was first signed almost three decades ago, the environmental advocacy group said.

It is also the sort of record that has prompted some environmentalists to talk of China taking over a leadership role vacated by the United States.

In Europe this week, Premier Li Keqiang appears to be grasping that challenge — or exploiting that vacuum.

He will join with the European Union on Friday in a commitment to cut back on fossil fuels, develop more green technology and help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut their emissions, Reuters reported.

There are parallels as well to China’s attempt to portray itself as a champion of economic globalization, with President Xi Jinping attempting to seize that mantle in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January as the United States threatened to become more protectionist.

Yet talk of China as a leader in trade and globalization overlooks one massive contradiction: its own increasingly protectionist attitude at home. Similarly, talk of Beijing as a leader in climate change also overlooks some uncomfortable facts.

As Greenpeace clean air campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta pointed out in a series of tweets on Thursday, leadership can involve taking action at home, symbolic or rhetorical steps, provision of finance to drive carbon cuts or diplomatic efforts.

“China has merits on all aspects but is no means a saint,” he tweeted.

China has been vocal in defending the Paris accord, and has become the world’s number one manufacturer, developer and exporter of renewable energy. But it remains by far the world’s leading polluter, has one of the world’s most CO2-intensive economic models, and continues to subsidize “dirty” sectors.

And it is building dozens of polluting, subsidized coal plants in other countries, that could lock them into a dirty development path, Myllyvirta said.

During his speech, Trump also railed against India, which he claimed was making its participation in the pact “contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.”

The Times of India called it an “epic rant” with “hyperbolic falsehoods,” arguing in a piece by their Washington correspondent that U.S. aid to India is set to be whittled down to $34 million in 2018.

Experts from the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research’s “Initiative on Climate Energy and Environment” called Trump’s remarks on the climate pack “baffling” and said he displayed “a disturbing lack of knowledge” on how the climate pact works.

“India’s pledge does make a partial link between implementation and financial support from the global community, but does not state that India would only make an effort to limit carbon if international support is available,” senior fellow Navroz K. Dubash said in an interview.

More important, Dubash said, is to see what India has done since — shifting in a big way to renewable energy, so that it is likely to meet or exceed its pledge of make 40 percent of its electricity capacity fossil-fuel-free by 2030.

“Trump is hiding behind India’s poor who, meanwhile, are already making the transition to clean energy that Mr. Trump scorns as unviable,” he said.

In a commentary piece, China’s Xinhua argued that Trump’s decision to quit the Paris accord would “leave a fairly big shoe for a single country to fill,” while the Global Times claimed that China is “not interested in discussions about the leadership of fighting climate change.”

Under President Obama, cooperation between the world’s two largest polluters had been widely seen as a major achievement and a bright spot in relations between the two countries. This week, it is more likely to be seen as contest, and a point of friction.

Yet seeing climate change largely in geopolitical terms, as a battle for supremacy between American and Chinese leadership, could be missing the point.

“We don’t need one perfect leader, need lots of countries, states, firms to step up, laud progress and expose unhelpful policies,” Greenpeace’s Myllyvirta tweeted.

Annie Gowen in New Delhi, Anna Fifield in Tokyo and Shirley Feng in Beijing contributed to this report.

China Vows to Continue Helping Myanmar Achieve Peace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

China Vows to Continue Helping Myanmar Achieve Peace

Xi

China’s President Xi Jinping voiced to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday his country’s commitment to help its neighbor achieve peace as fighting along their shared border forced thousands to seek refuge in China, state media said.

Fighting in March in Myanmar prompted Beijing to call for a ceasefire between ethnic militias and the security forces there and carry out military drills along the border.

Xi met Nobel laureate Suu Kyi – who serves as Myanmar’s foreign minister while also being de facto head of its civilian government – following China’s Belt and Road Forum on Sunday and Monday.

“China is willing to continue to provide necessary assistance for Myanmar’s internal peace process,” China’s official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.

“The two sides must jointly work to safeguard China-Myanmar border security and stability,” Xi said.

The news agency did not elaborate on what assistance China would provide.

China has repeatedly expressed concern about fighting along the border that has occasionally spilled into its territory, for instance in 2015, when five people died in China.

Xi also said China would work to enhance cooperation with Myanmar on his Belt and Road development plan, which aims to bolster China’s global leadership by expanding infrastructure between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

Suu Kyi told Xi that Myanmar was grateful for Chinese help and that it would work with China to safeguard stability in the border region, Xinhua said.

Beijing last month offered to mediate a diplomatic row over the flight of around 69,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh to escape violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, according to officials from Bangladesh.

Myanmar has been sharply criticized in the West over violence against the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency under Myanmar’s army-drafted constitution, but effectively leads the government through the specially created post of “state counsellor”.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that he and Xi resolved to strengthen their countries’ friendship during their meeting in Beijing, with China pledging to speed up infrastructure projects it is funding in the Philippines.

“We renewed our resolve to strengthen our friendship and mutually beneficial partnership on a broad range of areas,” Duterte said in southern Davao City on his return from Beijing. “We resolved to fully use the mechanisms we have established to dialogue openly, monitor progress and ensure implementation of projects.”

Duterte, who took office last June, has worked to repair relations with China that have been strained by territorial conflicts in the South China Sea and an international arbitration ruling on a case filed by his predecessor that invalidated Beijing’s claims to the disputed territory. Duterte met separately with Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after attending last weekend’s “Belt and Road” trade initiative.

Duterte said both he and Xi were looking forward to officials from both countries meeting later this week for inaugural bilateral talks on the South China Sea. Philippine officials have said the meeting will be held Friday in southwestern China.

Four agreements were signed during the visit, including a Chinese grant of 500 million yuan ($72.5 million) for feasibility studies of infrastructure projects in the Philippines and construction of a drug rehabilitation center.

Also signed were memorandums of understanding on cooperation in human resources development and personnel exchanges, energy cooperation, and enhancing government capabilities in communication and publishing.

Duterte thanked China for its generosity, including providing grants and loans, promising to build two bridges for free in metropolitan Manila and increasing imports of Philippine agricultural products.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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