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The Actions Against TikTok And WeChat Are Mafia-Style Capitalism Daryl Guppy

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The U.S.’s actions against ByteDance’s TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat are aspects of what some have called mafia-style capitalism. They constitute a broader threat to international business operations and to an established rules-based global order. These actions shift the ground under the feet of business.

Some suggest that the TikTok ban is no different from China’s ban on various U.S.-based apps. However, this suggestion is wrong.

China bans these apps because they refuse to comply with Chinese legal requirements. Whilst we might not agree with some Chinese laws, this does not mean we have a right to break these laws. The sale of any product or service into any country must comply with the laws of the target country and not the laws of the country from which the service it originates.

Software services that provided to Europe must comply with EU data privacy provisions even though Google and Facebook feel that they should only be required to comply with U.S. law.

The ban on TikTok is fundamentally different to the Chinese ban on Facebook. The U.S. government’s explanation for the ban is that TikTok poses a security threat but this threat disappears if they surrender their business to a U.S. company.

This suggests that unlike the Chinese ban on Facebook, the U.S. ban has little to do with complying with the law and more to do with destroying business competition. If security was a genuine concern, then TikTok would not be able to operate in the U.S. under any circumstances.

The proposed ban on Tencent and WeChat is more akin to the sustained attack on Huawei. It is deliberate state-sponsored destruction of a business competitor.

The justification for the WeChat ban is that Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law says companies must “cooperate with state intelligence work in accordance with the law.” Much is made of this law by the United States and some other countries. The allegations suggest this requirement is unique to China when in fact it’s a requirement of many other governments.

In today’s world it is inevitable that state organizations will demand and get access to personal data held by companies.

In 2018, the Australian government passed the Assistance and Access Act which allows government agencies to compel companies and their employees to enable investigators to access encrypted data.

The legislation is not much different in intent from the often quoted Chinese law of the Article 7 security requirements. This Australian legislation adds to the requirement to retain records of every single person’s calls, texts, and internet browsing history for at least two years so it can be accessed by police and security services.

Australia is hardly unique in this type of requirement. The United States, with the assistance of the Five Eyes allies, runs surveillance programs that require private companies to surrender information.

The ECHELON program is a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications. The PRISM surveillance program requires internet companies such as Google to comply with requests to target encrypted communications as they travel across the internet backbone.

In 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel discovered her phone and email were monitored by the U.S. security services. The National Security Agency not only bugs the phones of drug kingpins and reads the e-mails of al-Qaeda members, but also targets so-called “friendly” states, such as Germany, Brazil and France.

In a recent congressional testimony, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went as far as to acknowledge that Facebook had voluntarily assisted security agencies before they were asked to do so.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies remotely during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., the U.S., on July 29, 2020. /AP

The act of different nations’ laws and regulations demanding for access to personal data is universal so the idea that Tencent is uniquely positioned as a security risk is false. This is a convenient catch-all smoke screen designed to disable a competitor to U.S. companies.

Users are well aware their activity is tracked by companies, by governments and by malign data harvesters like Cambridge Analytica. Surveillance capitalism is an established but broadly accepted risk to personal security.

Will China ban Apple’s iPhone on the grounds that it carries an inherent security risk? Apart from any symbolism, there is no need. WeChat is deeply embedded in the fabric of Chinese life in ways well beyond that achieved by simplistic Western social media.

If WeChat is unable to be installed on iPhones in China, then the iPhone becomes little more than jewelry. President Trump will have destroyed a profitable U.S. business without the need for any Chinese retaliation.

Analysis of this shakedown shows the real issue here is not security. After all, we are all monitored and tracked by private companies and government under various forms of catch-all security provisions.

The real issue is the use of state power to achieve commercial ends by what is the effective destruction of business using mafia-capitalism and that’s a path which the international businesses must oppose.

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Xi Jinping Reviews Poverty Relief Progress in Hunan as China’s War on Poverty Nears End

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China has vowed to eradicate absolute poverty in rural areas by the end of 2020 despite the COVID-19 epidemic. While efforts are being made to ensure “no single poor area or individual shall be left behind” – as President Xi Jinping puts it – people that have recently shaken off poverty are striving for a better life.

Among the 529 residents in a small village in central China’s Hunan Province, 95 in 30 households used to live under the poverty line. The whole village was lifted out of poverty through rural tourism in 2018, and the average annual income of the residents reached 13,840 yuan (about 2,060 U.S. dollars) last year – way above the national poverty line of 2,300 yuan (about 340 U.S. dollars).

Shazhou Village, located in a mountainous area in Rucheng County, Chenzhou City, was the first stop of Xi’s inspection tour in Hunan.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, visited the village on Wednesday and learned about poverty relief industries and progress in consolidating poverty eradication at a modern agricultural tourism demonstration base.

Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about poverty relief industries and progress in consolidating poverty eradication at a modern agricultural tourism demonstration base in Shazhou Village, Rucheng County, central China’s Hunan Province, September 16, 2020. /Xinhua

Targeted poverty alleviation

China has adopted a targeted approach in in its poverty alleviation campaign, which means taking tailored relief measures to fit different local conditions.

The story of Shazhou is a prime example of that approach. The village boasts the beautiful scenery of the Luoxiao Mountains and the unique Yao ethnic culture – nearly two thirds of the residents belong to the Yao ethnic group. Tourism has played a significant role in Shazhou’s battle against poverty.

The village has promoted rural tourism and high-quality fruit planting, and arranged training programs to help villagers obtain such job skills as for restaurant cooks and rural tourism industry employees. More than 350 local jobs have been created through the efforts.

With all its residents lifted out of poverty, Shazhou has also been known for such national-level honor as the “village of beauty and leisure,” “role model for ethnic unity and progress,” “key village for promoting rural tourism” and “traditional Chinese village.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping talks with residents of Shazhou Village, Rucheng County, central China’s Hunan Province, September 16, 2020. /Xinhua

New starting point

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, China has achieved remarkable results in poverty reduction. More than 93 million rural people shook off poverty between 2013 and 2019.

But 5.51 million people needed to get rid of poverty by the end of 2019. And such a formidable task was coincided by accident with the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at a symposium on poverty alleviation in March, Xi described the goal of ending absolute poverty by 2020 as a “solemn pledge” made by the CPC Central Committee to the Chinese people, urging authorities at all levels to deliver on that promise.

As China intensifies efforts in the final stage of the tough battle, Xi tours around the country to inspect economic and social development, with poverty alleviation high on the agenda. Prior to the Hunan trip, he had taken inspection tours this year of capital city Beijing and provinces of Yunnan, Hubei, Zhejiang, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Jilin and Anhui, and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

In addition to increasing poor people’s incomes, China is also striving to improve the quality of poverty relief. Xi has repeatedly called for efforts to ensure rural poor people do not have to worry about food and clothing and have access to compulsory education, basic medical services and safe housing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with villagers in the village of Shazhou, Rucheng County, central China’s Hunan Province, September 16, 2020. /Xinhua

Meanwhile, he is looking into the future beyond the end of poverty. “Being lifted out of poverty is not an end in itself but the starting point of a new life and a new pursuit,” he said on several occasions this year, calling for consolidating achievements in poverty alleviation and advancing the rural vitalization strategy.

Put forward at the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017, the strategy aims to build rural areas with thriving businesses, pleasant living environments, social etiquette and civility, effective governance and prosperity.

Shazhou is among many previously poor villages in China that have embarked on the journey for a better future.

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From ‘saplings’ to ‘towering trees’

On Wednesday, Xi also visited a revolution-themed exhibition hall, a village service center, a clinic, a primary school and the homes of villagers in Shazhou.

The exhibition chronicles the story of an impoverished villager named Xu Jiexiu, who offered shelter to three female Red Army soldiers during the Long March in the 1930s. Upon the soldiers’ departure, they cut their only quilt in halves, leaving one part with Xu to show their care.

Xi said the CPC owes its achievements to the people’s support, vowing to further improve the people’s wellbeing.

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While inspecting the village service center, he stressed the effectiveness of primary-level public services. The center should provide targeted services for local residents according their needs, he told workers there.

At the primary school, the president encouraged students to make progress every day and grow from “saplings” into “towering trees” of the Chinese nation.

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Coronavirus Largest Health Crisis

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The novel coronavirus pandemic is the largest global health crisis of the past decades, and China was the first country to be hit by COVID-19.

When the lives of 1.4 billion people were put under threat by the virus, China locked down Wuhan, once the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

But how did the virus spread throughout the city? And what led to the unprecedented lockdown? CGTN launches “The Frontline: China’s Fight Against COVID-19”, a 90-minute-long two-part documentary.

In part one, the initial outbreak and the following two months are explored, and how a city of 11 million came to a standstill.

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Xi Jinping: China, EU Should Be Committed To Multilateralism, Dialogue

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China and the European Union (EU) should be committed to peaceful coexistence, openness and cooperation, multilateralism and dialogue, and consultation, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday, calling on the two sides to firmly promote the healthy and stable development of their comprehensive strategic partnership.

Xi made the remarks while co-hosting a China-Germany-EU leaders’ meeting on Monday evening in Beijing via video link with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the process, Xi said, adding that humanity is standing at a new crossroads.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU diplomatic ties, and this was the second video meeting between Chinese and EU leaders in less than three months. It also comes after recent visits by senior Chinese diplomats to EU member states such as Italy, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain and Greece.

During the meeting, the leaders announced the official signing of the China-EU Geographical Indications (GI) Agreement.

GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. The agreement is expected to prevent counterfeiting of GI and enable consumers on both sides to eat and use authentic high-quality products.

The two sides also vowed to accelerate the negotiation of the China-EU investment agreement and reaffirmed the goal of concluding the negotiation by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Xi and the European leaders decided to establish a China-EU high-level dialogue on environment and climate, and one in the digital field, in order to build a green partnership and a digital cooperative partnership.

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