Spy for Us — or never speak to your family again  

“China is using its huge digital surveillance system, and the threat of sending family members to reeducation camps, to pressure minorities to spy on their fellow exiles.”

From Buzzfeed:

Spying on behalf of the Chinese state went against everything O. believed in.

Yet even as he sat thousands of miles away in a quiet town in Sweden, he knew the police in his home country held something over him that could compel him to do just that — the freedom of his teenage son.

“What could I do?” O. said. “I told them, ‘My son is in your hands. He is the only thing that matters to me. I will do whatever you ask.’”

O. and his son belong to an ethnic group called the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group who make up close to half the population of Xinjiang, a sprawling region in China’s west. There, China’s government has built one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance states. Measures used there include techniques like DNA collection, iris scans, and cellphone surveillance, and they are disproportionately targeted at minority groups. Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have been sent to internment camps that are shrouded in secrecy over the past two years. None have been formally charged with a crime.

But if you’re Uighur, escaping China doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the surveillance state.

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The US-China trade war has begun — a shooting war could be next  

From Fox News:

A trade war broke out Friday between the U.S. and China, when the U.S. imposed tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese products and China slapped tariffs on and equal amount of U.S. products. President Trump has said that would prompt the U.S. to impose up to $500 billion in Chinese products.

But things could get worse. The deterioration in U.S.-China relations could escalate and turn into a shooting war between two nuclear armed superpowers. In the worst-case scenario, this could result in massive casualties on both sides that could even lead to nuclear war.

Some will call such a statement pure hype — and I wish it was. But the facts lead us to a dark place when it comes to our relationship with China, which is becoming less of a partnership and more like a fight between mortal enemies looking to gain any advantage they can over the other.

We are all rightly concerned over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Iran’s penchant for backing terror, and a rogue Russia that can’t seem to stop causing trouble all over the world. But these problems are nothing when compared to the China challenge. No other nation is as able to challenge American power on the world stage in the coming years.

Just look over the current state of affairs in the U.S.-China relationship. We see trade and military stand-offs, territorial disputes, and allies and partners of both nations squaring off or cybersecurity challenges. We see two nations on a collision course that seems more like the Cold War than the 21st century.

But before we stare war with China in the eye, let’s consider the budding trade battle between Washington and Beijing.

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U.S. insists sanctions will remain until North Korea denuclearizes — but China shows signs of breaking ranks  

China’s foreign minister, while saying “China was intent on playing ‘a constructive role’ in connection with the North, declined to answer a question about China’s intentions on the sanctions.”

According to The New York Times, via msn news:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Asian powers on Thursday that President Trump was sticking to demands that North Korea surrender its nuclear weapons, as he sought to hold together a fragile consensus on maintaining tough sanctions against the North despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that it was “no longer a nuclear threat.”

At a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, Mr. Pompeo softened some of the president’s recent comments — but did not retract them — and insisted that United Nations sanctions would remain in place until North Korea had accomplished “complete denuclearization.”

“We are going to get the complete denuclearization,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters. “Only then will there be relief from sanctions.”

He made the same point later Thursday in Beijing, where he met with China’s president, Xi Jinping. But China had already shown signs of breaking ranks on tough enforcement of the sanctions against its neighbor and trading partner, saying that with North Korea now at the negotiating table, they could legitimately be eased.

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It remains to be seen how things play out further down the road, but China already seems intent on asserting itself into the process in furtherance of its own interests over those of the United States.

Was this a strategy Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping agreed upon when they met in Beijing recently?

China approves five new trademarks for Ivanka Trump’s business just days after Trump’s deal to drop US prohibitions against cellphone manufacturer ZTE  

From DailyMail.com:

Ivanka Trump’s business has won approval from China for at least five new trademarks.

The timing appears to be suspect with it coming just days after Donald Trump announced he was working on a controversial deal to drop U.S. prohibitions against China cellphone manufacturer ZTE.

President Trump said Friday he had reached a deal to keep Chinese telecoms giant ZTE running, rolling back penalties in exchange for security guarantees.

The move infuriated Democrats and some in his own party after the company violated US sanctions on Iran and North Korea and repeatedly lied to US government officials.

But now, daughter Ivanka’s operations will give her the exclusive rights to market a variety of products in China that will likely amount to millions of dollars in profits.

Although the trademark applications were submitted more than a year ago, they were all approved on May 7 – then five days later Trump said he was working on a deal to lift remove U.S. business barriers against ZTE in order to save Chinese jobs.

News of the agreement drew immediate fire on Capitol Hill.

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Chinese expansion has Germany on the defensive  

From Spiegel Online:

China has already taken a significant step into Germany. In the Rheinhausen district of Duisburg, trains are now rolling across the site where steelworkers once fought unsuccessfully to save their mill in 1987 while shipyard cranes stack up containers on the banks of the Rhine River. This is the precise point where the New Silk Road, China’s massive infrastructure project, comes to an end.

The site in Duisburg is known as Logport I and it is one of the largest container ports in Europe. Twenty-five trains arrive each week at Terminal DIT, also known as the China Terminal, after having traveled the more than 10,000 kilometers from Chongqing across Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland.

Four years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the inland port. The engine of a train that arrived from China that day was decorated with red paper dragons for the occasion and Erich Staake, CEO of the Duisburg port, was also on hand.

Staake, who, like the Chinese president, was born in 1953, sees the rail connection as a boon both for the port and for the entire region, which badly needs it. “We want to grow,” he says. “China and the New Silk Road offer us great potential.” One way of seeing it is that the trade route brings China and Germany that much closer together.

There is, though, another way of seeing it: Namely that the multibillion-dollar project provides the Chinese with a kind of bridgehead in Europe from which they are pushing their expansion across the Continent and broadening their economic influence.

So which is it? An opportunity or a threat?

It isn’t easy to find an answer to that question — and that itself is telling. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to China this week will have a different flavor to it than her previous 10 visits to the country. The relationship between the two countries has changed in the interim and is no longer as balanced as it once was.

Until recently, the relationship had seemed almost symbiotic and the roles were clear: Germany sold high-end machinery and vehicles in China, including more than 5 million automobiles in 2017 alone. In return, China exported furniture, refrigerators and electronic devices to Germany at unbeatably low prices. But now, China has reached adulthood much more quickly than expected.

Not all that long ago, China was a developing economy, seen by industrialized countries in the West as a gigantic market where they could sell their goods. Then, it became the world’s factory, a place with inexhaustible resources. Now, however, it has matured into a powerful competitor capable of leaving Germany in its dust. Chinese companies are developing intelligent machinery and production facilities; they are building cars, many of them with electric motors; and they’re making inroads into sectors that used to be Germany’s private domain. China has figured out how to copy Germany’s successful model and is now becoming a danger to the original.

Mikko Huotari was one of the first to identify this development several years ago. Huotari is a scholar at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (merics), a think tank in Berlin. The old logic which held that “China needs us” is no longer true. In fact, he says, the situation has flipped: Germany is increasingly reliant on China as the country increasingly becomes a driver of global innovation. “The entire mechanics of the system have changed.”

Just how confident, or perhaps even aggressive, the Chinese have become can be seen when they buy companies in Germany. They used to target second-tier firms, but in recent years, the focus has increasingly shifted to key industrial players. “Germany is home to around 1,000 mid-sized companies that are global leaders in their sectors. The Chinese want access to them,” says Kai Lucks, head of the Federal Association of Mergers & Acquisitions in Germany.

Recently, Chinese buyers have even shown an appetite for companies listed on the DAX, Germany’s blue-chip stock index. In February, billionaire Li Shufu quietly acquired a 10 percent stake in Daimler. Dieter Zetsche, the company’s chairman of the board, believes that an additional large Chinese investor may also acquire a stake in the company: the state-owned firm BAIC, Daimler’s Chinese partner. Politicians and executives are beginning to wonder what large company might be targeted by Chinese investors next.

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What China wants — and doesn’t want — from a Trump-Kim summit

“Beijing’s security interests will be served if a potential agreement weakens the U.S. alliance with South Korea, reduces the U.S. military presence in Asia and limits the threat of refugee flows on Chinese borders, according to The Atlantic Council.”

From CNBC:

Next month’s milestone summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump has major implications for China, which has geopolitical and security interests at stake on the Korean Peninsula.

“Lurking in the background as a potential spoiler or helper in this drama is Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who sees both opportunity and peril,” Fred Kempe, president and CEO of foreign policy think tank Atlantic Council, wrote in a recent note.

The world’s second-largest economy has long supported a nuclear-free region but strategists say its greatest priority is preventing North Korean regime collapse — if the rogue state falls under the weight of sanctions, that could send a flood of citizens to China.

For Beijing, “the right sort of peace deal could weaken the U.S. alliance with South Korea, reduce the threat of conflict and refugee flows on Chinese borders, and ultimately lead to the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” said Kempe.

Ending the U.S. military presence in South Korea — a major prerequisite for Kim’s administration to relinquish nuclear weapons — is expected to boost China’s goal of minimizing America’s influence in Asia.

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New admiral in the Pacific, and he’s got his eye on China

“The incoming commander of US Pacific Fleet issues a warning about growing Chinese ambitions while taking charge of the world’s largest fleet.”

From Breaking Defense:

As the world’s largest fleet met its new commander on Thursday, he offered a stark warning to adversaries like China and Russia, who have emerged as major strategic competitors in the Pacific.

“A great power competition has reemerged as the central challenge to security and prosperity against our nation,” Adm. John Aquilino said. “Nowhere are the stakes of that great power competition higher than here in the Indo-Pacific region. To any potential adversary that wishes to challenge us, the Secretary of Defense said it best, ‘You can have no better friend, or you can have no worse enemy’ than the U.S. Pacific Fleet, that choice will be yours.”

Aquilino’s comments came the same day China announced its strategic H-6K bomber landed on one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, a clear signal that the Chinese military is willing and able to use its far-flung holdings as military bases. (China, of course, had told the world their fake islands would not be used for military purposes.)

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Donald Trump goes to bat to save jobs — in China

“The question will be if Trump is more effective at saving jobs for a Chinese company, than he has been for those companies he promised, and failed, to save in the US.”

From Daily Kos:

Donald Trump has vowed to directly intervene in US-China trade to benefit Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE. ZTE is currently banned from selling US technology after it violated sanctions on selling US-made gear to Iran and North Korea and lied to investigators looking into the issue.

ZTE is one of several large Chinese manufacturers of mobile technology. Over the last three years, the company managed to do something that few other Chinese companies have done — leave their home market and make significant inroads in the United States and Japan. Other Chinese brands, like Vivo, show big numbers on the worldwide sales charts, but that’s pretty much all domestic sales within China.

But ZTE’s global outreach also included sales to Iran and North Korea. Since at least 2011, the US has been looking into ZTE’s sales to Iran, which included US-made technology used in surveillance gear. Not only did investigations show that ZTE had made such sales, it also turned up the sales of US-made equipment to North Korea. And ZTE both lied to the Department of Commerce about it’s actions and actively tried to interfere in the investigation.

Ultimately, ZTE was given a record $1.2 billion fine for its actions. It also agreed to take internal action at the company to penalize those officers and workers who had knowingly worked to defy the sanctions and make other moves to safeguard against such an event happening again. It didn’t. So earlier this year, the United States banned sales of US hardware and software components to ZTE.

In response, ZTE warned that the company could no longer operate. Even the phones it sells inside China depend on Google’s Android operating system and use chips designed by California-based Qualcomm. ZTE protested the ban, but the Commerce Department made it clear that ZTE’s violations were blatant and the ban would not be lifted.

But now, Donald Trump is coming in to save a Chinese phone company that clearly broke US law … because that’s how things are done in an age when diplomacy is nothing more than personal relationships.

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Lindsey Graham helped Trump intimidate Chinese by warning them POTUS is ‘crazy, volatile’

Graham told the Chinese ambassador, “If you don’t think Trump’s crazy, then you’re crazy.”

From The Western Journal:

During the 2016 Republican primary season, most of the GOP presidential candidates were not big fans of then-businessman Donald Trump, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was certainly no exception.

Since Trump won the election and took office, Graham has come around somewhat and has been fairly supportive of the president’s agenda, though he still offers up softened criticism of Trump’s words and deeds at times like many other members of the Republican establishment.

According to Mediaite, Graham appears to have delivered a grab bag of criticism and praise of the president during a speech to the Columbia Rotary Club on Monday.

The remarks from the senator on a variety of topics were documented in a handful of tweets from a local reporter in attendance at the speech, Andy Shain of The Charleston Post and Courier.

At one point Graham related how he had told the Chinese ambassador, “If you don’t think Trump’s crazy, then you’re crazy.”

While on it’s face that may come across as criticism, consider how that actually may have proven helpful to the bigger picture of Trump’s agenda as it pertains to military and trade relations with China and especially North Korea.

Trump’s bellicose rhetoric toward North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — which in essence appears to have brought Kim to the discussion table for peace talks — painted the picture that Trump was just “crazy” enough to actually back up his “fire and fury” rhetoric with actual furious fire from the military if Kim continued to threaten the region.

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Is China sabotaging the North Korea denuclearization talks?

Kim’s surprise back-to-back meeting with Xi could mean the Chinese are up to no good.

From the Daily Beast:

Tuesday, President Trump revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way to North Korea. The trip had not been previously announced.

Just hours before, Beijing reported that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, met with China’s Xi Jinping on Monday and Tuesday, in the Chinese port of Dalian. Trump spoke with Xi by phone Tuesday to discuss Xi’s surprise meeting with Kim.

The Chinese appear to be up to no good. There was, prior to the Xi-Kim meeting, fast progress in American efforts to “denuclearize” North Korea, so the involvement of Beijing, which has periodically supported the North’s weaponization efforts, is unlikely to be beneficial from the Trump administration’s point of view.

Kim’s trip to Dalian was extraordinary. Kim went to Beijing at the end of March. Protocol — the Chinese are great sticklers for it when it works to their advantage — demanded Xi return the visit before Kim returned to China. In fact, in April sources reported the Chinese leader was planning to go to Pyongyang in May or June.

Instead of Xi going to Pyongyang, Kim made another visit to Chinese soil. At least since the end of the fighting in the Korean War, never have there been two China-North Korea summits so close together in time. “It is without modern precedent for a leader to come to China on back-to-back visits as Mr. Kim has done,” said Cheng Xiaohe of Beijing’s Renmin University to The New York Times.

So why did the Dalian meeting occur? “The second meeting demonstrated that North Korea wanted China to play a larger role in the denuclearization process,” Cheng said. “When Kim enters the meeting with Trump, he will feel more confident, simply his positions on a variety of issues were consulted and sanctioned by the Chinese leader.” […]

China is making mischief at a crucial time, when both sides are establishing their initial positions. Kim hoped to “eventually achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula,” Beijing’s statement said. To do that, the North Korean was contemplating “phased and synchronous measures in a responsible manner.”

Kim’s position is, at least at this moment, completely unacceptable to the Trump administration. “We will not relieve sanctions until such time as we have achieved our objectives,” Pompeo told reporters on his plane Tuesday while en route to North Korea. “We’re not going to do this in small increments, where the world is coerced into relieving economic pressures.”

Accordingly, Pompeo may have decided to get on his plane to undo Xi’s efforts on Monday and Tuesday with Kim. It’s noteworthy that Pompeo is going to North Korea just as positive momentum in U.S.-North Korea ties is fading. The unwelcome propaganda blast directed at the Trump administration from the Korean Central News Agency occurred over the weekend, just hours before Kim met Xi.

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