Opinion | How Technology Saved China’s Economy – By Ruchir Sharma – The New York Times

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Mr. Sharma is an author, global investor and contributing opinion writer.

Credit…China Network/Reuters

“Landing in Shanghai recently, I found myself in the middle of a tech revolution remarkable in its sweep. The passport scanner automatically addresses visitors in their native tongues. Digital payment apps have replaced cash. Outsiders trying to use paper money get blank stares from store clerks.

Nearby in the city of Hangzhou a prototype hotel called FlyZoo uses facial recognition to open doors, no keys required. Robots mix cocktails and provide room service. Farther south in Shenzhen, we flew the same drones that are already making e-commerce deliveries in rural China. Downtown traffic flowed smoothly, guided by synced stoplights and restrained by police cameras.

Outside China, these technologies are seen as harbingers of an “automated authoritarianism,” using video cameras and facial recognition systems to thwart lawbreakers and a “citizen score” to rank citizens for political reliability. An advanced version has been deployed to counter unrest among Muslim Uighurs in the inland region of Xinjiang. But in China as a whole, surveys show that trust in technology is high, concern about privacy low. If people fear Big Brother, they keep it to themselves. In our travels along the coast, many expressed pride in China’s sudden rise as a tech power.

China initiated its economic miracle by opening to the outside world, but now it is nurturing domestic tech giants by barring outside competition. Foreign visitors cannot open Google or Facebook, a weirdly isolating experience, and the trade deal announced Wednesday by President Trump defers discussion of those barriers.”

Trump’s China Deal Creates Collateral Damage for Tech Firms – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Among the corporate titans recognized last week by President Trump during a White House signing ceremony for his China trade deal was Sanjay Mehrotra, the chief executive of Micron Technology, whose Idaho semiconductor company is at the heart of Mr. Trump’s trade war.

Micron, which makes memory chips for computers and smartphones, is precisely the kind of advanced technology company that the Trump administration views as crucial to maintaining a competitive edge over China. After Micron rebuffed a 2015 takeover attempt by a Chinese state-owned company, it watched with disbelief as its innovations were stolen and copied by a Chinese competitor and its business was blocked from China.

China’s treatment of American companies like Micron fed Mr. Trump’s decision to unleash a punishing trade war with the world’s second-largest economy, a fight he said would halt Beijing’s use of unfair practices to undermine the United States. But that two-year conflagration may wind up being more damaging to American technology companies.

The initial trade deal announced last week should make operating in China easier for companies like Micron. The deal contains provisions meant to protect American technology and trade secrets and allow companies to challenge China on accusations of theft, including older cases like Micron’s that precede the agreement.”

How China Obtains American Trade Secrets – by Keith Bradsher – New York Times

“. . . . The American authorities have long accused Chinese companies and individuals of hacking and other outright theft of American corporate secrets. And some in the Trump administration worry that Chinese companies are simply buying it through corporate deals.

American companies say Chinese companies also use more subtle tactics to get access to valuable technology.

Sometimes China requires foreign companies to form joint ventures with local firms in order to do business there, as in the case of the auto industry. It also sometimes requires that a certain percentage of a product’s value be manufactured locally, as it once did with wind turbines and solar panels.

The technology companies Apple and Amazon set up ventures with local partners to handle data in China to comply with internal security laws.

Companies are loath to accuse Chinese partners of theft for fear of getting punished. Business groups that represent them say Chinese companies use those corporate ties to pressure foreign partners into giving up secrets. They also say Chinese officials have pressured foreign companies to give them access to sensitive technology as part of a review process to make sure those products are safe for Chinese consumers.”

A Maine Paper Mill’s Unexpected Savior: China – The New York Times

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Photographs by 

“OLD TOWN, Maine — During the deepest part of last winter, a van pulled off the highway and followed the two-lane road that skims along the Penobscot River, coming to rest beside the hulk of a shuttered pulp mill. The van’s door slid open and passengers climbed out: seven Buddhist monks from China.

Andrew Edwards, a mill superintendent from the nearby town of Lincoln, led them to a room where he had stockpiled the things they had requested for the ceremony: oranges, limes, apples and seven shovels, one for each monk.

Snow lay deep on the ground, two feet of gritty, frozen crust, and he remembers worrying a little about the visitors. “They were in their, I don’t know what they’re called, their Tibetan outfit,” he said. “With the sandals and whatnot.”

He stepped back and watched as the monks wandered from the boiler houses to the limekiln to the pulp mill, chanting, burning candles and gently tapping a gong.”

DL A female Chinese billionaire was bringing the paper mill back to life, after being closed for three years. All the Trump supporters were confused and conflicted. The new Chinese owner started with a strict feng shui analysis.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Beautiful story, thank you Ellen Barry et al. Some of the comments are good and thought provoking too. “Cathy Cashman, now 64, had started there when she was 22. The mill’s history was her history.” I hope that the honorable CEO, the ChairLady, will offer Ms Ellen Barry a small part-time job, related to American-Chinese relations and good feng shui.
David Lindsay is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam

There Are No Children Here. Just Lots of Life-Size Dolls. – The New York Times

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Photographs by 

“NAGORO, Japan — The last children were born in the remote mountain village of Nagoro 18 years ago.

Now, just over two dozen adults live in this outpost straddling a river on the Japanese island of Shikoku. The elementary school closed its doors in 2012, shortly after the last two students completed sixth grade.

But on a recent bright autumn Sunday, Tsukimi Ayano brought the school back to life.

It just so happened that she did it with dolls rather than humans.

Ms. Ayano, 70, had arrayed more than 40 handmade dolls in a lifelike tableau on the grounds of the shuttered school. Recreating a school sports day known as “undokai,” a staple of the Japanese calendar, she had posed child-size dolls in a footrace, perched on a swing set and tossing balls.

“We never see children here anymore,” said Ms. Ayano, who was born in Nagoro, and has staged an annual doll festival for the last seven years.”

David Lindsay:  Comment to NYT

What a lovely, strange story by Motoko Rich and  Nadia Shira Cohen. Thank you. Dr of Nothing commented to this extraordinary piece: “What we are seeing here is a town at the end of its lifespan, but also a society and culture in significant decline. Japan is predicted to have half its current population by the end of the century, so this is more than just a retreat, its a collapse.”

I must disagree completely.  Japan is one of the most overpopulated places in the planet, and naturalists  are suggesting that for the life as we know it to be sustainable, and with other creatures, we need to reduce world population from 7.6 to perhaps 4 billion. That the Japanese are doing their part to bring their own country to more sustainable human numbers, to allow for other species, and clean air and water, and less climate change is magnificent.

Wikipedia reports, “According to the World Bank, the population of Japan as of 2018 is at 126.5 million, including foreign residents.[3] The population of only Japanese nationals was 124.8 million in January 2019.[4]

Japan was the world’s tenth-most populous country as of 2018. “  They showed that in 1910, the population was only about 51 million.

This fact that overpopulated states are going down in population is not bad news. It is good news, and a necessary part of our survival through a slowing of climate change and the sixth extinction of species.

David Lindsay Jr. is an author of “The Tay Son Rebellion”  and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | My Grandmother’s Favorite Scammer – By Frankie Huang – The New York Times

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Ms. Huang is a writer and illustrator.

“BEIJING — One day last winter my mother sent me an odd message over WeChat. “Has Laolao said anything strange to you today?” she asked.

I immediately sensed that something was amiss. My mother is a typical Chinese parent. She always feels obliged to withhold bad news from me until she has no other choice. Why was she worried about my grandmother?

I thought back to my most recent visit to Laolao’s shabby apartment here. She had just turned 88, and other than the usual age-related forgetfulness and grumbling about kids these days, she was her usual self.

My mother’s next message unnerved me even more. “Was she of sound mind?”

“You have to tell me what’s going on,” I messaged back.

I fought the urge to berate her and began to scour the internet for information on bank scams that involved sworn secrecy. My heart sank when results filled my screen, describing our situation exactly. I was in an airport, on a business trip, so I messaged Laolao’s assistant at her office and told her to freeze all my grandmother’s bank accounts. But it turned out the bank couldn’t do anything unless Laolao herself requested it.”

Opinion | The World-Shaking News That You’re Missing – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“SINGAPORE — One of the most negative byproducts of the Trump presidency is that all we talk about now is Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong: How can we not be fixated on a president who daily undermines the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust?

But there are some tectonic changes underway behind the Trump noise machine that demand a serious national discussion, like the future of U.S.-China relations. Yet it’s not happening — because all we talk about is Donald Trump.

Consider this: On Nov. 9, European leaders gathered in Berlin to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an anniversary worth celebrating. But no one seemed to notice that almost exactly 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, a new wall — a digital Berlin Wall — had begun to be erected between China and America. And the only thing left to be determined, a Chinese business executive remarked to me, “is how high this wall will be,” and which countries will choose to be on which side.

This new wall, separating a U.S.-led technology and trade zone from a Chinese-led one, will have implications as vast as the wall bisecting Berlin did. Because the peace, prosperity and accelerations in technology and globalization that have so benefited the world over the past 40 years were due, in part, to the interweaving of the U.S. and Chinese economies.”

Opinion | Is China Heading for Crisis? – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“In 2001, Gordon Chang, an American lawyer who had spent many years in Hong Kong and Shanghai, published a book forebodingly titled “The Coming Collapse of China.” At the time, the thesis seemed improbable, if not preposterous.

It looks a great deal less improbable now.

China — or, rather, the Chinese regime — is in trouble. Tuesday’s gigantic parade in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic looked like something out of the late Brezhnev era: endless military pomp and gray old men. Hong Kong is in its fourth straight month of protests, marked and stained by this week’s shooting of an unarmed teenage demonstrator. The Chinese economy is growing at its slowest rate in 27 years, even when going by the overstated official figures.

Meantime, capital is fleeing China — an estimated $1.2 trillion in the past decade — while foreign investors sour on Chinese markets. Beijing’s loudly touted Belt-and-Road initiative looks increasingly like a swamp of corruption, malinvestment and bad debt. Its retaliatory options in the face of Donald Trump’s trade war are bad and few. And General Secretary Xi Jinping has created a cult-of-personality dictatorship in a style unseen since Mao Zedong, China’s last disastrous emperor.

Remember the “Chinese Dream” — Xi’s vision of China as a modern, powerful, and “moderately well-off” state? Forget it. The current task for Chinese leadership is to avoid a full-blown nightmare of international isolation, economic decline, and domestic revolt.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment
Bret writes well, but doesn’t seem to know much about China. In reading the comments, I am reminded that most Chinese do not care about democracy, but getting out of poverty, and they are pleased with their government.
One astute writer this summer, pointed out that China doesn’t need Hong Kong’s market anymore. The Chinese market makes China independent financially from Hong Kong. That writer suggested that the dissidents of Hong Kong are doomed. I am impressed that the CCP has announced a $500 billion push over the next five years into solar and sustainable energy. They have announced that all cars will be electric by 2030, and now have 42 companies making electric cars. The News Hour showed last night that you have to join a lottery to get a automoblie license, and it getting harder and harder to get a license for gas vehicles.
A Vietnamese professor teaching at a universtiy in the USA, recently reported that the top government officials of Vietnam have been bought out by the Chinese CCP, and are quietly not fighting China’s take over of the South China Sea. There is a question among my friends about whether a democracy like the United States, is capable of dealing with the existencial threat of the climate crisis.
If the oil and gas companies continue to control our politics for their short term profit, we might be the biggest threat to our own future.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | Trump and Xi Sittin’ in a Tree – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“I was glad to see the stock market get a boost from the news that Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators were talking again and that President Trump blinked a bit and pulled some of his planned tariffs.

But don’t be fooled. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are still locked in a cage match over who is the true big dog in today’s global economy. Both are desperate not only to “win,” but to be seen to win, and not be subjected to the scorn of their rivals or critics on social media.

Precisely because neither leader feels he can afford that fate, both have overplayed their hands. Xi basically believes that nothing has to change — and all can be made to stay the same by the force of his will. Trump basically believes that everything has to change — and all can be made to change by the force of his will.

The rest of us are just along for the ride.

Let’s look at both men’s calculations and miscalculations. Trump was right in arguing that America should not continue to tolerate systemic abusive Chinese trade practices — intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, huge government subsidies and nonreciprocal treatment of U.S. companies in China — now that China is virtually America’s technology equal and a rising middle-income country.”

Opinion | Where the Cold War Never Ended – By Ian Buruma – The New York Times

Japan and South Korea stir up an old, odd rivalry.

By 

Mr. Buruma is a writer and a professor at Bard College.

CreditCreditOleksii Liskonih/iStock, via Getty Images Plus

“In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II. Assets of major Japanese companies, such as Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have been seized in South Korea, and they could soon be sold. The Japanese government protested that this matter had already been resolved in 1965, when the two countries reached an agreement claiming to settle “completely and finally” all colonial-era claims in exchange for financial aid and loans from Japan worth $500 million.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan retaliated last month by slapping controls on vital exports to South Korea. He cited reasons of national security, but few believe that. Demonstrators in Seoul then protested against a Japanese “economic invasion,” and the South Korean government threatened to stop sharing military intelligence with Japan.

This latest spat follows many others to do with history: the alleged lack of sincerity in official Japanese apologies for having subjected Korea to brutal colonial rule between 1910 and 1945; fights over revisions to school textbooks that downplay Japan’s wartime aggression; the refusal of conservative Japanese governments to admit that Korean women were systematically recruited to serve as sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army.”