Archive for ‘Technology’

20/05/2019

Huawei’s use of Android restricted by Google

Google has barred the world’s second biggest smartphone maker, Huawei, from some updates to the Android operating system, dealing a blow to the Chinese company.

New designs of Huawei smartphones are set to lose access to some Google apps.

The move comes after the Trump administration added Huawei to a list of companies that American firms cannot trade with unless they have a licence.

Google said it was “complying with the order and reviewing the implications”.

Huawei said it would continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those have been sold or still in stock globally.

“We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally,” it added.

Mobile market shares

What does this mean for Huawei users?

Existing Huawei smartphone users will be able to update apps and push through security fixes, as well as update Google Play services.

But when Google launches the next version of Android later this year, it may not be available on Huawei devices.

Future Huawei devices may no longer have apps such as YouTube and Maps.

Huawei can still use the version of the Android operating system available through an open source licence.

Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy, said the move by Google would have “big implications for Huawei’s consumer business”.

What can Huawei do about this?

Last Wednesday, the Trump administration added Huawei to its “entity list“, which bans the company from acquiring technology from US firms without government approval.

In his first comments since the firm was placed on the list, Huawei chief executive Ren Zhengfei told Japanese media on Saturday: “We have already been preparing for this.”

He said the firm, which buys about $67bn (£52.6bn) worth of components each year according to the Nikkei business newspaper, would push ahead with developing its own parts.

Huawei faces a growing backlash from Western countries, led by the US, over possible risks posed by using its products in next-generation 5G mobile networks.

Several countries have raised concerns that Huawei equipment could be used by China for surveillance, allegations the company has vehemently denied.

Huawei has said its work does not pose any threats and that it is independent from the Chinese government.

However, some countries have blocked telecoms companies from using Huawei products in 5G mobile networks.

So far the UK has held back from any formal ban.

“Huawei has been working hard on developing its own App Gallery and other software assets in a similar manner to its work on chipset solutions. There is little doubt these efforts are part of its desire to control its own destiny,” said Mr Wood.

Media caption We explain the controversy around Huawei’s 5G tech – using castles

Short-term damage for Huawei?

By Leo Kelion, BBC Technology desk editor

In the short term, this could be very damaging for Huawei in the West.

Smartphone shoppers would not want an Android phone that lacked access to Google’s Play Store, its virtual assistant or security updates, assuming these are among the services that would be pulled.

In the longer term, though, this might give smartphone vendors in general a reason to seriously consider the need for a viable alternative to Google’s operating system, particularly at a time that the search giant is trying to push its own Pixel brand at their expense.

As far as Huawei is concerned, it appears to have prepared for the eventuality of being cut off from American know-how.

Its smartphones are already powered by its own proprietary processors, and earlier this year its consumer devices chief told German newspaper Die Welt that “we have prepared our own operating systems – that’s our plan B”.

Even so, this move could knock its ambition to overtake Samsung and become the bestselling smartphone brand in 2020 seriously off course.


What about the US-China trade war?

The latest move against Huawei marks an escalation in tensions between the firm and the US.

The company is facing almost two dozen criminal charges filed by US authorities. Washington is also seeking the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wangzou from Canada, where she was arrested in December at the behest of American officials.

It comes as trade tensions between the US and China also appear to be rising.

The world’s two largest economies have been locked in a bruising trade battle for the past year that has seen tariffs imposed on billions of dollars worth of one another’s goods.

Earlier this month, Washington more than doubled tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate with its own tariff hikes on US products.

The move surprised some – and rattled global markets – as the situation had seemed to be nearing a conclusion.

The US-China trade war has weighed on the global economy over the past year and created uncertainty for businesses and consumers.

Source: The BBC

Advertisements
06/05/2019

Mainland, Taiwan youths called on to contribute to national rejuvenation

BEIJING, May 5 (Xinhua) — The Chinese mainland’s Taiwan affairs chief on Sunday called on youths on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to jointly shoulder the historic mission of national rejuvenation and contribute to cross-Strait integrated development.

Liu Jieyi, head of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, made the remarks at the opening ceremony of a summit on cross-Strait exchange and cooperation among the youths.

Young people on the two sides of the Strait should value this great time, be responsible and do their share in safeguarding and building the common home of compatriots on the two sides of the Strait, Liu said.

“Attempts by the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces to undermine cross-Strait peace and obstruct national development will never be allowed,” he said.

He also pledged to provide better conditions for youths from Taiwan to carry out exchanges, study, work and start businesses on the mainland.

As Saturday marks the centenary of the May Fourth Movement, Liu called on the youths on both sides of the Strait to pass on the May Fourth spirit, which refers to patriotism, progress, democracy and science, with patriotism at the core.

Source: Xinhua

07/04/2019

India eco-school: Is this the greenest campus on Earth?

School
Image captionThe school’s surrounding mountainous landscape is almost devoid of vegetation as it is above the tree line

Secmol is a school pioneering practical green education in one of the world’s harshest environments.

Its campus is perched nearly 11,000ft (3,350m) up in the pre-Himalayan mountains along the Indus River in Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Road sign

The teenage pupils at Secmol (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) lack wi-fi and almost all phone coverage, in an area only accessible by air during the long harsh winter when deep snow renders roads out of the province impassable.

The surrounding mountainous landscape is almost devoid of vegetation as it is above the tree line.

Secmol
Drone footage of schoolImage copyrightSUMEDH CHAPHEKAR

The school even sets its own time zone to maximise sunlight, which also reminds every student and visitor that when they pass the gates they are entering a different world.

Pupils are all from the regular Ladakhi school system and only those who have failed their year 10 exams are permitted to attend. There are also a number of university students who form a core part of the community along with the teachers.

Child helping prepare food in kitchen

School director Konchok Norgay explained to the BBC that the students learn about the environment for an hour or two each day.

In a typical maths lesson, they may calculate if the water from the spring is enough for tree planting, or work out the efficiency of the solar cooker that they use for heating water.

Mirrors used to harness the sun's intense heat

The solar cooker looks impressive, with mirrors crafted to catch the harsh sunlight, focusing their power to create intense heat.

But it is currently only used to boil water for tea.

Water is boiled using natural light

Norgay proudly showed off his experimental biogas methane digester, which is powered by slurry.

Dung is mixed with water and then placed in a long tube and left for several days.

Secmol's director Konchok Norgay

The gas rises to the top, and is filtered through steel wool to ensure the gas does not corrode the oven, before reaching a plastic inflatable reserve tank.

“It’s fantastic as not only do you use less commercial gas, but you use natural materials instead,” student Stanzin Sungrab says. “And we can use the slurry waste as fertiliser in the kitchen garden.”

Each student must perform daily responsibility shifts and develop their confidence with nightly presentations to the rest of the school and visitors.

Stanzin has spent many hours developing relationships with Karjama, Thotkar and Sheyma, the campus cows.

Cow shed

When students are not on the 04:00 breakfast preparation shift, the day starts at 07:00 with a seven-minute group meditation.

Students are encouraged to focus on goals for the day over a meal of cold roti bread and homemade apricot jam.

The apricot stones are sent to a neighbouring monastery, where the kernels are recycled into apricot oil.

apricot seeds for recycling

Innovation is hard-wired into the architecture of the campus, challenged by an environment where winter temperatures typically reach -15C to -25C, and summer can often peak at 30C.

Ladakh has longstanding environmental credentials – even if the recent sprouting of large concrete hotels and increasing pollution in the capital Leh are challenging its green record.

“We banned plastic bags here 30 years ago,” says Sonam Gatso, who operates a local green organisation.

Sonam also believes local Buddhist culture helps promote environmental awareness. “We try to be compassionate as we believe in Karma – cause-and-effect. If you do wrong to anyone else or the environment, wrong will come to you.”

Girl peels eggs

Secmol is an impressive school, but how far can its lessons extend beyond its innovative but isolated campus?

Urgain Nurbu, a former Secmol student who is now living on campus again, has been so inspired by what he learnt that he organised an environmental youth camp in his remote village.

College student Urgain Nurbu

The camp-goers make rain jackets from old plastic, and Urgain invites environmental speakers to inspire the young people.

One graduate has started her own eco-travel company, another makes environmentally-themed films.

Shara, an architectural student, is now experimenting with creating pre-fabricated building blocks from mud, wood shavings and straw.

Shara

She is part of a team designing a new university in the area which plans to teach eco-tourism and green architecture, scaling the influence of ideas nurtured in Secmol’s pioneering atmosphere.

For now, the school’s impact is achieved by transforming individual mindsets to create a sense of shared responsibility.

“My grandfather told me how quiet and beautiful our village used to be and there were fish in the river,” student Padma Doma told the BBC.

“That’s why it’s so important to me to protect our precious environment. In the future, maybe it can be like that again.

Padma Dolma shows food box

“I want to go home and convince my family to segregate their garbage. Will they listen? Perhaps not, but I will try, and if I see somebody throwing away a packet, I will pick it up.”

Stanzin feels this is “a really critical time for our planet”.

“In our homes we throw away garbage but here we recycle. In our homes we throw away plastic but here we use it for insulation.”

As the environment is so harsh, Ladakhis are very conscious of subtle changes in the weather, and have become increasingly aware of climate change, he says.

“Last year, we didn’t have much snow so there’s not enough snowmelt in the springtime. Because we are so high up and everything must be treasured, you learn to understand the value of the smallest drop of water.”

List of things that impact the environment

All photos Emily Kasriel unless indicated. Subject to copyright.

Source: The BBC

22/03/2019

India election 2019: When will broadband reach all villages?

Indian women check their mobile phones at a free Wi-Fi zone in Mumbai in February 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants more than a billion Indians connected to the internet – and his BJP government is counting on a project taking cheap high-speed broadband to rural areas to achieve this.

The project, to build a nationwide optical fibre network, was launched in 2014 and is the flagship scheme of the government’s Digital India programme.

In the run-up to the Indian election, which gets under way on 11 April, BBC Reality Check is examining claims and pledges made by the main political parties.

So has the project been a success?

Presentational grey line

Pledge: Indian Communications Minister Manoj Sinha promised to provide every village in the country with high speed broadband and that this would be achieved by March 2019.

Verdict: The project to set up digital infrastructure in rural India has made substantial headway but has so far achieved less than 50% of its intended target.

Quote card for Indian minister of state (communications) Manoj Sinha
Presentational grey line

An ambitious plan

India has the second highest number of internet users in the world but the penetration is quite low for its size and population.

The BharatNet scheme aims to connect more than 600,000 villages in India with a minimum broadband speed of 100Mbps.

It would enable local service providers to offer internet access to the local population, primarily through mobile phones and other portable devices.

India’s telecom regulator says there were 560 million internet connections in India in September last year.

What’s been achieved so far?

The government’s overall target is to connect 250,000 village councils covering more than 600,000 individual villages across the country.

The work of laying cables and installing equipment to connect 100,000 of them was finally completed in December 2017 after significant delays.

This milestone was hailed a success but there were also critical voices, especially from government opponents about whether the cables were actually operational.

Indian villagers from a self-help group with laptops in Bibinagar village outskirts of Hyderabad on 7 March 2013Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The next phase, to connect the remaining councils by March 2019, has been under way for a year now.

In total, as of the end of January this year, official data shows optical fibre cables have been laid in 123,489 village councils – and equipment installed in 116,876 of them.

There is also a plan to install wi-fi hotspots in more than 100,000 council areas – but as of January these were operational in only 12,500 of them.

Old plan, new name

It has been an ambition of successive governments to connect all India to the internet but plans have hit many roadblocks.

BharatNet was first conceived in 2011 by the then Congress government as the National Optical Fibre Network but did not make much headway in its pilot phase.

A parliamentary committee said the project had been affected by “inadequate planning and design” from 2011 to 2014.

When the BJP came to power in 2014, it took over the project and has pushed ahead with national broadband coverage.

And in January last year, the government said it would complete the work ahead of the stipulated deadline of March 2019.

Has the deadline been met?

There was impressive progress made in 2016 and 2017 but since then the pace has slowed.

In January this year, the agency executing BharatNet said 116,411 village councils were “service ready”.

This means that provisions for ready-to-use connectivity have been made.

But not all “service ready” village councils have proper connections, says Osama Manzar, from the non-governmental Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF).

DEF found that only 50 of 269 “service ready” councils inspected across 13 states in 2018 had the required device and internet connection set-up.

And only 31 of them had “functional”, but slow, internet connections.

Mr Manzar notes that this is problematic considering “the public welfare distribution and the financial sectors rely heavily on digital infrastructure today”.

Another report, citing an internal official memo, said most of the councils had non-functioning networks or faulty equipment.

Next steps

BharatNet has faced also difficulties with electricity supply, theft, low-quality cables and poorly maintained equipment.

And these delays come as India aims to provide broadband in all households and move to 5G networks by 2022.

An official source defended BharatNet as a large-scale infrastructure project tackling difficult sites and not a service scheme, saying it was natural to see delays between set-up and use.

Source: The BBC

14/03/2019

China to invest more in emerging industries

BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) — China’s emerging industries will become a major driving force for investment growth this year, the Economic Information Daily reported Wednesday.

China will increase policy support for and infrastructure investment in emerging industries in 2019, including commercial applications of 5G, artificial intelligence, industrial internet and internet of things, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The country will cultivate emerging industrial clusters with market influence and distinctive advantages that can vigorously drive regional economic transformation, the newspaper quoted Ren Zhiwu, deputy secretary-general of the NDRC, as saying.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also plans to promote the deep integration of the internet, big data and artificial intelligence with the real economy, and encourage innovation in new technologies and new forms of industry, the newspaper said.

Local governments will also step up support for strategic emerging industries in financial aid, technological innovation and the business environment. Efforts should be made to improve strategic emerging industries’ capabilities to innovate, said the newspaper.

Source: Xinhua

07/03/2019

China establishes special committee for national nutrition plan

BEIJING, March 6 (Xinhua) — China has created a special committee to implement the country’s national nutrition plan, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).

Jointly established by NHC and 17 other government departments to coordinate and advance nutrition and health related work, the national nutrition and health committee held its inaugural meeting on Feb. 28 in Beijing, said a source of the NHC.

During the meeting, the committee adopted the regulation on its work and the main tasks for 2019 on the national nutrition plan.

Among the key jobs are improving food nutrition and health standards that build upon food safety, and establishing subcommittees at local levels to organize nutrition education and training, to conduct pilot programs and spread scientific knowledge in this regard.

Innovation will also be encouraged in the efforts, while nutrition intervention will be introduced in the campaign to battle poverty.

The national nutrition plan (2017-2030) was released by the General Office of the State Council in July 2017, with the goal of raising awareness of nutrition among the Chinese people, reducing obesity and anemia among students.

Source: Xinhua

06/03/2019

Huawei: The story of a controversial company

The African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa is a shiny spaceship-like structure that glistens in the afternoon sun.

With its accompanying skyscraper, it stands out in the Ethiopian capital.

Greetings in Mandarin welcome visitors as they enter the lifts, and the plastic palm trees bear the logos of the China Development Bank.

African Union HQ, Addis Ababa

African Union HQ, Addis Ababa

 

Everywhere, there are small indications that the building was made possible through Chinese financial aid.

In 2006, Beijing pledged $200m to build the headquarters. Completed in 2012, everything was custom-built by the Chinese – including a state-of-the-art computer system.

For several years, the building stood as a proud testament to ever-closer ties between China and Africa. Trade has rocketed over the past two decades, growing by about 20% a year, according to international consultancy McKinsey. China is Africa’s largest economic partner.

But in January 2018, French newspaper Le Monde Afrique dropped a bombshell.

It reported that the AU’s computer system had been compromised.

The newspaper, citing multiple sources, said that for five years, between the hours of midnight and 0200, data from the AU’s servers was transferred more than 8,000km away – to servers in Shanghai.

This had allegedly continued for 1,825 days in a row.

Le Monde Afrique reported that it had come to light in 2017, when a conscientious scientist working for the AU recorded an unusually high amount of computer activity on its servers during hours when the offices would have been deserted.

It was also reported that microphones and listening devices had been discovered in the walls and desks of the building, following a sweep for bugs.

The reaction was swift.

Both AU and Chinese officials publicly condemned the report as false and sensationalist – an attempt by the Western media to damage relations between a more assertive China and an increasingly independent Africa.

But Le Monde Afrique said that AU officials had privately expressed concerns about just how dependent they were on Chinese aid – and what the consequences of that could be.

In the midst of all of this, one fact remained largely unreported.

The main supplier of information and communication technology systems to the AU headquarters was China’s best-known telecoms equipment company – Huawei.

The company says it had “nothing” to do with any alleged breach.

Huawei “served as the key ICT provider inside the AU’s headquarters”, said Danielle Cave of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in a review of the alleged incident.

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China

“This doesn’t mean the company was complicit in any theft of data. But… it’s hard to see how – given Huawei’s role in providing equipment and key ICT services to the AU building and specifically to the AU’s data centre – the company could have remained completely unaware of the apparent theft of large amounts of data, every day, for five years.”

There is no evidence to indicate that Huawei’s telecoms network equipment was ever used by the Chinese government – or anyone else – to gain access to the data of their customers.

Indeed, no-one has ever gone on record to confirm that the AU system was compromised in the first place.

But these reports played into years of suspicions about Huawei – that a large Chinese company might find itself unduly influenced by the Chinese government.

Ren and the rise of Huawei

“When I first started out 30 years ago… we didn’t really have any telephones. The only phones we had were those hand-cranked phones that you see in old World War II films. We were pretty undeveloped then.”

Huawei’s founder and chairman Ren Zhengfei is reminiscing to the BBC about the origins of the world’s second-biggest smartphone firm, while sitting in the Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen – a symbol of the success that he’s worked his whole lifetime for.

A long marbled staircase, covered in plush red carpet, greets you as you first walk in.

At the top of the stairs, a giant painting depicts a traditional Chinese New Year scene.

Inside Huawei's Shenzhen HQ

Inside Huawei’s Shenzhen HQ

A few kilometres away in Dongguan, Huawei’s latest campus is even more eye-catching.

The site – designed to accommodate the company’s 25,000 R&D staff – comprises 12 “villages”, each of which recreates the architecture of a different European city, among them Paris, Bologna and Granada.

It’s as if Silicon Valley had been re-imagined by Walt Disney. Long corridors of Roman pillars and picturesque French cafes adorn the campus, with a train connecting the different areas, running through manicured gardens and past an artificial lake.

It’s a world away from the environment that Mr Ren found himself in when he first started the company in 1987. “I founded Huawei when China began to implement its reform and opening up policy,” he says. “At that time, China was shifting from a planned economy to a market economy. Not only people like myself, but even the most senior government officials, did not have the vaguest idea of what a market economy was. It seemed it was hard to survive.”

Ren was born in 1944 in Southern China – a tumultuous, chaotic place, one of the poorest regions in an already destitute country.

For a long time, hardship was all he ever knew.

He was from a family of seven children. “They were very poor,” says David De Cremer, who has co-written a book on Ren and Huawei.

“I think hardship is something that you can see throughout his life, and which he keeps emphasising himself.”

To escape that life of poverty and drudgery, Ren did what many young Chinese men of that era did. He joined the army.

Soldiers from the People's Liberation Army, 1972

Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army, 1972

“I was a very low-ranking officer in the People’s Liberation Army,” he says. “I served in an ordinary construction project, not a field unit. At the time, I was a technician of a company in the military, and then I became an engineer.”

He left the military in 1983 when China began to downsize its forces, and went into the electronics business.

By his own admission, he wasn’t a great businessman at first.

“I was someone who had been in the military all my life at the time, used to doing what I was told,” he says. “Suddenly, I began to work in a market economy. I was at a total loss. So I too suffered losses, I too was deceived, and I was cheated.”

But he was quick to learn, and was a keen student of Western business practices and European history.

“I did research on what exactly a market economy was all about,” he says. “I read books on laws, including those about European and US laws. At that time, there were very few books on Chinese laws, and I had to read those on European and US laws.”

Five years later, he founded Huawei – the name can be translated as “splendid achievement” or “China is able” – to sell simple telecoms equipment to the rural Chinese market. Within a few years, Huawei was developing and producing the equipment itself.

Sometime in the early 90s, Huawei won a government contract to provide telecoms equipment for the People’s Liberation Army.

By 1995, the company was generating sales of around US$220,000, mainly from selling to the rural market.

The following year Huawei was given the status of a Chinese “national champion”. In practice, this meant the government closed the market to foreign competition.

At a time when China’s economy was growing by an average of 10% per year, this was no small advantage. But it was only when Huawei started to expand overseas in 2000, that it really saw its sales soar.

In 2002, Huawei made US$552m from its international market sales. By 2005 its international market contracts exceeded its domestic business for the first time.

Ren’s early days in business instilled in him a desire to protect his company from the whims and fancies of the stock market. Huawei is privately held and employee-owned. This gave Ren the power to plough more money back into research and development. Each year, Huawei spends US$20bn on R&D – one of the biggest such budgets in the world.

“Publicly listed companies have to pay a lot of attention to their balance sheets,” he says. “They can’t invest too much, otherwise profits will drop and so will their share prices. At Huawei, we fight for our ideals. We know that if we fertilise our ‘soil’ it will become more bountiful. That’s how we’ve managed to pull ahead and succeed.”

One story from the early days of the company tells how Ren was cooking for his staff (he loves to cook, or so the story goes). Suddenly he rushed out of the kitchen and announced to the room: “Huawei will be a top three player in the global communications market 20 years from now!”

And that’s exactly what happened. In fact, those ambitions were surpassed.

Today, Huawei is the world’s biggest seller of network telecommunications equipment.

From aspiring to be a company like Apple, it now sells more smartphones than Apple.

But shadows have continued to loom over Huawei’s international success.

Ren and Huawei’s links to the Chinese Communist Party have raised suspicions that the company owes its meteoric rise to its powerful political connections in China. The US has accused Huawei of being a tool of the Chinese government.

It’s an accusation which Ren denies. “Please don’t think that Huawei has become what it is today because we have special connections,” he says. “Even 100% state-owned companies have failed. Do good connections mean you will succeed then? Huawei’s success is still very much due to our hard work.”

The case against

It was 1 December 2018. US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping were dining on grilled sirloin followed by caramel rolled pancakes at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

They had a lot to discuss. The US and China were in the middle of a trade war – imposing tariffs on each other’s goods – and growth forecasts for both countries had recently been cut as a result. This was adding to the fear of a slowing global economy.

In the event, the two leaders agreed a truce in the trade war, with Donald Trump tweeting that “Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!”

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at dinner, December 2018

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at dinner, December 2018

But thousands of kilometres north in Canada, an arrest was taking place that would throw doubt on this rapprochement.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and Ren Zhengfei’s eldest daughter, had been detained by Canadian officials while transferring between flights at Vancouver airport.

The arrest had come at the request of the US, who accused her of breaking sanctions against Iran.

“When she was detained, as her father, my heart broke,” says Ren, visibly emotional. “How could I watch my child suffer like this? But what happened, has happened. We can only depend on the law to solve this problem.”

Meng Wanzhou being driven to court in Canada

Meng Wanzhou being driven to court in Canada

Huawei’s problems were just beginning. Nearly two months later, the US Department of Justice filed two indictments against Huawei and Ms Meng.

Under the first indictment, Huawei and Ms Meng were charged with misleading banks and the US government about their business in Iran.

The second indictment – against Huawei – involved criminal charges including obstruction of justice and the attempted theft of trade secrets.

Both Huawei and Ms Meng deny the charges.

January 2019: Acting US attorney general Matthew Whittaker announces charges against Huawei and Meng Wanzhou

January 2019: Acting US attorney general Matthew Whittaker announces charges against Huawei and Meng Wanzhou

The charge of stealing trade secrets centres on a robotic tool – developed by T-Mobile – known as Tappy.

According to legal documents, Huawei had tried to buy Tappy, a device which mimicked human fingers by tapping mobile phone screens rapidly to test responsiveness.

T-Mobile was in partnership with Huawei at the time, but it rebuffed the Chinese firm’s offers, fearing it would use the technology to make phones for T-Mobile’s competitors.

It’s alleged that one of Huawei’s US employees then smuggled Tappy’s robotic arm into his satchel so that he could send its details to colleagues in China.

After the alleged theft was discovered, the Huawei employee claimed that the arm had mistakenly fallen into his bag.

Huawei claimed that the employee had been acting alone, and the case was settled out of court in 2014. But the latest case is built on email trails between managers in China and the company’s US employees, linking Huawei management to the alleged theft.

The indictment also details evidence of a bonus scheme from 2013, offering Huawei employees financial rewards for stealing confidential information from competitors.

Huawei has denied any such scheme exists.

Meng Wanzhou, photographed in 2014

Meng Wanzhou, photographed in 2014

This is not the first time that Huawei has been accused of stealing trade secrets. Over the years companies like Cisco, Nortel and Motorola have all pointed the finger at the Chinese firm.

But US fears about Huawei are about much more than industrial espionage. For more than a decade, the US government has seen the company as little more than an arm of the Chinese Communist Party.

These concerns have been brought to the fore with the advent of “fifth generation” or 5G mobile internet, which promises download speeds 10 or 20 times faster than at present, and much greater connectivity between devices.

As the world’s biggest telecoms infrastructure provider, Huawei is one of the companies best placed to build new 5G networks. But the US has warned its intelligence partners that awarding contracts to Huawei would be tantamount to allowing the Chinese spy on them.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently cautioned against Huawei, saying, “If a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The UK, Germany and Canada are reviewing whether Huawei’s products pose a security threat.

Australia went a step further last year, and banned equipment suppliers “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government”.

Huawei was not mentioned by name, but Danielle Cave of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says the company posed a national security risk because of its government links.

She cites an article in Chinese law that makes it impossible for any company to refuse to help the Chinese Communist Party in intelligence gathering.

“Admittedly, what is missing from this debate is the smoking gun,” she says.

“For the average person who has a Huawei smartphone it’s not a big deal. But if you’re a Western government that has key national security to protect – why would you allow this access to a company that is in the political system that China is in?”

For his part, Ren says that Huawei’s resources have never and would never be used to spy for the Chinese government.

“The Chinese government has clearly said that it won’t ask companies to install backdoors,” he says. A “backdoor” is a term used to describe a secret entry point in software or a computer system that gives access to the person or entity who installed it to the inner workings of the system.

“Huawei will not do it either,” he continues. “Our sales revenues are now hundreds of billions of dollars. We are not going to risk the disgust of our country and our customers all over the world because of something like that. We will lose all our business. I’m not going to take that risk.”

Xi’s China

Zhou Daiqi is Huawei’s chief ethics and compliance officer.

He’s been with the company for nearly 25 years, in a number of different positions – chief engineer, director of the hardware department, head of the research centre in Xi’an, according to his biography on the company’s website. He is also understood to combine his high-ranking executive duties with another role – party secretary of Huawei’s Communist Party committee.

All companies in China are required by law to have a Communist Party committee.

Zhou Daiqi's profile on Huawei's website

Zhou Daiqi’s profile on Huawei’s website

The official line is that they exist to ensure that employees uphold the country’s moral and social values. Representatives of the committee are also often tasked with helping workers with financial problems.

But critics of China’s one-party system argue that they allow the state to exert control on corporate China. And they say the level of this control has increased in recent years.

“[President] Xi Jinping is exerting greater control over the business community in China,” says Elliott Zaagman, who regularly advises Chinese companies on their PR strategy. “As these companies gain power and influence overseas, the party doesn’t want to lose control over them.”

Ren, however, argues that the role of Huawei’s Communist Party committee is far less important than many in the West believe.

“[It] serves only to educate its employees,” he says. “It is not involved in any business decisions.”

In China, most chief executives are Communist Party members.

Every year, they dutifully turn up to the National People’s Congress along with local and national party chiefs, officials and chief executives.

It’s where the big economic decisions are voted on – although no proposal is put forward which hasn’t already been agreed upon.

Still, big CEOs come to show their commitment to the party, and to contribute to working papers that are meant to help the government understand the concerns of the business community.

Being a member of the party is very much a networking opportunity – in the way one would join a business association.

Elliott Zaagman argues that this is a system that demands loyalty.

“There is no separation from the party and the state,” he says.

“The system in China encourages the lack of transparency in companies like Huawei.”

The worry is that these close links mean that if the Communist Party asked a company to do something, they would have no choice but to comply.

And if that company is one that is involved in sensitive global telecoms infrastructure projects, it’s easy to see why Western observers would be worried.

There is no evidence to indicate that Huawei is in any way under the orders of the Chinese government, or that Beijing has any plans to dictate business plans and strategy at Huawei – particularly when it comes to spying.

But the way in which the Chinese Communist Party has robustly defended Huawei has raised questions about how independent the company is of its influence.

For example, Beijing stated that Ms Meng’s detention was a rights abuse .

And while her extradition case to the US was moving forward, China detained two Canadian citizens and accused them of stealing state secrets. Critics say the detentions are linked to Ms Meng’s arrest.

December 2018: Chinese police patrol outside Canada's embassy in Beijing

December 2018: Chinese police patrol outside Canada’s embassy in Beijing

While not commenting on the arrest of the Canadians, Ren says China’s defence of Huawei is understandable.

“It is the Chinese government’s duty to protect its people,” he says. “If the US attempts to gain competitive edge by undermining China’s most outstanding hi-tech talent, then it is understandable if the Chinese government, in turn, protects its hi-tech companies.”

Over the past few years, there have been signs of a bigger push by the government to get private companies, and in particular tech firms, to cooperate with party rules – even when they are firmly resistant.

 A Didi Chuxing logo adorns a building in Hangzhou, China

 A Didi Chuxing logo adorns a building in Hangzhou, China

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing’s troubles are an example of the struggles Chinese firms face when they try to uphold their independence in the face of government pressure.

Chinese attitudes to data collection and data privacy are different to those in the West – many people don’t care if businesses have access to their data, arguing that it adds to the convenience of life and work.

Government access to data in China is not the free-for-all that many outside of China assume it to be

Samm Sacks, CSIS

So it wasn’t unusual when, after the murders of two of its passengers by Didi drivers, regulators used the scandal to force Didi to share more corporate data with the government. But Didi resisted – citing customer privacy. Under Chinese law, it had no choice but to comply.

When it did, it handed over “three boxes of data printed on paper, including 95 hard copies for authorities to review”.

According to Samm Sacks of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the case demonstrates that “government access to data in China is not the free-for-all that many outside China assume it to be”.

She says this indicates that there appears to be “a kind of tug of war between the government and companies over data”.

How this plays out will determine how Chinese companies are viewed by foreign governments when they do business overseas.

Companies like Huawei have grown up in a system where to survive and thrive they needed strong links to the Chinese government – there was and is no other choice. But these links could harm their reputation abroad.

“It’s two different systems,” says Zaagman. “Think of it like an electrical outlet. China’s plug doesn’t fit in to the outlets we have in the West.”

What’s at stake

“Basically you want to connect to everything that can be connected.”

Zhu Peiying, head of Huawei’s 5G wireless labs, is showing off devices that can connect to the new technology. From a smart toothbrush that collects data about how well you brush your teeth, to a smart cup that reminds you when you should drink some water, this is a world where everything you can think of is being measured and analysed.

At its most sophisticated, everything in entire cities would be connected – driverless cars, the temperature of buildings, the speed of public transport – the list is endless.

Huawei is thought to be a year ahead of its competitors in terms of its technological expertise and what it can offer customers, according to industry sources.

It’s also thought that the company can offer prices that are about 10% cheaper than its competitors, although critics claim this is because of state support.

Ren dismisses this, saying that Huawei doesn’t receive government subsidies.

He says the real reason behind the US resistance to Huawei is its superior technology.

“There’s no way the US can crush us,” he says. “The world needs Huawei because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily we could just scale things down a bit.”

Many analysts say that Huawei’s exclusion from US networks could actually cause the US to fall behind in its 5G capabilities.

“It would mean we wouldn’t be able to participate in any blended network [using Huawei] in Europe or Asia,” says Samm Sacks of CSIS. “That would put us at a significant disadvantage.”

What this would mean in reality is a world of two internets – or what analysts are calling a “digital iron curtain” – dividing the world into parts that do business with Chinese companies like Huawei, and those that don’t.

Because of US pressure on its allies, Huawei has been on an aggressive public relations campaign to win over customers and government stakeholders.

In recent days, Vodafone’s boss Nick Read called on the US to share any evidence it has about Huawei, while Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, said in a tweet that he had met with Huawei’s rotating CEO to discuss the importance of being open and transparent, as they explored ways of working together.

But suspicions about Huawei remain.

One security firm reports a sharp rise in inquiries by Asian government clients about Huawei.

“Some have asked us how much they should worry about whether Huawei is really a liability,” says an analyst who consults to Asian governments, on condition of anonymity.

Ren is sanguine about such concerns.

“For countries who believe in them [suspicions about Huawei] we will hold off,” he says. “For countries who feel Huawei is trustworthy, we may move a little faster. The world is so big. We can’t walk across every corner of it.”

But this is about more than just one company or one CEO and his family.

Increasingly, this is perceived as a battle between two world orders, and which one is the future.

In the early days of China opening up, US presidents like George HW Bush espoused the merits of engagement.

“No nation on Earth has discovered a way to import the world’s goods and services while stopping foreign ideas at the border,” he said in a 1991 speech. “Just as the democratic idea has transformed nations on every continent, so, too, change will inevitably come to China.”

1989: George HW Bush in Beijing - he encouraged economic engagement with China

1989: George HW Bush in Beijing – he encouraged economic engagement with China

Previous US administrations believed that economic engagement in China would lead to China following a freer, more “liberal” path.

There’s no denying China has made remarkable strides in the past 40 years. The economy grew by an annual average of 10% for three decades, helping to lift 800 million people out of poverty. It is now the second-largest economy in the world, only surpassed by the US.

Some estimates put China’s economy ahead of America’s by 2030.

It achieved this while maintaining one-party rule and the supremacy of the Communist Party.

But its success has raised concerns that it is only possible with a huge amount of government control over the country’s companies. The fear is that control could be used to achieve the Communist Party’s goals – which are at this point unclear.

“It’s a double-edged sword for China,” says Danielle Cave. “[Because of its laws] the Chinese Communist Party has made it virtually impossible for Chinese companies to expand without attracting understandable and legitimate suspicion.”

Added to this, China has become more authoritarian under Xi Jinping’s rule.

President Xi Jinping 

President Xi Jinping 

“Xi is systematically undermining virtually every feature that made China so distinct and helped it work so well in the past,” writes Jonathan Tepperman, editor in chief of Foreign Policy.

“His efforts may boost his own power and prestige in the short term and reduce some forms of corruption. On balance, however, Xi’s campaign will have disastrous long-term consequences for his country and the world.”

But Ren dismisses this, insisting that China is more open than ever before.

“If this meeting took place 30 years ago,” he says of our interview, “it would have been very dangerous for me. Today, I can be straightforward when answering difficult questions. This shows that China has a more open political environment.”

Still, Ren is hopeful of the direction China will take in the future.

“China has more or less tried to close itself off from the outside world for 5,000 years,” he says. “Yet we had found ourselves poor, lagging behind other nations. It was only in the past 30 years since Deng Xiaoping opened China’s doors to the world that China has become more prosperous. Therefore, China must continue to move forward on the path of reform and opening-up.”

In one of Huawei’s vast campus sites across Shenzen, lies a man-made lake. Swimming in these serene waters are two black swans.

There is a story that Ren put the birds here to remind employees of “black swan” events – unpredictable and catastrophic financial eventualities that are impossible to prepare for. He dismisses this as an urban myth, but it’s hard not to read something into it.

For Huawei, and Ren, these are highly uncertain times with no way of telling what lies ahead.

Source: The BBC

04/03/2019

Chinese mother detained over bus driver attack after letting son urinate on bus

  • Police say woman told toddler to use a rubbish bin when he needed to go to the toilet then got into argument with driver after he called her ‘uncivilised’
  • Security camera footage shows her bashing on compartment door and grabbing the man’s coat as he is driving

Mother detained over bus driver attack after letting son urinate on bus

4 Mar 2019

The woman is seen in security camera footage grabbing the bus driver’s coat while he is behind the wheel. Photo: Weibo
The woman is seen in security camera footage grabbing the bus driver’s coat while he is behind the wheel. Photo: Weibo

A mother in central China has been detained after she allowed her two-year-old son to urinate in a rubbish bin on a bus then attacked the driver when he told her she was “uncivilised”.

Security camera footage of the incident in Dazhi, Hubei province on Saturday shows the woman supporting the toddler by the bin on the floor of the bus while he urinates in front of the other passengers.

She is then seen rushing up to the driver and arguing with him after he complains about her behaviour, bashing on the compartment door and grabbing the man’s coat as he is driving.

A police officer told news website PearVideo on Sunday that the woman, identified only by her surname Chen, said the boy needed to go to the toilet while they were on the bus so she took him over to the bin.

“The driver saw them and said she was uncivilised, and they got into an argument over it,” the officer said. “Chen became agitated – she hit the driver’s compartment door and reached around to attack him while he was driving.”

The driver, who was not identified, is seen in the security footage calmly pulling over and calling the police while the woman is attacking him.

Chen has been placed under criminal detention for posing a threat to public security and Dazhi police are investigating the case, according to the report.

It comes after a series of recent attacks on bus drivers in China, including an accident in October when an angry passenger who missed her stop assaulted the driver, causing the bus to veer off a bridge and crash into the Yangtze River in Chongqing, killing all 15 people on board.
A police investigation found that the 48-year-old woman had been fighting with the driver as he tried to steer the bus when the crash happened.

Reacting to the latest case, some social media users said they understood the mother’s situation, but it has angered others, who say she should have used a diaper or got off the bus at the next stop.

“Anyone might need to use the toilet [on a bus], especially a kid, but parents should take heed of the criticism – she was clearly in the wrong,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

There have been other cases in recent years of Chinese parents sparking anger for letting their children urinate in public – on the mainland and elsewhere. Last month, photos of a Chinese tourist allowing her son to pee on the floor of the Forbidden City in Beijing triggered a strong reaction on social media, with many people criticising the woman.
Source: SCMP
04/03/2019

Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou sues Canada authorities over arrest

Huawei's chief financial officer Meng WanzhouImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMeng Wanzhou’s arrest has strained relations between China, and Canada and the US

The chief financial officer of China’s tech giant Huawei is suing Canada over her arrest at the request of the US.

Meng Wanzhou was held in December at Vancouver airport on suspicion of fraud and breaching US sanctions on Iran.

On Friday Ms Meng filed a civil claim against Canada’s government, border agency and police for “serious breaches” of her civil rights.

It came on the same day that Canada officially launched Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process to the US.

China has attacked Ms Meng’s arrest and the extradition process as a “political incident”. She denies all the charges against her.

What does Ms Meng’s lawsuit say?

Ms Meng’s claim – filed in British Columbia’s Supreme Court on Friday – seeks damages against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the federal government for allegedly breaching her civil rights under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

She says CBSA officers held, searched and questioned her at the airport under false pretences before she was arrested by the RCMP.

Meng Wanzhou's property in VancouverImage copyrightREUTERS
Image caption
Ms Meng has a property in Vancouver and is currently out on bail

Her detention was “unlawful” and “arbitrary”, the suit says, and officers “intentionally failed to advise her of the true reasons for her detention, her right to counsel, and her right to silence”.

Where are we in the extradition process?

Ms Meng, 47, will next appear in court on Wednesday, when it will be confirmed that Canada has issued a legal writ over her extradition to the US. A date for an extradition hearing will be set.

But this is still the early stages. A judge must authorise her committal for extradition and the justice minister would then decide whether to surrender her to the US.

There will be chances for appeal and some cases have dragged on for years.

Presentational grey line

The Meng Wanzhou case – how did we get here?

  • 1 December: Ms Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, is arrested while changing planes at Vancouver airport
  • 7 December: Ms Meng first appears in court in Vancouver, where it is revealed she is accused of breaking US sanctions on Iran. China demands her release
  • 10 December: Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are arrested in China
  • 11 December: Ms Meng is released on bail
  • 28 January: US formally charges Ms Meng with fraud and Huawei with circumventing US sanctions on Iran and stealing technology from T Mobile
  • 2 March: Canada says Ms Meng’s extradition can move forward but the process is expected to be long
Presentational grey line

What is Huawei accused of?

The US alleges Huawei misled the US and a global bank about its relationship with two subsidiaries, Huawei Device USA and Skycom Tech, to conduct business with Iran.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has reinstated all sanctions on Iran removed under a 2015 nuclear deal and recently imposed even stricter measures, hitting oil exports, shipping and banks.

It also alleges Huawei stole technology from T Mobile used to test smartphone durability, as well as obstructing justice and committing wire fraud.

In all, the US has laid 23 charges against the company.

Some Western nations are reviewing business with the firm over spying concerns, although Huawei has always maintained it acts independently.

How has China reacted?

Media caption – Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei on the arrest of his daughter

The arrest has seriously strained relations between China, and the US and Canada.

Beijing says it is an “abuse of the bilateral extradition treaty” between Canada and the US, and has expressed its “resolute opposition” and “strong dissatisfaction” with the proceedings.

China also says the accusations against Huawei, the world’s second biggest smartphone maker by volume, are a “witch-hunt”.

Two Canadian citizens are thought to have been detained in China in retaliation for the arrest.

China and the US are also engaged in tough trade negotiations to end a major tariff dispute.

Source: The BBC

28/02/2019

Taiwan game ‘Devotion’ upsets China with Winnie the Pooh reference

Devotion game screengrabImage copyrightRED CANDLE GAMES/DEVOTION
Image captionWhen players interact with the poster (L), the poster (R) appears – with the words “Winnie the Pooh” and “Xi Jinping”

A Taiwanese games company has had its latest release pulled from mainland China, after players noticed subtle references mocking Chinese President Xi Jinping, including comparing him to Winnie the Pooh.

Red Candle Games released Devotion, a first-person horror game set in 1980s Taiwan, on games platform Steam on 19 February.

The game quickly went viral after players spotted so-called “easter eggs” and publicised them. However online discussion has since been censored.

An “easter egg” is a hidden message or joke in a computer game, normally only picked up by some players paying close attention.

Red Candle Games has apologised, saying it will refund offended users.

Taiwan is an island that is for all practical purposes independent, but China sees it as a rebel region and insists that other countries should not have diplomatic relations with it.

Taiwan’s current president has sparred with Beijing over the island’s political future. In January, Xi Jinping said Taiwan “must and will be” reunited with China.

Hidden messages

One of the easter eggs in Devotion is a poster containing the words “Xi Jinping” next to “Winnie the Pooh”, in an ancient style of writing. Winnie the Pooh has been censored on Chinese search engines and social media since 2017, after bloggers began comparing Mr Xi to the children’s story book and film character.

Gamers have also spotted an old newspaper in Devotion that refers to an individual who has received a prison sentence, nicknamed “baozi” or “steamed bun”.

Composite picture of Xi Jinping, Barack Obama and Winnie the Pooh charactersImage copyrightAFP/WEIBO
Image captionThis meme showing Xi Jinping and former US President Barack Obama began circulating in 2013

“Steamed bun” is another sensitive term in China, as social media users have used it to refer to the president and evade government censors.

‘Awfully unprofessional’

Red Candle Games confirmed that Devotion had been removed from Steam China on 23 February, and issued an apology, saying the poster with the Winnie the Pooh reference had made it into the game by accident due to a technical issue.

It said that it was aware some players may have been offended by the images, and said that it was in touch with Steam to ensure that such players could obtain a full refund.

“The whole team of Red Candle Games bears the responsibility of this awfully unprofessional mistake,” a statement on Monday said. “It is not Red Candle’s vision to secretly project extensive ideology, nor is it to attack any person in the real world.

“We sincerely hope that this ends with Red Candle, and please do not take it out on all of our innocent partners.”

Taiwanese Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai has praised the game, saying: “Only in countries with democracy and freedom can creation be free from restrictions.”

Red Candle Games' apologyImage copyrightFACEBOOK
Image captionRed Candle Games apologised and confirmed the game had been removed from Steam China

Chinese online censors, meanwhile, are trying to scrub references to the game and its hidden messages.

Searches for both “Red Candle Games” and “Devotion” in Chinese on Weibo are showing no results.

What’s On Weibo, which tracks content on the site, said that over the weekend posts containing the hashtag #Devotion were racking up hundreds of millions of views.

But on Monday, a search of the hashtag #Devotion showed only four posts, none of which refer to the game.

Posts that mention the game’s title in English, which the censors are often lax in censoring, show that China-based users are receiving messages on Steam saying that the game is “no longer available” to play in their country.

Meanwhile Red Candle’s account on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo service has been suspended, preventing the company from publicising its game in the mainland.

A Weibo user shares a post saying Devotion is no longer available to playImage copyrightSINA WEIBO
Image captionWeibo users shared posts saying they were no longer able to play the game

In Taiwan, where social media is not government-controlled, thousands of social media users are joking about the easter eggs.

Some on Facebook are posting pictures and gifs of Winnie the Pooh, and others are showing printouts of the offending poster.

Gaming in China

The episode has raised questions as to whether Steam will be the latest overseas online platform to be blocked in mainland China.

Technically, Steam has not gained official approval to operate in the country, but it remains accessible. Some 30m people are estimated to use it in China.

The platform allows China-based users to download and play games that have not received official authorisation.

Over the last decade, the government has banned games if their content is considered to be violent, or anti-Beijing. However many recent releases have never made it to China anyway because of a years-long backlog of games that regulators are yet to examine.

The top media regulator has also just announced that it will not be granting any new licences to gaming companies until the backlog is cleared.

The result is that wildly popular games such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, both of which were released in 2017, remain neither banned, nor authorised in the country.

Source: The BBC

Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India