Archive for January, 2019

Pompeo hails ‘disruption’ in global politics

January 22, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday praised a wave of “disruption” in world politics, citing Donald Trump and Brexit but also pointing to elections in France and Malaysia.

Addressing the world’s business elite in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Pompeo renewed Trump’s criticism of international institutions and the US president’s calls for “strong borders” to protect national sovereignty.

“New winds are blowing across the world,” Pompeo told the World Economic Forum, speaking by video after the his trip was scuttled by the ongoing US government shutdown.

“I’d argue that this disruption is a positive development,” he said.

Pompeo said that in recent years, “voters have tuned out politicians and political alliances that they thought were not representing their interests.”

He cited Trump’s 2016 election and Britain’s referendum four months to leave the European Union — both of which stunned elites — as well as more recent election triumphs by Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who addressed Davos earlier on Tuesday.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Jair Bolsonaro

More surprisingly, Pompeo pointed to the 2017 election in France of President Emmanuel Macron — a political centrist who broke out of the party system but who recently has been beleaguered by protests from the Yellow Vest movement which says he is out of touch with ordinary people’s economic anxieties.

Frankreich Macron Auftakt Bürgerdebatte in Grand Bourgtheroulde (Getty Images/AFP/L. Marin)

French President Emmanuel Macron met with about 600 mayors across the Normandy region last week as part of his effort to end the Yellow Vest protests

Yellow vest protests in Paris (picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Zihnioglu)
Protests have taken place across France, including in the capital, Paris

Pompeo also listed as an example of the world’s new directions last year’s electoral comeback of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad after corruption allegations against his predecessor.

The 93-year-old Mahathir is known for his firebrand remarks on the West and recently cited Trump’s proposals to build a wall on the Mexican border in defending a ban on athletes from Israel.

Pompeo, responding to a question in Davos, acknowledged that Trump’s criticism of international institutions has ruffled feathers, although he denied that the United States has become more isolated.

“It is the case that sometimes leadership and asking hard questions drives others to be a little concerned. Perhaps they’re not quite ready to stare these problems in the face,” Pompeo said.

“But we are — President Trump is. We know that these challenges must be confronted,” he said.


See also:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Delivers Trump-Style Video Message to Davos


Turkey planning international investigation into Khashoggi case — Lindsey Graham says Mohammed bin Salman “must be dealt with”

January 22, 2019

Turkey is planning to launch an international investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and will take further steps in coming days, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by state-owned media.

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Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

Khashoggi, a royal insider who became a critic of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and began writing for the Washington Post after moving to the United States, was killed in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2.

After making numerous contradictory statements about Khashoggi’s fate, Riyadh said he had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

Turkey has previously said it was working with other countries on the Khashoggi investigation, and has accused Saudi Arabia of not fully cooperating to uncover the journalist’s killing.

AFP file photo | Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Cavusoglu said in a speech that some Western countries were trying to cover up Khashoggi’s murder, adding that Turkey had made preparations to launch an international investigation on the matter, the state-owned Anadolu reported on Monday.

“There are Western countries trying to cover this case up. I know the reasons. We know and see what sorts of deals are made. We see how those who spoke of freedom of press are now covering this up after seeing money,” Anadolu quoted him as saying.

“We, however, will go until the end. We made preparations for an international investigation in the coming days and we will take the necessary steps,” he was cited as saying.

Despite a joint investigation with Saudi officials looking at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the consul’s residence and several other locations, the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains are still unknown.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said Khashoggi’s killing was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership, but Riyadh has rejected accusations that the prince was involved.

Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects detained over the murder, which has caused international outrage and damaged the reputation of the 33-year old crown prince.

Saudi Arabia has come under heavy international pressure over the Khashoggi killing, including from the United States, its closest ally, whose Senate has voted for a resolution blaming the prince for the murder.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan and Andrew Heavens



US-Saudi ties can’t move forward until MBS ‘dealt with’: Graham

The US senator says Congress will reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Senator Graham (centre) has repeatedly called for accountability after Khashoggi's murder [File: Shawn Thew/EPA]
Senator Graham (centre) has repeatedly called for accountability after Khashoggi’s murder [File: Shawn Thew/EPA]

Senator Lindsey Graham has said the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia cannot move forward until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is “dealt with”.

Speaking in Ankara a day after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Graham said Congress would reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

“What has transpired over the last couple of years has been unnerving, to say the least,” Graham told reporters.

“The leadership coming from MBS is not what I have envisioned. Imprisoning the Lebanese Prime Minister, taking all of your critics and throw[ing] them in prison, the brutal murder [of] Mr Khashoggi in Turkey, violating every norm of international behaviour.

“I have concluded that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States cannot move forward until MBS has been dealt with.”

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman


Will there be justice for Jamal Khashoggi?

Last November, the CIA concluded that MBS ordered the assassination of Khashoggi in Istanbul, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.

Khashoggi, a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of Prince Mohammed, was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit team in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October, prompting a global outcry.

“We will start sanctioning those involved in the killing of Mr Khashoggi,” Graham added.

“We will make a definitive statement that MBS knew about it and is responsible for it and come up with a series of sanctions to let others know this is not what you do if you’re an ally of the United States.”

‘Not one to mince his words’

The US Treasury sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals and the Senate adopted a resolution blaming Prince Mohammed. President Donald Trump, however, has so far been reluctant to directly implicate the royal or issue any punitive measures.

At least 21 Saudis have reportedly been arrested in connection with the case, with five facing the death penalty. Five officials were also fired, including senior royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, the alleged mastermind of the operation against Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia is yet to reveal what its agents did with the remains of Khashoggi.


Jamal Khashoggi case: All the latest updates

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, said Graham’s comments were not surprising considering his recent distaste for the Saudi Monarch.

“Graham is not one to mince his words and has called MBS a wrecking ball in the past. So, this is not the first time he’s airing his views about MBS and how he feels he’s implicated in Khashoggi’s murder.

“He’s based that on information provided by the CIA that orders did not come from a low-level operative but straight from the top, almost indicting the Saudi leadership, including MBS.

“But the US president still sees MBS as a key ally, and sees Saudi Arabia’s role as not just buying weapons from the US, but also in forwarding what Donald Trump has envisioned as a policy for the Middle East,” Bin Javaid said.

“So it’s very interesting that Graham’s stance is closer to the US ally Turkey but very different from what the president himself has been saying.”

‘Filling a void’

Andreas Krieg, an assistant professor at the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London, said Graham was filling a much needed void in US foreign policy.

“[John] Bolton was trying to reach out to Turkey as a national security adviser but was given a bit of a slap by Erdogan because he doesn’t trust him. Bolton has been very hawkish in his approach to Turkey and in general, Islamism in the region.

“Then you have [Mike] Pompeo who has been in the region recently but has been very pro-Saudi and hasn’t responded well to the pressure in civil society and the media in the US over the Khashoggi affair.

“And then you had [Jim] Mattis, who while being diplomatic was let go recently. So there’s a void Graham is filling given he’s a very prominent foreign policy expert in congress”.

Saudi Arabia’s MBS: ‘Gaddafi on steroids’?

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Washington DC, said while it was surprising Graham had visited Turkey amid the government shutdown, he couldn’t have gone “without some sort of coordination with the White House”.

Trump has refused to approve legislation to restore funding to about a quarter of the federal government, resulting in up to 800,000 employees going without pay.

And earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to abandon a planned trip to Afghanistan after Trump denied her the use of military aircraft.

“Considering how close Graham is with Trump, there’s no way he could have gone to Turkey without some sort of coordination with the White House,” Elizondo said.

“How much coordination, and how much he is speaking on behalf of the administration, remains to be seen. But Graham doesn’t need President Trump’s blessing to go anywhere. He can speak about anything. Graham is one of America’s most powerful senators. He sits on the Foreign Relations committee, the Budget committee, the Appropriations committee.

“For several years now he’s been a strong voice in international relations … and this is the second time he’s met with President Erdogan in the past six months”.

Syria withdrawal

Senator Graham also said he hoped President Trump would slow the US withdrawal from Syria until the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) is destroyed.

Graham said he believed US Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford was working on a plan with Turkey to move Kurdish YPG elements away from the country.

By arming the YPG group in Syria, Washington “created a nightmare for Turkey,” said Graham.

Underlining that the YPG/PYD is “clearly” tied to the PKK – listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, and the European Union – Graham told reporters that the US strategy in Syria has the potential to cause harm to Turkey.

The South Carolina senator stressed the importance of protecting Turkey and solving the problem the US “created” for Ankara, referring to US support for the YPG/PYD in the name of fighting ISIL.

Turkey has said it will soon launch an operation against the YPG/PYD in Syria, east of the Euphrates River, near the Turkish border.

There has been friction between Ankara and Washington over the upcoming operation amid the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.


Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s visit to Ankara was important on many levels.

Graham is a prominent voice in foreign affairs in Washington and a close ally to U.S. President Donald Trump. Why he came and what he said is therefore very critical. First of all, this was definitely not a personal trip. He came as part of the dialogue between Turkey and the Trump administration, and discussed critical issues with great precision. One of the reasons he came was to better understand Turkey’s position and concerns on Trump’s plan to pullout from Syria. It is known that Turkey has long been saying that the U.S. should stop supporting terrorist groups affiliated with the PKK, which uses different names in Syrian territory. It is also known that Turkey is disturbed by the fact that these terrorist and separatist groups are being presented as freedom fighters by some circles in the West, including in the media.

To tell the truth, all involved governments know perfectly well that the PKK and its affiliated groups are terrorist organizations with the blood of innocent people on their hands. They also know which countries provide them weapons and help them in many other ways. They are also aware that these terrorist organizations are the main factors blocking the necessary democratic reforms needed by citizens of Kurdish origin in different countries. They all know that, by they do nothing about that, because they have other strategic goals, interests, rivalries and expectations.

Graham, who is very familiar with Turkey, knew all that, too. In other words, it is not like he just discovered while in Ankara that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) are a terrorist organization affiliated with the PKK and a security concern for Turkey. Maybe Trump did not know all this because he was being informed differently, who knows. Maybe he finally said to himself, “but why on Earth is Turkey is angry at the U.S.?”

Trump probably discovered that the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG and Daesh are just parts of a much bigger puzzle. He learned that these organizations do not serve American interests in the long run and that they play a role in the strategies of many other countries. Maybe he had enough that this kind of organizations manipulate the U.S., or he understood that losing an ally country for the sake of a terrorist group does not make any sense, after all. Trump is probably aware, too, that supporting the PYD/YPG was first former President Barack Obama’s idea.

Trump sent one of his closest supporters to Turkey to listen to the latter’s arguments. Turkey showed the senator solid evidence about the nature and the links of these organizations, and explained how it is possible to both stabilize Syria and to fight against all terrorist groups simultaneously. Graham was probably satisfied with what he heard, as he made crystal clear comments after his meeting.

He emphasized that the YPG is nothing but a wing of the PKK, which is on the U.S. list of terrorist groups. He insinuated that it was wrong to support a terrorist organization, which was an indirect warning for Western countries who still support it, such as France.

Moreover, he said he understood the importance of pulling out without harming Turkey’s security. We can guess that the U.S. will now take care of the YPG threat by itself.

The U.S. is clearly changing its position on supporting terrorist groups, but of course, if Trump respects the current trajectory. This is quite positive for Turkey’s security concerns, and it will also put pressure on other countries who insist on supporting these groups for different reasons. One may say many things about Trump, and especially criticize him, but we can give him credit for one thing. It is probably clear to everyone that he gets very angry at opportunists and does something about them.


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Saudi Crown Prince and Russia’s Vladimir Putin high-fived like blood brothers at the G20 meetings in Argentina, 30 November 2018

Zimbabwe Group Accuses Security Forces of Torturing Protesters

January 22, 2019
Clashes between protesters, security forces left 12 dead — Police failed to cooperate with group’s probe into violence
Zimbabwean anti-riot police forces watch men, arrested during violent protests triggered by a sudden rise in fuel prices, at their hearing at the Law Court in Harare.   Photographer: Jekesai Njikazana/AFP via Getty Images

Zimbabwe’s police and army used “systematic torture” against mainly young men during a week of often violent anti-government protests last week, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission said.

At least 12 people died in clashes between the security forces and demonstrators who took to the streets last week after the government more than doubled fuel prices. The ZHRC, a constitutional body established by government, began an inquiry into the violence last week.

Police and army personnel used excessive force against civilians in their response to the protests, the commission said in a statement emailed Tuesday from the capital, Harare. The security forces targeted young men living close to areas barricaded or torched by protesters, it said.

“They would arrive at people’s houses at night or in the early hours of the day and ask all men to go outside and lie on the ground,” the commission said. “They would then beat up all the men, including boys as young as 11 years.”

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday criticized security forces he said had been responsible for violence and misconduct and said they would be investigated.

President of Zimbabwe


Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll 3/4

875 people are talking about this

Members of civil society groups and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, including lawmakers, were among those beaten and arrested, it said. Many people were beaten on the soles of their feet, it said.

The police failed to cooperate with the ZHRC’s investigation, it said.

“Unfortunately, the police officers in charge did not seem to understand the mandate of the ZHRC and after referring the officers to different police officials, denied them the relevant information or entry into holding cells,” the report says.

Gunshot Wounds

Calls to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba weren’t answered when Bloomberg sought comment.

The ZHRC said it has verified eight deaths in last weeks protests, mainly as a result of gunshot wounds. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights has verified 12 deaths.

Many arrests were illegal because police officers refused to identify themselves or because suspects were held in cells without legal representation for more than 48 hours, the commission said. Arrests made by soldiers are all illegal because they don’t have the power of arrest in the country, it said.


© AFP | The government deployed troops on the streets of Harare as protests erupted over alleged election fraud

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Zimbabwean riot police chased away journalists and beat a protester

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Image result for Zimbabwe, soldiers beat protesters, photos

The opposition is beaten…. Zimbabwe was on edge after police and soldiers shot into crowds and beat people they caught after the election….

Silicon Valley’s Unbridled Optimism Gets Fresh Reality Check

January 22, 2019

Rout of publicly traded tech firms fosters newfound restraint for investors in younger startups

Image result for Space Exploration Technologies Corp, photos


SAN FRANCISCO—Messaging startup Hustle projected the picture of Silicon Valley largess. The company spent millions of dollars raised from investors such as Alphabet Inc.GOOGL -0.96% on expensive new hires, on-tap kombucha, arcade games and a six-figure salary for its pedigreed chief executive.

So it came as a shock to many employees earlier this month when co-founder and CEO Roddy Lindsay sent them an early-morning email announcing mass layoffs. Before the week was done, even the espresso machine was ripped out of the kitchen at Hustle’s San Francisco headquarters.

Hustle is hardly the first startup to spend lavishly in an era of technology riches. What is new these days: The bill is coming due.

Startup investors and company founders warn that the unchecked growth of the past several years—which by some metrics exceeded heights from the dot-com boom—could be hitting a limit. A rout of publicly traded technology companies is fostering newfound restraint for investors in Silicon Valley, especially for younger, cash-strapped startups like Hustle.

“The unbridled optimism that inhabits our world,” said startup investor Sunny Dhillon, “is getting a shot of realism.”

Outright signs of distress remain speckled. And most startups fail, even in the best of times.

Yet a worrying sign is the shrinking of so-called seed deals, essentially the earliest investments in startups. The number of these deals has fallen steadily, dropping to 882 in the fourth quarter from more than 1,500 three years earlier, PitchBook says.

Venture capitalists typically follow the trajectory of tech stocks, as they did in early 2016 when they abruptly pulled back investments—only to return when the market roared back. The Nasdaq , a bellwether index of publicly traded technology giants such as Apple Inc., is down 12% from its high set in August. That means even the best-funded startups are feeling some pressure.

Electric-scooter startups Bird Rides Inc. and Lime—each valued by investors above $1 billion—both recently lowered their valuation goals in fundraising efforts, people familiar with the matter have said, an indication that backers are concerned about future growth. On Monday, meal-kit service Munchery shut after cycling through myriad business models and more than $100 million from brand-name venture capitalists.

Elon Musk’s rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., earlier this month said it is shedding roughly 600 jobs to “become a leaner company” with “extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead.”

The announcement came one day after Ford Motor Co. shut its shared-ride business Chariot, citing lower demand.

Even free-spending SoftBank Group Corp. was forced this month to slash a planned $16 billion investment in co-working startup WeWork Cos. by 88% after SoftBank’s backers objected and the Japanese company’s stock had fallen.

The attitude among technology investors is shifting, said venture capitalist Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital, “swapping ’fear of missing out’ for ’shame of being suckered.’ ”

Investors caution that startup deals are typically negotiated over many weeks or months, meaning that reverberations might not be fully realized for a while.

Indeed, U.S. venture-backed companies raised a record $131 billion last year, topping the previous high of $105 billion set in 2000, according to researcher PitchBook. The influx of money from investors at home and abroad has cushioned startups with shaky business models.

Last year, they were flying you in business class. This year, they can barely afford coach.

—Christian Ferris, investor in venture-backed tech companies

That trend might press on. Several venture investors recently raised multibillion-dollar funds. Private technology giants such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc. are widely expected to go public, cashing out early investors with fresh money to plow into new bets.

Christian Ferris, an investor in venture-backed companies in the once-hot world of blockchain and cryptocurrency, said he served on the boards of three companies that shut down in the past three months. A frequent paid speaker, he said appearance offers this year were light.

“Last year, they were flying you in business class,” he said. “This year, they can barely afford coach.”

Hustle, which helps companies with marketing via text message, gained brief fame in 2016 for helping Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign ping volunteers. Mr. Lindsay, a Stanford University graduate and an early hire at Facebook Inc., initially raised $8 million in 2017 and didn’t appear shy about spending it.

A year ago, Hustle flew staff cross-country for an all-expenses-paid retreat around Napa, Calif. Mr. Lindsay, 33 years old, brought disc-jockey equipment, and spun music for his employees, attendees recall.

A Hustle spokeswoman said in an email that the Napa location was chosen in part to boost the local economy after deadly wildfires nearby. She said Mr. Lindsay’s music meant the company didn’t need to hire a professional DJ.

Hustle opened three offices and last April raised an additional $30 million, in part from the venture-capital arms of Alphabet and Inc. It has hired more than 150 employees, and outfitted the headquarters with a pair of “Killer Queen” arcade games that retail for $12,995.

Hustle was hiring new employees recently, despite having fallen short of revenue goals for the quarter and year, people familiar with the matter said. Investors were uninterested in putting in new money after Hustle failed to reach targets in areas such as signing up new corporate clients, two of the people said.

After inquiries from The Wall Street Journal about layoffs that slashed about half the staff, Mr. Lindsay posted a note disclosing the cuts on Hustle’s website. “I made the rookie misstep of not watching our growth closely enough,” he wrote. “With everything going on in the world, we need more Hustle.”

The spokeswoman said about 70% of the company’s operating costs go toward salaries and benefits. Hustle paid Mr. Lindsay $125,000 a year, which the spokeswoman described as more than 60% below market rate. Last week, Mr. Lindsay agreed to reduce his annual pay to $55,000, she said.

Mr. Lindsay has told associates he is bringing in a new high-level hire for strategic help. The new executive is well-known, according to a person briefed, for having helped liquidate during the dot-com bust.

Write to Rob Copeland at

Analyst: China has to be put in the category of a ‘rogue state’

January 22, 2019

A group of ex-diplomats and academics have signed an open letter to the Chinese president for the release of two Canadians detained on national security grounds. DW spoke to Bill Hayton, one of the letter’s signatories.

Symbolbild China Flagge - Shijiazhuang (Getty Images/AFP/G. Baker)

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were on December 10 arrested for activities that “endanger China’s national security” — a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging espionage. Their detentions are thought to be in retaliation for Canada’s arrest on a US request of Huawei vice president Meng Wanzhou, who is facing fraud charges linked to violations of Iran sanctions.

In an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, released on Monday, a group of more than 100 former diplomats and academics called for the release of the two Canadians. The signatories included former ambassadors to China from Canada, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, the UK and the US. They all are “deeply concerned” by the detentions.

Read more: Canadian Foreign Minister Freeland vows to keep politics out of case against Huawei executive

Kovrig is a former diplomat who works with the think tank International Crisis Group in Hong Kong, and Spavor is based in northeast China and facilitates trips to North Korea. The letter comes amid heightened diplomatic tensions between China and Canada.

On Monday, Canada’s Ambassador to the US David MacNaughton said Washington will be formally requesting Meng’s extradition, the Globe and Mail reported. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the letter, pointing out that Canada stands for the rule of law. In a DW interview, Bill Hayton, one of the signatories of the letter and a research fellow at the British think tank Chatham House, explains the reasons behind his decision to sign the letter.

DW: Why did you sign this letter?

Bill Hayton: I know Michael Kovrig, I think he’s a great analyst. I met him a few times so I suppose you could call him a friend of mine. And I think it’s just outrageous what the Chinese authorities have done. It has clearly nothing to do with law. It’s all about hostage taking. And I just think it’s outrageous that somebody who works for a think tank can be taken hostage in this way. It puts every single one of us at risk.

Kombobild - Michael Kovrig und Michael Spavor wurden in China festgenommenKovrig (l) is a former diplomat who works with the think tank International Crisis Group in Hong Kong, and Spavor (r) is based in northeast China and facilitates trips to North Korea

What makes you so sure that the arrest of Kovrig and Spavor is connected to the ongoing diplomatic row between China and Canada?

The timing is just obvious. There was never any problem for these people before. And then as soon as Meng Wanzhou got detained in Canada, the Chinese authorities suddenly started arresting Canadians. You can also see this in a Chinese court’s decision last week to sentence a Canadian man to death for drug trafficking following a retrial. These moves just seem to be an utterly blatant attempt to put pressure on the Canadian government.

As a result, you have now two people who are paying the price and locked up in solitary confinement as well as in what we assume are pretty terrible conditions in Chinese jails.

Read more: China slams Huawei ‘hysteria’

What do the arrests say about China’s diplomatic approach on the international stage?

Frankly speaking, China has to be put in the category of a rogue state. The state should treat people fairly and guarantee the rule of law. The idea that you just sort of kidnap a couple of people and use them as bargaining chips is quite outrageous.

And anybody who travels to China now could potentially be at risk there. If the UK and China were to have some kind of disagreement when I happened to be China, being a British national, I could end up facing arrest. I might potentially be arrested on charges of spying for having meetings with some academics. So I could very easily find myself in the same situation as these two Canadians.

I think everybody who signed the letter believes that more pressure must be exerted on China to change its behavior. In my case, if I now get an invitation to take part in a conference in China, I might think twice about accepting it as I would be worried something like this could also happen to me.

The Chinese authorities’ actions are jeopardizing academic research, think tank work and track two diplomacy, as charges can be brought against anyone and everyone is regarded with suspicion.

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Bill Hayton

Considering that China is an emerging global super power that’s likely to dominate the geopolitical landscape in the 21st century, what will Beijing’s behavior likely mean for the rest of the world?

Dialogue is absolutely critical right now, because we have a new situation in the world. We know China is a rising power. It’s definitely trying to change the regional order around it. And we have seen responses to that from the US as well as other powers. And there’s plenty of scope for miscalculation or dangerous incidents, be it in the South China Sea or on the Korean Peninsula, among other places.

Huawei logo

So there’s plenty of room for misunderstanding right now and the consequences could be really dramatic. It just seems that the sort of channels for communication is being cut down.

I don’t think we have a Cold War situation at the moment because there are still these channels between the two sides on lots of levels. But if people engaged in think tank and academic work feel that they cannot communicate with their counterparts in China, it will more likely lead to some kind of a Cold War situation.

Bill Hayton is an Asia expert at the British think tank Chatham House. In 2014 he published the well-received book “The South China Sea.”

The interview was conducted by Rodion Ebbighausen.


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Ti-Anna Wang

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg is seen at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, China, in this photograph made available on Jan. 14, 2019.Source: Dalian Intermediate People’s Court

Huawei warns of action against hostile markets

January 22, 2019

Chinese tech giant Huawei said Tuesday it could pull out of partnerships in hostile countries as it seeks to counter security concerns in the West over its 5G technology.

Liang Hua, chairman of the telecommunications equipment provider, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Western governments were welcome to tour Huawei facilities if they had concerns about the equipment potentially being misused for espionage.

Echoing Huawei’s reclusive founder Ren Zhengfei, Liang also expressed “every confidence” in Canada’s legal system after the arrest of Ren’s daughter — a senior Huawei executive — on a US extradition request.

The subsequent arrests in China of two Canadians, seen widely as a reprisal by Beijing against Ottawa, “has no relation with Huawei”, Liang told reporters in Davos.

Huawei says it will plough on with planned investment of $20 billion in each of the next five years as it rolls out 5G base stations

Huawei says it will plough on with planned investment of $20 billion in each of the next five years as it rolls out 5G base stations. AFP/File

And he said “we fully comply” with local laws, after the Wall Street Journal said the US Department of Justice was in the “advanced” stages of a criminal probe that could result in an indictment of Huawei.

Several Asia-Pacific countries have heeded Washington’s call for a ban on Huawei technology, but the picture in Europe is more nuanced, not least because Huawei’s 5G capabilities are seen as market-leading and good value.

“We do not pose a threat to a future digital society,” Liang said, adding the United States had not put forward any evidence to justify its claim that Huawei equipment could serve as a Trojan horse for Beijing’s security apparatus.

But if Huawei gets barred from certain markets and customers start to shun it, “we will transfer technology partnerships to countries where we are welcome and where we can have a collaboration”, he added.

– ‘Where we are welcomed’ –

The chairman did not specify which types of partnerships, but Britain’s Oxford University, for example, has decided to forgo new funding for research contracts or philanthropic donations from Huawei.

“We will focus not just on countries but on where we are welcomed by customers. Because ultimately customers have the choice to make decisions,” he said.

“We offer better services to our customers on 5G. It is the customers? choice if they don?t choose Huawei and we will focus our efforts on those customers who do choose us.”

In any case, Liang said, Huawei will plough on with planned investment of $20 billion in each of the next five years as it rolls out 5G base stations to promote radically faster internet speeds.

He said: “This heavy investment in technological innovation does not only benefit Huawei. It is also our contribution to mankind.”


Ocasio-Cortez gives ‘zero’ f–ks about what other Democrats think

January 22, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez admitted that she gives “zero” f–ks when her Democratic colleagues criticize the youngest woman elected to the House for speaking her mind.

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Appearing on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Monday, she was asked about how she feels when other Democrats admonish her by saying “Wait your turn” and “Don’t make waves.”

Colbert asked: “I want to ask this question in a respectful manner, knowing also that you’re from Queens, so you will understand this question. On a scale from zero to some, how many f–ks do you give?”

“I think it’s zero,” the 29-year-old said.

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Ocasio-Cortez, who has become a force on Twitter and amassed more than 2.5 million followers, said she doesn’t always fire back at her critics on the social networking site because she doesn’t want to go after “some innocent bystander.”

But “If you have a blue check, if you’re in my mentions, if you’re being sassy in a way that I think is unjustified, and if I haven’t eaten in two to three hours,” she said she will.

The freshman lawmaker was enlisted last week to give Democrats some pointers on how to use social media to their advantage.

“Rule No. 1 is to be authentic, to be yourself and don’t try to be anyone that you’re not,” Ocasio-Cortez said on the show. “So don’t try to talk like a young kid if you’re not a young kid.

“Don’t post a meme if you don’t know what a meme is — that was literally my advice, and I said don’t talk like the Founding Fathers on Twitter.”


Italy’s Salvini hopes France will get rid of ‘terrible’ Macron — Luigi Di Maio: “France continuing to colonise and impoverish Africa”

January 22, 2019

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister worsened already strained relations between Rome and Paris on Tuesday, saying he hoped the French could soon free themselves of a “terrible president”, centrist Emmanuel Macron.

“I hope that the French will be able to free themselves from a terrible president,” Matteo Salvini said in a video on Facebook in the latest taunt of the French leader by the populist government across the Alps.

“The opportunity will come on May 26 (the European elections) when finally the French people will be able to take back control of its future, destiny, (and) pride, which are poorly represented by a character like Macron”, he said.

Salvini's trenchant criticism of President Macron came after populist coalition partner Luigi di Maio had Monday blasted France for "continuing to colonise" and "impoverish" Africa

Salvini’s trenchant criticism of President Macron came after populist coalition partner Luigi di Maio had Monday blasted France for “continuing to colonise” and “impoverish” Africa.  AFP/File

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, said he felt “close, with all my heart… to the French people, the millions of men and women who live in France under a terrible government and terrible president”.

The fresh attack on Macron, who signed a new friendship treaty with Germany on Tuesday, follows a series of incendiary remarks by Italy’s other deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio.

Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), which rules in coalition with Salvini’s far-right League, accused Paris on Monday of continuing to colonise Africa and causing people to migrate from the continent.

Frankreich Macron Auftakt Bürgerdebatte in Grand Bourgtheroulde (Getty Images/AFP/L. Marin)

French President Emmanuel Macron met with about 600 mayors across the Normandy region last week as part of his effort to end the Yellow Vest protests

France summoned Italy’s ambassador in protest over Di Maio’s comments that “the EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave”.

Relations between the two capitals, usually close EU allies, have deteriorated since the M5S-League coalition became the European Union’s first populist-only government in June last year.

Di Maio and Salvini recently backed “yellow vest” protesters who have been demonstrating against Macron’s government since November.




Loic Venance, AFP | A Gilet Jaune protester marches in Nantes on January 12, 2019.

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See also:

The Yellow Vests Are Going to Change France. We Just Don’t Know How.

A protester stands in front of riot police at the Arc de Triomphe on January 12.

A protester stands in front of riot police at the Arc de Triomphe on January 12.  LE PICTORIUM / BARCROFT IMAGES / BARCROFT MEDIA VIA GETTY

China’s Plan for Tech Dominance Is Advancing, Business Groups Say

January 22, 2019

Critical report on ‘Made in China 2025’ issued as U.S.-China trade talks are set to resume next week

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Robots working in an electric car plant

Two influential U.S. business groups have issued a report detailing how China is moving ahead with a technology policy set to be a key point of contention in the U.S.-China trade talks that resume next week in Washington.

In a joint report to the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in China say Beijing’s ambitious plan to become a global technology leader is being widely implemented, casting doubt on efforts by Chinese officials to play down its significance.

There is evidence of “a deep, concerted and continuing effort” by provincial officials to pursue the central government’s Made in China 2025 plan, which seeks to make China a leader in electric vehicles, aerospace, robotics and other frontiers of manufacturing, the two business groups say.

The report comes as negotiators for the U.S. and China prepare to continue trade talks in Washington Jan. 30.

The chambers wield clout with the White House as representatives of American companies doing business in China, many of whom are reluctant to criticize Beijing publicly.

The business associations also have influence among China’s leaders as longtime advocates of closer U.S.-China business ties. To that audience, their report reinforces a message U.S. business leaders have been trying to convey to Beijing: China can no longer take U.S. business-group support for granted.

The USTR’s investigation into Chinese trade practices last year concluded that Made in China 2025 created an unfair playing field for American companies, including by making their trade secrets vulnerable to Chinese competitors.

Under pressure from the U.S., Chinese officials have agreed to redraft the plan. Xin Guobin, vice minister of industry and information technology, conceded in a news briefing last week “the need to improve the policy system.”

But Beijing negotiators also say the U.S. has exaggerated the significance of Made in China. Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing’s top trade envoy to the U.S., has played down the importance of the plan in meetings with U.S. business groups, participants say.

The chambers’ report was delivered last week to USTR and obtained by The Wall Street Journal. It advocates structural reforms to further open Chinese markets for foreign companies, including an end to forced transfer of trade secrets.

A spokesman for the USTR declined to comment on the report. The USTR’s own March 2018 report, which alleges China has forced U.S. firms to hand over technology to Chinese partners, mentions the Made in China 2025 program 120 times. But it doesn’t show how the program is being putting into effect around the country, a topic the report by the two chambers of commerce examines in detail.

The business groups’ 142-page report is silent on one of President Trump’s main goals—reducing the U.S. trade deficit with China—but devotes 32 pages to how the Made in China plan is being rolled out nationwide.

In Guangdong province near Hong Kong, the report says local officials have solicited companies to become “backbone” robotics enterprises, create “secure and reliable” next-generation information-technology systems, and establish the region as a Made in China 2025 “demonstration zone.”

The rust-belt province of Liaoning, meanwhile, has preferential tax policies for advanced manufacturing and for scientific investment, according to the report.

The report gives U.S. negotiators more evidence to press for changes during talks with the Chinese delegation, which are to be led by Mr. Liu. The U.S. has suspended until March 1 plans to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from the current 10%, while the two sides carry on talks.

The chambers’ report focuses on the specifics needed to change China’s economy so U.S. companies and compete more fairly, giving ammunition, however to those who worry Mr. Trump will settle for promises by China to buy more U.S. goods and services and largely ignore structural changes. In midlevel negotiations in Beijing earlier this month, about half the time was taken up on prospective purchases, negotiators say.

The chambers don’t push—or even mention—additional U.S. exports. “Purchases may be important to this administration, but in terms of [fundamental reform] going forward, purchases are not the answer,” said Jeremie Waterman, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s China Center.

Among other recommendations, the report advocates the creation of a new international arbitration system to resolve complaints by U.S. companies that believe they were mistreated in China. That could be a tough sell to both governments, as the Trump administration has tried to reduce the power of international bodies and China could object to a system that overrules its judiciary.

Write to Bob Davis at and Lingling Wei at


Dismissal case threatens to turn Whole Foods into a pariah

January 22, 2019

An employee’s claim has cleared a legal hurdle and comes at a delicate time for the grocery chain

Although Whole Foods denied discrimination, a federal judge in charge of the case was not convinced

Brooke Masters

Back in 2015, Thierno Diallo returned from a break to his job in the produce department of a Whole Foods supermarket in midtown Manhattan. But instead of going straight back to the shop floor, he went to the bathroom and took some time to pray.

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Mr Diallo was summarily fired for “theft of time”. He says that the dismissal came after years of hostile treatment by his supervisors at the upscale grocery chain, which is owned by Amazon. He alleges that they disparaged him and refused to promote him because he was an African immigrant from Guinea. He also says a co-worker who had overstayed his break a week earlier was given a warning rather than fired.

Mr Diallo, who was studying for a degree in political science, decided not to take the dismissal lying down. “I was a good employee and I knew it. I deserved more,” he said. So he headed to the federal court to file a civil-rights complaint but — this is crucial — he did it himself, without help from a lawyer.

Normally in the US such filings, known as pro se cases from the Latin “for oneself”, are never heard of again. In 2017, the last year for which data are available, 25,333 pro se civil cases were filed — 12 per cent of the total. (This excludes the 50,000-plus that come from prisoners.)

Exact statistics are not available but the vast majority are thrown out well before trial. Employment lawsuits also meet tough scrutiny — just 3.5 per cent, including those brought with a lawyer’s help, made it all the way to trial in the 2017 fiscal year. But something surprising happened.

Although Whole Foods denied discrimination and insisted it always fired employees who overstayed their breaks, the federal judge in charge of the case was not convinced.

Paul Engelmayer wrote that Whole Foods’ lawyers had cited “evidence that does not support the asserted facts” and had failed to disprove claims that “racial animus contributed to the termination decision”. As a result, Judge Engelmayer wrote, Mr Diallo should have his day in court.

The court has now scheduled a telephone call for next week to determine whether Mr Diallo would like to have help from a volunteer attorney and whether the case can be settled. Whole Foods declined to comment and their lawyers at the firm of Greenberg Traurig did not respond to an email, but the company’s legal filings make clear that it believes it has done nothing wrong.

Mr Diallo says the chain’s lawyers “looked at me like I was someone wasting their time”.

No company wants to be a target for unwarranted discrimination claims.

But this case has jumped hurdles that few others clear It is a bit of a puzzle why the company has not jumped at the chance to get this case over with. Big law firms such as Greenberg Traurig routinely bill $500 an hour, so the grocery chain has almost certainly spent more in legal fees than the claim is worth.

If Mr Diallo’s case does go to trial, the allegations of discrimination, which include claims that some supervisors made race-based comments and disparaging remarks, will reverberate at a delicate time. Since Amazon agreed to buy Whole Foods for $13.7bn in 2017, analysts and competitors have expected the combined company to revolutionise grocery sales, particularly online. But a recent UBS consumer survey suggests that the impact has been limited so far.

It found that the share of Amazon customers who use its Prime service to shop for groceries at least once a month declined in 2018 compared with 2017.

Whole Foods customers are known for being liberal: 70 per cent of congressional districts that flipped from Republican to Democrat last November contained one of the stores. And its employees are starting to try to unionise. No company wants to be a target for unwarranted discrimination claims.

But this case has jumped hurdles that few others clear.

Meanwhile, Mr Diallo’s view of the case underscores his ambition and the reputational danger for the grocery chain: “Whole Foods is not America. America is way bigger than that. I can still be a success.”