Posts Tagged ‘smartphones’

North Korea allows smartphones in ‘Orwellian’ move to monitor citizens and bolster power

December 7, 2017
  
NORTH Korea has allowed more access to smartphones in an “innovative Orwellian move” to “keep tabs” on the population and bolster the regime’s powers, it has been revealed.

 

Mobile phones are becoming commonplace in North Korea and are seen as status symbols.

But, access to the internet is limited and people are being employed by the regime to monitor people round the clock.

Director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future, Priscilla Moriuchi, said: “In an Orwellian sense, North Korea is innovating on surveillance.”

Nearly all North Korean phones, tablets, laptops and computers run on locally developed operating systems stocked with censorship and surveillance tools.

GETTY

Mobile phones are becoming commonplace in North Korea and are seen as status symbolsInternet from the outside world is cut off, according to researchers and groups that work with defectors.

Computers either run a system called Red Star or a localised version of Microsoft Windows whereas smartphones and tablets run on localised versions of Android.

The operating systems direct users to curated intranet loaded with Kim Jong-un speeches and recipes to North Korean dishes.

Ms Moriuchi added that by mandating that certain technologies be installed on mobile devices, North Korea could be “establishing a playbook for other authoritarian regimes”.

The Red Star system and the preloaded surveillance software allow Pyongyang to monitor behaviour, according to German researcher Florian Grunow.

Authorities can use the software to remotely delete files from a computer and can block users sharing files, according to Ms Grunow.

A tool called TraceViewer records app usage and intranet browsing history.

The software takes random screenshots which users can see but cannot delete.

Phone usage is monitored and smartphone users face random stops by police, who check their phones’ contents, according to defectors.

North Korea’s intranet first became widely available in the early 2000s.

But, in 2004 a suspected assassination attempt on then-leader Kim Jong Il, allegedly triggered by a wireless handset, led to a five-year ban on mobile phones.

The regime began allowing the devices again in 2009.

Some experts attribute the concession to Pyongyang’s desire to endear the government to local citizens.

A researcher at Amnesty International, Arnold Fang said: “North Koreans aren’t completely oblivious to the outside world.

GETTY

A tool called TraceViewer records app usage and intranet browsing history“In order to keep people happy, the North Korean government needs to show they are living a life of quality that is comparable to neighbouring countries.”

Early devices allowed some defectors to smuggle TV dramas from South Korea or elsewhere, but newer devices with tighter monitoring have made it more difficult to get access to foreign media, according to defectors.

An extremely small number of the North Korean elite have access to the external internet, according to Ms Moriuchi.

They are mainly researchers, government officials and party members whose jobs require information from the outside world.

GETTY

An extremely small number of North Korean elite have access to external internetThe elites gain access via a connection ultimately run by China Unicom, operational since 2010.

But, according to North Korea-focused blog 38 North, there is a second internet connection provided by a Russian state-owned company, TransTeleCom.

Pyongyang’s traditional tools of power, such as propaganda and ruling by terror, are beginning to diminish in effectiveness, former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong Ho said.

But some experts said they doubt smartphones and online activity will do anything but strengthen the regime.

Head of intelligence research at Cybereason, a cybersecurity firm, and a former U.S. Department of Defence analyst, Ross Rustici, said: “As long as North Koreans primarily consume the propaganda from the state, I don’t see it having a short-term destabilising effect.”

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/889170/North-Korea-Orwellian-smartphones-surveillance-Kim-Jong-un-Pyongyang-elite-news-latest

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China targets booming online lending as crisis fears build — Is your smartphone a “debt builder” — Debts as “snowballing”

December 6, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Ryan MCMORROW | Smartphones have made it even easier for consumers to borrow cash in China and a number of online platforms have listed publicly in the US this year

BEIJING (AFP) – When Jia Xinru needed to borrow money to buy new clothes, order food and buy a projector to screen Breaking Bad on her wall, she had instant access to China’s growing number of lenders via her mobile phone.The 24-year-old secretary is among millions of Chinese who have turned to proliferating online companies that dish out quick loans — and are worrying the country’s leadership.

On Friday authorities issued new rules on microlending, designed to protect consumers and limit risk for creditors. The move was the latest aimed at tackling financial risks as the world’s number two economy faces ballooning debt that has drawn warnings of a potential global financial crisis.

While most economists and analysts have focused their concerns on corporate debt, household debt has risen rapidly, roughly doubling since 2012, according to the Bank for International Settlements, known as the central banks’ central bank.

And smartphones have made it even easier for consumers to borrow cash in China, with e-commerce apps and mobile payment increasingly prevalent.

Jia started accumulating her debt when she was in college, turning to tech titan Alibaba when she could not get a credit card.

The ease of a few taps on her phone and a four minute wait led Jia to borrow and borrow and when she was finally able to take out a card, she used it to repay Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial.

But her debt reached roughly $9,000 this summer, and her monthly interest payments eclipsed her meagre salary.

She described the debts as “snowballing”, finding it harder to pay one debt as she borrowed to pay another.

– ‘Lending nirvana’ –

Alternative lending, with loans that can be wired to accounts within minutes, has taken off in China and accounts for 85 percent of the global market, according to a University of Cambridge report.

By 2020, some estimates forecast the business could approach that of credit cards, suggesting some Chinese may be leapfrogging from plastic to mobile loans.

Online lenders say most of their business comes from consumers and small businesses with little access to the formal banking system — only a third of Chinese have credit cards, according to the central bank.

“Most of our borrowers are in third or fourth tier cities,” said a marketing employee at lending platform Guangxindai, who declined to give her name. “They have a hard time getting credit cards from banks.”

The business’s growth comes as a new generation of Chinese shed their parents penchant for saving and embrace the credit culture.

“There’s a shift in China where people are now far more willing to take on debt,” said Jason Bedford, executive director of Asian Financials Research at UBS Investment Bank.

“There’s been a tremendous push into consumer lending. It’s seen as the next lending nirvana.”

The lending market exploded as regulators permitted the spread of platforms and products, with tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu all offering loans on demand through mobile apps.

The space also attracted a number of upstarts. Online platforms Qudian, PPDAI Group and China Rapid Finance have listed publicly in the US this year and a number of similar firms are waiting on the sidelines.

PPDAI’s platform has attracted nine million borrowers, and the volume of issued loans has increased five-fold since 2015.

– ‘Start over’ –

But with an eye on predatory lending and its after-effects, the latest rules prohibit lending to consumers without income and cap interest rates at 36 percent annually. Regulators will also stop the approval of new online micro lenders.

The move sent the stock prices of Qudian, PPDAI Group and China Rapid Finance tumbling in the past week.

And Anne Stevenson-Yang, research director at J Capital Research, said the regulations could lead half of all online lenders to fold.

Managing risk can be a tricky balancing act for online lending platforms when a large portion of the Chinese population lacks credit scores.

Some platforms write off the bad loans while others have taken defaulted borrowers to court.

Alibaba has built a credit scoring system called Sesame Credit that tracks users on its platforms and provides perks to those with high credit scores. It also recently limited annualized interest rates to 24 percent.

This autumn Jia turned to friends and family to pay off some of her credit card and Alibaba debt, with no interest.

“When I pay it all off,” she said, “I’m going to move to a new city and start over.”

by Ryan MCMORROW

Reading skills falling in US, Canada, France: study — “Smartphones seems to have pushed out books and learning has declined.”

December 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Reading ability among children aged 9-10 has fallen in the US, Canada, France and several other developed countries, according to a comparative study of 50 countrie

PARIS (AFP) – Reading ability among children aged 9-10 has fallen in the US, Canada, France and several other developed countries, according to a comparative study of 50 countries published Tuesday.Ten countries fared worse, compared with five years ago, in the 2016 PIRLS assessment of pupils in their fourth year of schooling — namely Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iran, Israel, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal and the US.

Eighteen, including England, Russia and Qatar made improvements.

Russia and Singapore topped the boards with 581 and 576 points respectively in the study of 319,000 children, who were assessed on their ability to understand literary and informational texts.

Egypt scored 330 points, while South Africa finished at the bottom with 320 points.

Girls outperformed boys in 48 countries, with an average difference of 19 points, and matched their reading abilities in two — Portugal and Macau.

Boys’ reading skills particularly lagged those of girls in mostly Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran, but the gap was also large in secular South Africa.

The study, conducted by the Netherlands-based IEA international education charity, is the fourth of its kind since 2001.

It contains comparative information on time and resources devoted to teaching reading but does not draw conclusions, or make suggestions, about how countries could improve.

Other findings include:

— Reading standards among French fourth-graders — who scored 511 points to take 34th place out of 50, behind Kazakhstan — have fallen steadily since 2001.

— In South Africa, which was the only African country to participate, girls pulled up six points between 2011 and 2016, while boys dropped 12 points.

— In Iran, reading levels among both sexes shot up between 2006 and 2011 only to plummet in the past five years. The boys’ score fell 41 points between 2011 and 2016, compared with 15 points for the girls.

— In the US, 98 percent of the students had a library in their classroom, compared to just 14 percent in Egypt.

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Tech May Be to Blame for Decline in Students’ Reading for Pleasure

Technology Proves to Negatively Effect Reading Skills

Students have put down beloved paperbacks and replaced them with smartphones, iPads and other technology. Kids’ reading for pleasure has dropped tremendously over the past 40 years, and technology may be to blame.

Children have admitted only reading for pleasure once or twice a year, whereas some haven’t ever opened a book unless for a school assignment. In a government study, the rate of nine-year-olds who read for fun once or twice per week fell from 81 percent in 1984 to 76 percent in 2013, reported Education News.

“The same study discovered that today’s children are having a harder time learning how to read,” the article said. “For kids in the fourth grade, only about one-third of them are ‘proficient’ in reading, and another one-third tested under ‘basic’ reading skills.”

Read the full story.

Article by Kassondra Granata, EducationWorld Contributor

Hackers could get even nastier in 2018: researchers

November 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Report by the security firm McAfee said hackers will develop new strategies in 2018 and target connected devices which offer less security than computers and smartphones

WASHINGTON (AFP) – After a year marked by devastating cyber attacks and breaches, online attackers are expected to become even more destructive in 2018, security researchers said Wednesday.A report by the security firm McAfee said the ransomware outbreaks of 2017 offer just a taste of what’s to come as hackers develop new strategies and “business models.”

McAfee researchers said that as ransomware profitability fades in the face of new defenses, hackers will turn to new kinds of attacks that could involve damage or disruption of computers and networks.

Attackers will also look to target wealthy individuals and aim at connected devices which offer less security than computers and smartphones.

“The evolution of ransomware in 2017 should remind us of how aggressively a threat can reinvent itself as attackers dramatically innovate and adjust to the successful efforts of defenders,” said Steve Grobman, McAfee’s chief technology officer.

McAfee also predicted wider use of cyber attacks “as a service,” allowing more hackers for hire to have an impact.

Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee, said the events of 2017 showed how easy it is to commercialize hacking services.

“Such attacks could be sold to parties seeking to paralyze national, political and business rivals,” Samani said.

McAfee’s 2018 Threats Predictions Report also said privacy is likely to be eroded further as consumer data — including data involving children — is gathered and marketed by device makers.

“Connected home device manufacturers and service providers will seek to overcome thin profit margins by gathering more of our personal data — with or without our agreement — turning the home into a corporate store front,” the McAfee report said.

The report said parents “will become aware of notable corporate abuses of digital content generated by children,” as part of this effort to boost profitability.

McAfee said it expects some impact for the May 2018 implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which limits how data is used and sold and which would affect companies with operations in the EU.

The GDPR regulation “makes 2018 a critical year for establishing how responsible businesses can pre-empt these issues, respecting users’ privacy, responsibly using consumer data and content to enhance services, and setting limits on how long they can hold the data,” said McAfee vice president Vincent Weafer.

Russia is hacking and harassing NATO soldiers, report says

October 6, 2017

The latest efforts by the Kremlin to disrupt NATO deployment include face-to-face harassment of soldiers using personal data. Some experts have said these tactics can easily turn deadly.

Soldiers of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, prepare to drive Marder light tanks onto a train for transport to Lithuania

US and NATO alliance officials said they are concerned about reports that troops on NATO’s frontlines in the Baltic states and Poland have been personally confronted by strangers who possess personal details about them.

The Wall Street Journal reported Russia is using advanced surveillance techniques, including drones and covert antennas, to pull data from smartphones being used by soldiers deployed as part of the alliance’s “enhanced Forward Presence” (eFP) in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The WSJ story includes personal accounts of military personnel being approached in public by a person they believed was a Russian agent conveying personal details about them for purposes of intimidation.

Speaking at NATO headquarters, US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said the matter is being looked into. “We will definitely be bringing it up,” Hutchison pledged. One of the Army officers who told the WSJ his phone had been hacked was an American lieutenant colonel who feared the Russians were tracking him with it.

Belgien US-Botschafter bei der NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison (T. Schultz)US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison says she’ll be raising the issue of Russian hacking of allied troops.

“We have seen attempts to undermine troops deployed in this part of our alliance, but our personnel are well-prepared to perform the mission at hand, despite these hybrid challenges,” a NATO military official explained. “The safety and security of our personnel is always a top priority for NATO, as well as for all contributing and host nations.”

The official, who was not authorized to give his name, emphasized that “all necessary measures” are being taken “protect the mission” and networks, and that personnel are being trained to be vigilant “as part of their daily routines, including online.”

http://www.dw.com/en/russia-is-hacking-and-harassing-nato-soldiers-report-says/a-40827197

From The Wall Street Journal:

Related:

Russia Targets NATO Soldier Smartphones, Western Officials Say

October 4, 2017

Moscow seeks information on operations and troop strength, according to officials with NATO countries

German soldiers at a NATO base in Lithuania in August.Photo: VALDA KALNINA/EPA/Shutterstock

Russia has opened a new battlefront with NATO, according to Western military officials, by exploiting a point of vulnerability for almost all allied soldiers: their personal smartphones.

Troops, officers and government officials of North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries said Russia has carried out a campaign to compromise soldiers’ smartphones. The aim, they say, is to gain operational information, gauge troop strength and intimidate soldiers.

The Russian Defense Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment. Russian officials deny that Moscow stages such attacks.

U.S. and other Western officials said they have no doubt Russia is behind the campaign. They said its nature suggests state-level coordination, and added that the equipment used, such as sophisticated drones equipped with surveillance electronics, is beyond the reach of most civilians.

The campaign has targeted the contingent of 4,000 NATO troops deployed this year to Poland and the Baltic states to protect the alliance’s European border with Russia, as tensions with Moscow are on the rise, Western military officials said.

Targets are soldiers like U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux, who took over as commander of a NATO base in Poland in July. Soon after, he said he returned to his truck from shooting drills to find his personal iPhone had been hacked and reported lost. The hacker was attempting to breach a second layer of password protection through a Russian IP address, he said.

“It had a little Apple map, and in the center of the map was Moscow,” said Col. L’Heureux, stationed not far from a major Russian military base. “It said, ‘Somebody is trying to access your iPhone’.”

Col. L’Heureux, who prepares tactical troop positions to repel a potential Russian invasion, also found he was being physically tracked through his iPhone.

“They were geolocating me, whoever it was,” he said. “I was like, ‘What the heck is this?’”

A military exercise in Poland in September.Photo: muszyns/epa-efe/rex/shutterstock/EPA/Shutterstock

Col. L’Heureux said at least six soldiers he commands have had phones or Facebook accounts hacked. He said he suspects the incidents were meant as a message that Russian intelligence forces were tracking him, could crack his passwords and wanted to intimidate his soldiers.

Western officials declined to describe technical security precautions in detail, but note that allied soldiers are trained on a variety of risks including cyberattacks.

Military cyberespionage experts said the drone flights and cellphone data collection suggest Russia is trying to monitor troop levels at NATO’s new bases to see if there are more forces present there than the alliance has publicly disclosed.

Some Western defense officials played down the military significance of the campaign, saying it has caused little if any damage and often involves public information.

Still, other Western officials said that in a crisis, compromised cellphones could be used to slow NATO’s response to Russian military action if, for example, the personal cellphone of a commander was us ed to send out fake instructions. While such communications via private device ought to be disregarded, it could sow confusion, they said.

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And if a compromised phone were brought into a secure area such as a military command post, it could be used to collect sensitive information.

Near Estonia’s border with Russia, numerous soldiers in January complained of “strange things” happening to their phones on the Tapa military base shortly before French and British NATO soldiers were due to arrive, according to an officer on the base with knowledge of the incident.

A probe indicated Russia had used a portable telephone antenna to gain access to phones in the area, said the officer. The device apparently grabbed data sent from mobile phones and erased information on them.

“They were stripping everyone’s contacts,” the officer said.

In March, an Estonian conscript’s phone started playing hip-hop music he hadn’t downloaded while he was stationed on the Russian border, the soldier said. Contacts started disappearing from his phone around the same time, he said.

Since the Tapa incident in January, soldiers on the Estonian base remove SIM cards from their phones and are allowed to use the internet only at designated secure hot spots. Use of geolocation is forbidden.

Estonian conscripts said they are forced to jump into a lake during operations to ensure they are following a strict “no smartphones” policy. Some get around the practice by wrapping their phones in condoms.

The British contingent at the base said it has taken necessary measures to protect troops.

Information gleaned from personal communication, contact lists and social-networking sites has been used in encounters that indicate a goal of harassment or intimidation, according to Western officials.

In Latvia, a U.S. soldier standing in line for a sports event was approached by a person who casually dropped details of the soldier’s life, including information about family members, said a person close to NATO. A similar incident happened to a U.S. soldier on a train in Poland, that person said. Both encounters were believed to have been with Russian agents.

“Russia has always sought to target NATO servicemen for intelligence exploitation,” said Keir Giles, an associate fellow at Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Program. “But such a campaign of harassment and intimidation is unprecedented in recent times.”

Mr. Giles has given briefings on information warfare to some NATO countries’ troops ahead of their deployment to the Baltics and Poland, where they are within reach of Russian antennae and drones that can suck up data from mobile devices lacking advanced military encryption.

The Baltics—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—have previously faced cyber assaults on their national internet networks and other connected systems, which they blamed on Russia.

“We are already in an unconventional cyberwar,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė. “We know what neighborhood we live in.”

Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said a number of suspicious drones were spotted during his decade in office that ended last year.

U.S. military officials say the campaign remains more harassment than a security risk.

Col. L’Heureux, who served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, says the hacking of his smartphone was a wake-up call.

“I thought this would be easy…nobody’s shooting at me,” he said of his Poland posting. “But this is different.”

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com, Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com and Drew Hinshaw at drew.hinshaw@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-targets-soldier-smartphones-western-officials-say-1507109402

Bain-Apple Group Sign Letter of Intent to Buy Toshiba’s Chip Business

September 13, 2017

Deal would be valued at more than $18 billion

Image result for Toshiba Corp, signage, photos

A group including private-equity firm Bain Capital and technology giant Apple Inc. signed a letter of intent to buy Toshiba Corp.’s chip business for more than $18 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

An agreement with the group, which also includes Seagate Technology PLC and Dell Inc., could be announced later Wednesday in Japan, the people said. It is unclear who else may be in the group and its membership could still change.

The agreement would be the latest twist in a contentious sale process that is likely far from over.

Toshiba is seeking to unload the chip unit as part of a survival plan in the wake of huge losses at its U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Co., which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. The Tokyo company has said its plan centers around selling the profitable semiconductor unit, which makes NAND flash-memory chips used for data storage in smartphones, computers and other electronics products.

Write to Dana Mattioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/bain-apple-group-sign-letter-of-intent-to-buy-toshibas-chip-business-1505280764

How the iPhone Built a City in China

July 3, 2017

Zhengzhou, once dominated by farmland, now has 250,000 people working to assemble Apple’s smartphone

Image result for iPhone City, china, photos

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July 3, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET

 

ZHENGZHOU, China–Farmer Zhang Hailin remembers the day in 2010 when he watched as helicopters flew in over fields of corn and wheat here, hovering in spots to drop balloon-shaped markers.

“Three days later, a hundred bulldozers were here,” Mr. Zhang said.

The iPhone was coming, and it wouldn’t be long before a new industrial town on the edge of Zhengzhou would be known as iPhone City.

Within months, boxy beige factory buildings appeared, power lines were connected and buses packed with workers began rolling up to Foxconn Technology Group, which assembles most of Apple Inc.’s smartphones.

A year later, Foxconn’s billionaire chairman Terry Gou said the iPhone factory complex had 100,000 workers. Today, Foxconn says it employs about 250,000, roughly the population of Madison, Wis.

Analysts estimate that Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., makes 150 million iPhones each year, along with 20 million iPads and other electronics. Foxconn said it employs 1 million people across China and elsewhere, including southern Shenzhen, where it began manufacturing the first iPhone amid great secrecy.

Image result for iPhone City, china, photos

With Apple embracing outsourced manufacturing in Chinese cities, the iPhone’s success in the decade since it launched has fueled China’s rise at the center of the global electronics supply chain.

The explosion of higher-tech manufacturing was encouraged by Beijing as leaders sought to move factories up the value chain from making plastic toys and clothes. That shift transformed the lives of millions of Chinese, bringing welcome jobs but also leading to complaints from some workers of repetitive labor, restrictive work rules and crowded living conditions in company housing.

The iPhone’s global success has increased scrutiny of Apple and its suppliers. The Cupertino, Calif., company said it holds Foxconn and others “to the strictest standards in the industry.” It said it has educated 12 million workers on their rights, ensured workweeks don’t exceed 48 hours, and offered career- and personal-development courses. “We hold our suppliers to the standard we hold ourselves: They must treat everyone with dignity and respect,” a spokesman said in a statement. Apple said wages and working conditions at its suppliers have improved significantly in the past five years.

Image result for iPhone City, china, photos

Downtown Zhengzhou, China

The move to Zhengzhou followed a spate of suicides in 2010 at Foxconn’s other primary iPhone production facility in Shenzhen, along the coast where wages were higher. Foxconn said in response to questions from The Wall Street Journal that many factors were behind choosing Zhengzhou, including the proximity to workers’ hometowns, and suitable infrastructure and transportation.

“Zhengzhou’s pro-business policies and the investment the government continues to make to build strong infrastructure to support manufacturing make the province an attractive location for our operations,” Foxconn said in a statement.

Like American company towns a century ago–Pullman, Ill., Hershey, Pa., and Henry Ford’s Detroit–iPhone City revolves mainly around a single product, and it largely depends on that product for its wealth.

In iPhone City, shopping malls, restaurants and karaoke parlors, some started by former Foxconn workers, sprouted to cater to the Foxconn workforce. Government statistics indicate that exports of electronics have skyrocketed from Henan, a poor province of 94 million people with Zhengzhou at its heart.

Officials had welcomed the iPhone: China’s top leaders greenlighted a national-level special trade zone, and the province threw its resources into constructing and populating what would become iPhone City.

During last fall’s rush to make the iPhone 7, when Foxconn was short-handed, state-owned coal companies lent workers to Foxconn. In past years, according to government notices online, the province issued quotas to local authorities stating how many workers they needed to produce for Foxconn.

Readying for a production surge to make the next iPhone model, due this fall, recruiters recently visited villages to put up posters and find workers.

“While the government has provided assistance in helping us with our recruitment requirements, the costs associated with hiring and training new workers are all covered by Foxconn,” the company said.

On a recent June day, a speaker blared outside the factory gate: “We’re recruiting the cream of society. Your personality must be optimistic, your work diligent.”

Foxconn workers earn some 1,900 yuan ($278) in quiet months to more than 4,000 yuan with overtime when production ramps up. Their income isn’t high, but many are better off than they were as rural villagers. For the workers, the iPhone is an expensive choice, and many say they buy cheaper, Chinese-branded smartphones instead.

Yuan Yanling, 28 years old, said she has worked three stints on iPhone assembly lines, quitting each time better-paid or more fun jobs appeared. Last November she traded in her Foxconn uniform for heels and began selling cosmetics in a nearby mall.

“Our customers are virtually all Foxconn workers,” said Ms. Yuan, who lives with her husband, a Foxconn employee, and two children in a rented one-room apartment.

Some of Ms. Yuan’s neighbors in the apartment complex are less content than she, with some who relocated during development complaining about inadequate land compensation. Zhengzhou authorities said their land compensation was based on national standards.

In 2013, one farmer, Xiao Malai, rankled local government officials by protesting his home’s demolition for a development inside the industrial park anchored by Foxconn’s factories, according to court documents from the trial of an official who allegedly paid an industrial park employee and other villagers to beat the farmer. Mr. Xiao died as a result of the beating, and the official, the industrial park employee and others were jailed over his death.

“We were not aware of the tragic death of Xiao Malai or the circumstances of his death,” an Apple spokesman said.

Other local farmers say the compensation paid for their land was more than they could ever earn in a lifetime cultivating wheat and corn. Mr. Zhang, who saw the markers drop from the helicopters in 2010, used part of his payout to buy two apartments. He said he earned more as a street sweeper than he did on the farm. His wife works at Foxconn, and their son also has.

Yet unease abounds in Zhengzhou over how long Foxconn–or Apple–will need iPhone City. Sales of the iPhone declined last year for the first time since its debut in 2007. During last year’s production downturn, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang asked Mr. Gou whether iPhone production would rise or fall this year, according to people present at the meeting.

Foxconn said it has acquired 80% of the buildings it uses in Zhengzhou, leasing the remainder, and will continue to invest there.

Regardless, Chinese officials see the iPhone factory as a worthwhile investment, said Shi Pu, an economics professor in Henan. “Foxconn has helped train hundreds of thousands of Henan’s people,” he said. “They can use those skills to go on to other jobs.”

Kersten Zhang and Yang Jie in Beijing and Tripp Mickle in San Francisco contributed to this article.

Write to Eva Dou at eva.dou@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-iphone-built-a-city-in-china-1499074203

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How the iPhone built a city of 6 million people in China

It’s hard to overstate the iPhone’s impact on the world, both from a consumer technology perspective as well as manufacturing. Foxconn, Apple’s trusted manufacturing partner, has come under fire several times over the years for its treatment of workers and other controversies, but as the New York Timesreports, the company’s job of building millions upon millions of iPhones helps to fuel an entire city.

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Located in the central province of Henan, the Chinese city of Zhengzhou is home to a Foxconn plant that can churn out a mind boggling half million iPhones every day. That kind of a production rate means a huge demand for factory workers, and labor is easy to come by in the city of six million residents.

Between the constantly expanding factory, over $1.5 billion in support for Foxconn’s infrastructure from the Chinese government, and a newly built customs facility to expedite the flow of iPhones out of the country, Apple’s smartphone rules the region. In fact, the iPhone is so crucial to the local economy that Zhengzhou’s residents allegedly call it “iPhone City.”

Foxconn’s presence in Zhengzhou means that roads get paved and the infrastructure is maintained and strengthened, but it’s Apple’s iPhone that is the real driving force. China benefits from the arrangement, and so does Apple, even though two aren’t direct partners. Foxconn, of course, gets the best of both worlds: Apple’s contract to build the iPhone and seemingly endless perks from the government to keep doing what it’s doing and keeping people employed.

How the iPhone built a city of 6 million people in China

Vietnam GDP growth surges in second quarter

June 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Communist Vietnam, of which Ho Chi Minh was a pivotal figure, has enjoyed a reputation as one of the best performing economies in Southeast Asia in recent years, with growth hitting more than six percent over the past two years, though the 2016 figures were down from the previous year.

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam’s economy bounced back in the second quarter posting a 6.17 percent growth rate, according to official figures Thursday, a boost driven by gains in the industrial and services sectors.The export-driven economy saw growth slow last year as the country struggled to recover from a major drought and mass fish kill along its central coast.

Growth in the first three months of this year hit a three-year low of 5.15 percent thanks to a slump in exports from Samsung, the country’s leading investor.

But GDP growth rates from April to June jumped to 6.17 percent, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

The surge was driven by growth in the industrial and services sectors, though the mining sector dragged growth slightly, the office said.

GSO general director Nguyen Bich Lam said the surge between quarter one and two was the biggest jump since 2011, according to state-controlled Vietnamnet news site.

Analysts were buoyed by the bounceback and predicted strong growth ahead — even if the official growth target of 6.7 percent is not met.

“The latest numbers are very positive… I think Vietnam can manage about 6.5 percent growth this year,” said Luong Hoang from Viet Capital Securities.

Communist Vietnam has enjoyed a reputation as one of the best performing economies in Southeast Asia in recent years, with growth hitting more than six percent over the past two years, though the 2016 figures were down from the previous year.

Overall growth for the first half of 2017 is at 5.73 percent, up from the same period last year as exports surged 18.9 percent compared to the first half of 2016.

Growth has been mostly driven by exports of cheaply made goods, from Nike shoes to smartphones.

Is Trump wise to take on China over trade? — Brookings Institution — “China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade.”

April 5, 2017

BBC News

US President Donald Trump has said that trade negotiations with China will be “very difficult” when he meets President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, on Thursday.

Trade will be one of two key issues on the agenda, along with North Korea. But what’s the problem – and what can Trump do about it?

Buying Chinese

The problem with the US-China trade relationship is that it is highly unequal and has been for a long time.

In 2016 alone, the US imported $480bn (£385bn) of goods and services from China – mostly consumer items like clothing, shoes, televisions, smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Those imports keep prices low for American consumers.

In return, the US sold just $170bn (£137bn) worth of exports to China – including sophisticated machinery like aircraft and agricultural products like soybeans.

It also makes money from services, like the education of an estimated 350,000 Chinese students in the US.

Overall, China is the largest source of the US trade deficit – the amount by which the value of its imports exceeds the value of its exports. In 2016 it accounted for about 60% of its overall deficit of $500bn (402bn).Grey line

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The meeting takes place at Mar-a-Lago in Florida – a private members club as well as the Trump family’s winter getaway
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The loss of American jobs

President Trump is unhappy with this state of affairs, tweeting in January: “China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade.”

He sees a link with the loss of manufacturing jobs – and he has a point, because a large trade deficit generally goes hand-in-hand with a smaller manufacturing sector.

This is a problem, because for people without college degrees these jobs tend to be well-paying ones.

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.Shoppers on escalatorsUS shoppers have enjoyed years of cheap imports. Reuters photo

During his campaign, Mr Trump spoke often of wanting to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US and, in the first presidential debate, said: “They’re using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China.

After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 there was a surge of Chinese imports into the US, something economists called the “China shock”.

Between 2000 and 2007, US manufacturing jobs fell sharply, from 16.9 million to 13.6 million. The 2008 financial crisis pushed the number lower, to 11.2 million, although the number has since been fairly stable.

Workers making clothing and electronic goods were among the worst affected.

It is difficult to settle upon an exact figure, but some economists think that 40% of these job losses can be linked to Chinese imports.

However, the influx of cheap goods also created non-manufacturing jobs in the US, because consumers had more money to spend on other things.

That boosted healthcare, entertainment, travel, and leisure. So, think of the trade deficit destroying some jobs and creating others.

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Open the gates

So, what can President Trump do about the trade deficit?

Candidate Trump threatened harsh protectionist measures, such as a 45% tariff on Chinese imports, but history shows that protectionism does not reduce trade deficits.

He also threatened to name China a “currency manipulator” and at one point during his campaign went so far as to accuse it of “raping” the US with its trade policy.

For years China intervened to keep its exchange rate low, which kept the price of its goods down and helped increase the US deficit. But more recently its central bank has kept the currency high – making its exports more expensive – and it is in the US’s interest to encourage more of this.

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.Port of Los AngelesThe US has long been spending more on goods from other countries than it sells. GETTY IMAGES

The most promising route for President Trump is to negotiate better access to Chinese consumers.

China has many restrictions on imports, for example a 25% tariff on cars. And while the US sells a lot of agricultural products to China, notably soy beans, key markets like beef and pork are highly restricted.

Probably most important for the US is that modern service sectors like finance, social media, telecommunications, health care and transportation are largely closed to imports and foreign investment.

So far there has been little progress, but opening China’s markets would offer more choice to its own consumers and would help maintain a stable relationship with the US.

China’s economy depends on keeping the trade flowing with its biggest customer.

Low expectations

Will there be a trade war?

Probably not, because protectionist measures would hurt the US economy and the Chinese are counting on it to be practical.

The Chinese Communist Party has an important congress at the end of the year and it will be difficult for Xi to do anything bold before then.

Even afterwards, China is likely to move very gradually on market opening.

Trump was smart to set low expectations for the summit.

David Dollar is a senior fellow in the John L Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, a public policy organisation based in Washington DC.

Twitter: @davidrdollar and @BrookingsInst

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39479751

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