Posts Tagged ‘smartphones’

Half of New York-Area Teens Spend at Least Three Hours a Day Socializing Online

November 26, 2018

Metro area survey also shows about 84% of children ages three to seven with ‘millennial parents’ have their own internet-connected devices



In an attempt to stave off trouble online, Mark Davis won’t let his boys, ages 12 and 14, take internet-connected devices into their bedrooms. When one son got a bad grade recently, Mr. Davis took away his smartphone and gave him a substitute without web access.

Image result for child, smartphone, photos

“We call it the flip phone of doom,” said Mr. Davis, a Brooklyn dad. “Among my parent peer group, controlling our kids on social media is top of mind for e

Read the rest:

See also:

Teen study: 89 percent have smartphones; hate content exposure has gone up

Nearly half (47 percent) of teens who have a smartphone say they are “addicted” to it.

Nearly half (47 percent) of teens who have a smartphone say they are “addicted” to it. (Photo: bokan76, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

About 1 in 10 teens (13 percent) say that have been cyberbullied. But 23 percent say that have tried to help someone who has been cyberbullied.

About 1 in 10 teens (13 percent) say that have been cyberbullied. But 23 percent say that have tried to help someone who has been cyberbullied. (Photo: Daisy-Daisy, Getty Images/iStockphoto)


Teens insist social media makes them feel better: poll

Image result for human brain,pictures




Image result for trump, google, photos

“Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter”

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and closeup

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter


Young people

The study found widespread apprehension about the future. Seeking intimacy? Or isolation?


Tech Rout Puts Silicon Valley on Edge

November 19, 2018

Steve Hoffman grabs the mic and, at once, beams Silicon Valley optimism. Decked out in his trademark purple-and-blue plaid shirt, his high-pitched voice echoing off the concrete walls, he touts his start-up incubator’s track record and rattles off the names he helped propel: Instagram, Etsy,, Foursquare.

Oohs and aahs ripple through the crowd of twenty-somethings. Smartphones are raised to film his every word. They’ve packed themselves tightly into this underground San Francisco conference room for a shot at meeting venture capitalists willing to take a chance on their dreams. When Hoffman delivers his punch line — “you may be the next unicorn” — the place erupts in cheers.

Moments earlier, though, Hoffman, or Captain Hoff as he likes to be called, sounded a decidedly more pessimistic tone as he chatted candidly while waiting for his guests to arrive. The truth was, he said, that when it came to his own money, he was plunking down very little. After a decade of soaring tech valuations, the recent 12 percent wipeout in the Nasdaq was to be expected. He fears the sell-off in public stock markets will only get worse — a lot worse — and, in turn, start driving down the stubbornly high valuations of privately owned start-ups.

“I’m actually quite worried,” said Hoffman, who created his incubator, Founders Space, in 2011. He said he’s pulled 80 percent of the money he had in public markets and 60 percent of what he had in private markets. It’s all parked in cash now. “There’s nothing safer than cash.”

Hoffman’s trepidation may be a bit extreme by Silicon Valley standards — some here don’t share the sentiment at all — and yet it underscores an unmistakable new reality: The hand-wringing over the tech stock rout is no longer the exclusive domain of Wall Street traders, that notoriously more jittery and anxious crowd on the other side of the continent. No, even here, in the heart of the industry where gung-ho optimism and bullishness are built into the DNA, doubts are starting to seep in.

It’s not that folks are bracing for another dot-com or 2008-type bust. Only a few, like Hoffman, are quite that gloomy. Typically, it’s more subtle than that. Maybe a VC firm spends a few extra days scrutinizing deal terms. Or a young programmer puts a million-dollar home purchase on hold. Austin Degenhardt, the 29-year-old founder of Paul Hardt, an early-stage company that makes luxury shoes and markets them online, described the growing sense of angst this way: “It’s more just in the back of my mind. I just feel the rush.”

For Degenhardt, the rush is to lock in funding from venture capitalists while valuations remain near-record highs. He’s seeking $600,000. (He had a pretty good day at Founders Space last week, having scored about a half-dozen business cards from VC types; he flashed a coy smile as he showed them off.)

And for those entrepreneurs further along in the development stage, the rush is often to tap public markets with an IPO. So far, that market hasn’t shown any signs of cooling. There have been 46 tech IPOs this year. They raised $16 billion, topping 2017’s total of $13 billion. And some marquee names — Uber, Slack and Airbnb, among them — are lining up to come to market soon.

“We’re seeing no slowdown in IPO preparation, readiness, planning for 2019,” says Alex Wellins, co-founder of the Blueshirt Group, a technology investor relations firm and IPO adviser that’s helped take SurveyMonkey, among others, to market. He predicts another big year in 2019 though he acknowledges that if the market sell-off deepens, those projections could fall apart. “There’s definitely been a correction, there’s been a lot of volatility, but the markets are still relatively strong and it makes sense to be ready.”

A man holds a laptop while crossing the street in San Francisco.  Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg

Most tech stocks have been plunging for several months now. Some of the moves are eye-popping: Netflix is down 32 percent from a record high in July; is off 22 percent since early September; Tencent, the Chinese technology behemoth, is down 38 percent from a January record. Semiconductors have gotten hammered too, dropping 19 percent since early June. So too have tech hardware companies. They’ve fallen 14 percent from an October peak. Globally, tech companies have lost $1.1 trillion in value in the past two-and-a-half months.

The causes are many, from the nagging privacy issues at Facebook and Google to slumping demand for semiconductors and smartphones to the U.S.-China trade war. And all of them point to a seemingly inescapable truth — that the days of never-ending profit growth are coming to an end. So after an incredible decade-long run in which the Nasdaq soared more than 500 percent, many Wall Street investors have decided the sector is just too pricey.

“Investor optimism is more curbed,” says Alex Chompff, an angel investor and consultant who took a few of his investing pals to the Founders Space event. “It has an upper boundary that it may not have had a year ago.”

Curiously, that new-found cap on exuberance is hitting the Bay Area real estate market faster than it is private tech valuations. The go-go days, where every new listing sold as soon as it hit the market, are gone. Tracy McLaughlin, a real-estate agent in Marin County, says she’s seeing price cuts of up to 10 percent and is bracing for a 20 percent decline in her business next year. Ditto for Natalie Kitchen, a realtor in San Francisco, who, like McLaughlin, only sells million-dollar homes.

Both of them cite the rout in tech stocks as a key reason for the recent declines. “I think it’s more about that feeling of generally being poorer than you thought you were,” Kitchen says. When clients began asking for discounts on listings, she was taken by surprise. “Those are not conversations that we’re used to having.”

Back at Founders Space, Captain Hoff is ready for whatever may come.

At 53, he’s old enough to have witnessed first-hand both the dot-com bust and the 2008 collapse. Those experiences give him a perspective many of his younger colleagues lack. And they keep telling him that a major tumble — something much bigger than what’s been seen so far — is not far off.

When exactly? He’s not sure. Perhaps within a year. “I’m not an oracle.” He’d rather be safe than sorry, he says, and give up some potential gains for the sake of peace of mind. Here in Silicon Valley, he recognizes that is somewhat rare. “I tend to be one of the more conservative ones, having been burned twice,” he says. “I have no qualms about making those decisions and living with them.”

— With assistance by Julie Verhage, and Alex Barinka

Facebook must act to stop spreading hate ahead of 2020 Mynamar poll: report

November 6, 2018

Myanmar’s 2020 elections may be fertile ground for “incitement to violence” and Facebook should prepare now, an assessment of the tech giant’s presence in the country warned Tuesday, as it detailed how the platform had been used to spread hate.

Facebook has for years come under fire from rights groups for its slow response to abusive posts, with the country’s Rohingya Muslims bearing the brunt of the invective.

Language portraying the Rohingya in sub-human terms or as terrorists on the network helped drum up support for a military crackdown that forced more than 720,000 of the stateless minority to flee the country last year.

© AFP | Facebook has for years come under fire from rights groups for its slow response to abusive posts, with the country’s Rohingya Muslims bearing the brunt of the invective

Facebook has blacklisted several hardline Buddhist monks, and after a UN probe called for the army chief and other top military brass to be prosecuted for genocide, the platform blocked them too.

It also commissioned an assessment on its performance by California-based consultants Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), which carried out interviews between May and September 2018.

While BSR agreed that the platform had been used by those “seeking to incite violence and cause offline harm”, it also said Facebook’s link to rights violations “should not be overestimated” and that the state bore ultimate responsibility.

But it also warned that Facebook’s problems in Myanmar are far from over.

The upcoming election in 2020 is “likely to be a flashpoint for hate speech, harassment, misinformation, incitement to violence, and other actions designed to undermine the political process”, it said.

Facebook should be prepared for “multiple eventualities” now, it said, without going into detail.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi won the 2015 vote, ending decades of military rule. But her administration — which is in an uneasy power-sharing agreement with the military — has floundered in handling the Rohingya crisis.

The assessment additionally warned that authorities and nationalists in the country have become more sophisticated in targeting civil society groups and activists on the platform.

It said Myanmar risks turning back into a “surveillance state” with a large number of insecure accounts due to the use of out-of-date Facebook apps.

Facebook said it is working on rooting out abuse ahead of the elections — but admitted it had failed to do enough to prevent the incitement of violence.

“The report concludes that, prior to this year, we weren’t doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence,” said Alex Warofka, product policy manager.

“We agree that we can and should do more.”

Most people in Myanmar came online in the last few years as smartphone usage soared after the country opened up to the outside world, with Facebook serving as a one-stop shop for news, entertainment and communication.

Rights groups have long criticised the platform for taking too long to delete malicious posts that then go viral.

The tech giant said Tuesday it is improving and is identifying more than four times the number of hate speech posts than it was at the end of last year.

Moreover it promised that the number of Myanmar-language reviewers would increase to 100 by the end of 2018.

But sceptics question whether they will be able to monitor the country’s 20 million accounts and myriad languages.



Smartphone sales down for fourth straight quarter — U.S. stock market down

November 2, 2018

Global smartphone sales fell for a fourth consecutive quarter in the period through September, suggesting a challenging market for device makers awaiting catalysts to spark sales, researchers said.

A report by research firm IDC late Thursday showed 355 million handsets delivered in the third quarter, a year-on-year decline of six percent.

“IDC maintains its view that the market will return to growth in 2019, but at this stage it is too early to tell what that growth will look like,” the report said.

A separate survey by Strategy Analytics showed an eight percent drop in sales to 360 million units.

© AFP/File | Samsung kept the top spot in the global smartphone market which saw a fourth consecutive sales decline, according to research firms

“The global smartphone market has now declined for four consecutive quarters and is effectively in a recession,” said Strategy Analytics director Linda Sui.

“The smartphone industry is struggling to come to terms with heavily diminished carrier subsidies, longer replacement rates, inventory buildup in several regions, and a lack of exciting hardware design innovation.”

According to Strategy Analytics, Apple’s iPhone sales of 46.9 million units suggested the California giant is focusing on price increases, capping its overall volume growth.

Samsung remained the top vendor with just over 20 percent of sales, according to both surveys.

Chinese-based Huawei held second place with over 14 percent and Apple remained third with roughly 13 percent.

The fourth and fifth largest, respectively, were Chinese device makers Xiaomi and Oppo.

The researchers said a slowdown in China is a major factor in the slump in global sales, while noting that the market could pick up next year as makers introduce new devices compatible with superfast 5G, or fifth-generation wireless networks.

“China’s domestic market continues to be challenged as overall consumer spending around smartphones has been down,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC.

“Despite this, we believe this market will begin to recover in 2019 and beyond, driven in the short term by a large, built up refresh cycle across all segments, and in the outer years of the forecast supported by 5G migration.”


Tech-Led Selloff Tears Through Asian Stock Markets

October 25, 2018

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell to a six-month low; South Korea’s Kospi could enter a bear market


Image result for china stock market, photos



A wave of selling slammed Asian stocks Thursday following steep declines in the U.S., threatening to send South Korea’s technology-heavy benchmark into bear-market territory.

The moves came after tech stocks in New York tumbled Wednesday, wiping out the gains for the year in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500.

Every major market slumped in Asia on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell the most, dropping 3.9% to a more-than six month low.

South Korea’s Kospi retreated 2.2%, bringing its decline to roughly 21% since Jan. 29, its highest this year. If the index closes around these levels, it will enter a bear market, defined as a 20%-plus drop from a recent high.

In doing so, it would join indexes in mainland China and Hong Kong. That is a stark illustration of how severely concerns about the escalating U.S.-China trade spat and the ability of emerging markets to withstand higher U.S. rates have hit Asia.

The U.S. and China have imposed tariffs on billion of dollars of each other’s goods, dimming the outlook for a range of economies heavily involved in global supply chains, including Taiwan and South Korea. The International Monetary Fund this month lowered its forecasts for global growth this year and next, partly due to trade protectionism.

The October swoon in global stocks has marked a turnaround from September, when many indexes rose. Investors have also apparently lost conviction that a strong economy in the U.S. was enough to insulate it from gloom elsewhere.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell to a six-month low Thursday.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell to a six-month low Thursday. PHOTO: EUGENE HOSHIKO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“It seems like people are finally coming to a point where they are questioning if the U.S. is very different from global markets,” said Felix Lam, a portfolio manager at BNP Paribas Asset Management. “We are still quite globally linked,” he said, adding that trade tensions will ultimately affect the U.S. as well.

Shares of Asian tech companies dropped sharply.

Japan’s Sony Corp. , the electronics and entertainment group, fell more than 5%, while industrial robot-maker Fanuc Corp. dropped 4.1%. In South Korea, Samsung Electronics Co. shares slumped 3.8% to their lowest in a year and a half. The country’s biggest company by market value has been hit by worries over memory chips and smartphone sales.

Hong Kong-listed Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. dropped 3.2%. Overnight, U.S.-listed shares in rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. dropped 4.8%, while so-called American depositary receipts for smaller Chinese tech concerns such as NetEase Inc. and International Ltd. had fallen even more sharply.

A broader gauge of American-listed Chinese stocks, the BNY Mellon China Select ADR index, has fallen 16% so far this month, including a 4.1% slide Wednesday.

Write to Saumya Vaishampayan at and Ben Eisen at


China investors fear too much stock is being used as collateral, a big market drag


Asia markets tumble following Wall Street sell-off

‘Made in China 2025’: how new technologies could help Beijing achieve its dream of becoming a semiconductor giant

September 24, 2018

The third installment of a series on China’s hi-tech industry development master plan looks at semiconductors, and how the country’s rapid embrace of new technologies could help it close the gap with advanced makers

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2018, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2018, 11:00pm
 Silicon wafers at a semiconductor plant. China is looking to upgrade its semiconductor industry to global levels in a bid to become a hi-tech powerhouse commensurate with its economic might. Photo: Shutterstock

A year ago, Chinese government departments across the country received an order from the general office of the Communist Party to hand in a timeline detailing how soon they could replace existing computer hardware and software programmes with domestic substitutes.

Under the guise of ensuring information security, the central government’s intent was to reduce use of computers, servers, semiconductor chips and software made by Western firms, as it looked to build its own core technologies, lessen its dependency on imports and become a big player on the global tech stage.

That vision of global leadership to match the country’s economic might took form in 2015 when the government unveiled its “Made in China 2025” (MIC2025) plan. At the heart of the plan is the country’s semiconductor industry, in part because advances in chip technology can lead to breakthroughs in other areas of technology, handing the advantage to whoever has the best chips – an advantage that currently is out of Beijing’s reach.

“The US controls the most important core technologies,” said Roger Sheng, an analyst at research firm Gartner. “The standards are all in the hands of the US, which means it controls the upstream and downstream segments of the industry chain,” he said, referring to the entire process of making a chip, from design and manufacturing to consumption by end users.

“The first step is to see if they can compete with Korea and Taiwan, then slowly see if they can compete with the US. Competing with the US is not a one day or two day matter.”

Mainland China’s huge manufacturing industry makes it the world’s biggest consumer of chips – the “brains” that power everything from electrical appliances and smartphones to the most sophisticated super computers and driverless cars.

Yet the country has to buy most of its chips, as it only makes 16 per cent of what is used domestically. It spent US$260 billion on chip imports last year, more than the US$162 billion that went on crude oil, a commodity that was seen for years as a source of strategic frailty for China because of its dependence on foreign supplies.

Now that sense of frailty has been transferred to the chip industry, spurring renewed efforts to build a domestic alternative. And there are signs that a shift in the tech landscape, as China embraces all things digital and pushes into new areas like artificial intelligence, could help it towards that goal.

China has in fact been trying to develop its chip industry for a number of years, even before the MIC2025 plan.

It has poured in billions of dollars of subsidies, grants and investments, but progress has been slow. There is no equivalent of US giant and chip pioneer Intel, or South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, which design and make their own chips. China’s biggest player, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), makes chips to order for other companies, but lags behind the advanced technology of the global leader in such contract production, Taiwan-based TSMC.

SMIC uses what is called 28-nanometre process technology, which refers to the size, in billionths of a metre, of the circuits on a chip. TSMC is preparing to make 5nm chips by 2020 with 3nm chips planned for 2022. Intel is working on 10nm technology.

The smaller the circuits, the smaller and more powerful the chips can be, and consequently the gadgets they power can also be smaller and more powerful.

Under MIC2025, China aims to meet 70 per cent of domestic chip demand with home-grown products, but, according to leading industry official Ding Wenwu, the industry has three shortcomings: a semiconductor trade deficit of US$66.9 billion; heavy reliance on foreign core technologies such as central processing units (CPU) for computers, and a 10-fold difference in operational scale between SMIC and the world leaders.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing earlier this year. Photo: Xinhua

Ding is president of the National Integrated Circuits Industry Fund, which was established in 2014 to build up manufacturing processes and help companies acquire assets internationally. The fund – spearheaded by the finance and industry and information technology ministries and funded by leading state institutions like the China Development Bank Capital and China Mobile – has invested more than 81.8 billion yuan (US$11.9 billion) in 67 projects involving firms including telecoms equipment firm ZTE, SMIC and another chip maker, Huahong Semiconductor.

At the same time, a new generation of Chinese firms are grasping opportunities in more specialised areas of the semiconductor industry where there is less ground to make up, and even a chance to take the lead.

China’s vast domestic market is rapidly embracing smart living through the internet of things and connected workplaces and homes and smart devices. The government is also heavily promoting artificial intelligence, an area it wants the country to take the global lead in.

These areas require different types of chips, for example the system-on-chip that includes not only a CPU, but often a graphics processing unit, RAM memory, ROM memory and a communications modem to connect internet of things and devices, field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chips – which can be programmed after they are made, as well as neural network processors, which can “learn” and are used in artificial intelligence.

“China has built up a large electronics ecosystem. Chinese firms are making over 40 per cent of global smartphone sales, and have strong positions in PCs, tablets, notebooks, and many other devices. Innovative electronics are increasingly being conceived of and developed in China, like the consumer drone,” said Dan Wang, technology analyst at research house Gavekal Dragonomics.

China’s smart-home market, for example, is expected to reach US$7 billion this year, and will show an annual growth rate of 38.7 per cent to reach US$26 billion by 2022, according to online research firm Statista. Although it is less than half the volume of the US, the world’s biggest, China’s smart-home technology penetration rate of 4.9 per cent means enormous growth potential and opportunities for nimble firms.

“The CPU [segment] comes with a legacy and baggage … specialised chips provide opportunities for start-ups like ours,” said Barry Tam, marketing director of Intellifusion, a Shenzhen-based AI firm. He said that once the playing field was level, China would be in a better position to gather the technologies, skills and talent to advance the domestic semiconductor industry, including into the development of mainstream chips.

Tam estimated that specialised chips currently made up around 1 per cent of China’s overall chip market.

Big companies from other industries are also taking note of the potential as technology penetrates ever wider areas of life. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, which has moved aggressively into big data and AI, expects to launch its first neural network chip in April next year, and is developing smart chips for an internet of things infrastructure as well as for areas such as self-driving cars. The company, owner of the South China Morning Post, bought a Chinese chip design firm in April, one of five investments in the sector in four years.

“We are still some distance away compared to developed countries [in chip technology], but in the internet of things era we can catch up,” co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma told the Alibaba Computing Conference last week.

Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker, is also working on specialised chips, and unveiled a 7nm system-on-chip product in late August.

“China has plenty of development opportunities, the market is deep … China is the manufacturing hub and a big market for smart devices,” said Wang Huixuan, co-president of one of China’s top three smartphone chip makers, Tsinghua Unigroup, at a technology forum in Beijing in August.

Tsinghua Unigroup, together with the National Integrated Circuits Industry Fund and the Hubei provincial government, have put up US$24 billion to establish Yangtze Memory Technologies, which last November unveiled a 32-layer 3D NAND flash memory chip. NAND chips can store data without power, and are increasingly used in portable devices such as laptops.

Yangtze Memory said recently it was developing a 64-layer NAND chip, which puts it not far behind global leaders Samsung, Hynix and Micron of the US, which are currently developing 72-layer NAND chips.

Inside a plant belonging to Huahong Semiconductor. Photo: Handout

As China looks to find its niche, however, political tensions with the US over its efforts via the MIC2025 plan have erupted into a trade war. In US eyes, the plan smacks of unfair government interference in industry that disadvantages US firms and seeks to exclude them from the market. Semiconductors are particularly sensitive as the industry occupies a central place in the US view of its own national prowess, and the country worries that its dominance is under threat.

The US government has blocked several Chinese attempts to take over American and European chip companies over the last few years, and earlier this year showed what harm it could do to Chinese industries by banning ZTE from buying American technology for seven years after it found that ZTE had violated US sanctions on doing business with Iran and North Korea.

The ban was later dropped, but had briefly threatened to put ZTE out of business, and served as a rude reminder of China’s vulnerabilities in the hi-tech sphere.

“Since China has been subject to US export controls in the past, it wants to make sure that its large electronics sector will not be subject to politically imposed supply shocks,” said Gavekal’s Wang.

Even as China ramps up its semiconductor industry, however, the reliance on foreign technologies will not go away completely.

At least 46 big-budget semiconductor projects – a number of them with foreign interests – are planned in China for the next three years, including two in Guangzhou with a combined investment of US$2.9 billion, according to China Daily.

But for those projects to be able to make their chips, China will have to import equipment from foreign suppliers, including Netherlands-based ASML and Japan’s Tokyo Electron, which dominate the market for the sophisticated machinery used to create chips. For US market leader Applied Materials, for example, sales of semiconductor tools to China accounted for 25 per cent of total revenue in the quarter ended April 2018.

Sales of equipment for making semiconductors to China are expected to reach US$11.8 billion this year, rising 43 per cent from 2017 and making the country the world’s second-largest market, according to SEMI, the global microchip industry association.

Meanwhile, at one of the government offices which received the order to replace foreign equipment, staff continued to work with computers running on imported chips and Microsoft software.

“It is impossible to replace them with the Chinese products in the near term, anyone with basic computer science knowledge would understand,” said an official who declined to be named because the matter was sensitive.

He said he had submitted to his supervisors a zero per cent short-term target for conversion.

“If the order is enforced, we will just buy the Chinese-made computers and lock them up in storage, because there is no way they can handle the software we now rely on every day,” he said.

Additional reporting by Sarah Dai, Xie Yu and Liu Yujing

China attempts to soothe small businesses’ social tax fears as trade war dims growth outlook

September 7, 2018

Premier Li Keqiang promises to maintain status quo amid fears small firms could be driven out of business

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2018, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2018, 8:44pm

Beijing has taken the unusual step of assuring China’s small businesses that the government will not abruptly raise their social tax burdens after a planned regulatory change to tighten fee collection stirred fury and fear among small manufacturers.

At a regular State Council meeting on Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang promised the government would maintain for now the status quo on the collection of corporate contributions to social funds and would study lowering social welfare contribution rates to ensure “there is no increase in the corporate burden”.

The move is a clear attempt to assuage the concerns of many small, private factory owners who fear they will be driven out of business if they are forced to pay their social welfare fees in full.

Chinese employers are obliged to pay several social taxes every month based on their workers’ wages. These comprise contributions to the national social security fund (equivalent to 19 per cent of the total payroll), health care insurance fund (10 per cent), and unemployment, work injury and childbirth insurance (about 2 per cent).

Implementation of social payment rules, however, is often lax, especially among small, private sector manufacturers, and the authorities in charge of collection often tolerate underpayment. But from January the duty of collecting the fees will shift to local taxation bureaus, which will have the incentives and means to ensure businesses pay their dues in full.

This tightening of the collection process could deal another blow to China’s economy even as it struggles with slowing domestic demand and an escalating trade war with the United States. At the very least, the change could wipe out profits at many of China’s private businesses.

A report by brokerage Guotai Junan Securities estimated that the rule change would cost Chinese employers an extra 2 trillion yuan (US$292.16 billion) next year, or about the same as the combined profits of all of China’s privately owned businesses in 2017.

A tightening of the tax collection process could deal another blow to China’s economy. Photo: Bloomberg

Jason Zhang, who runs a factory in the southern city of Shenzhen making cables for smartphones and computers, said it would cost him about 1 million yuan a month if he was forced to pay social welfare fees strictly in line with state regulations.

Zhang said he currently pays social welfare fees for about half of his 800 workers and that his profit would be wiped out if he paid the full amount. Even without the higher costs, Zhang said his factory’s 10 million yuan profit in 2017 would drop by 30 per cent due to falling demand if the US imposed tariffs on Chinese electronic components, as it had threatened to do.

The new social welfare collection rule could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for his business and many similar factories, he said.

“A lot of entrepreneurs like me cannot afford such a drastic change,” Zhang said.

Concern about social welfare fees is part of a bigger debate on whether the government is taxing Chinese businesses and individuals too heavily, especially after the US and other countries cut their tax rates. Appeals for Beijing to cut business taxes to improve competitiveness have increased since US President Donald Trump signed into law in December a reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 35 per cent to about 21 per cent.

The Chinese government has already promised to reduce the burden of tax and fees on businesses. In its annual work report in March, Li said he would cut the corporate tax burden by 800 billion yuan and administrative fees by a further 300 billion yuan this year.

However, many small firms may not feel any easing of their burden as a result of stricter collection methods by tax authorities.

For example, some Chinese venture capital funds were abruptly told by the tax authorities last month that they should pay the full 35 per cent tax rate on their income instead of a preferential 20 per cent rate they had been allowed to pay for years.

The planned change prompted the China Merger and Acquisition Association, an industry group, to appeal to the government to avoid raising taxes on venture capital firms at a time when the country is trying to finance a series of new hi-tech initiatives.

Li touched the issue on Thursday, ordering tax authorities not to increase the “overall tax burden” on venture capitalists.

Wu Qi, a senior fellow at the Beijing-based Pangoal Institute, said China needed to enact meaningful tax cuts for small, private sector businesses amid the nation’s broad economic slowdown and the external headwinds caused by the trade war.

Such cuts would “be the most effective tool” to help stabilise growth, as the government had vowed to do and had the capacity to do, Wu said.

China’s tax revenue in the first seven months of the year rose 14 per cent from the same period of 2017 to 10.8 trillion yuan. The rate was more than twice the 6.8 per cent by which the nation’s gross domestic product rose in the first half of the year.

Tang Dajie, secretary general of the China Enterprise Institute, said a rapid rise in the cost of raw materials, rents, taxes and social security payments this year had created a major threat to the viability of private firms.

Despite Beijing’s promise to cut social security contribution rates, Tang said only a few rich provinces would be able to do so given the government’s initiative to rein in local government debt. When the social contribution rate was reduced several years ago, only a few provinces cut it by 1 percentage point to 19 per cent.

Tang said China should also slash its value-added tax rates as they were are among the highest in the world. In May, Beijing trimmed the highest VAT band by 1 percentage point to 16 per cent.

Nearly half of millennials have deleted Facebook app, study shows

September 6, 2018

On a day when its chief operating officer was on Capitol Hill this morning getting a grilling from DC lawmakers, Facebook is also the focus of a newly released Pew Research Center study that’s chock-a-block with negative trends for the beleaguered social giant.

Among the more attention-grabbing findings: More than one in four people have deleted the Facebook app from their phones, a figure that gets a lot higher when you focus just on 18- to 29-year-olds (44 percent of whom say they’ve done so). All told, 74 percent of Facebook users, according to the Pew data, say they’ve taken one of the following actions in the past year.

They’ve either:

  • adjusted their privacy settings
  • taken a break from Facebook for at least a few weeks
  • or deleted it from their phone altogether

Pew gathered these findings by surveying a group of US adults between May 29 and June 11, so definitely with plenty of time for them to have formed opinions and changed their behaviors in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“It’s certainly been a year of scandals for the social media behemoth,” reports TechCrunch about today’s survey findings, “which started 2018 already on the back foot already in the wake of Kremlin-backed election interference revelations — and with Mark Zuckerberg saying his annual personal mission for the new year would be the embarrassingly unfun challenge of ‘fixing Facebook.’

“Since then things have only got worse, with a major global scandal kicking off in March after fresh revelations about the Cambridge Analytica data misuse sandal snowballed and went on to drag all sorts of other data malfeasance skeletons out of Facebook’s closet.”

While there’s a bit of divergence in the Pew data between older and younger Facebook users, with the latter especially showing a particular ease with breaking away from the platform, it’s worth noting that the data isn’t showing much of a difference depending on if the user is a Democrat or Republican.

The Pew researchers found that Republicans, more so than Democrats, think the platform tends to censor political speech. One the arguments that also got wrapped up in Wednesday’s hearings that featured representatives of Facebook and Twitter — and even controversial broadcast firebrand and conspiracy-peddler Alex Jones, right there in the front row at the Senate hearing.

Still, according to Pew: “Despite these concerns, the poll found that nearly identical shares of Democrats and Republicans (including political independents who lean toward either party) use Facebook. Republicans are no more likely than Democrats to have taken a break from Facebook or deleted the app from their phone in the past year.”

FILED UNDER          

Could it soon be game over for the Fortnite craze?

September 5, 2018

It is a question that millions of parents want answered: will the wildly popular online survival battle game Fortnite soon lose its grip on the attention of their school-age children?

Much of the video game industry is also wondering whether the Fortnite balloon has popped, or is simply leaking air, after the first disappointing revenue data since the game’s release last year, with experts saying its publisher Epic Games needs to put these doubts to rest if it is to succeed in its expansion plans.

Fortnite’s popularity took off last year after the release of a free “battle royale” version that lets up to 100 players vie to be the last character standing on ever-shrinking terrain. Dropped onto the battlefield with nothing, players have to scrounge for weapons as the fight for survival begins.

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Yes, Fortnite game tournements fill stadiums, such as this one in Los Angeles earlier this year

Although the game is free, Epic Games had been successful in getting players to pay for goodies, which is its main revenue stream.

As of July the game had brought in more than a $1 billion in revenue.

But that data also gave analysts cause for concern that the Fortnite juggernaut may have tripped: revenue edged only 2 percent higher in July from the previous month.

It was a lacklustre response to the recently launched paid “battle pass” that offered players new equipment and outfits for avatars, raising questions about how much longer Epic Games can keep players shelling out money for what are essentially cosmetic changes to the game.

“Epic Games has made a lot of mistakes which could knock them from their peak, players could get tired if the game doesn’t evolve and there is too much cosmetic” change, said Frederic Gau, president of Gozulting consulting firm.

Epic Games has also bet on eSports to reinforce the popularity of Fortnite, investing nearly $100 million in such video game competitions.

“One hundred million dollars of cash prizes seems a lot but prizes for each competition are not that” large, said Andrew Kitson, head of telecoms, media and technology industry research at Fitch Solutions.

– China ally –

Enabling the popularity of Fortnite is the fact it is available on different game consoles plus smartphones. For smartphones, it first launched for iPhone, then a few weeks later on Android, the operating system used on 85 percent of smartphones and particularly dominant in Asia.

“Android can provoke two different effects,” said Laurent Michaud at IDATE Digiworld, a think tank and consultancy specialising in the internet, telecommunications and media sectors.

“It can boost other platforms or create its own proper segment, because often is is different players who play,” he said.

China also offers enormous potential for growth, both in terms of smartphone players and as well as eSports, with the Chinese giant Tencent having already pre-registered 10 million players.

“Smartphones represent now 50 percent of global video game revenue and China represents half of that market,” said Michaud. “Today the Chinese play mostly on smartphones.”

Tencent, which is a big publisher of smartphone games as well as being behind the WeChat messenger, holds 40 percent of Epic Games.

Having Tencent behind it is a major advantage for penetrating the Chinese market.

“A success in China will show whether Fortnite will continue growing as a game for the general public,” said Gau.

“It could also help enormously in it developing in eSports. It could either cause it to explode or steal its momentum elsewhere — it’s a bet.”

But analysts say Epic Games has yet to address its major fault — that Fortnite doesn’t have sufficient variety compared to its principal online rivals, in particular eSport stars Dota2 and League of Legends which regularly reinvent themselves.

Kitson at Fitch Solutions said he thinks Fortnite is a one dimensional game, as were some older games that were still able to build a player community.

“Fortnite is not a commercial failure but not a long term shot,” he told AFP. “But Epic Games can learn a lot from it to make a better one next time.”

But even if Epic Games rushes out a new version of Fortnite — the battle royale version was its second — the consultant Gau sees another problem: “for many it is their a second game”.

He said analysts will be looking closely if the sales of FIFA football and Call of Duty first-person shooter franchises hold up as well as in previous years, because “that wouldn’t be a good sign for Fortnite as players are returning to their favourite game.”


Australia bans China’s Huawei from 5G mobile network build — Huawei says it is no espionage threat

August 23, 2018

Australia’s government has banned major Chinese telecoms firm Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. from supplying equipment for the country’s planned 5G mobile network, citing risks of foreign interference and hacking.

Image may contain: one or more people

Huawei’s Australian arm, which strenuously denies it is controlled by Beijing, said on Twitter on Thursday that the action was an ‘extremely disappointing result for consumers.’ (Reuters)

The federal government says the involvement of any companies “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law” presented too much of a risk.

Huawei is the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, behind only Apple and Samsung and is also the world’s largest supplier of wireless networking equipment.

While the tech giant was once a copycat company mimicking technology available in the West, it has poured huge sums of money into research and development in recent years and has built itself into a leading provider of telecommunications infrastructure.

But as a Chinese company, Huawei (which was founded by former People’s Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei) is obliged to comply with government demands and could be compelled to gather intelligence on its behalf. That is the concern that lies at the heart of the decision to block the company from Australia’s 5G rollout.

Reports this morning suggest Scott Morrison, as acting Home Affairs Minister during a cabinet reshuffle amid ongoing leadership uncertainty in the party, pulled the trigger on the decision to ban Huawei in a bid to bolster his own credentials for the top job.

The possibility of blocking Huawei from building out Australia’s 5G network was first publicly flagged in June.

“It’s hard to see how compromising your telecommunications network is in the national interest,” a Liberal party member told the Australian Financial Review at the time.

Huawei has publicly argued it would never hand over Australian customer data to Chinese spy agencies but this morning the government announced no combination of technical security controls sufficiently mitigated the risk.

“While we are protected as far as possible by current security controls, the new network, with its increased complexity, would render these current protections ineffective in 5G,” the government said in a statement.

The decision also affects ZTE Corp, a Chinese telecommunications equipment company that makes mobile devices sold in Australia through Telstra, Optus and others.

MORE: Espionage fears dog China’s biggest smartphone makers

MORE: Cyber experts warn Huawei poses a threat to Australian security

Huawei Australia has continued to highlight its credentials, saying it has “safely & securely delivered wireless technology” in the country for almost 15 years.

“This is a [sic] extremely disappointing result for consumers,” it tweeted. “Huawei is a world leader in 5G.”

Acting Home Affairs Minister Scott Morrison said the government was committed to protecting vital 5G networks.

“The security of 5G networks will have fundamental implications for all Australians, as well as the security of critical infrastructure, over the next decade,” he said in a statement.

According to Australian Strategic Policy Institute cybersecurity expert Tom Uren, it would be impossible to employ Huawei without some degree of risk.

Australia fears sensitive infrastructure will fall into the hands of Beijing if the company is handed major contracts

Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies

“The main concern is that they could covertly intercept our communications, and get access to our devices — computers, phones, anything with a signal,” Mr Uren told in June.

He said being on the network would give them the opportunity to hack our private data, and feed this back to the Chinese government.

“There’s been a number of US reports documenting how the People’s Liberation Army has collaborated with companies to get valuable negotiation information, or get intellectual property.”

Nigel Phair, the director of the Canberra-based Centre for Internet Safety echoed those concerns. Speaking to back in January, he said: “The reality is in the modern day of cyber security and espionage, you can never be too careful. Governments need to approach such issues from a risk management perspective … I don’t think you can be too cautious.”

— With AAP

See also Reuters:

See also:


Huawei says it is no espionage threat

In the wake of reports saying it will likely be blocked from upcoming 5G infrastructure in Australia, technology company Huawei is once again wading into political waters in an attempt to shut down accusations that it has close ties to the Chinese government and is a cyber-espionage risk.

The firm, headquartered in Shenzhen, China, has for years fought back against claims from government officials around the world who say its products—which include high-end phones and laptop computers—could be exploited by Beijing and used to snoop on consumers or infiltrate critical infrastructure. The latest debate focuses on 5G, the next generation in wireless telecommunications.

Reports from Australian media indicate that national security chiefs in the country are seeking to block Huawei’s work into the new network due to cyber-spying concerns. As a result, the firm is again stepping into the world of geopolitics, following a well-publicized battle with the U.S. establishment.

As noted by Reuters, if Australia’s Parliament limits Huawei’s work on the upcoming mobile network infrastructure it could strain the current trading relationship with China. Yet while security chiefs previously warned that Huawei’s work into 5G networks may give it an “electronic backdoor to Australia” the under-fire tech company hit back at the criticism on Monday, branding it “ill-informed and not based on facts.”


A logo of Huawei is seen during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on February 27.REUTERS/YVES HERMAN

“We are a private company, owned by our employees with no other shareholders,” Huawei Australia chairman John Lord and board directors John Brumby and Lance Hockridge wrote in an open letter, published online. The trio continued: “In each of the 170 countries where we operate, we abide by the national laws and guidelines. To do otherwise would end our business overnight.”

Australia is currently mulling over new legislation, dubbed the Foreign Interference Bill, which will force companies to self-register ties to foreign governments in an attempt to curb political meddling. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the bill is likely to be passed in Parliament by June 21.

In their letter, Huawei executives cited the firm’s work alongside well-regarded companies including Vodafone, BT, Deutsche Telecom and Telefonica. It said it had an “open invitation” for Australian officials and security agencies to meet with its researchers to “better understand” its technology.

Huawei, with 700-plus staffers in Australia, is now the world’s largest network equipment maker. In their open letter, the executives said excluding Huawei would not “be in Australia’s best interest.”

They wrote: “Countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy and New Zealand, just to name a few, have managed to embrace Huawei’s technology within their own national security frameworks. We believe this can be done in Australia also.” The news comes amid a tussle between the U.S. government and ZTE, another China-based tech giant, over spying fears and sanction issues.

5G sign

A 5G sign is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on February 28.REUTERS/YVES HERMAN

Read the rest: