Tag: China

Alibaba promises Trump a million new jobs

Donald-Trump-funnyAlibaba Boss Jack Ma met US President-elect Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump to talk about putting a million small US  businesses onto his platform to sell to Chinese consumers over the next five years.

Alibaba thinks it can create a million US jobs as each company adds a position. Alibaba has previously campaigned to bring more small US businesses onto the company’s sites, but this is the first time Ma has discussed specific targets.

Trump and Ma emerged from their meeting at Trump Tower in New York together. The president-elect told reporters they had a “great meeting” and would do great things together. Ma called Trump “smart” and “open-minded”.

Ma said small businesses, especially in the Midwest, such as farmers and small clothing makers, who could tap the Chinese market directly through Alibaba, whose Tmall online shopping platform offers virtual store fronts and payment portals to merchants.  Apparently foreign brands do well selling their stuff to China’s vast and growing middle class by offering to smoothen out Chinese sales, payment and shipping processes.

Ma gets on rather well with the Chinese authorities which is more than can be said for Trump.  During the election he  often targeted China and blaimed it for US job losses and vowing to impose 45 percent tariffs on Chinese imports.

About 7,000 U.S. brands including wholesaler Costco Wholesale and apparel seller Levi’s currently sit on Alibaba’s Tmall, an Alibaba spokeswoman said. They made $15 billion in sales to Chinese consumers last year.

There is also the small matter of an ongoing US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Alibaba’s accounting practices. However Trump’s top choice for the incoming head of the commission is Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton who happened to work on Alibaba’s initial public offering so we guess that means it will go through now.

 

Nokia gets back into smartphones

 

wellington-bootFormer rubber boot maker Nokia is back in the smartphone game and launched a mid-range smartphone for the Chinese market.

The Nokia 6 is an Android smartphone and is being made by HMD which owns the rights to use Nokia’s brand on mobile phones.

The Nokia 6, which runs the newest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Nougat, sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1920×1080 pixels) display. With metal on the sides and a rounded rectangular fingerprint scanner housed on the front, the Nokia 6 seems reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

It is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor and will compete with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy A series models and other mid-end smartphones. The smartphone is manufactured by Foxconn.

On the face of it there is not much to see there, but really there is not much to see in many mid-range smartphones anywhere. It does have dual amplifiers which it claims can deliver a louder sound but the innovation seems to stop there.

The Nokia 6 will exclusively sell in China through ecommerce giant JD.com for $250. HMD says it will launch more products in the first half of this year.

“China is the largest and most competitive smartphone market in the world,” the company said in a press note, justifying why its long-anticipated smartphone is limited to the Chinese market. “Our ambition is to deliver a premium product, which meets consumer needs at every price point, in every market.”

The idea is to get its brand into China where it can be noticed. The price point of Nokia 6 is very close to the average selling price offered by the top three Chinese players. The mid-end smartphone market is growing 12 percent year-on-year.

 

Chinese ZTE in big trouble

big-trouble-in-little-chinaChinese telecom equipment maker ZTE is slashing about 3,000 jobs, including a fifth of positions in its struggling handset business in China.

The company is already facing US trade sanctions that could severely disrupt its supply chain and is getting rid of about five percent of its 60,000 stron global workforce.

Its global handset operations will shed 600 jobs, or 10 percent of the total, with the cuts concentrated in China. Things have not been going very well in China and the outfit is losing market share.

A local manager in one of the company’s overseas branches said a 10 percent quota was given to shed staff in his department by the end of January.

The US Commerce Department first announced in March that it would impose a ban on exports by US companies to ZTE for allegedly breaking Washington’s sanctions on sales to Iran.

While this has not happened yet it could nobble the company’s supply chain because it relies on US companies including Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel for about a third of its components.

 

Apple sells out key ally to the Chinese

tim-cook-apple-ceoWhile the New York Times has faithfully acted as Apple’s unpaid press office and sacrificed its credibility as a technology source, it seems that the fruity-cargo cult has sold it out at the first opportunity.

Apple has removed the New York Times news apps from its app store in China following a request from the Chinese authorities.

It purged both the English-language and Chinese-language apps from the iTunes store in China just before Christmas.

The request comes as the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet regulatory body, has called for greater media scrutiny, citing fears of social disorder, moral harm and threats to national security.

New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Reuters that the request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country.

It has asked Apple to reconsider its decision, after all Apple owes it more than a few favours. Apple claims that the app is in violation of local regulations, so  it does not matter how many glowing reviews the paper writes on the iPhone 7 it is not going to get into China.

The Chinese government has blocked The Times’ websites since 2012 when it actually did it job and ran a series of articles on the wealth amassed by the family of Wen Jiabao, who was then prime minister.

Ironically apps from CNN, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, were still available in the app store.

 

China calls for cyber-security spruce up

big-trouble-in-little-chinaChina’s top cybersecurity body has called for increased scrutiny of local and foreign technology used in industries deemed critical to the national interest.

A strategy document, released by the Cybersecurity Administration of China (CAC), laid out the framework for a controversial cybersecurity law released in November, which foreign business groups say could block them from competing in the market.

The CAC has said that that the measures are not designed to target foreign enterprises, but to counter rising threats of terrorism and cyber-theft.After all you can get away with any atrocity if you are protecting people from terrorists, or trying to save children from seeing something they shouldn’t.

The paper said key Chinese industries must “carry out a security review” of technology to prevent providers and other groups from “implementing unfair competition” and “harming the interests” of users.

Foreign companies are worried that the wording of the new law could legalise requirements to hand over intellectual property.

 

Chinese get EM drive to work

1413849918201_wps_10_Star_Trek_Tractor_BeamA radical breakthrough which could shake up long distance space flight has been confirmed by Chinese boffins.

The Electromagnetic Drive (EM) drive is a method of propulsion which is so clever scientists have not figured out why it works as it appears to break the law of conservation of momentum.

The “reactionless” Electromagnetic Drive, or EmDrive for short, is an engine propelled solely by electromagnetic radiation confined in a microwave cavity. It generates mechanical action without exchanging matter which is technically impossible.

Since 2010, both the United States and China have been pouring serious resources into it and the results seem promising. Now China claims it has made a key breakthrough.

Dr. Chen Yue, Director of Commercial Satellite Technology for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced that China had successfully tested EmDrives technology in its laboratories and its proof-of-concept is currently undergoing zero-g testing in orbit.

This test is taking place on the Tiangong 2 space station. If China can install EmDrives on its satellites for orbital manoeuvring and altitude control, they would become cheaper and longer lasting.

Li Feng, lead CAST designer for commercial satellites, states that the current EmDrive has only a thrust of single digit millinewtons, for orbital adjustment; a medium sized satellite needs 0.1-1 Newtons. A functional EmDrive would open new possibilities for long range Chinese interplanetary probes beyond the Asteroid belt, as well freeing up the mass taken up by fuel in manned spacecraft for other supplies and equipment to build lunar and Martian bases.

 

German robot maker divorces US arm

9001fd8dad9c18686a3bd19bd803603cGerman industrial robot maker Kuka has flogged off its Systems US-Aerospace-Business to Advanced Integration Technology to satisfy demands from US watchdogs who were unhappy about its takeover by a Chinese buyer.

Home appliance maker Midea  launched its offer for Kuka in May, the biggest Chinese deal for a German industrial technology company.

Kuka said its takeover by Midea needed the approval of the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.

“The sale of the Systems US-Aerospace-Business is a crucial prerequisite to obtain these approvals,” it said.

However there is a wave of hostility in the US over Chinese firms coming over there and buying up their companies particularly if these have strategic technologies abroad without allowing reciprocal transactions at home. The US earlier this month blocked a deal for a Chinese buyer to take over German chip equipment maker Aixtron for this reason.

Kuka’s Systems Aerospace business focuses on tooling and the automation of assembly processes such as drilling and riveting for aircraft manufacturing.

Blackberry licenses tech to China

BlackberryTroubled smartphone maker BlackBerry has done a deal with China’s TCL Communication to make and sell BlackBerry-branded mobile devices globally.

It is the outfit’s first licensing deal since it decided to become a software company.

TCL, which also makes Alcatel-branded mobile devices, will be coupled with BlackBerry’s security software and service suite, Blackberry said.

BlackBerry is betting its future on the more profitable business of making software and managing mobile devices after largely giving up on smartphones.

BlackBerry said in September that would outsource the development of its smartphones, and a month later launched its last mobile device – the Android-based DTEK60, which was made under an agreement with TCL.

The new agreement gives TCL, the fourth-largest handset maker in North America, the right to make and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones in all countries except India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia, some of BlackBerry’s biggest handset markets.

BlackBerry in September signed a deal giving Indonesia’s BB Merah Putih the rights to make and sell new devices in that country, its largest handset market.

 

Microsoft’s Chinese AI is clever enough to censor itself

beijing cybercafeSoftware King of the World has admitted that its Chinese flavoured AI chat bot will not talk about anything that the authorities behind the bamboo curtain don’t want them to talk about.

Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state including the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or “Steamed Bun Xi,” a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Am I stupid? Once I answer you’d take a screengrab,” read one answer to a question that contained the words “topple the Communist Party.”

Mentioning Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump also drew an evasive response from the chat bot. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Xiaoice says. Fair enough who does?

Microsoft has admitted that there was some filtering around Xiaoice’s interaction.

“We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics.” The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.

Microsoft says that Xiaoice engages in conversations with over 40 million Chinese users on social media platform like Weibo and WeChat.

Xiaomi claims smartphone sales drops will not harm it

980China’s Xiaomi will not suffer from the downturn in smartphone sales as its profits will be driven by sales from smart home devices as well as revenue from its software eco-system.

But last year Xiaomi missed its global smartphone targets by 12 percent, while its third-quarter China smartphone sales have fell by 45 percent. Analysts are a bit worried that the company’s high value might not be still warranted.

But Xiaomi’s global vice-president Hugo Barra said the company’s business model was not based on money made from handset sales and that it did not need to raise more funds or see any point in doing so at a valuation of less than $46 billion.

The company model was giving handsets without making any money but getting it back on the recurring revenue streams over many years.

Xiaomi could flog 10 billion smartphones and not make a cent, he said. Which further confuses the question of how the outfit makes money at all. Xiaomi, which discloses little of its profit and revenue figures anyway.

Recently it has emphasised its range of home appliances such as air and water purifiers, and rice cookers as key earnings drivers.

The company has invested heavily in India and Southeast Asia and is making its first forays into the U.S. market – launching next month its first device capable of roaming on the country’s 4G networks.

Barra said they are first targeting Chinese users traveling in the US, but are laying the groundwork for direct sales to US consumers.