Tag Archives: Beijing

Apple CEO Tim Cook Urges China To ‘Open Up’ At Beijing Economic Forum

BEIJING (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook says he’s “extremely bullish” about the global economy based on the amount of innovation being carried out, and he’s urging China to continue to “open up.”

In a speech at an economic forum in Beijing on Saturday, Cook said Apple is less concerned with the short term economic outlook because the tech giant makes investments looking ahead years or decades.

His remarks come as China and the U.S. prepare to meet again to resolve their trade dispute, which has roiled global markets, and as Apple is expected to announce that it’s launching a video service.

The iPhone has long been Apple’s marquee product and main money maker, but sales are starting to decline. The company is pushing digital subscriptions as it searches for new growth.

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Wildfire Smoke Chokes Bay Area For 5th Straight Day

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Smoke from the wildfires north of San Francisco plunged air quality levels in the Bay Area to the same unhealthy level as China’s notoriously polluted capital, sending people to emergency rooms and forcing schools to close and people to wear masks when they step outside.

The region has endured days of choking smoke since the fires began Sunday night and claimed at least 31 lives and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. The smoke cast a dull haze over San Francisco’s scenic skyline, and poor visibility has led to numerous flight delays and cancellations at the city’s airport.

Smoke and haze fill the morning air in San Francisco on October 13, 2017. (CBS)

Smoke and haze fill the morning air in San Francisco on October 13, 2017. (CBS)

Air quality in most of the region Thursday and Friday was as bad as smog-choked Beijing, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

“We have unprecedented levels of smoke and particles in the air that we normally don’t see,” said Ralph Borrmann, a spokesman for the district.

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He called it the worst air quality ever recorded in many parts of the Bay Area.

Since Wednesday, about 15 percent of flights in and out of San Francisco International Airport experienced delays because air traffic controllers have had to separate aircrafts at a greater distance, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said Friday.

Officials warned that very fine smoke particles, thinner than a human hair, can get lodged in the lungs and into the bloodstream, causing irreparable damage to the body. In Solano County, hospitals there received more than 250 people who complained of toxic air inhalation, county health officer Bela Matyas said Thursday.

At an Ace Hardware store in San Francisco’s financial district, phones were ringing nonstop with customers looking to buy breathing masks. But they were sold out, as were most stores in the area.

With winds expected to keep blowing in smoke from the fires to populated areas this weekend, many schools decided to close Friday. Organizers canceled weekend events, including an Oktoberfest in Walnut Creek and a fitness festival and half marathon in San Francisco.

Sports teams are monitoring the air quality as they prepare to host games. Some members of the Oakland Raiders wore masks during workouts Thursday.

The NFL has been exploring options to move Sunday’s game between the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers if it becomes necessary.

Oakland, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of the fires, has been blanketed by smoke.

Officials at the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University are monitoring the air quality as weekend football games approach.

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China Bitcoin Exchange To End Trading At Month’s End

BEIJING (AP) — One of China’s biggest bitcoin exchanges says it will stop trading at the end of the month following reports regulators have ordered all Chinese exchanges for the digital currency to close.

BTC China said on its website it was acting “in the spirit of” a central bank order last week that banned initial coin offerings. It gave no indication it had been directly ordered to close.

Interest in China in bitcoin surged last year as the currency’s price rose. But trading dwindled after regulators tightened controls and warned the currency might be linked to fraud.

News reports Thursday said regulators had given verbal instructions to Chinese bitcoin exchanges to close. The central bank has not responded to questions about the currency’s future in China.

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China Internet Crackdown Jolts Companies, Students, Scientists

BEIJING (AP) — Frank Chen’s e-commerce business has nothing to do with politics but he worries it might be sunk by the Communist Party’s latest effort to control what the Chinese public sees online.

Chen’s 25-employee company sells clothes and appliances to Americans and Europeans through platforms including Facebook, one of thousands of websites blocked by China’s web filters. Chen reaches it using a virtual private network, but that window might be closing after Beijing launched a campaign in January to stamp out use of VPNs to evade its “Great Firewall.”

“Our entire business might be paralyzed,” said Chen by phone from the western city of Chengdu. Still, he added later in a text message, “national policy deserves a positive response and we fully support it.”

The crackdown threatens to disrupt work and study for millions of Chinese entrepreneurs, scientists and students who rely on websites they can see only with a VPN. The technology, developed to create secure, encrypted links between computers, allows Chinese web users to see a blocked site by hiding the address from government filters.

Astronomers and physicists use services such as Google Scholar and Dropbox, accessible only via VPN, to share research and stay in touch with foreign colleagues. Merchants use Facebook and other blocked social media to find customers. Students look for material in subjects from history to film editing on YouTube and other blocked sites.

Control over information is especially sensitive ahead of October’s twice-a-decade ruling party congress at which President Xi Jinping is due to be named to a second five-year term as leader.

The VPN crackdown is part of a campaign to tighten political control that activists say is the most severe since the 1989 suppression of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.

Dozens of activists and lawyers have been detained. A cybersecurity law that took effect in June tightens control on online data. Regulators have stepped up censorship of social media and video websites.

How many people might be affected is unclear but consumer research firm GlobalWebIndex said a survey of Chinese web surfers this year found 14 percent use a VPN daily. If that percentage holds for China’s total online population of 731 million, it suggests the country might have as many as 100 million regular users.

Some 8.8 percent of people in the survey use VPNs to look at “restricted sites,” according to GlobalWebIndex. That would be equivalent to 65 million people, or the population of Britain.

Communist leaders encourage web use for business and education. They want online commerce to help transform China from a low-wage factory into a high-tech consumer society. But they reject the notion of a borderless internet and free flow of information.

Chinese web users without VPNs cannot see the most popular global websites including Google and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as news outlets and human rights groups.

In the latest crackdown, regulators say only government-authorized VPNs will be allowed. The operator of a popular service, Green VPN, told customers in June it had been ordered to close. Others shut down without warning.

“You have to leave a window for people, for those who need it,” said Wen Jian, a securities trader in Beijing.

Wen said he needs to find financial information and Google, accessible only with a VPN, is more effective than Chinese search engines. But his VPN quit working two months ago.

“As far as I know, some government people use VPNs too,” said Wen, 27. “They read things abroad. Why can they have it and we cannot?”

The crackdown reflects Xi’s notion of “internet sovereignty,” or Beijing’s absolute right to control what people can do and see online.

Unauthorized VPNs already were banned but authorities appeared to ignore them, possibly to avoid disrupting business or to defuse resistance among professionals and academics.

Government spokespeople refuse to acknowledge any site is blocked, though researchers say they can see attempts to reach sites such as Google stopped within servers operated by state-owned China Telecom Ltd., which controls China’s links to the global internet.

Regulators have yet to say who will be allowed to use government-licensed VPNs or what they can see. But a letter sent by China Telecom to some corporate customers this year offers a hint: It says VPNs can link only to a company’s headquarters abroad and no other sites. It warns violators will lose access.

Until now, web controls have acted like a tax, allowing users to see blocked sites by paying for a VPN, according to Margaret E. Roberts, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego.

“As VPNs become more difficult to access, it’s like the government is raising the tax,” said Roberts in an email. “If VPNs were illegal, we would expect a different calculation for those seeking access.”

In a sign of a more severe official stance, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who sold VPN service in Dongguan, near Hong Kong, was sentenced in March to nine months in prison.

The agency in charge of the crackdown, the Cyberspace Administration of China, and the Cabinet press office didn’t respond to questions sent by fax and email about what, if anything, the public will be allowed to do with authorized VPNs.

Chen, the online merchant, said he heard private companies might be permitted but he has yet to apply.

The economic impact is unclear, but other Chinese data controls already are a drag on business.

The European Center for International Political Economy estimated in 2014 curbs in effect or planned could cut economic growth by up to 1.1 percentage points. That would be equal to as much as $130 billion of lost activity in China’s $12 trillion-a-year economy.

“I asked some friends, and if a large number of VPNs are banned, then everyone’s response is there will be a big impact on their business,” Chen said.

Chinese leaders faced similar complaints after the “Great Firewall” was activated in 2002. It blocked access to Google, prompting an outcry from scientists and businesspeople who needed to find research papers and commercial information.

Public complaints have been muted in part because Chinese companies have developed alternatives to popular global services.

Instead of Facebook and Twitter, Chinese social media users have WeChat and Sina Weibo. Baidu Inc. provides Google-style search that complies with official censorship.

“I am pretty lazy,” said Hao Kailin, a landscape designer in Beijing who finds images online for work. “If it is too much trouble to look for pictures from prohibited websites, then I give up.”

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