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These are the tech companies censoring anti-China protests

Wave of Chinese censorship hits Western companies

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After going through today’s global news, you might find yourself wondering: what the hell is going on with China? As of late, the country has absolutely dominated headlines all over the world. If you don’t live in any China-owned territory, these headlines are very likely about the recent controversies surrounding Western companies.

Following the wave of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, China has started controlling disseminated information about the incidents. Of course, the controversy of Chinese censorship has always existed throughout modern history. However, this time around, the Chinese government is tapping its resources in the corporate world.

Western companies have also started censoring pro-Hong Kong sentiments among their representatives and official channels. Naturally, the general public is largely accusing these companies of selling out to the Chinese money-making regime.

Most of the corporate clout has eked out only this week. However, the controversy has existed as early as the first major Hong Kong protest. Let’s run through this tenuous history.

Come fly the hostile skies

Naturally, the first spark of Chinese censorship started in Hong Kong’s home turf. In August, the protests came to a huge head when protestors swarmed the Hong Kong International Airport, grounding several flights for several days. In the middle of all this, Hong Kong’s own Cathay Pacific found itself in a corporate nightmare. Who should the company (and its employees) support: China or Hong Kong?

Unsurprisingly, several Cathay Pacific employees have come out in support of the protests. The higher-ups were not happy. Spurred by Chinese intervention, the company’s managers have suspended employees involved in the protests.

Because of the relative infancy of the issue, Cathay Pacific’s troubles drowned in a sea of larger protests that followed the airport protest.

Clock’s TikTok-ing

The tech world got its first taste of Chinese intervention through the popular short-video social media app, TikTok. Created by the Chinese developer ByteDance, TikTok is a lot more susceptible to government intervention. Case in point, the app has banned all anti-China content. The ban covers any mentions of Tiananmen Square and Tibet.

Strangely enough, TikTok was created for a more global audience, compared to the developer’s more Chinese-targeted Doujin app. Regardless, TikTok enforced the more stringent ruling across the entire platform. The ban was the world’s first taste of Chinese censorship. Unbeknownst to the world at the time, the situation was about to get worse.

Houston, we have a problem

This week, NBA started the larger party. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a pro-Hong Kong image. The image came with the statement, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The obvious political opinion was shut down immediately after the tweet. NBA heads, including Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and commissioner Adamn Silver, reiterated that individual opinions don’t represent the organization. Morey himself issued an apology soon after.

Unfortunately, the damage was done on both sides. Chinese companies have suspended cooperation with the NBA, especially with the Houston Rockets. Yao Ming’s own Chinese Basketball Association ceased its partnership with the Texan team. Tencent. Additionally, Tencent has ceased its livestreams of NBA matchups with the Rockets. Nike has also pulled its Houston Rockets merchandise from its Chinese stores.

On the Western end, the general public is calling for more integral responsibility on the part of the NBA. The NBA has always touted itself as an inclusive organization, drafting players from all over the world. The inclusivity, however, does not apply when profits are involved, according to Western protests.

Image source: Reddit

Related to this, the ESPN has also stopped reporting on any of the NBA’s political opinions. Curiously, the broadcast company has recently televised a map of China. The map includes the 9-dash demarcation line that represents the country’s claims on the disputed South China Sea.

An Apple a day doesn’t keep China away

Concurrent with NBA’s woes, Apple has also found itself in the crossfire. Recently, the Chinese government has urged the company to pull offensive apps from the App Store in the region. The order includes HKmap.live and the Quartz news app. Apparently, these apps revealed critical police movements to protestors who had the app. Soon after, Apple gave in, joining the growing number of companies succumbing to Chinese pressure.

Apple pulled the apps. The company’s head honcho issued an embattling defense for his actions. In an internal memo, he said:

“However, over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimise individuals and property where no police are present. This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law.”

However, Hong Kong protestors have disputed his claims, reiterating the obvious political motivation behind the move. Like the NBA, Cook’s statement is remarkably non-confrontational, seeking to please both sides in the conversation.

Not a-MEI-zing

Videogame company Blizzard is likewise facing immense backlash for similar decisions. Earlier this week, Blizzard censored and banned a professional Hearthstone player, Blitzchung, from its tournaments. The ban also strips him of prize money that he fairly won at a recent tournament. In that tourney, he went off on a pro-Hong Kong tirade during his victory speech. “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age,” he declared. The speech was immediately cut short and removed from Blizzard’s official channels.

More than the NBA or Apple, Blizzard’s action sparked humungous global outrage. The fine went beyond simple censorship, stripping a worthy winner from rightful prizes. In defense, Blizzard invoked its right to penalize players for offending significant portions of the population.

Regardless, the public is already calling for a huge boycott against Blizzard’s products. Gamers have started unsubscribing and uninstalling popular games World of Warcraft and Overwatch. American lawmakers have asked for formal investigations against Blizzard’s actions. Pro-Hong Kong protestors have also started using a Chinese Overwatch character, Mei, as one of their protest icons. On the other hand, rivaling game companies have come out in support for Blitzchung.

The cost of luxury

Outside of the tech world, the lifestyle industry is also feeling the pressure. Apparel brands Gap and Zara have recently altered their websites. Previously, their websites included Taiwan and Hong Kong as individual countries, which China has requested to change.

People are also investigating whether Disney is censoring Winnie the Pooh in certain countries. According to a Reddit thread, Winnie the Pooh’s official site redirects to Disney’s official site in some countries. The internet has compared Winnie the Pooh’s appearance to President Xi Jinping, sparking a Chinese war against the cartoon character.

After this week, the corporate world is on notice. Who are they siding with? For some, the temptation of more profits is more important. For others, their integrity remains intact.

SEE ALSO: Trade War: China’s loss is everyone’s gain

Enterprise

This Indian telco has raised more than $20 billion during the pandemic

Includes investors like Google, Facebook, and Qualcomm

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The Coronavirus pandemic has forced countries to implement strict lockdowns and curb international travel. Economies have fallen drastically due to lower spendings and rising unemployment. Healthcare has become a priority. Meanwhile, defense, as well as infrastructure costs, have been sidelined.

Work-from-home has become the norm and companies are actively trying to reduce operational costs. Investors have burned a lot of money since startups dependent on the gig economy are the worst hit. Raising funds right now is a herculean task and most start-ups are expected to go out of business in the coming months.

However, one company has taken full advantage of the pandemic-led lockdown. Officially called Jio Platforms, it’s an Indian telecom operator with more than 300 million active users. Dubbed Jio casually, it’s more than just a telecom operator and has managed to raise more than US$ 20 billion within a span of three months. Investors include marquee names like Google, Facebook, Qualcomm, Mubadala (sovereign fund of Abu Dhabi), Vista Equity, and more.

Google has also acquired a stake in Jio for US$ 4.5 billion. It has picked up 7.75 percent in the company, taking the total sale to 32.95 percent. The Google stake sale came to light immediately when the copy was ready for publishing and hence couldn’t be updated.

By Sanuj Bhatia

To be precise, Jio has raised US$ 20 billion from 13 companies by just selling a 25.2 percent stake. Considering the current investments, Jio is roughly valued at more than US$ 60 billion. What’s so special about this company that Facebook decided to splurge US$ 5.7 billion for just 9.99 percent?

India — the most promising market for any internet company

The US has always led the tech race in terms of research and innovation. With a developed economy, the market is self-fulfilling and companies are actively looking for new regions to expand to. The American influence is easily visible in western allies like the European Union, Japan, South Korea, as well as the Philippines.

India, on the other hand, is a developing economy that completely skipped the computer or laptop age and jumped onto the smartphone era. Today, it’s the world’s second-largest smartphone market, and 70 percent of the hardware is dominated by the Chinese. However, most phones run on Google’s Android, and American tech companies have been successful in expanding. This includes Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and more.

However, the telecom market remains hugely untapped. What will a smartphone do without wireless connectivity?

The rise of Jio and its ripple effects

At the beginning of 2016, 1GB of 3G data cost approximately INR 250 (US$ 3.3). Back then, Jio was completely owned and operated by Reliance Industries. Reliance is an Indian conglomerate that has its foothold in a plethora of segments including oil, retail, entertainment, and more. It’s one of India’s largest companies in terms of market cap and run by billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Just a few days ago, he became the seventh richest person on Earth, overtaking long-time contender Warren Buffet.

In a nutshell, Reliance pumped enough money into Jio and launched it in the middle of 2016. It was India’s first telco to offer pan-India 4G and the tariff was impossible to believe. For the first 6-9 months, unlimited 4G data was offered for free to lure customers from other networks like Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea. Considering Reliance’s backing, the company could afford to.

It also had an inherent advantage over telco’s because it directly rolled out 4G and did not support any previous standards. While other’s were figuring out inter-connection issues between 3G and 4G, Jio had already rolled out VoLTE. Jio only considered data as bandwidth and relied on internet protocol for calls, reducing its operational cost.

Within a year, 1GB of 4G data cost just US$ 0.2. India has the most affordable 4G in the world. Naturally, the competition couldn’t offer these rates without taking a hit on their profit as well as revenues. But, they had no option but to reduce tariffs. Slowly, companies like Aircel went out of business due to unsustainable rates. Vodafone merged with Indian player Idea to form Vodafone-Idea. By the end of 2019, the Indian market had only 3 players left — Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea.

Keep in mind, Jio has no debt due to its rich parent, Airtel has debt but can offload that with assets and equity, while Vodafone-Idea is on a ventilator. With more than 300 million subscribers, Jio is leading in terms of both, userbase as well as financial health.

Jio’s unique selling point — data

Reliance was planning to enter the telecom industry for a very long time and it saw it’s an opportunity with 4G. While other telcos were busy billing users for calls and SMS, Jio wanted to sell just one thing — more data. And, it came up with its own suite of services that ensured the user consumes more and more data.

India’s data consumption is expected to exceed 11GB by 2022. Although, the tariff has barely increased by 20-25 percent in the last few years. Some estimates are even more optimistic and indicate a 40 percent annual rise.

There’s no doubt that streaming services have changed the whole scenario. But, this is where Jio has an unbeatable offering. Since day one, the company has a suite of apps like Jio News, JioTV, JioCinema, JioSaavn, and even JioMeet. Today, there are 29 apps on the Google Play Store. This ecosystem ensures the user doesn’t have to look elsewhere. And, they are yet to be fully monetized. As a Jio subscriber, they’re pretty much free-to-use at the moment.

Data is the new oil

The suite of apps is mostly made for the end consumer. But, the company has grand plans for the future as well. It has already announced a partnership with WhatsApp to launch JioMart. It’ll onboard physical stores and function as a hyperlocal online shopping experience. A segment that hasn’t really taken-off yet despite investments from Amazon, BigBasket, and Grofers.

Coming to the enterprise side, Jio has acquired a plethora of startups and established companies for their know-how. This includes American telecom-technology company Radisys, Asteria Aerospace, Embibe, Haptik, and Netradyne. The company is poised to lead the 5G race due to its healthy financials and technology innovation. The company has announced it’ll carry out 5G trials based on its own technology and won’t be relying on third-party partners like Huawei.

The company is all set for the 5G future and has equivalent investments in IoT, blockchain, and digital payments. Jio may have started out as a telco, but it’s truly turning out to be a technology company.

The most lucrative technology company

All these factors make Jio a very attractive investment. Facebook tried to enter India with Freebasics and Internet.org but failed miserably. A piece of Jio gives it a chance to explore deeper than ever. For investment companies, the pandemic is a reality check. And, Jio just turned out to be a silver lining. With more and more people working from home, wireless data consumption is bound to rise.

Even companies are realizing work-from-home is a better model in many parts of the business since you can skip expensive property investments. Even if the work-from-home model fizzles out in the coming years, personal consumption will remain largely unaffected. And with India’s developing economy, smartphone penetration is expected to steadily increase. This shall also bring in more data consumption, online shopping, and other related tasks. With Jio covering all the bases, it is perfectly positioned to lead the Indian market.

Lastly, it’s essential to understand why Reliance decided to sell slightly more than 30 percent in Jio. The parent company has a debt to pay-off and its Chairman, Mukesh Ambani, had announced it’ll go debt-free by the end of FY2020. Its most valued business of refining oil has taken a hit due to the pandemic-led crude crash.

It won’t be wise to sell an undervalued asset. At the same time, Jio reached its peak. By giving away a minority stake to a range of partners, Reliance not only raised money but also established global trust and recognition of Jio Platforms.

For the global markets, the indication is clear. India is open for business and there’s huge potential.

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Samsung is already working on 6G internet

Expected to peak at 1000Gbps

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Given the ongoing problems with 5G infrastructure around the world, almost no one has tried the next generation of connectivity yet. In fact, 4G is still a disputed technology in some parts of the world. However, amidst all the difficulties, technology doesn’t stop. Even today, the industry is already working on the next, next generation — 6G.

Presented in an official white paper, Samsung has mapped out the future developments in anticipation of 6G adoption, a continuation of its research efforts from last year. What will 6G look like?

Even now, 5G is experiencing troubles in two fronts: infrastructure and compatible devices. The world’s infrastructure isn’t built to broadcast 5G speeds yet. Similarly, not every device out in the market can support 5G connectivity yet.

That said, 6G connectivity will experience the same difficulties, but on a much larger scale. With current technology, 5G peaks out at 20Gbps. According to Samsung, 6G will peak out at an astonishing 1000Gbps. The world will require stronger infrastructure and devices that can actually process data at such a speed.

Besides how the systems of the future will work, Samsung has also envisioned the future users of the 6G technology. Unlike how the world uses 4G and 5G today, the company thinks that mainly machines will use 6G when it comes out.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the rise of terminators yet. Rather, 6G will allow machines to produce ultra-realistic holograms and what Samsung calls XR technology. (XR technology is a future amalgamation of VR, AR, and mixed reality technologies working hand-in-hand.)

So, when will we finally see 6G technology on our phones? According to Samsung, it won’t come anytime soon. Subsequent generations of connectivity often take around ten years to come out. Even then, it’s not a smooth process. Samsung envisions a 2028 rollout for the next, next generation. One can only imagine what the world will look like when it comes out.

SEE ALSO: Samsung’s Exynos 880 SoC aims to bring 5G at an affordable price

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UK officially bans Huawei

Effective 2021

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You know about Huawei’s battle with America. For several years, the Trump administration has forced the Chinese company from American businesses with nary a letup. However, for all the company’s troubles in the US, Huawei has faced a more optimistic future in the European continent. Unfortunately, their European respite is coming to an end.

Today, the United Kingdom has officially banned Huawei from its telecommunications industry, according to an official government announcement. However, unlike the US ban, Huawei has a fairly comfortable transition period. The company can remain in business until December 31 this year. Starting January 1, 2021, UK business cannot buy 5G hardware from Huawei anymore.

Additionally, Huawei can still technically stay in the country for several years. However, the company must slowly transition out of the country by 2027.

As noted previously, the UK’s concerns with Huawei stem from national cybersecurity issues brought on by the US. The company is facing similar cybersecurity issues in other territories.

If anything, the generous transition period will likely take up most of 5G’s life cycle before the next generation comes in. Still, Huawei is once again in deep trouble following the latest ban. The company is still experiencing the same hostility in the US.

Of course, Huawei’s consumer products might still make it through the ban. Most of the global bans affect only the company’s 5G hardware. Currently, Huawei is a fairly known brand in the UK as far as consumer devices go.

SEE ALSO: US is calling Huawei, ZTE a national security threat

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