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Trump may allow Huawei to transact with US companies

Uncertainty prevails

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A report from the The New York Times says the Trump administration is ready to issue licenses to some US companies that would allow them to sell nonsensitive equipment to the beleaguered Chinese telecom giant.

Though, the US Commerce Department told the New York Times in an email that “as of right this moment, the status quo holds.” As of August, more than 130 applications have reportedly been submitted to the Commerce Department for licenses to sell US goods to Huawei.

A few months back, Donald Trump blacklisted Huawei from doing any business with American companies. This move created a lot of confusion and paranoia around the world and the Chinese telecommunication giant found itself stuck in the crossfires of a raging Trade War.

The ban meant Huawei couldn’t carry out transactions with American firms. In the beginning of 2019, citing security issues, Huawei phones were also banned from selling in the US.

A complete ban on Huawei meant it couldn’t even licence Google Play Services or use ARM processor architectures. The recently launched Huawei Mate 30 series does not include Google Play services and the brand is currently relying on in-house alternative services to fill the gap.

American counterparts are also scrambling to find alternative routes of doing business. Companies like Micron, which makes processors, had stopped shipping chips to Huawei but then determined they could legally resume sales of some products.

American sanctions are nothing new, but for the first time we’ve seen its impact in the technology industry. As a backup measure, Huawei has prioritized development of its in-house operating system dubbed Harmony OS and we should slowly see its rollout in the coming years.

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India will let Huawei demo its 5G technology

Huawei is leading the 5G race

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On the consumer side, Huawei is known for making smartphones and wearables. However, the Chinese company is currently leading research and development of 5G — the next generation of wireless mobility.

It has gotten approval to participate in the demonstration of 5G use cases during the three-day India Mobile Congress to be held in New Delhi, even as the government is yet to take a decision on allowing the firm to participate in the upcoming 5G field trials.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has assigned telecom service providers with spectrum in the 3400-3600Mhz band range to demonstrate India-specific 5G technology-use cases.

Huawei will present the demos with Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, who currently use Huawei and ZTE equipment for their network operations in India.

The Chinese giant has been barred by the US due to alleged security concerns. Earlier this year, there were revelations that Huawei is embedding snooping software in the source code of its serves to spy and access the data of other countries.  The US is also lobbying its close allies to boycott Huawei.

On the other hand, Huawei currently leads the 5G revolution due to its massive investment in research and development. Experts say the global rollout of 5G will be delayed by a couple of years if Huawei is barred in multiple markets. Competing companies include Ericsson and Nokia.

India is yet to give Huawei a clean chit for an actual rollout though. For now, the nod is seen as more of a diplomatic move by the Indian government ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India.

SEE ALSO: The new online generation: Explaining 5G internet

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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

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Blizzard in deep trouble for supporting China

Update: Blizzard eases sanctions against Blitzchung

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Image source: Overwatch

The American corporate world is in a state of crisis caused by the tension between China and America. In the middle of this heightened Sino-American corporate war, Hong Kong lies in the middle, eagerly awaiting its democratic victory against Chinese authoritarianism. Because of the immensity of the geopolitical issue, individuals have inevitably expressed their opinions on the matter through public avenues.

Recently, individual opinions are getting in the way of corporate profits, especially for the companies that these individuals represent. From slaps on the wrist to outlandish punitive measures, American companies are putting a clamp on anti-China sentiments. The US is discovering where their favorite companies’ loyalties really lie — with the American people or with the Chinese government.

Blizzard: too cool for Hong Kong

Among these controversial companies, Blizzard Entertainment is fueling a significant portion of the dispute. Last weekend, the company held a Hearthstone tournament in Taiwan. The winner, Blitzchung (real name: Chung Ng Wai), expressed pro-HK opinions during his victory speech: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age.”

Days later, Blizzard Entertainment issued steep punishments against Blitzchung: stripping him of his prize money and banning him from competitive play for a year. The company has also fired the two broadcasters involved in the interview. Blizzard has deleted the official interview from their accounts.

“I don’t regret saying that stuff. And even now, I don’t regret it at all.” In defense of his actions, Blitzchung has expressed the necessity of his opinions. “I shouldn’t be scared. I hope my act can inspire other gamers like me, to continue to support the movement in Hong Kong,” he told AFP.

According to Blizzard, Blitzchung’s voiced opinion “offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [Blizzard’s] images,” warranting the fine and the ban. Curiously, the company did not say if the ban results from any Chinese intervention.

#BoycottBlizzard

Since then, Blizzard’s actions have sparked global outrage, accusing the company of political favoritism rather than supporting its customers or representatives. Many individual personalities have boycotted the company’s products including the highly popular MMORPG World of Warcraft and the competitive shooter Overwatch.

Some Overwatch players have even started using the game’s Chinese character, Mei, as a pro-HK icon. In the game, Mei — and the other characters — are largely apolitical regarding real-world politics. The game is set in a futuristic world with anthropomorphic gorillas and conscious robots. In creating a pro-HK icon, players hope to cause a larger boycott of Blizzard’s products.

Notably, Blizzard’s employees have also expressed dismay over their company’s actions. After the incident, several employees have walked out of their offices in protest. Also, an employee has supposedly taped over Blizzard’s forward-thing motto displayed on the company’s campus: “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters.”

The global outrage has already earned the attention of American lawmakers. Floridian Senator Marco Rubio has tweeted his support against Blizzard. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally,” he said.

Another senator, Ron Wyden from Oregon, has expressed the same sentiments. “Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck,” he said.

Meanwhile, rivaling game companies have shown support for Blitzchung. Gods Unchained, a card game similar to Hearthstone, has promised to pay the tournament winner the full winnings stripped by Blizzard. Fortnite’s Epic Games has proclaimed that it will never penalize players for expressing their right to free speech.

Companies for China

Besides Blizzard, the NBA is also embroiled in a similar controversy. China has recently blacklisted the Houston Rockets because of a tweet from general manager Daryl Morey. Apple is also in trouble for supporting a pro-HK app and censoring the Taiwanese flag.

Slowly, the world is unraveling the curtain draping over the biggest companies today. Underneath, people are discovering a cruel truth: the persistence of money versus integral values.

Update [10/11/19]: At the end of the day on Friday (US time), Blizzard issued a statement in response to the recent controversies. In the lengthy post, the company has decided to ease up on the penalties issued to both Blitzchung and the shoutcasters. For one, Blitzchung will finally receive his full winnings. Further, Blizzard has reduced the bans to only six months.

Explaining their side, Blizzard has reiterated that the decision was made without Chinese intervention. According to the statement, Blizzard acted to ensure the tournament’s status as an inclusive environment for all gamers.

SEE ALSO: Blizzard is taking their other titles to your mobile

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