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High-Tech Acrobatics

High-Tech Acrobatics

High-stakes negotiations between the US and China over technology and trade continue this week, with top Chinese envoy Liu He arriving in Washington. One of the main items on the agenda will be the fate of Chinese tech giant ZTE. Some backstory, for those who haven’t been following every twist and turn:


  • Last month, amid delicate negotiations over the future of US-China trade and industrial policy, officials at the Commerce Department barred US companies from selling parts to ZTE for seven years.
  • The move, a result of the cell phone and networking equipment maker’s failure to abide by a settlement agreement struck after it was found to have violated sanctions against Iran and North Korea, apparently took Trump and other players in the White House by surprise, and left one of China’s biggest tech companies on the brink of collapse.
  • Over the weekend, President Trump reversed course, saying he was working with Beijing to save the company, along with tens of thousands of Chinese jobs. Mr. Liu got on a plane to Washington. Now there’s talk of a deal to lift the ban on ZTE in return for China easing tariffs on US agricultural imports (whether it can be consummated is still an open question).

There’s a lot of noise here: Some Republicans and Democrats have wondered out loud why an America-first President wants to help a Chinese company that US intelligence services consider to be a security threat. Although Trump’s decision removes a major irritant to the US-China relationship at a sensitive time, deeper security concerns about Chinese telecom companies and China’s broader technology rise will persist.

Some other things I took away from the episode:

A chaotic White House was forced to improvise: Usually, executive branch agencies with a stake in a big decisions get to air their views before the president decides on a course of action. Even if President Trump has managed to bend the resulting chaos to his advantage, he may not be so fortunate next time.

China demonstrated that tech is a red line in trade talks: Chinese President Xi Jinping knows that advanced technologies are the key to China’s future. If the US wants to talk about industrial policy, fine, but China can’t be seen to be capitulating the face of US pressure.

This tiff is only one twist in what is going to be a drawn-out negotiation between the US and China.

A decade ago, Bank of America established the Global Ambassadors Program with Vital Voices, and the results are phenomenal. We've provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring, engaging 400 women from 85 countries and helping women around the world build their businesses.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.

Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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