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South Korea takes aim at microchip supremacy

South Korea takes aim at microchip supremacy
South Korea takes aim at microchip supremacy


South Korea aims to be “a semiconductor powerhouse” and is planning to spend US$450 billion through 2030 to achieve global chip dominance.

Samsung and SK Hynix are two of the major beneficiaries of the new bill, but there are 153 companies named in total, ExtremeTech.com reported, citing Bloomberg sources.

These companies are expected to drive the semiconductor industry forward, securing South Korea’s relevance in the global market.

South Korea builds more memory than any other nation on Earth, but not much logic (CPUs, GPUs, other types of microprocessors), the report said.

Taiwan holds the largest share of the logic market by far thanks to TSMC, while companies like Intel and Micron account for large shares of the US’ manufacturing capacity.



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ASIA

Beijing official says ‘real enemies’ want Hong Kong to be ‘pawn in geopolitics’

Beijing official says ‘real enemies’ want Hong Kong to be ‘pawn in geopolitics’
Beijing official says ‘real enemies’ want Hong Kong to be ‘pawn in geopolitics’


The main representative of the Chinese government in Hong Kong said on Saturday people trying to turn the city into a “pawn in geopolitics” were the “real enemies” and Beijing was the true defender of the city’s special status.

Luo Huining, director of China’s Hong Kong Liaison Office, told a forum that the financial hub, a former British colony handed over to China in 1997, remained one of the world’s most competitive economies, the South China Morning Post reported.

“Those trying to turn Hong Kong into a pawn in geopolitics, a tool in curbing China, as well as a bridgehead for infiltrating the mainland, are destroying the foundation of one country, two systems,” Luo said, referring to the formula agreed when Britain handed the city back aimed at preserving its freedoms and role as a financial hub.

“They are the real enemies of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” he said, without identifying any people or groups.

Luo said the ruling Communist Party was “the creator, leader, implementer and defender of one country, two systems.”

Despite such assurances, many Hong Kong residents have over recent years become worried about what they see as attempts by Beijing to curtail its freedoms.

China denies that.

The Liaison Office did not answer calls outside normal business hours to confirm the contents of the speech and it did not immediately respond to faxed questions.

Unease among many Hong Kong residents grew in 2014 when pro-democracy protesters took to the streets to demand universal suffrage. Demonstrations snowballed again in 2019, sparked by opposition to judicial reform that many people saw as a threat to their way of life.

Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the city last June stifling the pro-democracy movement and raising new concerns about the city’s prospects.

The law’s supporters say it has restored order and improved prospects for the city’s economy, which Luo said was among the world’s most competitive despite fears it would deteriorate under Chinese rule.

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Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow released from prison

Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow released from prison
Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow released from prison


Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow was released Saturday from prison on the second anniversary of the city’s huge democracy rallies, with police out in force and protests now all but banned.

Some 2,000 officers have been placed on standby after social media calls for residents to commemorate the failed democracy demonstrations.

Authorities have kept a coronavirus prohibition on public gatherings despite the city recording just three local infections in the last month.

A Beijing-imposed national security has also criminalized much dissent and most of the city’s democracy leaders have been arrested, jailed or fled overseas.

On Saturday morning, one of those figures walked free from prison.

Chow, 24, was mobbed by waiting media but made no comment as she was driven away.

Chow hails from a generation of activists who cut their teeth in politics as teenagers and became an inspiration for those who chafe under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

She spent about seven months behind bars for her role in a 2019 protest outside the city’s police headquarters. Fellow youth activists Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam were sentenced in the same case.

Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow us released from prison Saturday after serving nearly seven months for her role in an unauthorized assembly during Hong Kong's 2019 anti-government protests. | REUTERS
Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow us released from prison Saturday after serving nearly seven months for her role in an unauthorized assembly during Hong Kong’s 2019 anti-government protests. | REUTERS

Fluent in Japanese, Chow has a sizable following in Japan, particularly on social media and had traveled to the country frequently before her arrest. She often tweeted in Japanese and has been dubbed the “goddess of democracy” by Japan’s media.

Chow’s release comes at a sensitive time.

Two years ago on June 12, thousands of protesters surrounded the city’s legislature in an attempt to stop the passage of a bill that could have allowed extraditions to mainland China’s opaque judicial system.

Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the huge crowds.

Footage of the clashes deepened public anger, and fueled what became an increasingly violent movement calling for full democracy that raged for seven straight months.

Huge crowds rallied week after week in the most serious challenge to China’s rule since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover.

Beijing’s leaders have dismissed the call for democracy, portraying those who protested as stooges of “foreign forces” trying to undermine China.

They have since overseen a sweeping crackdown that has successfully curbed dissent and radically transformed the once outspoken semi-autonomous city.

The spear tip of that crackdown is the national security law.

More than 100 people have been arrested under the new law, including Chow, although she has not yet been charged.

Dozens have been charged, including jailed pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Most have been denied bail and they face up to life in prison if convicted.

Protests have been all but illegal for the last year in Hong Kong but anniversary events can focus attention.

On Friday, two activists from Student Politicism, a pro-democracy group, were arrested on suspicion of advertising an unauthorized assembly.

Last week, authorities banned an annual candlelight vigil to commemorate victims of Beijing’s deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

But many Hong Kongers still quietly signaled defiance by turning on mobile phone lights and lighting candles that evening.

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G7 to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative with infrastructure project

G7 to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative with infrastructure project
G7 to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative with infrastructure project


The Group of Seven rich nations will announce on Saturday a new global infrastructure plan as a response to China’s Belt and Road Intiative (BRI), a senior official in U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration said.

The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States would also push the other G7 leaders for “concrete action on forced labor” in China, and to include criticism of Beijing in their final communique

“This is not just about confronting or taking on China,” the official said. “But until now we haven’t offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business.”

China’s BRI is a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure project launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping involving development and investment initiatives that would stretch from Asia to Europe and beyond.

More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to cooperate in BRI projects like railways, ports, highways and other infrastructure.

According to a Refinitiv database, as of mid-last year, more than 2,600 projects at a cost of $3.7 trillion were linked to the initiative, although the Chinese Foreign Ministry said last June that about 20% of projects had been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, Biden said he had suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the three-day G7 leaders’ summit in southwest England, that democratic countries should develop their own rival plan.

The U.S. official said until now, the West had failed to offer a positive alternative to the “lack of transparency, poor environmental and labor standards, and coercive approach” of the Chinese government that had left many countries worse off.

“So tomorrow we’ll be announcing ‘build back better for the world,’ an ambitious new global infrastructure initiative with our G7 partners that won’t just be an alternative to the B and I (Belt and Road),” the official said.

In talks, Biden will also press the other leaders to make clear that they believe forced labor practices were an affront to human dignity and “an egregious example of China’s unfair economic competition” to show that they were serious about defending human rights.

“We’re pushing on being specific on areas like Xinjiang where forced labor is taking place and where we have to express our values as a G7,” the official said of the final communique to be issued at the end of the summit on Sunday,

There were no specifics on how the global infrastructure plan would be funded. The plan would involve raising hundreds of billions in public and private money to help close a $40 trillion infrastructure gap in needy countries by 2035, the official said

The aim was to work with Congress to supplement existing development financing “with the hope that together with G7 partners, the private sector and other stakeholders we soon be collectively catalyzing hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment for low and middle income countries that need it.”

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Elections won’t solve Iran’s terror finance problem

Elections won’t solve Iran’s terror finance problem
Elections won’t solve Iran’s terror finance problem


More than a year after the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklisted Iran as a “high-risk jurisdiction” subject to a call for action, debate on the ratification of FATF-related bills has been rekindled in Tehran.

Reformists are blaming conservatives for stonewalling the normalization of the country’s banking and trade relations with the outside world – an issue that will indirectly factor in the June 18 presidential election where a conservative candidate will almost certainly win.

Headquartered in Paris, FATF is an intergovernmental body set up by the G7 in 1989 to draw up binding regulations to combat money laundering. In 2001, its mission was broadened to develop policies to counter terror financing.

Once a country is placed on the FATF’s blacklist, other jurisdictions are urged to exercise caution and in most cases enforce counter-measures in dealing with them to shield the international financial system from money laundering and terror financing.

At present, only two countries are blacklisted by the FATF: Iran and North Korea.



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China’s sea-level rise raises threat to economic hubs to extreme

China’s sea-level rise raises threat to economic hubs to extreme
China’s sea-level rise raises threat to economic hubs to extreme


Economic impact of sea-level rise in Shanghai and surrounding areas. Map and charts showing 2019 purchasing power parity GDP exposure ($m, 2015) in areas affected by local sea level rise plus the added height of a local annual flood in 2100 under a business as usual scenario

Trillions of dollars of economic activity along China’s east coast, including $974bn in Shanghai alone, are exposed to oceans rising as a result of climate change this century, according to Financial Times analysis of unpublished data.

When fine-grained gross domestic product and population data is mapped against projections of rising oceans for the year 2100, it shows that some of China’s most important commercial hubs could suffer from higher tides and annual flooding, unless drastic cuts are made to greenhouse gas emissions.

The analysis combines sea-level estimates by Climate Central, a US-based non-profit, with unpublished data from researchers in Finland that breaks down 2019 purchasing power parity GDP per capita and uses population density to work out grid-by-grid estimates of growth.

The economic might of Shanghai, the leading Chinese financial centre built between the Yangtze River estuary and Hangzhou Bay, is most exposed to sea-level rise, with an estimated $973.7bn of 2019 GDP at risk.

Two cities within 100km to the west of Shanghai — Suzhou and Jiaxing — were ranked second and third out of the 34 cities in the data set, with $330.4bn and $128.8bn of 2019 GDP exposed respectively.

Beyond the densely populated metropolitan centres, other critical pieces of China’s industrial supply chains and high-tech research and development zones also face similar risks.

Among industrial landmarks found in the highly exposed areas are the headquarters of Alibaba; China’s largest ecommerce platform in Hangzhou city; the Suzhou industrial park that is home to Panasonic’s new China headquarters; and Tesla’s Shanghai gigafactory.

Economic impact of sea-level rise in Guangzhou and surrounding areas. Map and charts showing 2019 purchasing power parity GDP exposure ($m, 2015) in areas affected by local sea level rise plus the added height of a local annual flood in 2100 under a business as usual scenario

China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment did not respond to a request for comment about the FT’s analysis.

Although tides are unlikely to rise to levels that would submerge infrastructure for decades, researchers warn that intensifying floods, storm damage and soil erosion, as well as reduced fresh water supplies, threaten to undermine economic growth far before then.

Separate estimates have also underscored the high levels of exposure for major Chinese commercial and manufacturing centres.

Guangzhou and Dongguan, both in southern Guangdong province’s Pearl river delta, sit at the top of a global ranking of flood-vulnerable cities from Maplecroft, a research firm based in Bath, UK.

The low-lying nature of the delta means that “even conservative sea level rise projections have serious implications for the region’s economy”, with about a fifth of Guangzhou’s urban area classified as high or extreme risk, Maplecroft wrote last year.

Global sea levels continue to rise. Chart showing annual change in global ocean mean sea level (cm) since 1993. In 1993, the annual change was less than one centimetre, by 2020 it had increased to more than 9cm

Despite the high degree of exposure, the effect of sea-level rise on economic growth has traditionally received little public attention in China.

China’s ocean administration releases annual reports tracking sea-level rise and storm surge. Chinese cities have built thousands of kilometres of seawalls and dykes in areas such as the Pearl river delta.

But neither the Chinese government nor researchers have as yet released global public estimates of rising sea levels for the coming decades. Officials have in the past rejected international projections, including those from Climate Central. 

Attention to the issue may be shifting, however, after President Xi Jinping elevated climate change mitigation by pledging China would reach “carbon neutrality” by 2060.

The annual blue book published by China’s National Climate Center in August 2020 said that, from 1980 to 2019, the average sea-level rise along China’s coasts was 3.4mm per year — 0.2mm per year above the global average.

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Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore the FT’s coverage here.

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South Korea’s opposition picks Harvard graduate to lead push to power

South Korea’s opposition picks Harvard graduate to lead push to power
South Korea’s opposition picks Harvard graduate to lead push to power


South Korea’s main opposition party picked a 36-year-old who has never served in parliament as its leader, turning to a reform advocate as it tries to reclaim the presidency next year.

The People Power Party voted Friday to select Lee Jun-seok as its leader, making the Harvard University graduate the youngest person to control the post for the main conservative bloc. He received 44% of the vote, ahead of the nearest contender, Na Kyung-won, a former parliamentary floor leader, who garnered 37%, according to the party.

Lee is seeking to appeal to younger people who feel the system favors the rich and connected, crucial swing voters who may decide who leads the country after President Moon Jae-in’s single five-year term ends in May. The new PPP chief has vowed to introduce “qualification tests” for would-be lawmakers, including testing their ability to use basic computer programs.

“Through this change, we will reform and we will win,” Lee said after the vote. “I am fully aware that there are people worried about my ideas, but the Korean people would see our moves as our fierce attempt and willingness for a change.”

Lee is too young to seek the presidency, with the South Korean constitution requiring a person be at least 40 years of age. PPP lawmakers said the group was look to entice the country’s former top prosecutor, Yoon Seok-youl, to run under their banner.

Moon handpicked Yoon to lead his charge against corruption, but the top prosecutor later faced backlash from Moon for launching graft probes into the president’s administration. Yoon is at the top, or near the top, of several polls to replace the president.

The rising star for the ruling progressives is Gyeonggi province Gov. Lee Jae-myung, who is the leading candidate for the ruling party in opinion polls with his signature policy of a universal basic income.

The conservative bloc has been trying to reform its image after Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye — conservatives who served back-to-back as presidents — were imprisoned for corruption. New PPP leader Lee joined the conservatives under Park and later became a prominent critic of her as she faced criminal allegations.

Conservatives made a rare apology for the corruption of their past presidents in December. The gesture was aimed at luring back swing voters who lost faith in the group, often seen as closely tied to big business and the military-backed government that suppressed civil rights until the late 1980s.

The PPP trails the ruling Democratic Party by about four percentage points, according to a Gallup Korea weekly tracking poll on Friday. But 57% of recipients who identified as “swing voters” disapproved of Moon’s presidency, the Gallup poll said, compared with 38% who approved.

“Our top priority is to win the presidential election next year,” Lee Jun-seok said. “During that process, I will reform this party, where various presidential candidates and their supporters may coexist.”

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