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China's restrictions

US sets restrictions on China’s biggest chipmaker, citing military fears – CNET

The Beijing branch of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation.

The Beijing branch of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation.


Su Weizhong/Getty Images

US wariness of Chinese tech firms was underlined again Friday, when the Commerce Department sent a letter to companies in the states reportedly telling them they must get a license before exporting certain goods to China’s largest chipmaker, because of concerns about military use of technology.

The Commerce Department said in the letter that exports to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation “may pose an unacceptable risk of diversion to a military end use in the People’s Republic of China,” according to a Saturday report by The New York Times.

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Last year, the US placed restrictions on companies selling gear to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, over concerns about Huawei’s relationship with the Chinese government and fears that its equipment could be used to spy on other countries and companies.

And popular video app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is currently facing a potential ban in the US because of worries that the user data it collects could be shared with China’s communist government. Both Huawei and ByteDance have called such concerns baseless.

The Times notes that though SMIC is China’s most technologically advanced manufacturer of semiconductors, it lags years behind industry-leading chipmakers and can’t make chips that support the most cutting-edge applications. And for the processors it does make, it relies on equipment and software from American companies, the Times said.

Asked about the Commerce Department’s letter and the new export restrictions, a spokesperson for the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said in a statement to CNET that the BIS can’t comment “on any specific matter.” 

The BIS “is constantly monitoring and assessing any potential threats to US national security and foreign policy interests,” the spokesperson added, and “will take appropriate action as warranted,” along with its interagency partners.

SMIC didn’t immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment, but a spokeswoman for the company told the Times that SMIC makes chips solely for commercial and civilian purposes and has no relationship with China’s armed forces.

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China's export

China’s new tech export controls could give Beijing a say in TikTok sale – Fox Business

China’s new rules around tech exports mean ByteDance’s sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations could need Beijing’s approval, a Chinese trade expert told state media, a requirement that would complicate the forced and politically charged divestment.

ByteDance has been ordered by President Donald Trump to divest short video app TikTok – which is challenging the order – in the United States amid security concerns over the personal data it handles.

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Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp are among the suitors for the assets, which also includes TikTok’s Canada, New Zealand and Australia operations.

However, China late on Friday revised a list of technologies that are banned or restricted for export for the first time in 12 years and Cui Fan, a professor of international trade at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the changes would apply to TikTok.

“If ByteDance plans to export related technologies, it should go through the licensing procedures,” Cui said in an interview with Xinhua published on Saturday.

TIKTOK SALE TO MICROSOFT-WALMART OR ORACLE COULD COME AS EARLY AS THIS WEEKEND

China’s Ministry of Commerce added 23 items – including technologies such as personal information push services based on data analysis and artificial intelligence interactive interface technology – to the restricted list.

It can take up to 30 days to obtain preliminary approval to export the technology.

TikTok’s secret weapon is believed to be its recommendation engine that keeps users glued to their screens. This engine, or algorithm, powers TikTok’s “For You” page, which recommends the next video to watch based on an analysis of your behavior.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
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MSFT MICROSOFT CORP. 228.91 +2.33 +1.03%
ORCL ORACLE CORPORATION 57.88 +0.70 +1.22%

Cui noted that ByteDance’s development overseas had relied on its domestic technology that provided the core algorithm and said the company may need to transfer software codes or usage rights to the new owner of TikTok from China to overseas.

WALMART, MICROSOFT TEAM UP IN BID FOR TIKTOK’S US ASSETS

“Therefore, it is recommended that ByteDance seriously studies the adjusted catalog and carefully considers whether it is necessary to suspend” negotiations on a sale, he added.

ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

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China’s foreign ministry has said that it opposes the executive orders Trump has placed on TikTok and that Beijing will defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses.

(Reporting by Tom Daly and Zoey Zhang; additional reporting by Yingzhi Yang; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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China's TikTok

U.S. ban on China’s TikTok could cut it off from app stores and advertisers, White House document shows – CNBC

China and U.S. flags are seen near a TikTok logo in this illustration picture taken July 16, 2020.

Florence Lo | Reuters

President Donald Trump‘s executive order banning China’s TikTok could prevent U.S. app stores from offering the popular short-video app and make advertising on the platform illegal, according to a White House document seen by Reuters.

Trump signed an order last week prohibiting transactions with TikTok if its parent ByteDance does not reach a deal to divest it in 45 days. It did not specify the scope of the ban, stating only that the U.S. Department of Commerce would define which transactions would be barred at the end of the 45-day period.

The White House document, sent out to supporters last week, provides insight into the Trump administration’s thinking. It shows the U.S. government is considering disrupting key aspects of TikTok’s operations and funding, amid concerns over the safety of personal data that the app handles.

“Prohibited transactions may include, for example, agreements to make the TikTok app available on app stores… purchasing advertising on TikTok, and accepting terms of service to download the TikTok app onto a user device,” the document states.

A source familiar with the White House document verified its authenticity. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some technology industry experts said eliminating TikTok’s ability to be offered on Apple and Google owner Alphabet‘s app stores, which in turn allow it to be downloaded on iPhone and Android smartphones, could cripple the app’s growth.

“That kills TikTok in the U.S,” said James Lewis, a cyber security expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If they want to grow, these rules are a huge obstacle.”

He added, though, that the U.S. government may not be able to prevent Americans from downloading TikTok from foreign websites.

Apple and Alphabet did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Following Trump’s executive order last week, TikTok told advertisers it would continue to honor planned ad campaigns, refund any that it cannot fulfill, and work with major influencers to migrate to other platforms in the event of a ban. Some advertisers told Reuters they were drafting contingency plans and considering other apps for their marketing.

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China's Pompeo

Pompeo And China’s Top Diplomat Meet In Hawaii As Relations Worsen – NPR

In this October 2018 photo U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, in Beijing. The two met Wednesday in Hawaii as relations between the U.S. and China continue to deteriorate.

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Andy Wong/AP

In this October 2018 photo U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, in Beijing. The two met Wednesday in Hawaii as relations between the U.S. and China continue to deteriorate.

Andy Wong/AP

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii on Wednesday, in what Chinese state media said was a constructive exchange of views.

The meeting comes at a time of fast-deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing over a range of issues, including human rights, Hong Kong and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neither the U.S. nor China publicly announced the meeting in advance and it was not immediately which side had proposed it, highlighting the tension and mistrust that now permeate ties between the world’s no. 1 and no. 2 economies.

Pompeo has been an outspoken critic of China’s ruling Communist Party and its policies, and Beijing, for its part, has singled him out for scorn, calling him irresponsible and a liar.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a brief, three-sentence statement that Pompeo stressed the need for transparency and information-sharing to fight the pandemic and prevent future outbreaks.

The Trump administration has repeatedly blamed China for sparking the global coronavirus pandemic by not being open about the outbreak when it first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and not acting quickly enough to stop it.

China has said that it has been open and transparent about the coronavirus, and handled the situation responsibly.

Pompeo also raised the need for “fully-reciprocal dealings between the two nations across commercial, security, and diplomatic interactions”, according to the statement.

China’s state news agency Xinhua put a more positive spin on the meeting.

It said both sides “fully elaborated on their stances, agreeing that this was a constructive dialogue.” Yang and Pompeo agreed to maintain contact and communication, Xinhua reported.

In a separate statement, the Foreign Ministry said Yang told Pompeo that cooperation was the “only proper choice for China and the United States”.

“The Chinese side is devoted to working together with the United States to develop a relationship with no conflict and no confrontation, of mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” it said.

Still, Yang pushed back against Pompeo on several areas of recent friction in the relationship, according to the Foreign Ministry.

He told Pompeo that Hong Kong affairs were an internal matter, and he urged the United States to respect China’s sovereignty, treat Hong Kong’s national security legislation objectively and fairly, and stop interfering in the territory’s internal affairs.

China’s decision last month to unilaterally impose national security legislation on Hong Kong, circumventing the former British colony’s own legislature, drew widespread criticism from abroad.

Trump announced that his administration would begin to rescind special considerations and policies for Hong Kong in retaliation for Beijing’s move, which the administration says rolls back China’s promise to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after its return from Britain in 1997.

The Chinese foreign ministry also said Yang expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with Trump’s signing on Wednesday of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, saying the U.S. should stop engaging in what it called double standards on anti-terrorism issues.

The bill passed the House and Senate in May, and could lead to sanctions against Chinese officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.

The act says more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang have been subject to mass surveillance and internment in the name of combating terrorism.

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China's Massive

China’s massive Long March 5B’s rocket falls out of orbit over Atlantic Ocean – Spaceflight Now

This map illustrates the track of the Long March 5B core stage on its final orbit. The rocket body re-entered over the North Atlantic Ocean, somewhat closer to the coast of Africa on this particular orbit. Credit: Aerospace Corp.

A large rocket stage left in space after the successful launch of China’s heavy-lift Long March 5B rocket May 5 fell into the atmosphere Monday over the Atlantic Ocean, becoming the most massive object in nearly 30 years to perform an uncontrolled re-entry from orbit.

The Long March 5B rocket’s core stage re-entered the atmosphere at 11:33 a.m. EDT (1533 GMT) Monday, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron. At that time, the rocket was flying over the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa.

The re-entry occurred less than 15 minutes after the rocket body soared almost directly over New York City.

The rocket’s core stage measured around 100 feet (30 meters) long and 16 feet (5 meters) wide, with a mass of approximately 20 metric tons.

The spent rocket was the most massive object to re-enter the atmosphere in an unguided fashion since the Soviet Union’s Salyut 7 space station in 1991, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks global satellite and launch activity.

While the size of the Long March 5B’s core stage made Monday’s unguided re-entry remarkable, most of the rocket was expected to burn up as it plunged back into the atmosphere. Most of the rocket was made up of hollow propellant tanks, but the dense turbomachinery of the core stage’s two YF-77 main engines could have survived the fall from space.

The Long March 5B rocket lifted off May 5 from the Wenchang launch center on Hainan Island in southern China, carrying a prototype for China’s next-generation crew capsule into orbit on an unpiloted test flight.

The launch May 5 marked the debut of a new configuration of China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket. On the Long March 5B, Chinese designers removed the rocket’s second stage and replaced it with a longer volume for payloads.

The Long March 5B is designed to launch modules for China’s planned space station. It launched with four kerosene-fueled strap-on boosters, which dropped off the rocket around three minutes after liftoff, and a hydrogen-fueled cryogenic core stage that entered orbit along with the crew capsule testbed.

Without reignitable engines, the core stage was left in a low-altitude orbit where it quickly succumbed to atmospheric drag.

File photo of a Long March 5 core stage on a previous mission. Credit: Xinhua

Dead satellites and old rocket stages regularly re-enter the atmosphere, but re-entering objects with masses of more than a few tons are rare.

Space agencies, launch operators and satellite companies often try to guide spent rocket stages and aging satellites toward re-entries over the ocean, reducing the risk that debris could fall over a populated area.

Uncontrolled re-entries are difficult to predict, and forecasts issued by the U.S. military narrowed the window for the rocket’s fall back to Earth in the days before re-entry. Ground-based radars tracked the Long March 5B rocket body in space, allowing U.S. military officials charged with monitoring space debris to regularly measure the core stage’s decaying orbit.

A one-minute error in predicting a re-entry time for an object in low Earth orbit changes the location of potential falling debris by nearly 300 miles, or about 500 kilometers, according to the Aerospace Corp.

The Long March 5B rocket body flew in an orbit between 41.1 degrees north and south latitude, meaning the re-entry could have occurred as far north as around New York City, or as far south as Wellington, New Zealand. In the end, any debris from the core stage that survived the re-entry appeared to fall over the sea, well away from populated areas.

China plans to launch at least three more Long March 5B rockets in 2021 and 2022 with modules for the country’s planned space station, so more uncontrolled rocket re-entries are expected in the next couple of years.

The most massive human-made object to re-enter the atmosphere from orbit was Russia’s Mir space station, which made a guided re-entry over the South Pacific Ocean in 2001. NASA and Russia’s space agency have plans to eventually execute a controlled re-entry of the International Space Station at the end of its service life.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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China's Newest

China’s Newest Crew Capsule Touches Down After Maiden Mission – Rocket Rundown

China’s next-generation crew capsule touches down after successful test flight.
Image credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

China has successfully completed an uncrewed test mission of its next-generation crew capsule.

China’s newest crew capsule was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center On May 5. After approximately 2 days and 19 hours in orbit, the spacecraft performed a deorbit burn at 04:21 UTC on May 7.

The spacecraft then executed an atmospheric skip reentry at 05:38 UTC. This type of reentry utilizes the Earth’s upper atmosphere to slow the vehicle down to a reentry speed of around 9km/s.

Following a successful reentry, the spacecraft deployed three red and white parachutes and airbags to cushion its touchdown, much like the Boeing Starliner spacecraft. At 05:49 UTC on May 7, the spacecraft touched down safely on the dry Dongfeng landing zone in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Once in operation, the crew capsule will be used by China to transport taikonauts to and from the country’s new station, the first module of which is scheduled to be launched early next year. Additionally, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the spacecraft will also be used for “deep space” missions.

In addition to being a key mission for the crew capsule, it was equally important for the rocket that launched the spacecraft.

The spacecraft was launched on the maiden flight of the Long March 5B, China’s newest variant of its most powerful launch vehicle. The launch was significant in that it gives the country the confidence to begin to launch space station modules.

China is expected to launch three space station modules aboard the Long March 5B over the next two years. The Tianhe core cabin module is expected to be the first to be launched. The module will provide life support, living quarters for a crew of three, and orientation control, navigation, and guidance for the station. It is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2021.

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