being repeatedly told that the American election process is deeply corrupted.

In fact, Mr. Mastriano’s candidacy has from its inception been propelled by his role in disputing the 2020 presidential election lost by Mr. Trump.

county by county, but election experts say they do not reflect factors as benign as changes in addresses.

“They’re in search of solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Kyle Miller, a Navy veteran and state representative for Protect Democracy, a national advocacy organization, said in an interview in Harrisburg. “They are basing this on faulty data and internet rumors.”

Some Republican lawmakers have leaned on false claims to call for changes to rules about mail-in ballots and other measures intended to make it easier for people to vote. Several counties have already reversed some of the decisions, including the number and location of drop boxes for ballots.

Mr. Miller, among others, warned that the flurry of false claims about balloting could be a trial run for challenging the results of the presidential election in 2024, in which Pennsylvania could again be a crucial swing state.

In Chester County, a largely white region that borders Delaware and Maryland that is roughly split between Republicans and Democrats, the effort to sow confusion came the old-fashioned way: in the mail.

Letters dated Sept. 12 began arriving in mailboxes across the county, warning people that their votes in the 2020 presidential election might not have counted. “Because you have a track record of consistently voting, we find it unusual that your record indicates that you did not vote,” the letter, which was unsigned, said.

The sender called itself “Data Insights,” based in the county seat of West Chester, though no known record of such a company exists, according to county officials. The letters did include copies of the recipients’ voting records. The letters urged recipients to write to the county commissioners or attend the commission’s meetings in the county seat of West Chester, in September and October. Dozens of recipients did.

The county administrator, Robert J. Kagel, tried to assure them that their votes were actually counted. He urged anyone concerned to contact the county’s voter services department.

Even so, at county meetings in September and October, speaker after speaker lined up to question the letter and the ballot process generally — and to air an array of grievances and conspiracy theories.

They included the discredited claims of the film “2000 Mules” that operatives have been stuffing boxes for mail-in ballots. One attendee warned that votes were being tabulated by the Communist Party of China or the World Economic Forum.

“I don’t know where my vote is,” another resident, Barbara Ellis of Berwyn, told the commissioners in October. “I don’t know if it was manipulated in the machines, in another country.”

As of Oct. 20, 59 people in Chester County had contacted officials with concerns raised in the letter, but in each case, it was determined that the voters’ ballots had been cast and counted, said Rebecca Brain, a county spokesman.

Who exactly sent the letters remains a mystery, which only fuels more conspiracy theories.

“It seems very official,” Charlotte Valyo, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in the county, said of the letter. She described it as part of “an ongoing, constant campaign to undermine the confidence in our voting system.” The county’s Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Disinformation may not be the only cause of the deepening partisan chasm in the state — or the nation — but it has undoubtedly worsened it. The danger, Ms. Valyo warned, was discouraging voting by sowing distrust in the ability of election officials to tally the votes.

“People might think, ‘Why bother, if they’re that messed up?’”

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Saudi Arabia ‘maturer guys’ in spat with U.S., energy minister says

  • OPEC+ oil output cut led to U.S., Saudi spat
  • Saudi Arabia and U.S. “solid allies” – minister
  • Big Wall St turnout at flagship Saudi investment summit

RIYADH, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia decided to be the “maturer guys” in a spat with the United States over oil supplies, the kingdom’s energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday.

The decision by the OPEC+ oil producer group led by Saudi Arabia this month to cut oil output targets unleashed a war of words between the White House and Riyadh ahead of the kingdom’s Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum, which drew top U.S. business executives.

The two traditional allies’ relationship had already been strained by the Joe Biden administration’s stance on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Yemen war, as well as Riyadh’s growing ties with China and Russia.

When asked at the FII forum how the energy relationship with the United States could be put back on track after the cuts and with the Dec. 5 deadline for the expected price-cap on Russian oil, the Saudi energy minister said: “I think we as Saudi Arabia decided to be the maturer guys and let the dice fall”.

“We keep hearing you ‘are with us or against us’, is there any room for ‘we are with the people of Saudi Arabia’?”

Saudi Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih said earlier that Riyadh and Washington will get over their “unwarranted” spat, highlighting long-standing corporate and institutional ties.

“If you look at the relationship with the people side, the corporate side, the education system, you look at our institutions working together we are very close and we will get over this recent spat that I think was unwarranted,” he said.

While noting that Saudi Arabia and the United States were “solid allies” in the long term, he highlighted the kingdom was “very strong” with Asian partners including China, which is the biggest importer of Saudi hydrocarbons.

The OPEC+ cut has raised concerns in Washington about the possibility of higher gasoline prices ahead of the November U.S. midterm elections, with the Democrats trying to retain their control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Biden pledged that “there will be consequences” for U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia after the OPEC+ move.

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the kingdom’s ambassador to Washington, said in a CNN interview that Saudi Arabia was not siding with Russia and engages with “everybody across the board”.

“And by the way, it’s okay to disagree. We’ve disagreed in the past, and we’ve agreed in the past, but the important thing is recognizing the value of this relationship,” she said.

She added that “a lot of people talk about reforming or reviewing the relationship” and said that was “a positive thing” as Saudi Arabia “is not the kingdom it was five years ago.”

FULL ATTENDENCE AT FII

Like previous years, the FII three-day forum that opened on Tuesday saw a big turnout from Wall Street, as well as other industries with strategic interests in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, speaking at the gathering, voiced confidence that Saudi Arabia and the United States would safeguard their 75-year-old alliance.

“I can’t imagine any allies agreeing on everything and not having problems – they’ll work it through,” Dimon said. “I’m comfortable that folks on both sides are working through and that these countries will remain allies going forward, and hopefully help the world develop and grow properly.”

The FII is a showcase for the Saudi crown prince’s Vision 2030 development plan to wean the economy off oil by creating new industries that also generate jobs for millions of Saudis, and to lure foreign capital and talent.

No Biden administration officials were visible at the forum on Tuesday. Jared Kushner, a former senior aide to then-President Donald Trump who enjoyed good ties with Prince Mohammed, was featured as a front-row speaker.

The Saudi government invested $2 billion with a firm incorporated by Kushner after Trump left office.

FII organisers said this year’s edition attracted 7,000 delegates compared with 4,000 last year.

After its inaugural launch in 2017, the forum was marred by a Western boycott over Khashoggi’s killing by Saudi agents. It recovered the next year, attracting leaders and businesses with strategic interests in Saudi Arabia, after which the pandemic hit the world.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Hadeel Al Sayegh and Rachna Uppal in Riyadh and Nadine Awadalla, Maha El Dahan and Yousef Saba in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Michael Geory; Editing by Louise Heavens, Mark Potter, Vinay Dwivedi, William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Saudi Arabia ‘maturer guys’ in spat with U.S., says energy minister

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  • OPEC+ oil output cut led to U.S., Saudi spat
  • Saudi Arabia and U.S. “solid allies” – minister
  • Big Wall St turnout at flagship Saudi investment summit

RIYADH, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia decided to be the “maturer guys” in a spat with the United States over oil supplies, the kingdom’s energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday.

The decision by the OPEC+ oil producer group led by Saudi Arabia this month to cut oil output targets unleashed a war of words between the White House and Riyadh ahead of the kingdom’s Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum, which drew top U.S. business executives.

The two traditional allies’ relationship had already been strained by the Joe Biden administration’s stance on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Yemen war, as well as Riyadh’s growing ties with China and Russia.

When asked at the FII forum how the energy relationship with the United States could be put back on track after the cuts and with the Dec. 5 deadline for the expected price-cap on Russian oil, the Saudi energy minister said: “I think we as Saudi Arabia decided to be the maturer guys and let the dice fall”.

“We keep hearing you ‘are with us or against us’, is there any room for ‘we are with the people of Saudi Arabia’?”

Saudi Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih said earlier that Riyadh and Washington will get over their “unwarranted” spat, highlighting long-standing corporate and institutional ties.

“If you look at the relationship with the people side, the corporate side, the education system, you look at our institutions working together we are very close and we will get over this recent spat that I think was unwarranted,” he said.

While noting that Saudi Arabia and the United States were “solid allies” in the long term, he highlighted the kingdom was “very strong” with Asian partners including China, which is the biggest importer of Saudi hydrocarbons.

The OPEC+ cut has raised concerns in Washington about the possibility of higher gasoline prices ahead of the November U.S. midterm elections, with the Democrats trying to retain their control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Biden pledged that “there will be consequences” for U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia after the OPEC+ move.

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the kingdom’s ambassador to Washington, said in a CNN interview that Saudi Arabia was not siding with Russia and engages with “everybody across the board”.

“And by the way, it’s okay to disagree. We’ve disagreed in the past, and we’ve agreed in the past, but the important thing is recognizing the value of this relationship,” she said.

She added that “a lot of people talk about reforming or reviewing the relationship” and said that was “a positive thing” as Saudi Arabia “is not the kingdom it was five years ago.”

FULL ATTENDENCE AT FII

Like previous years, the FII three-day forum that opened on Tuesday saw a big turnout from Wall Street, as well as other industries with strategic interests in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, speaking at the gathering, voiced confidence that Saudi Arabia and the United States would safeguard their 75-year-old alliance.

“I can’t imagine any allies agreeing on everything and not having problems – they’ll work it through,” Dimon said. “I’m comfortable that folks on both sides are working through and that these countries will remain allies going forward, and hopefully help the world develop and grow properly.”

The FII is a showcase for the Saudi crown prince’s Vision 2030 development plan to wean the economy off oil by creating new industries that also generate jobs for millions of Saudis, and to lure foreign capital and talent.

No Biden administration officials were visible at the forum on Tuesday. Jared Kushner, a former senior aide to then-President Donald Trump who enjoyed good ties with Prince Mohammed, was featured as a front-row speaker.

The Saudi government invested $2 billion with a firm incorporated by Kushner after Trump left office.

FII organisers said this year’s edition attracted 7,000 delegates compared with 4,000 last year.

After its inaugural launch in 2017, the forum was marred by a Western boycott over Khashoggi’s killing by Saudi agents. It recovered the next year, attracting leaders and businesses with strategic interests in Saudi Arabia, after which the pandemic hit the world.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Hadeel Al Sayegh and Rachna Uppal in Riyadh and Nadine Awadalla, Maha El Dahan and Yousef Saba in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Michael Geory; Editing by Louise Heavens, Mark Potter, Vinay Dwivedi, William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A Lonely Protest in Beijing Inspires Young Chinese to Find Their Voice

“I thought to myself that there are many Chinese who also want freedom and democracy,” she said. “But where are you? Where can I find you? If we meet on the street, how can we recognize each other?”

At about 4 the next morning, she went downstairs from her dorm room to print some posters. She was nervous about running into other Chinese students, most of whom she would describe as “little pinks,” or pro-Beijing youths. She wore a mask to avoid cameras, even though she had seldom worn one since arriving in London a few weeks ago.

She was even more nervous putting up the posters on campus. Every time she saw an East Asian face, she would run to hide in a corridor or a restroom. She was afraid they could report her to the embassy or post photos of her on social media. Her parents are still in China, so she needs to take their safety into account.

After putting up the posters all over her campus, she felt much more at peace with herself.

A week later, when a new chat group titled “‘My Duty’ Democracy Wall in London” was set up on the messaging app Telegram, Kathy was one of the first to join. Within a day, more than 200 Chinese had also signed up. By Sunday, four days later, there were more than 400 members. Most introduced themselves as students and professionals in the U.K. Many said they had joined to find like-minded people because they, like Kathy, didn’t know whom to trust and felt lonely and powerless.

Citizens Daily CN, the Instagram account, organized Telegram chat groups in London, New York, Toronto and two other places to provide a safe online space for overseas Chinese to exchange views. Most people use online handles that disguise their identity.

They have discussed the depths of their frustration with political apathy and the best way to deal with pro-Beijing youth. Quite a few admitted that they were once nationalistic themselves, but added that China’s harsh zero-Covid policy had made them realize the importance of having a government accountable to its people. More important, they discussed what further actions they could take.

On Sunday, Kathy, who is in her early 20s, joined a demonstration for the first time in her life. For safety, she wore a mask and sunglasses, even though it was dark when the protest reached the Chinese Embassy in London. A young Chinese woman started chanting slogans made popular by the Bridge Man: “Students, workers, let’s strike. Depose the despotic traitor Xi Jinping.”

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For His 3rd Term, Xi Jinping Surrounds Himself With Loyalists

Credit…Social Media, via Reuters

HONG KONG — Thousands of posters condemning China’s top leader have appeared on college campuses in New York, Barcelona, Stockholm, Tokyo and elsewhere over the past few days as Chinese students and dissidents spread the message of a lone protester in China.

The posters — paper pasted onto just about everything — have one common theme: Oust the “despotic traitor,” Xi Jinping.

Those words first appeared in Beijing on Oct. 13. As Mr. Xi, China’s top leader, was expected to coast to a third term during the Communist Party congress, someone whose identity has not been confirmed, managed to hang a banner on a busy bridge calling for Mr. Xi’s dismissal. On Sunday, that third term was confirmed.

The protest slogans on the banner also included “Elections, Not Dictatorship” and “Citizens, Not Flunkies.”

The appearance of such strong dissent before an important Communist Party meeting, in a heavily policed city, astonished the whole country. The protester was taken away by police, and online discussions were quickly censored.

Dissidents, however, then found ways to amplify the message overseas. The protest slogans on the Beijing bridge have popped up on bulletin boards, poles and bus stations at more than 200 colleges across at least 20 countries, as many international Chinese students said they were saluting the protester and fighting Mr. Xi’s autocracy.

“I used to be surrounded by a deep powerlessness over political resistance, but the Beijing protester inspired me, showing there are ways to fight,” said Xintong Zhang, 24, a Chinese student at the University of Toronto, who sobbed when seeing the protester’s banner on social media. She later put up dozens of “Dictator Out” posters around campus at dawn.

Compared with other autocracies such as Russia, Iran and Myanmar, China is regarded by many human rights organizations as even less hospitable to free speech and government protest. Under Mr. Xi, opposition and criticism is heavily suppressed with a mix of state security, online censorship and the threat of severe punishment. No independent media and civil society organizations remain 10 years into his rule. Freedom House, a U.S. pro-democracy group, has ranked China last in internet freedom for eight consecutive years.

Ms. Zhang said many Chinese — especially her peers, who started high school after Mr. Xi came to power — did not know how to fight authoritarianism whether at home or abroad.

“Now we have the Beijing protester, and I can look up to him,” she said. “I know I should speak out and how to do it.”

Some of the new activists are concerned that even outside China, there are risks that come with opposing the Chinese government.

A student at the University of Texas at Austin who posted anti-Xi posters on campus said that he was worried about being targeted and harassed by nationalist Chinese students. The student, who is surnamed Zhou, declined to be identified by his full name, citing the same reason.

Ms. Zhang said she worried about being harassed by other Chinese students, assuming the majority were nationalists. As a result, she wore a mask when putting up posters to avoid being identified.

She found most of her posters had been torn down and some had been left half hanging from bulletin boards. “I felt heartbroken but then relieved,” she said. “It’s okay if they tore down my posters as long as I keep posting until the party congress finishes.”

The overseas anti-Xi slogans gained traction after they were collected and shared by pro-democracy Instagram accounts run by anonymous volunteers, mostly Chinese citizens living abroad.

“A brave man should have an echo,” one of the groups, Citizens Daily CN, posted on Instagram.

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China says it reserves right to use force over Taiwan

BEIJING, Oct 15 (Reuters) – China reserves the right to use force over Taiwan as a last resort in compelling circumstances, though peaceful reunification is its first choice, a Communist Party spokesman said on Saturday.

Reunification of China and Taiwan meets the interests of all, including Taiwan compatriots, Sun Yeli told a news conference in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping is poised to win a third five-year term as general secretary of the ruling party, the most powerful job in the country, at the congress to be held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for a week starting on Sunday.

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian, Writing by Martin Quin Pollard

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Global finance leaders single out China as barrier to faster debt relief

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WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Western countries this week ratcheted up their criticism of China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, as the main obstacle to moving ahead with debt restructuring agreements for the growing number of countries unable to service their debts.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday that high inflation, tightening monetary policies, currency pressures and capital outflows were increasing debt burdens in many developing countries, and more progress was urgently needed.

She said she discussed those issues during a dinner with African finance ministers and in many other sessions. The Group of Seven rich nations also met African finance ministers, who worry that the focus on the war in Ukraine is draining resources and attention from their pressing concerns.

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“Everyone agrees Russia should stop its war on Ukraine, and that would address the most significant problems that Africa faces,” Yellen told reporters at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings in Washington.

But she said a more effective debt restructuring process was also needed, and China had a big role to play.

“Really, the barrier to making greater progress is one important creditor country, namely China,” she said. “So there has been much discussion of what we can do to bring China to the table and to foster a more effective solution.”

As China is the missing piece in the puzzle of a number of debt talks under way in developing markets, the Group of 20 launched in 2020 a Common Framework to bring creditors such as China and India to the negotiation table along with the IMF, Paris Club and private creditors.

Zambia, Chad and Ethiopia have applied to restructure under this new, yet-to-be tested mechanism. Sri Lanka is set to start talks with bilateral creditors including China after a $2.9 billion staff level agreement with the IMF under a similar platform. The Paris Club creditor nations last month reached out to China and India seeking to coordinate closely on Sri Lanka’s debt talks, but are still awaiting a reply.

The world’s poorest countries face $35 billion in debt-service payments to official and private-sector creditors in 2022, with more than 40% of the total due to China, according to the World Bank.

Spanish Finance Minister Nadia Calvino, who chairs the IMF’s steering committee, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that there was increasing concern about China not participating fully in debt relief efforts, noting that China had not sent officials to participate in person at this week’s IMF and World Bank meetings.

“China is a necessary partner. It’s indispensable that we have them in the room and in the discussions when it comes to debt relief,” Calvino said, adding that many heavily indebted countries were also being hit hard by inflation and climate shocks.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner also joined the growing criticism of China’s lack of timely participation in debt restructuring for lower-income countries. China has argued it would not take part in some cases unless the IMF and World Bank also took a haircut.

Lindner told reporters he regretted that China had not accepted his invitation to participate in the G7 roundtable with African countries.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Paul Simao

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Live Updates: Zelensky Asks G7 Nations for Better Air Defense Systems After Russia Strikes

A top British intelligence official will warn in a speech on Tuesday that while Russia’s aggression has created an urgent threat, China’s expanding use of technology to control dissent and its growing ability to attack satellite systems, control digital currencies and track individuals pose far deeper challenges for the West.

In an interview on Monday ahead of his address, the official, Jeremy Fleming, who heads GCHQ — the British electronic intelligence-gathering and cyber agency made famous for its role in breaking the Enigma codes in World War II — also said he was skeptical about how far China would go to support Russia’s aggression.

“I don’t think that this is a ‘relationship without limits,’” he said, using the term that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China employed when they met at the Beijing Olympics early this year, just before the invasion of Ukraine. In light of Russia’s dismal battlefield performance and its brutality, he said, China “needs to be weighing up the advantages and disadvantage of continuing to align themselves strongly with Russia.”

Mr. Fleming’s agency — formally called Government Communications Headquarters, the counterpart to the National Security Agency in the United States — plays an increasingly central role in tracking Russian communications and preparing for the day when China’s advances in quantum computing may defeat the kinds of encryption used to protect both government and corporate communications.

A three-decade veteran of the British intelligence services, Mr. Fleming rarely speaks in public. But in recent months, several of Britain’s spy chiefs have deliberately taken a carefully crafted public role in describing future security threats.

Mr. Fleming has gone further, detailing the capabilities and rules surrounding Britain’s use of offensive cyber capabilities, which it employed in Syria against terror groups and reportedly against Russian forces in Ukraine, a subject Mr. Fleming declined to discuss.

Yet in the interview, he described Russia as “a disrupter” that was “unpredictable in its actions at the moment.” But he said the performance of Russia’s military had revealed deep weaknesses, and excerpts from his forthcoming speech describe Mr. Putin’s decision-making as “flawed,” its forces as “exhausted” and its reliance on mobilizing 300,000 “inexperienced conscripts” as evidence of Mr. Putin’s “desperate situation.”

“The Russian population has started to understand that, too,” he argued. “They’re seeing just how badly Putin has misjudged the situation.”

He added, “They’re fleeing the draft, knowing their access to modern technologies and external influences will be drastically restricted.”

But Mr. Fleming’s warning is another reminder of the speed at which the Western allies have come to view themselves as in direct competition, and sometimes in conflict, with both of the world’s other major nuclear superpowers. Of the two, he clearly regards Russia as the more manageable.

Until recent years, most European nations have been muted in their public critiques of Beijing and its ambitions, because trade with China became critical to growth, especially for Germany. Britain even permitted Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that the United States fears could pose a security threat, to provide some 5G equipment to Britain’s communications network — under some strict conditions — until sanctions imposed on the company by the United States made that impossible.

Mr. Fleming’s warnings about the strategies behind China’s investment in new technologies, and its effort to create “client economies and governments,” sound much like speeches given by his American counterparts for the past five or more years. But he spoke just before the opening of a Communist Party congress starting in Beijing on Sunday at which Xi Jinping is expected to be named to a third five-year term as the country’s top leader.

Mr. Fleming said that in the case of China, this could be “the sliding-doors moment in history,” in which the United States and its allies may soon discover that they are too far behind in a series of critical technologies to maintain a military or technological edge over Beijing.

He described China’s move to develop central bank digital currencies that could be used to track transactions as a shift that could also “enable China to partially evade the sort of international sanctions currently being applied to Putin’s regime in Russia.” He said that was one example of how China was “learning the lessons” from the war in Ukraine, presumably to apply them if it decided to move against Taiwan and prompted further efforts by the U.S. and its allies to isolate it economically.

Mr. Fleming also described China’s moves to build “a powerful antisatellite capability, with a doctrine of denying other nations access to space in the event of a conflict.” And he accused China of trying to alter international technology standards to ease the tracking of individuals, part of its effort to repress dissent, even the speech of Chinese citizens living abroad.

But his biggest warning surrounded dependence on Chinese companies that are closely linked to the state, or that would have no choice but to turn over data on individuals upon demand by the Chinese authorities. The Huawei experience, he said in the interview, “opened our eyes to the extent to which even the biggest businesses in China are ultimately wrapped up with the Chinese state” and have no choice but to comply “because of the way in which the Communist Party works and the national security laws operate.”

Yet in the Huawei case, the United States and its European partners have yet to offer truly competitive alternatives for much of the company’s networking equipment, officials from many countries say. “We have to be able to provide alternatives,” Mr. Fleming said. When pressed on whether Europe and the United States had provided those alternatives in the years since the campaign against Huawei gained traction, he acknowledged, “No, we don’t.”

Last week, the Biden administration announced sweeping new limits on the sale of semiconductor technology to China, hoping to cripple Beijing’s access to critical technologies that are needed for supercomputers, advanced weapons and artificial intelligence applications.

It was a sign of how fast the world’s two largest economies had become engaged in a clash over technological advantage, with the United States trying to establish a stranglehold on advanced computing and semiconductor technology that China views as essential to its own ambitions.

But Mr. Fleming conceded that over the next few months, he would be focused — as American leaders are — on the question of whether Russia might seek to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine to make up for its failures on the battlefield.

“This is a concerning moment,” he said. But he noted that Mr. Putin had been cautious and “has been careful not to escalate beyond the borders of Ukraine.”

“He’s been careful not to escalate in terms of the types of weapons they’re using,” he said.

He added: “We’re in a situation where escalation risks are very real.” But if “Putin decided he would make use of tactical nuclear weapons,” he said, it would be a “complete departure” from his past action and from Russian military doctrine.

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China’s Communist Party Congress: What It Means for Business

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At a Communist Party congress starting in Beijing on Oct. 16, Xi Jinping is expected to be named to a third five-year term as the country’s top leader, paving the way for him to consolidate power to an extent not seen in decades.

Under Mr. Xi, China has become the world’s dominant manufacturer of everything from cement to solar panels, as well as the main trading partner and dominant lender for most of the developing world. It has built the world’s largest navy, developed some of the world’s most advanced ballistic missiles and constructed air bases on artificial islands strewn across the South China Sea.

in a tailspin. Its property market, which over the last ten years contributed about a quarter of the country’s economic output, is melting down. Foreign investment has faltered. And widespread lockdowns and mass quarantines, part of China’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19, have hurt consumer demand and stalled businesses.

At the same time, Mr. Xi has worked to turn China into a more state-led society that often puts national security and ideology before economic growth. He has cracked down on Chinese companies and limited their executives’ power. Some of China’s best-known entrepreneurs have left the country and others, such as Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, have largely disappeared from public view.

All of this has hurt China’s economy, which was just 0.4 percent larger from April through June than during the same period last year. The growth was far below the government’s initial target for growth of about 5.5 percent this year. For the first year since the 1990s, China’s economic growth is expected to fall below the rest of Asia’s.

at the start of the last party congress, in 2017, lasted more than three hours. But buried in that jargon are likely to be some important messages. Here’s what finance leaders and corporate executives around the world want to know.

One of Mr. Xi’s favorite economic policy initiatives in recent months has a simple, innocuous-sounding name: “common prosperity.” The big question lies in what it means.

Common prosperity, a longtime goal of the Communist Party, has been defined by Mr. Xi as reining in private capital and narrowing China’s huge disparities in wealth. Regulators and tax investigators cracked down last year on tech giants and wealthy celebrities. Beijing demanded that tycoons give back to society. And Mr. Xi has strongly discouraged speculation in housing, pushing instead for government subsidies for the construction of more rental apartments.

A regulatory crackdown on tech companies and after-school education companies contributed to a wave of layoffs that left one in five young Chinese city dwellers unemployed by August. Lending limits on China’s highly inflated housing sector have triggered a nosedive in the number of fresh construction projects being started and a wave of insolvencies among real estate developers. Many Western hedge funds that bet heavily on the real estate developers’ overseas bond issues incurred considerable losses.

The term “common prosperity” was seldom used by top officials last spring during those setbacks. But Mr. Xi conspicuously revived it during a tour of northeastern China in mid-August. The Politburo subsequently mentioned common prosperity when it announced on Aug. 30 the starting date and agenda for the party congress.

first put forward in May 2020, is a theory of what he calls “dual circulation.” The concept involves relying primarily on domestic demand and innovation to propel the Chinese economy, while maintaining foreign markets and investors as a backup engine for growth.

Mr. Xi has pushed ahead with lavish subsidies to develop Chinese manufacturers, especially of semiconductors. But the slogan has attracted considerable skepticism from foreign investors in China and from foreign governments. They worry that the policy is a recipe for replacing imports with Chinese-made goods.

China’s imports have indeed stagnated this year while its exports have soared, producing the largest trade surpluses the world has ever seen. Those surpluses, not domestic demand, have sustained China’s economic growth this year.

Chinese officials deny that they are trying to discourage imports, and contend that China remains eager to welcome foreign companies and products. When the Politburo scheduled the party congress for Oct. 16, it did not mention dual circulation, so the term might be left aside. If it goes unmentioned, that could be a conciliatory gesture as foreign investment in China is already weakening, mainly because of the country’s draconian pandemic policies.

China’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19 has prevented a lot of deaths and long-term infections, but at a high and growing cost to the economy. The question now lies in when Mr. Xi will shift to a less restrictive stance toward controlling the virus.

in Tiananmen Square, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, when he reiterated China’s claim to Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy. President Biden has mentioned four times that the United States is prepared to help Taiwan resist aggression. Each time his aides have walked back his comments somewhat, however, emphasizing that the United States retains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding its support for the island.

Even a vague mention by Mr. Xi at the party congress of a timeline for trying to bring Taiwan under the mainland’s political control could damage financial confidence in both Taiwan and the mainland.

The most important task of the ruling elite at the congress is to confirm the party’s leadership.

Particularly important to business is who in the lineup will become the new premier. The premier leads the cabinet but not the military, which is directly under Mr. Xi. The position oversees the finance ministry, commerce ministry and other government agencies that make many crucial decisions affecting banks, insurers and other businesses. Whoever is chosen will not be announced until a separate session of the National People’s Congress next March, but the day after the congress formally ends, members of the new Politburo Standing Committee — the highest body of political power in China — will walk on a stage in order of rank. The order in which the new leadership team walks may make clear who will become premier next year.

a leading hub of entrepreneurship and foreign investment in China. Neither has given many clues about their economic thinking since taking posts in Beijing. Mr. Wang had more of a reputation for pursuing free-market policies while in Guangdong.

Mr. Hu is seen as having a stronger political base than Mr. Wang because he is still young enough, 59, to be a potential successor to Mr. Xi. That political strength could give him the clout to push back a little against Mr. Xi’s recent tendency to lean in favor of greater government and Communist Party control of the private sector.

Precisely because Mr. Hu is young enough to be a possible successor, however, many businesspeople and experts think Mr. Xi is more likely to choose Mr. Wang or a dark horse candidate who poses no potential political threat to him.

In any case, the power of the premier has diminished as Mr. Xi has created a series of Communist Party commissions to draft policies for ministries, including a commission that dictates many financial policies.

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In Global Slowdown, China Holds Sway Over Countries’ Fates

BEIJING — When Suriname couldn’t make its debt payments, a Chinese state bank seized the money from one of the South American country’s accounts.

As Pakistan has struggled to cope with a devastating flood that has inundated a third of the country, its loan repayments to China have been rising fast.

When Kenyans and Angolans went to the polls in presidential elections in August, the countries’ Chinese loans, and how to repay them, were a hot-button political issue.

Across much of the developing world, China finds itself in an uncomfortable position, a geopolitical giant that now holds significant sway over the financial futures of many nations but is also owed huge sums of money that may never be repaid in full.

the lender of choice for many nations over the past decade, doling out funds for governments to build bullet trains, hydroelectric dams, airports and superhighways. As inflation has climbed and economies have weakened, China has the power to cut them off, lend more or, in its most accommodating moments, forgive small portions of their debts.

The economic distress in poor countries is palpable, given the lingering effects of the pandemic, coupled with high food and energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many borrowed heavily from China. In Pakistan, overall public debt has more than doubled over the past decade, with loans from China growing fastest; in Kenya, public debt is up ninefold and in Suriname tenfold.

two hydroelectric dams in southern Patagonia. Bradley Parks, the executive director of AidData, a research institute at William and Mary, a university in Williamsburg, Va., estimated that Argentina’s twice-a-year interest payment was $87 million in January and $137 million in July.

Argentina will owe a payment of over $170 million on the loan in January if interest rates keep rising at the same pace, he calculated. Argentina’s finance ministry did not respond to emails and text messages about the loan.

According to the I.M.F., three-fifths of the world’s developing countries are now having considerable trouble repaying loans or have already fallen behind on their debts. More than half the world’s poor countries owe more to China than to all Western governments combined.

For now, Chinese officials in poor countries face unpleasant jobs as debt collectors.

“You have a lot more influence when you’re providing the loan,” said Brad Setser, an international payments specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, “than when you’re begging for repayment.”

Abdi Latif Dahir in Nairobi, Emily Schmall in New Delhi, Skandha Gunasekara in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Salman Masood in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed reporting. Li You and Ana Lankes contributed research.

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