China restricts sensitive exports

The new export control laws add to China’s growing regulatory toolkit that allows it to take action against countries that threaten national interests. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 October 2020

China restricts sensitive exports

  • Beijing can take ‘reciprocal measures’ toward countries that abuse export controls

BEIJING: China has passed a new law restricting sensitive exports to protect national security, allowing Beijing to reciprocate against the US as tensions mount between the sides over trade and technology.

The law, which will apply to all companies in China, was passed on Saturday by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and will take effect on Dec. 1.

Under the law, China can take “reciprocal measures” toward countries or regions that abuse export controls and threaten its national security and interests.

Export controls under the law will apply to civilian, military and nuclear products, as well as goods, technologies and services related to national security. A list of controlled items will be published “in a timely manner” in conjunction with relevant departments, according to the law.

The new law allows Beijing to retaliate against the US, which in recent months has attempted to block Chinese technology firms such as telecommunications gear supplier Huawei, Bytedance’s TikTok app and Tencent’s messaging app WeChat on grounds of posing a national security threat, including the data they may possess from operating in the country. Companies and individuals who endanger national security by breaching the new export control law, including those outside of China, could face criminal charges. Violations of the law, such as exporting items without a permit, could result in fines of 5 million yuan ($746,500), or up to 20 times the business value of the illegal transaction.

The new law adds to the growing uncertainty of Bytedance’s deal to sell its video app TikTok to US firm Oracle Corp. In August, China added technologies including voice recognition, text analysis and content recommendation to its list of regulated exports.

President Donald Trump had earlier ordered Bytedance to sell its US operations of TikTok to an American firm or face a ban in the country.

The new export control laws add to China’s growing regulatory toolkit that allows it to take action against countries such as the US.


Big week for Big Tech as earnings, hearings loom

Updated 25 October 2020

Big week for Big Tech as earnings, hearings loom

  • The four giants drawing the most scrutiny — Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google — have been wildly successful in recent years

SAN FRANCISCO: Big Tech is bracing for a tumultuous week marked by quarterly results likely to show resilience despite the pandemic, and fresh attacks from lawmakers ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

With backlash against Silicon Valley intensifying, the companies will seek to reassure investors while at the same time fend off regulators and activists who claim these firms have become too dominant and powerful.

Earnings reports are due this week from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Google-parent Alphabet, whose combined value has grown to more than $7 trillion.

They have also woven themselves into the very fabric of modern life, from how people share views and get news to shopping, working, and playing.

Robust quarterly earnings results expected from Big Tech will “highlight the outsized strength these tech behemoths are seeing” but “ultimately add fuel to the fire in the Beltway around breakup momentum,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.

The results come amid heightened scrutiny in Washington of tech platforms and follow a landmark antitrust suit filed against Google, which could potentially lead to the breakup of the internet giant, illustrative of the “techlash” in political circles.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have voted to subpoena Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executives of Twitter and Facebook respectively, as part of a stepped-up assault on social media’s handling of online political content, notably the downranking of a New York Post article purported to show embarrassing information about Democrat Joe Biden.

CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google are already slated to testify at a separate Senate panel on Wednesday examining the so-called Section 230 law, which offers liability protection for content posted by others on their platforms.

The four giants drawing the most scrutiny — Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google — have been wildly successful in recent years and have weathered the economic impact of the pandemic by offering needed goods and services.

Google and Facebook dominate the lucrative online ad market, while Amazon is an e-commerce king.

Apple has come under fire for its tight grip on the App Store, just as it has made a priority of making money from selling digital content and services to the multitude of iPhone users.

The firms have stepped up lobbying, spending tens of millions this year, and made efforts to show their social contributions as part of their campaign to fend off regulation.

“For the most part, tech companies know how to do this dance,” said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.

“They don’t spend a lot of time bragging about how well they have done any more.”

Ed Yardeni of Yardeni Research said the outlook for Big Tech may not be as rosy as it appears.

“For one, regulators at home and abroad are gunning to rein in some of the largest US technology names,” Yardeni said in a research note.

Of interest to the market short-term will likely be whether backlash about what kind of content is left up and what is taken down by online titans causes advertisers to cut spending on the platforms.

Economic and social disruption from the pandemic also looms over tech firms, which benefitted early in the pandemic as people turned to the internet to work, learn, shop and socialize from home.

“Performance will be best for those providing solutions for people working at home,” analyst Enderle said.

Amazon, Google and Microsoft each have cloud computing divisions that have been increasingly powering revenue as demand climbs for software, services and storage provided as services from massive datacenters.

Amazon has seen booming sales on its platform during the pandemic, and viewing surge at its Prime streaming television service.

Enderle expressed concern that with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and a lack of new stimulus money in the US, tech companies could reveal in forecasts that they are bracing for poorer performance in the current quarter.