Tag Archives: CCP

Top Executives of China’s State Semiconductor Fund Arrested

A major state-backed investment fund in China is in shambles as several top executives have been arrested. From the MIT Technology Review:


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China’s chipmaking industry descended into chaos last week, with at least four top executives associated with a state-owned semiconductor fund arrested on corruption charges. It’s an explosive turn of events that could force the country to fundamentally rethink how it invests in chip development, according to analysts and experts. 

On July 30, China’s top anticorruption institution announced that Ding Wenwu, the chief executive of the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, nicknamed the “Big Fund,” had been arrested for “suspected serious violations of the law.” Ding is not the only person in trouble. Two weeks ago, Lu Jun, a former executive at the Big Fund’s management institution, was also taken into custody, along with two other fund managers, according to the Chinese news outlet Caixin.

‘Made in China’

Let’s back up a bit. In 2014, China’s government created the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund (CICF) to invest in domestic chip making. Becoming self-sufficient in these critical components is a top priority of the Communist Party.

At that time, China could only make about 10% of the chips it needed. Its goal was to get to 70% by 2025.

The fund made over $30 billion in investments, with $20 billion more planned. But those investments have started to go sour.

The ‘Big Fund’ Takes Big Losses

One of its biggest investments, Tsinghua Unigroup, went bankrupt last year. Unigroup executives are under investigation and CICF’s $2 billion investment is likely up in smoke.

Riven by bad bets and likely self-dealing, CICF has failed to make China self-sufficient in chips. Today, China can only make about 20 or 30% of the chips it needs — well below target.

A Critical Moment

For China, being able to make semiconductors has never been more important. The US and its allies Taiwan, Korea and the Netherlands make virtually all the chips China imports.

The Trump Administration cut major Chinese telecom Huawei off from critical tech in 2019. Now, the US is pressuring Dutch chipmaker ASML not to sell certain chipmaking machines to China.

China is dependent on chip imports and cut off from the latest tech. Its efforts to develop its own industry have been mired in incompetence and corruption.

China’s Missed Opportunity

What should China have done differently?

Rather than giving government bureaucrats a mountain of state money to invest, use real investors!

With the right tax breaks, chipmakers and technology investors would’ve been eager to set up Chinese fabs. Perhaps TSMC would’ve built more plants in China and China would already be self-sufficient.

The Empire Strikes Back

Turns out another country is doing exactly this: the United States.

The recently passed CHIPS Act offers huge tax breaks for making semiconductors in America. Already, Intel, Samsung, and TSMC are setting up plants.

Worse yet for China, the CHIPS act bars companies that get those incentives from investing in cutting edge chipmaking in China.

I don’t think China will succeed in creating a major domestic semiconductor industry any time soon.

Its poor relations with other countries cut it off from foreign help. And China’s politicized investment climate results in little besides bankruptcies and prosecutions.

As much as we Americans complain about our government, turns out they’re actually doing a few things right.

What do you think the future holds for Chinese tech? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know.

More on China:

Mass Protests in China as Bank Runs Continue

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

China’s Crypto Ban and the Road to Total Control

Photo: “Semiconductor factory in Shenzhen, China” by ILO in Asia and the Pacific is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Mass Protests in China as Bank Runs Continue

Major news out of China as over 1,000 protestors in Zhengzhou demanded their savings back:


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There are runs on several Chinese banks. The depositors, desperate not to lose their life’s savings, are taking great risk to speak out.

From the Indian Express:

In a rare large protest in China, over one thousand angry bank depositors, who have been protesting for access to their frozen funds, faced off with the police in Henan province leading to a violent clampdown Sunday.

Depositors of four rural banks in this central province have not been able to withdraw their funds since April. Sporadic protests have been going on since May.

Many smaller Chinese banks promised high interest rates to attract deposits. They advertised those rates on platforms run by Chinese tech giants like Baidu and JD.

Now, these small banks are finding themselves unable to pay those high rates. Worse yet, some banks have been infiltrated by criminals who are siphoning money out:

In the present case it is being alleged that these banks attracted deposits by offering attractive terms and high interest rates. A report in the South China Morning Post in May said that while Bank of China offers 2.75% a year interest on five-year deposits, the found banks in question were giving around 4.5% a year on their deposit products through third-party platforms.

Also, a statement by the Henan police on July 10 said that a criminal group had gradually taken control of several rural banks and was moving out funds.

Behind the peril facing Chinese banks is a weak economy. Intense COVID lockdowns this year have hammered economic activity.

An overheated property market is also crumbling. This has triggered defaults at major property developers, including Evergrande.

Something interesting happens when people see depositors struggling to get their money out. They start wondering about their own bank.

This is how a contagion could spread through the Chinese banking system. Cue It’s a Wonderful Life, without the happy ending.

The Chinese government’s violent repression of small savers in Zhengzhou may be just the beginning.

China is in a sensitive period. The 20th Party Congress, enormously important to the Communist elite, happens in November.

At that meeting, Xi hopes to secure a third term in office and effectively become leader for life. He and his underlings are likely to repress any “disturbance” during this time.

Already, China’s massive surveillance apparatus is being turned on these small savers.

Zhengzhou protesters have had their “health codes” turned off. Without the green QR code on their phones, they can go nowhere and do nothing.

The health code system was created to stem COVID. Predictably, it’s now being turned against dissidents.

I’m not a particularly religious man, but this Orwellian act reminded me of a passage from the Bible:

It forced all the people, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to be given a stamped image on their right hands or their foreheads,

so that no one could buy or sell except one who had the stamped image of the beast’s name or the number that stood for its name.

Revelation 13:16-17

I hope these decent, hardworking people will get their life’s savings back. I also hope we always resist this type of tyranny here at home.

What do you think is next in China? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know.

More on China:

China’s Real Goal in Tech Crackdown: A Regimented, Obedient Society

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

China’s Tech Crackdown Means Economic Decline

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Citadel Loans Supported Chinese Surveillance

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Citadel made a major loan to a Chinese surveillance company in 2006. This shadowy company, which doesn’t even appear to have a website, has sold surveillance equipment to China’s Communist government.

From a new report from Crain’s Chicago Business:

…in 2006, Citadel loaned $110 million to China Security & Surveillance Technology. The company used the funds to acquire “10 of the 50 biggest surveillance companies in China.” That has opened it to charges that it “provid(ed) much of the surveillance infrastructure for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, including technology used to alert police of possible unsanctioned protests and internet cafes to track down democracy advocates and dissidents.”

Citadel CEO Ken Griffin doesn’t seem to find the loan problematic, according to a statement he released:

“In 2006, China Security & Surveillance Technology—a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange—was raising further capital to pursue growth opportunities. CS&ST was hoping to be selected as a key partner in providing security capabilities for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair to ensure those events would be safe for everyone.

So what does this company do? It appears to have gone private since Citadel’s loan, but here’s how the company described itself in an SEC annual report it filed while a public company:

We are primarily engaged, through our indirect Chinese subsidiaries, in the manufacturing, distributing, installing and servicing of surveillance and safety products, systems and services, and developing surveillance and safety related software primarily for governmental entities and their affiliates, non-profit organizations, and commercial entities in China.

In other words, the company sells surveillance gear to the Chinese government, among others. Citadel’s involvement with this business is concerning, given China’s oppressive surveillance of its population.

Ethnic and religious minorities such as Uyghur Muslims are particularly hard hit. From The Guardian:


The US has accused China of committing genocide and crimes against humanity for running a mass detention, repression and sterilization campaign against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities. Countless reports have detailed detainees enduring torture, coerced abortions as well as re-education in what former secretary of state Mike Pompeo described as the “forced assimilation and eventual erasure” of Uyghurs by the Chinese government.


The surveillance system propped up by these often global companies serves to facilitate that genocide, argues Dolkun Isaa, president of the World Uyghur Congress advocacy group.


“The goal of these surveillance tactics is not only to instill fear in Uyghurs’ minds that every aspect of their behavior is monitored, but most importantly to single out Uyghurs for detention in the internment camp system,” Isaa said.


Griffin may be right that China Security & Surveillance Technology bid on an Olympic contract. But it appears that he and his company didn’t ask any questions about what else the company does.

Citadel’s “make money now, ask questions later” attitude has also made it a target of a federal investigation here in the US.

I only hope someone holds this company accountable.

More on markets:

Citadel Under Federal Investigation

Mass Firings at Citadel Right Before Federal Probe

NYSE Investigating Shopify Stock Plunge; Citadel Involved

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Photo: Citadel LLC CEO Kenneth Griffin

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China’s Crypto Ban and the Road to Total Control

You just went to a protest marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. You were scared, but you went. You wore a mask and took a winding route home. No one could have seen you.

You arrive home to your Hong Kong apartment and decide to check your bank account. Did the rent get deducted yet?

But when you log in, you see the balance has gone from 21,000 yuan to zero.

A notice appears to contact your local Party office.

This is the future China wants to bring about. Its tools:

1) The social credit score
2) The digital yuan
3) The banning of cryptocurrencies other than the digital yuan

Today, China banned bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies. All, that is, except its own digital yuan, which debuted this spring.

It wasn’t hard to see this coming. China banned cryptocurrency mining earlier this year. This is part of a long term trend toward total control under Xi Jinping.

China’s government has cracked down hard on tech companies, Hong Kong dissidents, and even seemingly random targets like celebrities.

What’s next? About five years ago, China’s government created a social credit score. Any action that upsets the government, from farebeating to protesting, can have dire consequences. One may be unable to get a loan, a job, or access the internet.

After the crypto ban, the next logical step for China’s dictatorship is to ban cash and all non-digital yuan. Then, all money is electronic, traceable, and centrally controlled.

Step out of line, and your life savings could be gone.

It’s a dark, dystopian future. But I strongly suspect it’s coming.

We in the United States and the rest of the free world should guard against any such thing being done here. I will be wary of attempts to ban cryptocurrencies or cash as paving the way for similar control. Control that has no place in a democratic society.

More on China tech:

China’s Real Goal in Tech Crackdown: A Regimented, Obedient Society

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

China Is Crushing One of Its Most Innovative Companies

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How China’s Tech Industry Dies

The Chinese Communist Party has launched a severe crackdown on the technology industry:

  • Didi Chuxing, the Chinese equivalent of Uber, had its app removed from all Chinese app stores shortly after its US IPO
  • ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, shelved its IPO plans under regulatory pressure. Its CEO has resigned.
  • Over 30 tech companies have been hauled in for meetings with regulators
  • Ant Group, a financial company founded by Jack Ma that would’ve been among the largest IPOs in history, had its IPO in China cancelled after Ma criticized authorities

This crackdown makes it nearly impossible for Chinese companies to list their shares in the US, removing one of the main ways that venture capitalists cash out. This will cause venture firms to shy away from investing in Chinese companies.

Why does this matter? Let’s take a look at how venture funding works:

1) Company makes product
2) Company pitches investors
3) Investors give company money
4) Company uses money to hire engineers and make a better product, and…
5) Acquire users through ads and/or building their sales team. Next…
6) With more users and revenue, company comes back to VC’s to raise more money at a higher valuation. Then, they do more of 4-5
7) After repeated rounds of VC funding, the company either gets acquired or goes public. VCs cash out.

But Chinese companies cannot go public in the US for the forseeable future, and even a listing in China may not be possible, as Ant Group proved. And if the Chinese authorities think a US listing brings security risks, surely the acquisition of a Chinese tech firm by a US company would be even riskier and thus also off limits.

What does that leave in terms of exits? Acquisition by a Chinese tech company, which means a lot fewer and smaller potential acquirers. The only other option is an IPO in China, providing the company doesn’t offend anyone. But the Chinese stock market is just 1/4th the size of the US one, so the payoff may be much smaller.

No exit means no investment. For VC firms, the exit is the entire point!

Unlike in China, firms in the US and elsewhere will be able to choose whatever exit is the most lucrative. That means they’ll be able to raise venture capital much more easily. That money will let them hire the best engineers, build the best products, and acquire tons of customers, leaving Chinese firms in the dust.

A couple of years ago, I thought the Chinese technology industry might overtake the US. I don’t think that anymore. With the government’s hand ever heavier, I see Chinese technology falling further and further behind.

The Chinese people have proven they have the skills to compete. But will their government let them?

More on tech:

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

WHY I JUST INVESTED IN GAUGE, THE BEST WAY TO SELL YOUR CAR

WHY I JUST INVESTED IN CRAFTER, MAKER OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ARTS AND CRAFTS KITS IN THE WORLD

Photo: “Vice President Xi Jinping” by nznationalparty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

China Is Killing its Tech Industry

Major news over the holiday weekend as the Chinese government required all app stores in China to remove the Didi Chuxing app. Didi is the Chinese equivalent to Uber, and dominates shared rides in the country, along with a major presence abroad:

China has ordered app-store operators to remove the app of Didi from their stores, the latest as tension escalates between the nation’s largest ride-hailing giant and local regulators. The app has disappeared from several stores including Apple’s App Store in China, TechCrunch can confirm.

The nation’s cyberspace administration, which unveiled the order on Sunday, said Didi was illegally collecting users’ personal data.

Existing users can continue the use the app for now, but new signups are blocked. This comes just days after Didi raised billions in an IPO in New York, perhaps angering the Chinese government.

The claim of data violations seems specious. Didi’s CEO, Li Min, denies that any data is handled improperly or passed to the US.

This is part of a broader crackdown on China’s technology industry:

  • Alibaba Group fined $2.8 billion shortly after CEO Jack Ma criticizes the Communist Party
  • Fintech giant Ant Group, also founded by Jack Ma, has IPO cancelled
  • Bitcoin miners forced to shut down and are racing to move their servers elsewhere, including the US, as the Chinese government prepares to launch its own competing digital currency
  • A Chinese billionaire, many of whom are in the technology industry, dies every 40 days on average, often in suspicious “accidents” and “suicides.” Some are simply executed.

What is this doing to China’s technology industry? The damage is reflected in a massive decline in the number of “unicorns,” or startups reaching $1 billion valuation, in China. Meanwhile, the number of unicorns in the US is skyrocketing and the tech industry as a whole is hotter than ever.

China’s overall economy has also trended sharply downwards in recent years:

The Communist Party doesn’t want any competing power centers, and the Chinese tech industry, with its wealth and control of information, is perhaps the biggest alternative power center left.

But the industry needs freedom to experiment and exchange ideas, and a stable climate without the constant threat of fines, shutdowns and imprisonment. Entrepreneurs can find that here in the US, along with abundant funding. And I think you’ll see more and more of them making that jump.

More on technology:

7 COMPANIES HAD 3 MINUTES EACH TO PITCH US. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

INSIDE A STARTUP ACCELERATOR DEMO DAY

UNICORNS ARE BEING MINTED FASTER THAN EVER

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

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My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

How China Could Attack Bitcoin

China is creating its own cryptocurrency, which will allow much easier surveillance and control of their population than existing coins. In order to push bitcoin off its throne and replace it with a digital yuan, China could launch a powerful sneak attack on bitcoin.

In order to push bitcoin off its throne and replace it with a digital yuan, China could launch a powerful sneak attack on bitcoin.

Bitcoin transactions are handled by “miners,” or powerful computers that perform calculations to verify transactions. A report from scholars at Princeton University and Florida International University notes that 74% of this mining power is in groups, or “pools,” managed by China.

That much computing power, also known as hash rate, gives China an unrivaled ability to hack the currency:

One broadly understood security property of Bitcoin is that no single party can control more than 50% of the hash rate, so this statistic is worrying.

Cheap land and energy have helped China dominate bitcoin mining:

These facilities are primarily located in remote areas with inexpensive electricity and cheap land, such as Sichuan province and Inner Mongolia. These advantages allow Chinese miners to achieve greater profit margins than their competitors in other countries; a study in early 2018 found that one bitcoin could be mined in China at 2/3rds the electricity cost of the same operation in the U.S.

One way China could attack bitcoin and its users would be to refuse to deal with certain addresses controlled by dissidents or geopolitical rivals. China could connect IP addresses and e-commerce data with bitcoin wallets in order to crack bitcoin’s anonymity:

With control of at least 51% of the hash rate, Chinese mining pools could simply announce that they will not mine on chains containing transactions from their list of censored addresses.

China could also use a variety of techniques to double-spend coins, which would undermine faith in the bitcoin system as a whole, perhaps paving the way for their own cryptocurrency.

One silver lining is that although nearly 3/4ths of mining capacity is in Chinese-managed pools, this doesn’t mean the computers doing that mining are all physically located in China. Miners can and do join pools managed by groups in other countries. The Communist Party will likely find it much more difficult to control miners abroad.

In all, China’s authoritarian government and massive influence in bitcoin mining represent a real risk to the currency. Crypto enthusiasts should begin preparing responses to possible Chinese attacks before they happen.

Dig into these posts for more on bitcoin :

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Photo: “President Kagame and President Xi Jinping of China Joint Press Conference | Kigali, 23 July 2018” by Paul Kagame is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

China Hacked Microsoft With Data from Previous Infiltrations

Microsoft Corp. and U.S. government officials are still working to understand how a network of suspected Chinese hacking groups carried out an unusually indiscriminate and far-reaching cyberattack on Microsoft email software, more than a month after the discovery of an operation that rendered hundreds of thousands of small businesses, schools and other organizations vulnerable to intrusion.

A leading theory has emerged in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the matter: The suspected Chinese hackers mined troves of personal information acquired beforehand to carry out the attack.

More here.

Microsoft Exchange servers run Microsoft Outlook, which is used almost universally for e-mail in corporate America. Having access to that is having the keys to the kingdom at almost any company in the country and many abroad.

So where did they get all this personal information? The evidence indicates that it came from prior hacks:

Among the potential sources of the personal data is China’s vast archive of likely billions of personal records its hackers stole over the past decade. The hackers may have mined that to discover which email accounts they needed to use to break into their targets, according to people familiar with the matter.

Chinese hacking is starting to operate like a flywheel: hack target A, get information, use it to hack target B, get more information, then hit C.

The Biden administration provided some wise guidance to Microsoft:

Microsoft has pushed its customers to install security patches over the past month, releasing a blizzard of more than 25 patches that covered the wide array of Exchange versions. At the Biden administration task force’s urging, the company also simplified the updating process for customers, releasing a “one-click patch” option.

I can’t help but think that this level of sophistication would’ve eluded the Trump administration.

With China increasingly aggressive in numerous ways, this could be a big opportunity for American security companies to step up and provide better protection. I’ll definitely be on the look out for network security startups that look promising.

For more on technology, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Xi Jinping at the EP” by European Parliament is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Is China Using Its COVID Vaccines to Control Other Countries?

I just read a disturbing report from The Economic Times (essentially the Wall Street Journal of India). It says that China has offered its COVID vaccines to countries in Southeast Asia, but only if they support China in the WHO. There is a similar report from Nikkei Asia (basically the WSJ of Japan). Some Southeast Asian countries are buying vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer instead.

With COVID deaths worldwide exceeding 10,000 per day, I find any attempt to play politics with these vaccines despicable. Anecdotally, I see increasing anger toward the Chinese government (which we must be careful to distinguish from the Chinese people). I recently happened upon a large vehicle protest by Falun Gong against the Chinese government at a rest stop in northern New Jersey.

What do you guys think of this information? Please leave a comment and let me know. I’m curious to hear others’ opinions.