Tag Archives: Freedom

China’s Tech Elite Is Running Scared

China’s government has launched a severe crackdown on its leading tech companies. Didi Chuxing, the equivalent of Uber, has been removed from app stores and ed tech companies are now required to be nonprofit, likely wiping out their investors.

A major index of Chinese tech stocks is down over 40% since February, even as US tech stocks climb:

China’s tech elite is responding by placating the government however it can, including a rapid increase in philanthropy in response to government messages that it expects bigger donations from the rich.

But it doesn’t stop there. Alibaba has been under intense pressure from the Chinese government since founder Jack Ma criticized some aspects of its performance, which led to his disappearance for several months. Alibaba has since created a special app to promote “Xi Jinping thought”.

China’s top entrepreneurs are also looking for an escape hatch in case their appeasement of the government doesn’t work. Interest from wealthy Chinese in moving abroad is increasing amid the government crackdown.

Sudden donations, new Communist dogma apps, and quiet plans to leave…these are acts of desperation.

I see a couple results from China’s crackdown:

1) Major businessmen in tech and other sectors are distracted. They’re worried about appeasing the government and/or emigrating, not building their core business. This will harm the prospects of their companies.

2) Would-be entrepreneurs are discouraged. Why start a company when it can be so easily appropriated?

3) Investors are discouraged for the same reason as # 2.

China is rapidly strangling its economic golden goose. The only question is, who will pick up the pieces?

More on China:

CHINA IS CRUSHING ONE OF ITS MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES

HOW CHINA’S TECH INDUSTRY DIES

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

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

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How to Get Internet to Cuba

Amid deepening poverty, escalating COVID cases and a lack of vaccines, Cubans are doing something very brave: protesting against the Communist dictatorship in the largest demonstrations in six decades.

I can’t even imagine how afraid they must be, but they’re out there. And activists need to be able to coordinate with each other. The Cuban government knows this, so they’ve taken a cue from dictatorships in Iran, Myanmar and elsewhere: restricting the internet.

Cuba’s government has disrupted access to WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and YouTube, per London-based watchdog NetBlocks. These disruptions have gone on for over a week so far and show no signs of ending.

As an American with a love of freedom and a background in tech, I thought I’d research some options for our Cuban friends:

  • Alternative social platforms: Twitter is not yet blocked, although it could be at any time. Less used video platforms like Vimeo or Dailymotion are also available.
  • Privacy tools: VPN’s continue to work, as does Signal, the encrypted messaging app used by Edward Snowden. This could be a superb WhatsApp alternative. Tor is a great option for browsing. It’s available for desktop or mobile in a convenient browser form. It routes data through many servers, making your traffic untraceable. Unlike most VPN’s, Signal and Tor are free. I use them myself.
  • Satellites: Not viable. These need ground infrastructure that Cuba doesn’t have and their government won’t allow.
  • Balloons: Much discussed and a great potential solution, but I fear the implementation will take too long to be of use to Cubans. These balloons exist today, cost in the tens of thousands (chump change to the US government), and float in international airspace. They could be positioned over international waters as well.

    Cuba would be taking an extreme step to shoot them down, if they could even accomplish it. And in any case, we could always launch many, many more.

If anyone knows of any good charities working on these issues, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. I’d be happy to contribute to any good effort in this area.

Patria y vida, amigos!

More on tech:

CHINA IS CRUSHING ONE OF ITS MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES

INSIDE A STARTUP ACCELERATOR DEMO DAY

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

Photo: “Project Loon balloon” by douglas_coldwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

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.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

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.

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

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

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.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

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.

From Anticommunist to Navy SEAL: “I Owe Everything to America”

“I owe everything to America.”

That’s Thomas ‘Drago’ Dzieran, who left Communist Poland in the 1980’s for freedom in America and became a Navy SEAL. His path to the teams is singular.

Drago began to oppose Communism at an early age. He refused to learn Russian in school and was promptly hauled to the principal’s office. The principal explained to him that if he refused again, he could be taken from his family and sent to a foster home.

This did not stop Drago from questioning the Communist system. He listened secretly listened to the BBC on the radio, a highly illegal act. There he learned that the Communist government was killing people in Poland. He covered himself in blankets to dampen the sound as he listened, but his mother scolded him to use even more blankets and pillows lest a neighbor hear. If anyone heard, she could go to prison.

But Drago didn’t need a radio broadcast to tell him things in Poland weren’t right:

“I was always cold in Poland because we didn’t have good clothes.”

Privation was the norm, and he often went to school hungry. He took to assaulting the children of high party members, who were well fed. If you want to eat tomorrow, bring two sandwiches, he told them.

As a young man, Drago found himself in a Polish prison for printing anti-Communist leaflets. When released, he emigrated to the United States, and found himself resettled in Memphis, Tennessee by a refugee program.

The luxury of America amazed him. He had never seen air conditioning before, and found himself particularly mesmerized by American grocery stores. The cereal aisle had so many choices, and the packages were so attractive, he decided to try one. And another, and another. Soon, his cart was full of 50 boxes of cereal! But he couldn’t stop his curiosity:

“I didn’t even know what a cereal was.”

After a stint as an auto mechanic, Drago was looking for a way to serve his adopted home. He settled on being a Navy SEAL, but at 32, he was at least 4-5 years beyond the typical age limit. No matter. He powered through the qualification tests and insisted on being allowed into BUD/S. Drago later distinguished himself as a SEAL during the Iraq war.

Drago’s commitment to freedom continues today, as the founder of a censorship-free social network called Connectzing.

What really struck me in this interview was Drago’s perseverance, along with the stark differences between the United States and where he comes from. On living conditions in Poland under Communism:

“I would trade my life in Poland for prison here.”

After all, they get food and medical attention! That’s better than he got much of his life.

Drago says he owes everything to America, and that’s equally true for those of us who are native born. Let’s seize the opportunity, remembering these words:

“This is America. You can be whatever you’re able to be.”

For more on leadership and service, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Navy SEAL Graduation” by uscgpress is licensed under CC BY 2.0