The Axios team led by World editor Dave Lawler is stepping in for Bill Bishop as he takes time for his family — here's some smart China news to tide you over until Bill returns next week.
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1 big thing: China poses "multilayered threat," FBI director says
U.S. economic and national security is threatened by China's strategic plan for dominance in multiple areas, FBI Director Christopher Wray said in an interview Friday with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Why it matters: These so-called "generational threats" will shape the future of the U.S., Wray warns.
"They’re going to determine where we stand and what we look like ten years from now, twenty years from now, fifty years from now."— Christopher Wray tells Richard Haass
The "multilayered threat" from China, Wray says, entails a merging of cybercrime and espionage. China is "stealing innovation" via businesses, universities and organizations, he says.
- The FBI's economic espionage investigations "almost invariably lead back to China" in most of the 56 field offices and span most industries or sectors.
- "Put plainly, China seems determined to steal its way up the economic ladder at our expense."
Plus, the increasing dependence of the U.S. on technology makes the country more vulnerable, he adds.
- "[O]ur ever-expanding use of technology: next-generation telecommunications networks like 5G, the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, cryptocurrencies, unmanned aerial system[s], deep fakes ... I see blinking red right in front of me and right in front of all of us. And we grow more vulnerable in many ways every day."
The bottom line: There needs to be a public-private partnership to share information and resources to prevent these threats, Wray says.
2. Kudlow: U.S. in position of leverage for upcoming trade talks
The news that the U.S. economy grew 3.2% the first quarter of this year gives the U.S. some "leverage" in upcoming trade talks with China, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said Friday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
"I'm cautiously optimistic about the deal ... China's economy is slumping and has been for some time."— Larry Kudlow
Yes, but: Axios' Courtenay Brown reported earlier this month that China's economy grew 6.4% in Q1 on an annual basis, exceeding analysts' 6.3% growth estimate. But, analysts did warn that it's "too early to call a sustainable turnaround, per Reuters.
Driving the news: President Trump yesterday sparked a flurry of anticipation, the New York Times reported, when he suggested there will be a visit from Xi soon.
- While Trump kept his comments vague yesterday, people familiar with the situation told NYT that the hope is for Trump and Xi to sign an agreement in May or June.
- And, earlier this month, Trump suggested an "epic" trade deal could be getting closer, per NYT.
What's happening now: Trade negotiations are continuing on April 30 in Beijing, when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing, the White House said Tuesday.
- Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will continue the trade talks with a delegation in D.C. on May 8.
3. Russia and China bond at world leader forum
In the face of U.S. hostility, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping today "vowed to work together for greater economic integration in Eurasia, the South China Morning Post reports.
What's new: Xi called for greater cooperation between the two countries in areas ranging from trade to aerospace, while meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a forum of world leaders on China's Belt and Road infrastructure (BRI) initiative.
- Putin reportedly responded, saying Russia is willing to "work with China in energy, connectivity and other major projects."
The backdrop: Leaders from 37 countries and delegates from more than 150 countries started gathering in Beijing for the second forum on China's BRI, which is designed to link China, Asia and Europe.
- The U.S. didn't send any high-level representatives.
But, but, but: Axios' Dave Lawler writes that while getting that many world leaders to turn up might seem like a triumph for Xi, he's also doing some damage control.
- Jonathan Hillman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies writes for Axios Expert Voices that in the 2 years since the last forum, concerns have grown over corruption, debt sustainability, environmental impacts and local benefits in addition to worries about Beijing's true motives.
- Dan Kliman, of the Center for New American Security, tells Dave that while Xi will attempt to "rebrand and reboot" Belt and Road this week, "this is a strategic geopolitical exercise, so they don't want to take steps that would reduce their control."
The bottom line: Chris Johnson, a former top CIA China analyst now at CSIS, says the message will be: "We have heard your feedback, taken it into account, and we're making changes. But guess what, the region still has a huge need for infrastructure and we're ready to provide it."
4. Spread of pig virus threatens pork industry
African swine fever has devastated the vast pig farms in China and now threatens to spread elsewhere, various reports say.
Why it matters: The highly contagious virus — which has minimal risk of mutating to become harmful to humans — has spread so rapidly since August that officials are warning it could go global, the Wall Street Journal reports, possibly even reaching U.S. shores.
- The pork industry, already impacted by trade tensions between China and the U.S., has led to China importing meat from the U.S. to help satisfy domestic demand, per WSJ. It adds that a Chinese government official last week predicted prices for pork — the country’s most widely consumed meat — could rise by more than 70% this year.
- And, other industries could be affected. For instance, it could jeopardize the global availability of heparin, a blood thinner, science journal Nature reports.
What's next: The only current method of halting an outbreak is by culling herds, but the Chinese government is prioritizing research on the virus, setting aside about 100 million yuan (US$15 million) for projects such as developing a vaccine, George Gao, VP of the National Natural Science Foundation of China told Nature.
5. 1 fun thing: The noodle rap
Sixth Tone writes: "The latest hit song from Chinese Canadian pop idol Kris Wu is a self-deprecating — and incredibly catchy — riff on a previous impromptu rap he performed for noodle shop patrons that ended up being widely mocked by netizens."
The bottom line: Between its release last Friday and Monday, the video had been viewed over 90 million times on streaming site Miaopai, they report.
6. Worthy of your time
WSJ — China exploits fleet of U.S. satellites to strengthen police and military power
Axios — Countries and corporations refuse to criticize China over mass Uighur detentions
Al Jazeera — Tiananmen Square protests and China's fight for internet control
The New Yorker — In China, shows like “Story of Yanxi Palace” go viral, and the party is not amused
Axios — The biggest nations' climate culpability
Bloomberg QuickTake — How China is scrambling for clean air
Axios — Chinese gaming platform giant DouYu files to go public
This week's issues of Bill's Sinocism China Newsletter