Trump orders US companies to stop operations in China, while Google, Twitter and Facebook block “fishy” contents on Hong Kong unrest

Hong Kong issue droped just a bit of salt and pepper in the flagrant trade war between the two giants

Eva González Beijing (PRC) and Washington (USA), 23 August, 2019

Completed at 11: 30 pm

Google, Twitter and Facebook have announced this week several blocking actions on some video contents, posts and tweets related to the Hong Kong ongoing protests against the PRC Government.

The social networks argue that the PRC Government was suspected to be responsible of all these contents in a coordinated action aimed to deploy deceptive tactics to missinform and lead public opinion against Hong Kong protesters against the new extradition law and therefore generate support to the PRC Government position.

One of the tweets published in one of the accounts closed by Twitter. The image has been provided to the press by Twitter.

Twitter tells about a “state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, specifically the protest movement and their calls for political change”.

Geng Shuang (PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson) said on 20th August on this issue: “…It is reasonable and understandable that Chinese media use overseas social media to elaborate on China’s policy, tell China’s story to and interact with local people. I wonder why certain company or people would have such strong responses. Did it somehow hit their soft spot?”.

Meanwhile China announced today new duties on US products and POTUS, Donald Trump, ordered US companies to shut down their operations in the PRC. Trump also advanced that was maturing new rise in tariffs for Chinese products entering the US market.

Google closed 210 channels on YouTube

“Earlier this week, as part of our ongoing efforts to combat coordinated influence operations, we disabled 210 channels on YouTube when we discovered channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.

“We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations”, this said the oficial communication for the press, signed by Shane Huntley (Threat Analysis Group, Google Security) on the Company news section within Google Keyword.

Facebook removed seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts on 19th August

Nathaniel Gleicher (Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook) informed on 19th August on this same issue: “Today, we removed seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong. The individuals behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts (some of which had been already disabled by our automated systems) to manage Pages posing as news organizations, post in Groups, disseminate their content, and also drive people to off-platform news sites. They frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.”

One of the posts published in one of the Pages closed by Facebook. The image has been provided to the press by Facebook.

Gleicher pointed as well that about 15,500 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and about 2,200 accounts joined at least one of these Groups.

Facebook will continue monitoring and will take action if they find additional violations. The social network warns as well that they have shared our analysis with law enforcement and industry partners.

Twitter blocked 936 accounts

Besides, 936 accounts have been suspended on 19th August by Twitter due to a range of violations of this platform manipulation policies, including: spam, coordinated activity, fake accounts, attributed activity and ban evasion.
As Twitter is blocked in PRC, many of these accounts accessed Twitter using VPNs. However, some accounts accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in Mainland China.

One of the tweets published in one of the accounts closed by Twitter. The image has been provided to the press by Twitter.

The mentioned 936 accounts, say Twitter in their official communication,” were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”
Twitter underscores that they have “reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation.”

Specifically, Twitter identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.

The 936 accounts suspendend on 19th August represent, inform Twitter, the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts — many created following our initial suspensions — were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.

Twitter has disclosed four archives containing complete tweet and user information for the 936 accounts they have icluded in Twitter archive of information operations (the largest of its kind in the industry) -find below the links to this information-.

The blue bird social network has divided these archives into two parts to better enable review of the intersecting networks of accounts which comprise this campaign. Twittere points that they have evidence to indicate that both sets are associated with the same entity.

The official position of the PRC Government on the social networks issue

The announcements by Twitter and Facebook on their decission to close the mentioned accounts and pages was one of the issues raised once and another by the press during the PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang’s regular press conference held on 20th August. I include here below the Q&A on this point. Ad we do it literally to let our readers extract their own conclussions.

Q.- On Monday, Twitter and Facebook announced they had suspended many accounts that they alleged were state-backed and spreading “disinformation”. What’s your comment?

A: “I’m not aware of the specifics you mentioned. But I believe you know the attitude of the 1.4 billion Chinese on the situation in Hong Kong. You may also know clearly the attitude of overseas Chinese, including Chinese students, through media reports. I believe they have the rights to express their opinions and viewpoints.”

Q.- On Monday, Twitter announced that it would ban advertisements from state-run media. Many noticed that Chinese state-run media outlets had bought advertisements on overseas social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook to produce “negative” narrative of protesters in Hong Kong. What’s your response to this decision by Twitter?

A: “I wonder what do you mean by the so-called “negative” narrative of the protesters in Hong Kong by the Chinese state-run media? I believe people around the world will come to their own judgment about what happens in Hong Kong and what is the truth. Why do you think what described by the Chinese state-run media outlets must be negative or wrong?

“As to the policy of Twitter, you may ask the company itself. It is reasonable and understandable that Chinese media use overseas social media to elaborate on China’s policy, tell China’s story to and interact with local people. I wonder why certain company or people would have such strong responses. Did it somehow hit their soft spot?”

One of the posts published in one of the Pages closed by Facebook. The image has been provided to the press by Facebook.

Q.- Recently Twitter and, to a smaller degree, Facebook, disconnected thousands of what they call “fake accounts” that they say were linked to the Chinese government and trying to spread fake information about the situation in Hong Kong. I wonder if you have any comment on that action and those accusations?

A: “On your first question, as I just said, I am not aware of the details. But regarding the current situation in Hong Kong, the attitude of the 1.4 billion Chinese is clear. The attitude of overseas Chinese including Chinese students is also clear. They have every right to express their views.”

Q.- A related question to Twitter and just wanted your comment on Chinese state media using foreign social media platforms. Will China open access at some point to the general population? If so, why? If not, why not?

A: “You are all quite obsessed with Twitter today.

“If you are interested in Chinese media opening Twitter accounts, you may ask them directly as it is them who opened the accounts. I understand they are doing so to introduce China to other countries, tell people China’s policies and share Chinese stories. There is nothing wrong with that.

“China manages Internet-related affairs according to laws and regulations. We have an open Internet market in China with the largest number of netizens. We would like to share the opportunities in this growing market with foreign Internet companies, but the prerequisite is that they must abide by Chinese laws and regulations and respect the Chinese people’s feelings.”

A violent represion on Hong Kong protests by PRC might worsen US-China trade tensions, but not the main thing to trigger a trade war between both giants

Last Sunday the President of the United States, Donald Trump, warned that trade consultations currently on course with the RPC would be negatively affected should the Chinese Government react against HK protesters in a violent way, the like of the Tiananmen square massacre.

Geng Shuang (Spokesperson at the Foreign Affair Ministry PRC).

During the regular press conference held on 19th August PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang answered crystal clear: “The demonstrations and violent criminal activities in Hong Kong have been going on for more than two months. Hong Kong’s rule of law, social order, economic performance, people’s welfare, prosperity, stability and international image have all suffered severely. Facts show that the so-called democracy and freedom without rule of law and social order will only lead to anarchy and chaos. At the end of the day, public interests will be damaged. For Hong Kong, the most pressing and overriding task at the moment is to stop violence, end chaos and restore order in accordance with law.

“The central government will continue its staunch support for the SAR government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in governing Hong Kong according to law, for the Hong Kong police in strict and just law-enforcement, and for efforts to bring violent criminals to justice.

“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s domestic affairs. We have noted that President Trump said earlier that “Hong Kong is a part of China. They’ll have to deal with that themselves. They don’t need advice. We hope the US will match its words with deeds.

“On how the central government sees the current situation in Hong Kong, I suggest you look at the press release of the seminar on the situation in Hong Kong jointly held by the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong. The seminar was held on August 7 in Shenzhen. The central government’s position and attitude were stated clearly at the seminar.”

China increases tariffs on US products again and Trup orders US companies stop operating in the PRC

“Regarding the China-US trade consultations, our position is consistent and clear. We hope the US will work together with China to implement the consensus reached by our presidents in Osaka and come up with a mutually-acceptable solution through dialogue and consultation on the basis of mutual respect and equality”, PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang underscored last 19th August.

Despite this declaration and following the depreciation of the yuan in latest weeks, China announced today for the second time in a row thatthe Asian country will increase tariffs on certain US products. This announcement by the Chinese Government also comes after the 90 days extension on trade ban exemption covering Huawei activities in the USA.

Ren Zhengfei (Director, CEO y fundador de Huawei). © Huawei.

Ren Zhengfei (Director, CEO and founder of Huawei).© Huawei.

An extension that in the words of the tech company: “does not change the fact that Huawei has been treated unjustly. Today’s decision won’t have a substantial impact on Huawei’s business either way.”

China announced today additional tariffs of 5% or 10% on a total of 5,078 products coming from the USA including agricultural products ( among them soybeans), crude oil and small aircraft. China is also resuming formerly withdrawn duties on cars and auto parts imported from the United States.

Meanwhile POTUS, Donald Trump, said some minutes ago on Twitter: “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.”

Donald Trump (elected as 45º President of the USA). Image from the official channel for his campaign in Facebook.

Trump advanced as well new tariffs on Chinese products: “I will be responding to China’s Tariffs this afternoon. This is a GREAT opportunity for the United States. Also, I am ordering all carriers, including Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS and the Post Office, to SEARCH FOR & REFUSE all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!). Fentanyl kills 100,000 Americans a year. President Xi said this would stop – it didn’t. Our Economy, because of our gains in the last 2 1/2 years, is MUCH larger than that of China. We will keep it that way!”

Some hours after published this post Donald Trump tweeted again explaining the rise in tariffs that will enter into force from next October for Chinese products exported to the US :”…China should not have put new Tariffs on 75 BILLION DOLLARS of United States product (politically motivated!). Starting on October 1st, the 250 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, currently being taxed at 25%, will be taxed at 30%. Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%.”

The President of the USA justifies these new rise on duties in the following way: “For many years China (and many other countries) has been taking advantage of the United States on Trade, Intellectual Property Theft, and much more. Our Country has been losing HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year to China, with no end in sight.

“Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer. As President, I can no longer allow this to happen! In the spirit of achieving Fair Trade, we must Balance this very unfair Trading Relationship.”

Image over the headline.- Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC.Photo by Gage Skidmore. To watch the original photo click here

Related Eastwind links:

Escalation in trade and tech tensions main downside risks for global growth, IMF Gopinath warns

Huawei takes new legal actions against Sec 889 of the National Defense Autorization Act and Trump’s veto

Who is paining or gainig in US – China trade war?. We all will lose, UNCTAD report shows

IMF’s Lagarde: US-China trade war puts at risk a 0.8% of global growth

Related Eastwind Marketing links:

Google thinking about quitting business in China

Online sales and digital advertising becoming more than a profitable businesses in China

Related external links:

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Set 2 of information disclosed by Twitter:

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Donald Trump’s tweets (23rd August in the afternoon):

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