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Daily Archives: September 14, 2022

Chart: China Credit Growth Jumps from All-time Low After PBOC Easing Steps

Source : Bloomberg

China Set “Buy Chinese” Policy for Medical Equipment

中国が医療機器の市場で外国製品の締め出しに動いている。地方政府が病院に国産機器を調達するよう求め始めたほか、中央政府は設計開発や重要部品の調達を中国に移すための法改正案を公表した。米国はサプライチェーン(供給網)から中国企業を排除する動きを強めており、グローバル市場の分断がさらに深まる。

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Source : Nikkei


Read also at Reuters

China quietly sets new ‘buy Chinese’ targets for state companies – U.S. sources . . . . .

Mid-week Humour: News in Cartoon

Yes, It’s a Scam: Simple Tips to Help You Spot Online Fraud

Heather Kelly wrote . . . . . . . . .

Nobody is immune to scams. Criminals are constantly changing them to fit the latest headlines, target our insecurities and slip through even the most well-honed BS detectors.

That means everyone, young and old, can benefit from a refresher on how to spot a text, phone or online scam and what to do next. Because the scams themselves change so fast, it’s also important to keep up on what the latest techniques and topics are so you aren’t caught off guard by a fake-romance text while you are on high alert for robocalls.

Have ‘the talk’ with family members

Do not assume people in your life know how to recognize or respond to scams. Even teenagers, whom we often assume know the most about the internet, are vulnerable. Make sure your family members know they can come to you anytime to gut-check a suspicious direct message or phone call. There’s a lot of shame and embarrassment associated with “falling” for a scam, but this type of deceit is like any other crime and is not the fault of the victim.

Change these settings to minimize scam risks

Make it significantly harder for cybercriminals to target you or family members by changing basic settings. Not everyone will need or want all of these protections.

Make social media private: Set your Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles to private. If you need a public facing profile, remove information such as your location information and contact information.

Facebook: Limit who can see your friend list or find your profile. A common scam involves creating a fake profile of a real person you know, then messaging you to ask for money. In Facebook, go to Settings & Privacy → Followers and Public Content → select “Who can see the people, pages and lists you follow?” Select Friends or Only Me.

Messenger: Tap your profile photo and select Privacy → Message Delivery. Under Other People, click on Others on Facebook and select Don’t Receive Request. Do the same for Others on Instagram. Under the Potential Connections section, set the categories to Don’t Receive Requests or Message Requests to limit how many tentative connections are able to message you directly.

WhatsApp: Go to Settings → Account → Privacy and limit who can add you to groups and who can see information like your status and personal information.

Phone contacts: Make sure known contacts are added to the phone’s address books so it’s easier to ignore unknown numbers. Next, send unknown callers to voice mail. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message. On an iPhone, go to Settings → Phone → Silence Unknown Callers. This will send anyone you’ve never communicated with straight to voice mail. On an Android device, open the Phone app, locate the menu button (it looks like three dots), tap that, then Settings. Most phones will have options for blocking numbers and caller ID/spam protection in there, although they often go by different names. (If you’re using voice mail to screen calls, make sure the outgoing message is set up and that your inbox isn’t full.)

Maximize your privacy: Most devices and apps have privacy settings you should turn on.

Improve your security: To make sure all of your accounts are as secure as possible.

Know the latest scams

Scammers love to use current events, whether it’s the pandemic or aid for Ukraine. For example, within 24 hours of President Biden’s announcing a program to forgive some student loans, the Federal Trade Commission released a warning about student loan scams.

Knowing what new scams are trending also will help you quickly spot shady activity. You can get updates about the latest scams at sites including Fraud.org. The FTC does a great job of releasing timely consumer alerts, and the AARP’s fraud site is also flush with resources.

Assume that people or companies aren’t who they say they are

It’s easy to imitate a real person or organization. Make it your first instinct to ask yourself: Are they who they claim to be? If you have any doubt, go to the next step.

Verify everything using a different channel

To confirm a person or a company is what it claims to be, you need to look for a different contact method. Don’t trust any contact information included in the original message; instead, find the best way to reach the company entirely on your own, such as looking up and using an official customer service number on a company’s website. If you’re unsure, ask a friend or family member. If you don’t have someone you can call, AARP has a number anyone can call to ask about a possible scam: 877-908-3360.

“Verify, validate, check. If you got a Facebook message, text the person. Got a phone call? Call the bank,” says Caroline Wong, the chief strategy officer at the cybersecurity company Cobalt. “Figure out a different channel from whatever channel you go the message in.”

>h3>Don’t reply, don’t click links, don’t answer the call

Do not engage with possible scams, even if you’re curious. That includes not clicking links from contacts you don’t know. Got a text claiming to be from UPS about a package? Go to the official UPS site instead.

Research the sender’s phone number, email or URLs

Look for any details that will tell you a message is fake, and Google it if you’re unsure. This includes an email address that doesn’t have the right domain (like a message claiming to be from Apple but is not from Apple.com), a link that goes someplace it shouldn’t or a phone number you’ve never seen. On social media or messaging apps, click through to profiles to see whether they were recently created and appear real.

Worried about being rude? Have a script

If you don’t feel comfortable simply hanging up on a stranger or consider doing so to be rude, have a refusal script ready to go, says Amy Nofziger, AARP’s director of fraud victim support. It can be as simple as, “I don’t do business over the phone, thanks for calling.”

Memorize signs that something is a scam

You didn’t initiate the conversation: If a text, direct message, email or call comes out of the blue, it’s far more likely to be a scam.

You won something: Sorry, you did not actually win anything. Skip messages that say you’ve won money or prizes or are getting a refund.

You are panicked: Criminals want to make you think there’s an emergency. If they can get you to act without slowing down and thinking critically, there’s a better chance they’ll succeed. Look for signs in yourself such as a fast heartbeat or sweaty palms.

“Scammers want to create a sense of urgency. They want to get you to act, to use that animal fight-or-flight part of your brain,” says John Breyault, a vice president at the advocacy group the National Consumers League and the director of Fraud.org.

It involves fast payment methods: “Criminals like their money fast, quick and untraceable,” said AARP’s Nofziger. Peer-to-peer payment apps are a current favorite, because they allow money to be transferred instantly without leaving much of a trail, says Nofziger.

If a stranger asks you to pay them (or offers to pay you) in the following ways, it’s likely to be a scam: Peer-to-peer apps such as Venmo, Cash App, Zelle, wire transfer, prepaid gift cards, cryptocurrency or cash. Don’t share your credit card number, either, unless you’ve confirmed through a second form of contact that the matter is legitimate.

There are payment complications: If someone says you owe money, or claims they’re having issue with a transaction to or from you, investigate. In one popular Facebook Marketplace scam, criminals will offer to pay over an app like Zelle, say there’s a problem, then ask for your email address so they can send a fake email and get your info.

They want information: Not all scammers want money; some are trying to get your address, log-ins and passwords, or your Social Security number.

“At the end of the day, scammers are after money or information they can turn into money,” Breyault says.

Something doesn’t feel right: Your gut is your best tool for avoiding scams. If something feels off, ask a family member, call the AARP hotline, or find another form of contact on your own and reach out to confirm whether the overture is legitimate.


Source : Washington Post

Chart: Is a U.S. Civil War on the Horizon?

Source : Statista

Researchers Identify Antibodies that May Make Coronavirus Vaccines Unnecessary

A scientific breakthrough by Tel Aviv University: A team of researchers from the university has demonstrated that antibodies isolated from the immune system of recovered COVID-19 patients are effective in neutralizing all known strains of the virus, including the Delta and the Omicron variants. According to the researchers, this discovery may eliminate the need for repeated booster vaccinations and strengthen the immune system of populations at risk.

The research was led by Dr. Natalia Freund and doctoral students Michael Mor and Ruofan Lee of the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine. The study was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ben Croker of the University of California San Diego. Prof. Ye Xiang of Tsinghua University in Beijing. Prof. Meital Gal-Tanamy and Dr. Moshe Dessau of Bar-Ilan University also took part in the study. The study was published in the Nature journal Communications Biology.

The present study is a continuation of a preliminary study conducted in October 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. At that time, Dr. Freund and her colleagues sequenced all the B immune system cells from the blood of people who had recovered from the original COVID strain in Israel, and isolated nine antibodies that the patients produced. The researchers now found that some of these antibodies are very effective in neutralizing the new coronavirus variants, Delta and Omicron.

Dr. Freund: “In the previous study, we showed that the various antibodies that are formed in response to infection with the original virus are directed against different sites of the virus. The most effective antibodies were those that bound to the virus’s ‘spike’ protein, in the same place where the spike binds the cellular receptor ACE2. Of course, we were not the only ones to isolate these antibodies, and the global health system made extensive use of them until the arrival of the different variants of the coronavirus, which in fact rendered most of those antibodies useless.

“In the current study, we proved that two other antibodies, TAU-1109 and TAU-2310, which bind the viral spike protein in a different area from the region where most of the antibodies were concentrated until now (and were therefore less effective in neutralizing the original strain) are actually very effective in neutralizing the Delta and Omicron variants. According to our findings, the effectiveness of the first antibody, TAU-1109, in neutralizing the Omicron strain is 92%, and in neutralizing the Delta strain, 90%. The second antibody, TAU-2310, neutralizes the Omicron variant with an efficacy of 84%, and the Delta variant with an efficacy of 97%.”

According to Dr. Freund, the surprising effectiveness of these antibodies might be related to the evolution of the virus: “The infectivity of the virus increased with each variant because each time, it changed the amino acid sequence of the part of the spike protein that binds to the ACE2 receptor, thereby increasing its infectivity and at the same time evading the natural antibodies that were created following vaccinations. In contrast, the antibodies TAU-1109 and TAU-2310 don’t bind to the ACE2 receptor binding site, but to another region of the spike protein — an area of the viral spike that for some reason does not undergo many mutations — and they are therefore effective in neutralizing more viral variants. These findings emerged as we tested all the known COVID strains to date.”

The two antibodies, cloned in Dr. Freund’s laboratory at Tel Aviv University, were sent for tests to check their effectiveness against live viruses in laboratory cultures at the University of California San Diego, and against pseudoviruses in the laboratories of the Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University in the Galilee; the results were identical and equally encouraging in both tests.

Dr. Freund believes that the antibodies can bring about a real revolution in the fight against COVID-19: “We need to look at the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of previous disease outbreaks that humankind has witnessed. People who were vaccinated against smallpox at birth and who today are 50 years old still have antibodies, so they are probably protected, at least partially, from the monkeypox virus that we have recently been hearing about. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the coronavirus. For reasons we still don’t yet fully understand, the level of antibodies against COVID-19 declines significantly after three months, which is why we see people getting infected again and again, even after being vaccinated three times. In our view, targeted treatment with antibodies and their delivery to the body in high concentrations can serve as an effective substitute for repeated boosters, especially for at-risk populations and those with weakened immune systems. COVID-19 infection can cause serious illness, and we know that providing antibodies in the first days following infection can stop the spread of the virus. It is therefore possible that by using effective antibody treatment, we will not have to provide booster doses to the entire population every time there is a new variant.”


Source: Science Daily

Book Review: “Danger Zone”

Noah Smith wrote . . . . . . . . .

I’ve been reading a lot of books about China lately. Most of these can be roughly categorized into two groups — backwards-looking books describing the economic, political, and social conditions that prevailed in China during the 2000s and 2010s, and forward-looking books about the possibility of geopolitical competition and conflict between China and the U.S. Both categories have been valuable.

Hal Brands and Michael Beckley’s Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict With China is definitely in the second category. The authors don’t spend a lot of time convincing you that China’s leaders are bent on conflict — that task was already carried out by earlier authors, such as Rush Doshi’s The Long Game. It’s no longer really a question of whether China intends to displace the U.S. as the world’s leading power — it does — but rather a question of how the U.S. and its allies can resist this attempt. That’s what Brands and Beckley try to answer.

Their basic argument is that China has long-term weaknesses that will ultimately put it in a weaker position relative to the U.S. They cite five weaknesses:

  • Population aging and population decline
  • Limited natural resources
  • Xi’s autocratic rule
  • Hardening geopolitical opposition
  • A slowing economy

According to Brands and Beckley, these long-term weaknesses mean China’s leaders see the writing on the wall. Realizing that their country is fast approaching the peak of its might relative to its rivals, Xi Jinping & co. have an incentive to strike now — to take Taiwan and the South China Sea, to displace the U.S. from its position of global importance, and to establish regional and possibly global hegemony. This would, they argue, be similar to the way Wilhelmine Germany eagerly embraced World War 1 out of fear that if they were to wait longer, Russia would industrialize fully and become too powerful for them to overcome.

To compound matters, the authors argue that the U.S.’ military modernization — which was undertaken to meet the Chinese threat — won’t bear fruit until the 2030s. So if China chooses this next decade to attack, the U.S. might be at maximum disadvantage.

This next decade, therefore, is the titular “Danger Zone”. They draw a historical parallel between the 2020s and the period from 1945 through 1953, when the U.S. scrambled to establish a stable balance of power with the Soviets. Drawing on those early Cold War years for inspiration, they recommend a raft of strategies to make it through this dangerous time. Among other things, these include:

  • Building an economic bloc that includes U.S. allies but partially excludes China, limiting China’s participation to lower-value goods
  • Building an overlapping system of alliances and partnerships that hardens opposition to Chinese expansionism
  • Gaining control of global technology standards
  • Denying China key technologies it needs
  • Protecting democracies against China’s attempts to encourage autocracy
  • Protecting Taiwan militarily

If these strategies succeed in preventing China from toppling the existing global order, Brands and Beckley argue, things will get a bit easier after that. China’s disadvantages — aging, resource limitations, etc. — will start to bite ever harder, just as the U.S. completes its military upgrade. After that, the authors foresee a less intense conflict that the U.S. and its allies are ultimately well-positioned (though far from guaranteed) to win.

This is a coherent, cogently argued case. It is far more measured in its conclusions, and rests them on a more solid foundation, than earlier books like The Hundred Year Marathon and Destined for War, while its policy recommendations are more actionable than The Long Game. Danger Zone therefore represents the maturation of the “China threat” series of books. It is a very good book, and you should read it if you’re at all concerned about these issues.

That said, I am not yet ready to accept all of the book’s conclusions at face value. As readers of this blog know, I am inherently skeptical of historical theories, and I would like to see them tested whenever possible. In this case, it should in principle be possible for someone with a good data set on historical conflicts to test the idea that countries are most inclined to launch aggressive wars when a long period of ascendance reaches a peak. I will suggest this to my friend Paul Poast. (Of course, the main competing hypothesis, the Thucydides Trap, also deserves to be similarly tested.)

It does, however, seem extremely prudent to worry about this. China’s approach toward its neighbors and toward the U.S. has become far more belligerent in recent years, and we don’t necessarily need a theory of conflict to tell that there’s the possibility of a war in the next decade. So it pays to be prepared. And many of the remedies Brands and Beckley suggest — especially building an economic bloc that excludes China, gathering allies, and maintaining technological leadership — seem eminently reasonable whether or not China’s leaders manage to frighten themselves into acts of aggression. The “danger zone” framing is a good one, and other analysts and scholars should be thinking hard about making it through the next decade.

At the same time, though, I feel like there’s a big piece of the puzzle that deserves a longer and more detailed treatment than Danger Zone gives it — the issue of longer-term economic competition with China.

Is China really headed for long-term decline?

The main conceit of Danger Zone is that now is China’s peak of power, relative to the U.S. and its friends and allies. This is the background reality that is supposedly pushing China toward conflict, but which will also put China at a long-term disadvantage if we make it past the 2020s.

But is it true? First, let’s talk about China’s demographic decline. This is very real — China is losing working-age population at the rate of millions per year, and that rate is set to accelerate. It is losing young workers even faster, and its old-age dependency ratio is rising quickly. Next year, it is project to see its total population shrink, even as India overtakes it as the world’s largest country.

But what Brands and Beckley believe is important — and what would presumably be key in a long-term Cold War — is not China’s absolute demographic decline, but its relative decline compared to its rivals. And the thing is that they’re all hitting demographic decline too.

This data set accepts China’s pre-pandemic official fertility rate number of 1.7, which would put it in the middle of the pack; in fact, the true number is lower. A Chinese government agency reported it at 1.3 in 2020, and the CIA puts it at 1.45. So China’s fertility is considerably lower than that of the U.S.

But it’s about the same as Japan, which is already considerably more aged. And it’s higher than Taiwan or South Korea. Meanwhile, U.S. fertility has plunged in the last few years and may have further to fall, while even India’s just went below the replacement rate. Demographic decline is just something that every modern society has to face; China’s is a little more severe than most, but it’s not dramatically more severe. If the U.S. continues to restrict immigration and/or becomes a less attractive place for immigrants to move, the difference will be even less significant.

And remember, China is starting out at an enormous population size advantage relative to every other country except India.

Thus, China’s demographic disadvantage seems likely to be a drag on its relative power, but not any sort of inevitable doom. In fact, it’s the U.S. and its allies that should be more worried about population disadvantage, and looking for ways to get more immigrants.

Second, Brands and Beckley talk about China’s slowing economy. This is also very real. China is in a recession now, but its growth — and even more crucially, its productivity growth — have been slowing for a decade now. For a variety of reasons, China’s rapid catch-up growth is probably permanently over.

But China’s economy is already vast in size. In GDP it doesn’t quite measure up to the U.S. and its allies, but in manufacturing capacity it matches them pretty closely.

Nor is it at all clear that China’s percent of global manufacturing will wane in the future. Over the past two decades, China has established itself as what Damien Ma calls “the make-everything country” — the center of global networks of production and trade in manufactured goods.

The vast, impersonal forces of economic agglomeration — the tendency of producers, customers and suppliers to all locate near to each other in space — are pushing all of world manufacturing toward East Asia, and China is the center and by far the largest part of East Asia. In recent years, despite Trump’s trade war, China has only solidified its position as the center of global manufacturing, and multinational companies are finding it very hard to leave.

For the U.S. to replace the China-centered global manufacturing economy with one that even partially excludes China will thus be an incredibly uphill battle. That doesn’t mean it’s not a battle worth fighting, but it’s definitely not the kind of thing we can rely on happening on its own if we can just make it safely to 2030. Economically, China is no USSR.

Thus, while I think that thinking about the “danger zone” of the 2020s is very important, I think the outcome after that initial period will not be nearly as predestined as it was in Cold War 1. China is vastly more populous than the USSR, it is far more economically competent, and it occupies the center of the world’s manufacturing hub. Slowly declining demographics and the end of catch-up growth will not change that.

So I think we need to start thinking and planning now about how the U.S. and its allies can match Chinese power in the long term. Our job for the next 10 years is harder than it was in 1945, when we were the world’s unchallenged economic powerhouse, and all we needed to do was contain the Soviets militarily. This time, we’ll need to manage military containment at the same time that we start reshaping the U.S. economy and the global economy. That’s going to be a difficult task.


Source : Noahpinion