Uighur refugee

Global chip shortage hits China’s bitcoin mining sector

Global chip shortage hits China's bitcoin mining sector

Samuel Shen and Alun John

·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: Representations of virtual currency bitcoin are seen in this picture illustration

By Samuel Shen and Alun John

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – A global chip shortage is choking the production of machines used to “mine” bitcoin, a sector dominated by China, sending prices of the computer equipment soaring as a surge in the cryptocurrency drives demand.

The scramble is pricing out smaller miners and accelerating an industry consolidation that could see deep-pocketed players, many outside China, profit from the bitcoin bull run.

 

Bitcoin mining is closely watched by traders and users of the world’s largest cryptocurrency, as the amount of bitcoin they make and sell into the market affects its supply and price.

Trading around $32,000 on Friday, bitcoin is down 20% from the record highs it struck two weeks ago but still up some 700% from its March low of $3,850.

“There are not enough chips to support the production of mining rigs,” said Alex Ao, vice president of Innosilicon, a chip designer and major provider of mining equipment.

Bitcoin miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify bitcoin transactions in a process which produces newly minted bitcoins.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Samsung Electronics Co, the main producers of specially designed chips used in mining rigs, would also prioritise supplies to sectors such as consumer electronics, whose chip demand is seen as more stable, Ao said.

The global chip shortage is disrupting production across a global array of products, including automobiles, laptops and mobile phones.

Mining’s profitability depends on bitcoin’s price, the cost of the electricity used to power the rig, the rig’s efficiency, and how much computing power is needed to mine a bitcoin.

Demand for rigs has boomed as bitcoin prices soared, said Gordon Chen, co-founder of cryptocurrency asset manager and miner GMR.

“When gold prices jump, you need more shovels. When milk prices rise, you want more cows.”

CONSOLIDATION

Lei Tong, managing director of financial services at Babel Finance, which lends to miners, said that “almost all major miners are scouring the market for rigs, and they are willing to pay high prices for second-hand machines.”

“Purchase volumes from North America have been huge, squeezing supply in China,” he said, adding that many miners are placing orders for products that can only be delivered in August and September.

Most of the products of Bitmain, one of the biggest rig makers in China, are sold out, according the company’s website.

A sales manager at Jiangsu Haifanxin Technology, a rig merchant, said prices on the second-hand market have jumped 50% to 60% over the past year, while prices of new equipment more than doubled. High-end, second-hand mining machines were quoted around $5,000.

“It’s natural if you look at how much bitcoin has risen,” said the manager, who identified himself on by his surname Li.

The cryptocurrency surge is affecting who is able to mine.

The increasing cost of investment is eliminating smaller players, said Raymond Yuan, founder of Atlas Mining, which owns one of China’s biggest mining business.

“Institutional investors benefit from both large scale and proficiency in management whereas retail investors who couldn’t keep up will be weeded out,” said Yuan, whose company has invested over $500 million in cryptocurrency mining and plans to keep investing heavily.

Many of the larger players growing their mining operations are based outside of China, often in North America and the Middle East, said Wayne Zhao, chief operating officer of crypto research company TokenInsight.

“China used to have low electricity costs as one core advantage, but as the bitcoin price rises now, that has gone,” he said.

Zhao said that while previously bitcoin mining in China used to account for as much as 80% of the world’s total, it now accounted for around 50%.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Alun John; Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and William Mallard)

Lawmakers blasted the UK government for sharing ‘confidential’ information in private messages to TikTok execs

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Boris Johnson Edward Lister
Boris Johnson’s (left) senior aide Sir Edward Lister (right) was among those receiving the messages with TikTok 
Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images
  • British politicians reacted to Insider revealing the UK government told TikTok the ‘confidential’ identity of its next China ambassador.
  • One says Downing Street faces ‘serious questions’ on the tranche of messages, obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
  • They also showed the government trying to reassure TikTok over new national security powers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK government has “serious questions” to answer, lawmakers have said after Insider revealed it told TikTok the confidential identity of its next China ambassador before the appointment was confirmed.

Insider published internal conversations between TikTok and senior government officials from January to June 2020, when the video app was reportedly negotiating to base its global headquarters in London.

The conversations took place even as TikTok was the subject of national security concerns in the US due to its ties to China.

Officials from the government’s trade department tried to reassure TikTok over wider plans to boost government powers to police foreign investments into the UK, the messages show.

The Department for International Trade (DfiT) also revealed, then asked TikTok to be “discreet” about, the news Caroline Wilson was likely the UK’s next ambassador to China, before the appointment was confirmed and four months before it was announced.  

Read the UK government correspondence with TikTok exclusively obtained by Insider

Politicians blasted the government for the revelations.

Labour MP Chris Elmore, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on social media, said the messages “leave a trail right to the Prime Minister’s own office.” Recipients on the messages included senior Downing Street officials such as Sir Edward Lister, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief strategic advisor.

Elmore added: “There are now serious questions that need to be answered by the UK government … We must all be concerned that strictly confidential information of national importance is being willingly shared with social media companies.

“We need to know what direction the Prime Minister gave to his staff to provide this information with TikTok, when did he first learn about this email exchange and what other sensitive information may have been shared from his office.”

“It is utterly contemptible to find ourselves yet again in the position where social media companies are operating in cosy back rooms to gain influence at the very heart of government.”

Andrew Lewer, a member of the China Research Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs launched by senior Tories last year to shape policy on China, was surprised by how the government acted.

He added attitudes to China have changed since the messages were sent last June. Conservative lawmakersare increasingly concerned about the UK’s trading relationship with China, particularly in light of atrocities against its Uighur minority population.

 

Insider originally requested the documents under Freedom of Information laws in July. 

“Reports of the contents of these documents serve to show how quickly sentiment within both government and the Parliamentary Party is hardening towards China,” Lever said, speaking personally rather than for the CRG.

“Some elements of these conversations, as reported, would be, at the very least, difficult to envisage happening now, even though it is less than a year later. They also illustrate the growing tension between China as a market for UK plc and its status as a human-rights abuser on a vast scale.”

Luke de Pulford, coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of lawmakers whose members include former UK Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and former US presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, was also worried.

 

He decried “the so-called ‘Golden Era'” of British-Chinese relations under past governments when “the UK sold out to China, shelving our values in the hope of economic gain.”

“Many key civil servants have yet to smell the coffee,” he said. “There cannot be business as usual or behind closed doors deals with states credibly accused of genocide.”

Fears of TikTok’s ties to China stem from the fact its parent company ByteDance, though registered in the Cayman Islands, is headquartered in Beijing. Lawmakers worry that the firm could be compelled to hand over information about users to the Chinese regime.

TikTok has repeatedly denied it would share user data with the Chinese Government if asked.

 

TikTok declined to comment and DfIT did not respond.

Outging US ambassador says world must end Taiwan’s exclusion

Outging US ambassador says world must end Taiwan's exclusion

 
EDITH M. LEDERER
 
 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In a final swipe at China, the Trump administration’s outgoing U.N. ambassador tweeted that it’s time for the world to oppose China’s efforts to exclude and isolate Taiwan, drawing sharp criticism from Beijing.

To make the point even more graphic, Ambassador Kelly Craft accompanied the tweet with a photo of herself in the U.N. General Assembly Hall where the island is banned. And she carried a handbag with a stuffed Taiwan bear sticking out of the top, a gift from Taiwan’s representative in New York, Ambassador James Lee.

Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 when China joined. Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and has been using its diplomatic clout to stop its 23 million people from joining any organizations that require statehood for membership including the U.N. World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

 

American relations with Taiwan warmed under president Donald Trump, largely due to strong bipartisan support in Congress, but also because his administration was willing to defy Beijing’s threats and promote Taiwan as an alternative to Chinese Communist Party authoritarianism.

Craft met in September with Taiwan’s New York representative and had been scheduled to visit Taipei last week, but her trip was canceled after then secretary of state Mike Pompeo banned all travel.

Undeterred, she held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on the evening of Jan. 13, telling her: “The United States will always stand with Taiwan.”

Earlier that day, she went into the General Assembly Hall, stood at the speaker’s podium, and recorded a virtual address to Model U.N. students in Taiwan.

Craft followed up those events with a statement Tuesday — her last full day as ambassador — stressing that the United States “is determined to end” Taiwan’s exclusion and isolation, and predicting this will continue with the administration of newly inaugurated President Joe Biden.

“The U.S. position on this matter enjoys universal bipartisan support,” she said, “and so, even as the United States is preparing for a transition, I can speak with great confidence that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship will continue to grow and strengthen.”

She called Taiwan “a force for good on the global stage — a vibrant democracy, a generous humanitarian actor, a responsible actor in the global health community, and a vigorous promoter and defender of human rights.”

In a final salvo during Trump’s final hours in office on Wednesday, Craft tweeted her appeal for an end to Taiwan’s isolation and exclusion, saying: “All @UN member states should recognize the benefits of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in int’l organizations & the damage done by its continued exclusion.”

The spokesperson for China’s U.N. Mission, referring to Craft’s photo in the General Assembly Hall, tweeted back: “Without prior notice to the UN, you sneaked into the GA Hall to record the video. You have not only violated the guidelines for the use of UN premises but also broken the rules for prevention of COVID-19. You’re spreading virus literally. Time to stop!”

A spokesman for Craft responded Thursday saying: “Ambassador Craft was proud to speak with the youth of Taiwan from the floor of the U.N. General Assembly, to underscore the outrageous fact that Taiwan’s voice remains unwelcome in that Hall.”

In her speech to Taiwan’s Model UN, Craft told the students: “Stay firm, say the words of democracy even in the wake of this moment. Because one day, you, too, will be standing here.”

To reinforce her personal commitment, she ended her statement on Tuesday saying: “As my posting at the U.N. comes to a close, my mission will not be complete until the people of Taiwan have a voice.”

Top Republicans ask Biden for tougher response to China sanctions on Trump officials

Top Republicans ask Biden for tougher response to China sanctions on Trump officials

 
David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina
 
 

By David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration faced pressure from Republican lawmakers on its second day in office for a more forceful response to Beijing’s announcement of sanctions against the architects of former President Donald Trump’s tough China policy.

As Democrat Joe Biden was sworn in as president on Wednesday, China announced sanctions against outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and 27 other Trump officials in a striking repudiation of its relationship with the previous U.S. administration.

The Biden administration, which is seeking Republican support for a policy to “out-compete” China, responded by calling the move “unproductive and cynical” and urged Americans from both parties to condemn it. China, by making the announcement on Inauguration Day, appeared to be attempting to play into U.S. divisions, it said.

Jim Risch, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said on Twitter that Beijing was “already testing the Biden Admin’s resolve to continue a tougher, competitive approach towards #China.”

“Together, Republicans & Democrats must show Beijing we will not be deterred from defending U.S. interests.”

Michael McCaul, the leading Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the sanctions were “a brazen and baseless attempt to silence and intimidate” officials who had exposed abuses.

“The Biden administration and any country that values democratic principles must respond immediately and forcefully to demonstrate that coercion will not be tolerated,” he said.

Beijing announced its sanctions after Pompeo, who unleashed a barrage of measures against China in his final weeks in office, declared on Tuesday that China had committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” against Uighur Muslims.

Just before it did so, Beijing also said it wanted to cooperate with the Biden administration, even after Biden’s choice to succeed Pompeo, Antony Blinken, said he agreed with his assessment.

A Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee staffer said responses could include counter-sanctions or tightening of existing measures, adding: “This latest move was a serious escalation.”

The Biden administration, which is still setting up its full Asia policy and other government teams, did not immediately reply when asked if it planned a response.

Beijing’s sanctions ban the 28 officials and immediate family members from entering China and they and any companies or organizations associated with them from having dealings there.

China has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuse in Xinjiang, where a United Nations panel has said at least one million Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in camps.

Blinken told his Senate confirmation hearing China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation, and that he believed there was a very strong foundation to build a bipartisan policy to stand up to Beijing.

Some Republicans and others are concerned Biden may soften Trump’s hardline approach to secure cooperation on other goals, including combating climate change and North Korea.

Some in the U.S. business community saw China’s move as a shot across the bow, not only at Biden, but potentially at companies, banks, consulting firms, think tanks, and universities that have dealings with former U.S. officials.

“This team doesn’t have the luxury of six months to study the issue,” one private-sector China policy analyst said of the Biden administration. “It requires a near term response that goes beyond signaling.”

The source spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of backlash from China.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina; editing by Grant McCool)

China blasts ‘gross interference’ by EU lawmakers on Hong Kong

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Members of the European Parliament on Thursday passed a resolution calling for “targeted sanctions” against Chinese and Hong Kong officials held responsible for recent arrests of activists
 
 
 

China on Friday hit back at an EU resolution condemning its crackdown on Hong Kong democracy activists, accusing European lawmakers of “gross interference” in its governance of the city.

Members of the European Parliament on Thursday passed the resolution calling for “targeted sanctions” against Chinese and Hong Kong officials held responsible for recent arrests of activists.

The lawmakers also said they “regret” the handling of a landmark investment deal with China pending ratification by MEPs, saying that talks over the deal should have been seized “as a leverage tool aimed at preserving Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as well as its basic rights and freedoms”.

 

But Beijing struck back on Friday and urged EU lawmakers to “face up to the reality that Hong Kong has returned to China”.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the resolution showed that some MEPs had “confused right and wrong” and engaged in “gross interference in the affairs of China’s Hong Kong”.

The European Parliament should “stop any form of meddling”, Hua said at a regular press briefing.

Following huge and often violent pro-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong last year that effectively criminalised much dissent in a city supposedly guaranteed key liberties and autonomy.

It also toppled the legal firewall between the two territories, giving China jurisdiction over major national security cases and allowing its security agents to operate openly in the city for the first time.

Nearly 100 people have been arrested since the law came in and could face life sentences if convicted.

Uighur refugee Gulbahar Haitiwaji: ‘The Chinese want to eradicate the Uighurs’

Uighur refugee Gulbahar Haitiwaji: 'The Chinese want to eradicate the Uighurs'

https://www.france24.com/en/tv-shows/the-interview/20210121-uighur-refugee-gulbahar-haitiwaji-the-chinese-want-to-eradicate-the-uighurs

Gulbahar Haitiwaji lives in France and belongs to China’s Uighur minority, a mainly Muslim community from the northwestern province of Xinjiang. Back in 2016, her life changed dramatically. Summoned to return to China under a spurious pretext, she was thrown into prison then sent to a “re-education” camp. She recounts the appalling conditions of her detention in a new book entitled “Survivor of the Chinese Gulag”. The Chinese “want to wipe out the culture and the tradition of the Uighurs and eradicate the Uighurs themselves”, she told FRANCE 24.