China: We would fight a trade war ‘to the end’

China isn’t doing much to cool concerns about a trade war with the United States.

“China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures,” China’s embassy in Washington said in a statement late Thursday. “China is not afraid of and will not recoil from a trade war.”

President Donald Trump announced earlier that his administration would impose tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese exports to the United States to retaliate against Chinese theft of intellectual property, including software and patents. The administration will also restrict Chinese investment in the United States.

The statement from the Chinese embassy said Trump’s trade action was “self-defeating” and would hurt American companies, consumers and financial markets.

“We urge the US to cease and desist, make cautious decisions, and avoid placing China-U.S. trade relations in danger with the purpose of hurting others that eventually end up hurting itself,” the statement said.

Fears of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies rocked the stock market on Thursday. The Dow fell 724 points, or almost 3%.

The administration said it would announce in the next 15 days which products would be subject to tariffs.

After a seven-month investigation, the office of the US Trade Representative concluded that China hurts US technology companies in a variety of ways.

For example, when American tech companies want access to China’s market, China forces them to enter joint ventures with its own companies, the USTR said. The American companies are forced to share software, patents and tech secrets, which Chinese firms then steal and use to push the Americans out of the market.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said that China “has demonstrated sincerity in making reasonable suggestions to the US, and has made great efforts to address the current trade imbalance between China and the US.”

US officials widely agree that China has stolen US technology and trade secrets. Many economists say the administration’s diagnosis of the problem is correct. But they fear that widespread US tariffs, and Chinese retaliation, will raise prices significantly for Americans, hurt the economy and kill jobs.

Trump administration officials say fears of a trade war are overblown. However, they concede they’re worried about retaliation.

Trump’s crackdown on China came shortly after US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that more countries will be exempt from the steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump announced three weeks ago.

Those penalties — 10% on aluminum imports and 25% on steel imports — take effect Friday. But they will not apply to the European Union, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil or Australia. Mexico and Canada were already exempted.

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China: We will hit back if US announces new tariffs

Beijing has renewed a warning that it will retaliate if President Donald Trump goes through with plans to slap new tariffs on Chinese goods worth billions of dollars.

“China will certainly take all necessary measures to resolutely defend its legitimate rights and interests,” if the United States imposes new restrictions, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Thursday.

Trump is widely expected to announce new tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese exports to the United States later in the day. That’s a little more than 10% of all Chinese goods sent to the United States in 2017.

Trump has repeatedly accused Beijing of unfair trade practices like currency manipulation — which helps China make its exports more affordable — and of stealing US intellectual property. The president has frequently taken aim at China’s huge goods trade surplus with the United States, which reached $375 billion last year.

The tariffs would be the first time the Trump administration has directly targeted China with big trade sanctions. Previous measures against steel, aluminum and solar panels have applied to imports from other countries too.

China has repeatedly said that it doesn’t want a trade war but warned that it would take “firm and necessary” countermeasures if necessary.

“It’s unrealistic and unreasonable to demand complete equality in trade,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Thursday. “We hope that both sides can sit down and talk calmly.”

Beijing hasn’t offered any specifics on how it could respond, but it does have a number of options.

For example, it is one of the biggest buyers of US crops, including soybeans or sorghum. China could put a tariff on those, or decide to buy more soy from places like Brazil and Argentina.

Boeing might also be vulnerable in the longer term. It’s the single largest US exporter, and China is a critical market for the company. Chinese airlines could place more orders for Airbus planes in future.

China is also the biggest creditor of the United States: It owns more US government bonds than any other country. It recently cut some of its US debt holdings, though investors don’t expect China to immediately dump its US debt.

China’s Global Times, a state tabloid that often voices nationalist views, said in an editorial this week that any suggestion China would suffer more than the United States in a trade war was “arrogant and naïve.”

It pointed to soybeans as one area where it could put the squeeze on US exporters.

“If China halves the proportion of the US soybean imports, it will not have any major impact on China, but the US bean farmers will complain. They were mostly Trump supporters. Let them confront Trump,” the newspaper said.

— CNN’s Daniel Shane contributed to this article.

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Cuban reggaeton rebels face censorship, prison

A passion for Cuban underground music gave DJ Unic a career as a music producer and landed Henry Laso in prison. They both love reggaeton, a Puerto Rican fusion of electronic beats and African and Caribbean rhythms that has taken hold in nightclubs worldwide. 

The genre celebrates sensuality, as did Jamaican reggae from the late ’60s, and adopts the free rhythmic speech of hip-hop from the Bronx in the ’70s. The sensual grinding and the explicit lyrics that come with the beat offended Cuban officials, who control recording studios, radio and television. 

Despite the fear of arrest and harassment that some artists say they experience in Cuba, the musicians and fans use makeshift home recording studios, piracy tactics and social media to defy the ban. Most artists are men and most adopt pseudonyms. 

Laso used his legal name and didn’t stay away from politics. In a recent letter to his wife, he said authorities were holding him in isolation “like a terrorist” and he was hospitalized when he started to have trouble with a kidney.  

“I am in the prison of Ariza, better known as the cemetery of the living dead, where hope is lost,” Laso wrote  in a letter published on his Facebook account Tuesday    

While Laso’s lyrics are brazen, DJ Unic tends to focus on the purely hedonistic. They are different artists, but they both agree that singing and producing reggaeton shouldn’t be a crime. 

After the Cuban Music Institute announced the genre ran against the country’s revolutionary culture and censored it in 2012, DJ Unic started his YouTube channel. On the Communist-ruled island of about 11.4 million, the music producer has about 14.7 million views  on YouTube and some 38,000 subscribers. He puts the spotlight on other artists.

To feed Cubans’ insatiable demand for reggaeton, some fans got internet access through illegally shared authorized connections, and they were able to get the illegal music through a decade-old black market distribution system of thumb drives now known as “el paquete.”

The island has already produced stars who are as recognized around the world as the ones from Puerto Rico. In the short documentary “Reggaeton Revolución: Cuba in the Digital Era,” Yosdani Jacob Carmenates said the government ban didn’t stop the music from spreading like a virus. He is now known around the world as Jacob Forever.

Carmenates understood the power of sharing his music for free to create demand for concerts, and after contributing to the success of Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando,” his “Hasta Que Se Seque el Malecon” took off.

The authorized video of the song now has 59.8 million views on YouTube and when it was No. 18 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs, Sony Music Entertainment Latin signed the 35-year-old artist from Camaguey.

DJ Unic continues to work in the shadows in Havana and in Miami with Urban Latin Records. His YouTube account ranks second in the country, according to Social Blade, which tracks users’ statistics and compares data on subscribers, views and growth rate.

DJ Unic’s channel is more popular than any of the accounts the Cuban government uses to spread its approved content. DJ Unic is also among the stars in Cuba who remain committed to Cubaton, a fusion of reggaeton and Son Cubano, the most important genre of Cuban popular music.

Laso just started publishing videos on YouTube about four months ago, including one he published in January warning other musicians that there were Cuban artists who were working for the Cuban government to find out how Miami residents were helping musicians on the island. 

Laso has reported being the constant target of threats after he protested at the Cuban Music Institute in 2016. After he published a video of his song “The False King,” featuring images of Fidel Castro, in January, officers chased him into the cathedral in Cienfuegos, where priests reportedly negotiated his surrender. 

His access to the internet through a government account was canceled, and he has been harassed for years now, his mother, Carmen Susana Martinez, said, according to El Diario de Cuba.  Laso was arrested Feb. 6 in Cienfuegos over an alleged struggle with a state agent that Martinez said left the artist bleeding.

Laso described the incident to relatives as police brutality, but authorities decided it was an assault on a police officer, which could land Laso in prison for three to eight years. His relatives warned on Facebook that Laso was getting threats in prison and Martinez was filing a complaint. 

“After the trial, when they take him to prison, they are going to kill him,” the relative wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. “This is too much. They are going to kill him … God this is too much! Where is the justice?”


Here is Social Blade’s list of the top 10 ranked YouTubers in Cuba: 

1. Radio CFG, who joined in 2007, has about 580,000 subscribers and some 6.8 million video views. 

2. DJ Unic, who joined in 2013, has about 38,000 subscribers and some 14 million video views. Music producer shares raggaeton and Cubaton 

3. Niqui.Bestia, who joined in 2014, has about 15,000 subscribers and some 7 million video views.

4. Kuban4ever, who joined in 2007, has about 35,000 subscribers and some 106 million video views.

5. DJ Conds, who joined in 2012, has about 54,000 subscribers and some 20.2 million video views.

6. CUBA, who joined in 2013, has about 43,000 subscribers and some 24 million video views. This account promotes tourism on the island. 

7. 2Pac to Makaveli, who joined in 2009, has about 74,000 subscribers and some 45.5 million video views. Shares music by Tupac. 

8. elToque, who joined in 2012, has about 4,300 subscribers and some 2.4 million video views. It’s the channel of an independent magazine targeting the 15-35 demographic. 

9. D B M Design, who joined in 2010, has about  19.5K subscribers and some 11.3 million video views.

10. Robelinda, who joined in 2006, has about 25.3K subscribers and some 26 million video views.

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Trump defends congratulating Putin despite criticism

President Donald Trump defended his decision on Wednesday to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection, despite the fact that his national security aides cautioned him against it.

“I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also),” Trump tweeted. “The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

He added: “They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race. Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!”

Trump’s relationship with Putin has long loomed over his presidency due to his broad denial that Russia’s 2016 election meddling benefited his candidacy and the current special counsel probe into whether members of his campaign team colluded with the Russian effort.

Trump has also maintained that he believes keeping close relations with Russia is worthwhile.

But the President has largely failed to press Putin on many of those issues, even as his administration has sought to impose sanctions against Russia. Trump mentioned election meddling in his first meeting with Putin last year, but White House officials said Tuesday that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and accusations that Russia used a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom did not come up during the Tuesday call.

Hours after Trump’s call with Putin, The Washington Post reported that the President’s briefing materials on the call included a warning not to congratulate the Russian autocrat for his recent election victory. Trump did it anyway, though, and later told reporters that he called Putin to congratulate him.

“I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Tuesday. “The call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the not too distant future so that we can discuss arms, we can discuss the arms race.”

Trump, however, was infuriated that the warning from his national security advisers quickly leaked, a source familiar with the President’s thinking told CNN. The President asked allies and outside advisers on Tuesday night who they thought leaked the damaging information, noting that only a small group of staffers have access to those materials and would have known what guidance was included for the Putin call, the source said.

A senior White House official later told CNN that leaking the briefing papers “is a fireable offense and likely illegal.”

Trump’s decision to congratulate Putin was immediately controversial, despite the fact that President Barack Obama did the same in 2012.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, quickly rebuked the President for congratulating the autocrat.

“An American President does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to respond to McCain’s criticism, but also failed to say whether the election in Russia was free and fair.

“We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate. Putin has been elected in their country and it not something we can dictate to them how they operate,” Sanders said.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday that his call with Putin was “very good” and said that the two could meet very soon.

Sanders later told reporters after the call that there are “no specific plans made at this time” for a possible meeting between Trump and Putin.

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Silicon Valley faces sweeping new taxes in Europe

Europe is moving aggressively to raise billions more in tax from big tech companies such as Google and Facebook.

The European Commission proposed sweeping new rules on Wednesday that would drastically change how and where top digital companies are taxed.

The most dramatic is an interim measure that would slap a 3% tax on revenue generated from digital activities including online advertising and the sale of user data. The tax would apply to companies with global revenue of more than €750 million ($920 million).

That tax could add €5 billion ($6.1 billion) a year to the coffers of member countries, the European Commission estimates.

The second measure, which the Commission describes as its “preferred long-term solution,” would tax digital profits where they are generated. The tax would be applied even if companies do not have a physical presence in the country.

“The amount of profits currently going untaxed is unacceptable,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement. “We need to urgently bring our tax rules into the 21st century.”

The measures are designed to stop big tech companies from lowering their tax payments by shifting profits to countries that charge lower rates, such as Ireland or Luxembourg.

The tax proposals must be approved by EU member countries and its parliament, and they could face significant opposition from some governments. Pierre Moscovici, the Commission’s top economy official, said he hoped the rules would be approved before the end of 2018.

The European Commission said in 2016 that Ireland must recover up to €13 billion ($16 billion) in unpaid taxes from Apple, its largest ever tax ruling against a single company.

Big tech, and especially Silicon Valley firms such as Apple and Amazon, is under increasing pressure in Europe, where regulators have taken a much stricter line on privacy and data sharing than in the United States.

Legislation that will come into force in May imposes tough new restrictions on what kind of data can be collected from users, and tech companies will face heavy fines if they violate the rules.

American tech firms are pushing back.

The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents Facebook, Google and Ebay, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in February and urged him to oppose the EU tax proposals.

The industry group cited “rising rhetoric targeting US companies and clear statements of intent to raise revenue from US-based firms.” It said the EU measures “would set a troubling precedent that could deeply harm the US and global business climate.”

Moscovici told reporters that the European Union was not targeting US companies.

“Our proposal does not target any company or any country,” he said. “This is not an anti-American tax … this is a digital tax.”

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