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Lenovo ropes in Ranbir Kapoor as ambassador for smartphones

NEW DELHI: Chinese tech giant Lenovo has roped in Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor as the brand ambassador for its range of smartphones in India.

As part of the association, Kapoor will endorse Lenovo’s range of smartphones and will feature in various television and online commercials for the brand in India.

The youth icon already endorses Lenovo’s PCs and tablets. “Ranbir Kapoor is a multi-talented and popular actor, who is admired across the nation. We are delighted to be associated with him, as he is an extremely versatile, endearing and stylish performer just like our range of Lenovo smartphones,” Lenovo India Director (Smartphones) Sudhin Mathur said.

This partnership will expand Lenovo’s reach into the consumer space and enhance the preference for its smartphones in India, he added.

Lenovo ranked fifth in the tally after Samsung, Apple, Huawei and LG Electronics in smartphone sales with 4.5 per cent share of the global smartphone market in 2013, according to research firm Gartner.

In the October-December quarter of 2013, it had a global share of 4.6 per cent and ranked fourth, ahead of LG.

With a 166.8 per cent increase in the fourth quarter of 2013, India exhibited the highest smartphone sales growth, Gartner had said.

Another report estimated that the Indian smartphone market in India has grown almost three-fold to 44 million units in 2013, driven by huge uptake in sales of affordable smartphones from the stables of homegrown handset makers like Micromax and Karbonn.

Huawei to match branding spend of top mobile firms in India

NEW DELHI: In a bid to gain 10 per cent market share by 2017, Chinese telecom firm Huawei today said that it will match brand building expenditure of leading mobile handset makers across all platforms in India.

“We will start TV advertisements from today. GRP will reflect our spent on branding. Soon, we will issue full page advertisements in leading newspapers across 100 top cities. Our outdoor teasers have already started. We are now running 360 degree branding campaign,” P Sanjeev, India Business Head for Huawei & Honor Consumer Business said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of launching three 4G smartphones — Honor 8, Honor 8 Smart and its first Made-in-India smartphone Honor Holly 3 here.

The company has roped in badminton player Saina Nehwal as its brand ambassador.

As per IDC data for April-June 2016, Samsung topped India mobile market with 25.1 per cent market share followed by Micromax 12.9 per cent share, Lenovo Group (including Motorola) 7.7 per cent market share.

Huawei is third largest mobile device seller globally after Apple and Samsung.

“We are looking for third spot in India and 10 per cent market share by 2017. Our manufacturing in India will help us in accelerating supplies to market. Now, we are ready to compete on all fronts,” Sanjeev said.

He said that Huawei is working to provide phones at all price points.

The Honor 8 smartphone priced at Rs 29,999 a piece is more about smart camera function.

The 4G smartphone comes with 12 megapixel dual-lens camera comprising a RGB and a monochrome lens at the back and 8 MP in the front. It has number of post-editing feature like image enhancement, focus change etc along with camera adjustment features like light aperture and shutter speed.

It has Huawei’s Kirin 950 octa-core processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, 3100 mAH battery and support 128 GB external storage.

The company is offering 2 years warranty on Honor 8.

“Honor 8 will be available both online and offline. In offline, we have increased our reach from 1,500 retail counters to 10,000 now across more than 340 districts with 390 distributors on board in just two months. We are looking to sell out products across 50,000 retail counters by year end,” Sanjeev said.

While Honor 8 is now starting selling, the company has not announced sale date for Honor 8 Smart and Honor Holly 3.

Honor 8 Smart comes with 5.2-inch screen, 13 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera, 2GB Ram, 16 GB internal memory and external support of up to 128 GB, 3000 mAH battery and is priced at Rs 19,999.

The 5.5 inch screen size phone Holly 3, priced at Rs 9,999, has 13 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera, 3100 mAH battery and allows manual control of camera like shutter speed, exposure setting, focus mode and white balance.

Huawei names Lionel Messi as its global brand ambassador

NEW DELHI: Huawei today announced appointment of soccer superstar Lionel Messi as global brand ambassador for its consumer business group that deals in mobile devices.

“Lionel Messi will help our brand encourage people to focus, persevere… to connect with greatness, especially in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, where Huawei puts great devotion,” Huawei Consumer BG President for Handset Business Kevin Ho said in a statement.

The partnership with Messi showcases the brand’s alignment with people and brands that demonstrate, and strive towards its shared value of connecting greatness, it said.

Messi is also global brand ambassador for Indian auto major

Tata Motors

.

“Just like our brand which strives for excellence and innovates to better itself to reach newer heights of greatness, Messi is the epitome of perseverance, excellence and commitment,” Huawei India CBG President Allen Wang said.

Huawei shipped 108 million smartphones in 2015 and became the third-largest player after Apple and Samsung. The company has set a target of growing its smartphone sales by 300 per cent this year.

It has been in the Indian market for the last 16 years and has associated itself with cricket as a sponsor of IPL team RCB.

“Besides cricket, football is another game which has a lot of followers in India and we are excited to be associated with the world’s top football athlete,” Wang said.

Xi Jinping’s tech wonderland runs into headwinds

At a new 400-acre research-and-development center on China’s south coast, Huawei Technologies Co. engineers chat, tap at their phones, or chill out on a small electric tram that whirs them between buildings modeled variously on the Sorbonne or England’s great universities. They move through neighbourhoods built in the style of Versailles or Renaissance Italy, passing by some of the 3,000 gardening and maintenance staff needed to keep the vast parklands immaculate.

It’s late July, and on this Disneyland-like corporate campus about an hour and a half’s drive from Hong Kong, Huawei seems to be basking in the wealth from its leadership in 5G mobile technology. No other company has done more to project the image of a technologically advanced China on the international stage. And no other company stands as a greater symbol of China’s engagement with the outside world.

Huawei’s vaulting ambition to be at the forefront of future-defining technologies has landed the company in the crosshairs of the U.S. and other governments that see it as a conduit for the geopolitical objectives of the Chinese Communist Party. In mid-August the U.S. Department of Commerce, at President Trump’s direction, handed down yet another round of restrictions aimed at cutting Huawei’s access to commercially available computing chips it needs to make 5G base stations and smartphones.

The fortunes of China’s largest technology company by revenue are entwined with a vast project that’s now the front line of the hugely consequential tech war between the U.S. and China: the Greater Bay Area, a region tasked by President Xi Jinping with pushing the nation toward global technology leadership.

The GBA’s ability to innovate and integrate enough to succeed in that task is facing its stiffest challenge yet from a U.S.-led global backlash against Chinese tech and Beijing’s political crackdown in Hong Kong. If the GBA’s companies can surmount the obstacles being placed in their path, they could well determine how advanced and prosperous China can become under Xi.

The Pearl River Delta — long one of China’s richest and most economically dynamic regions and rebranded by Xi as the Greater Bay Area — stretches from the forested hills around Zhaoqing in the northwest to the concrete towers of Hong Kong Island in the southeast. It’s the epicenter of Xi’s strategy to attain high-income status, bind the former colonial centers of Hong Kong and Macao into the motherland, and complete what he calls the “rejuvenation” of the Chinese nation. He wants this region of about 70 million people to rival the clusters of Tokyo Bay or San Francisco-Silicon Valley and the role they play in driving innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth.

Huawei reflects Xi’s grand vision for the Pearl River Delta. But as pressure from the Trump administration grows, executives of the company, which had a record $122 billion in sales last year, show signs of recognizing the changing, narrowing world in which they’re now living.

Guo Fulin, a two-decade veteran of the company who ran parts of its business in Europe and is now its president of international media affairs, deploys gnomic understatement to describe Huawei’s predicament. “The star in the sky will shine either to the west or to the east,” he says, meaning there will be opportunities for Huawei whether the U.S. slams the door shut or not. “We are not targeting every customer in the world. Customers who choose Huawei will eventually live better.”

With his actions — restricting sales of high-end semiconductors to Huawei, banning Americans from doing business with Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat app — Trump threatened revenue and product development at China’s most innovative companies. The importance of that is magnified by the timing of his actions, which come as China is upgrading its industries, with many sectors still in need of expertise from abroad to complete the development Xi expects.

China’s leaders maintain their public commitment to the open, globalized world economy that’s benefited the nation so handsomely over the past two decades. But Xi is also adopting inward-looking ideas of self-sufficiency in a shift back to an industrial model less integrated into global supply chains. That’s not necessarily in China’s interest, says David Dollar, a former U.S. Treasury emissary to the country who’s now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The danger is if you feel you have to respond to the U.S. protectionism with Chinese protectionism,” he says. “If you go down that road, then all this aspiration to become a more innovative economy is pretty hopeless.”

The Greater Bay Area strategy is rooted in an earlier time in Xi’s chairmanship that was all about China going out into the world through investment, acquisitions, and geopolitical partnership-building through initiatives such as the “Belt and Road” enterprise. First mooted by Shenzhen local authorities in 2014, and then elevated into a central government policy blueprint unveiled last year, the plan outlines the ambition to build a tech hub to “target the most advanced technologies and industries in the world.”

Far from Beijing and close to the open sea, the Pearl River Delta has long been China’s most mercantile and innovative place. The crowded islands that form Hong Kong and Macao remain separate jurisdictions even today, with their own laws, currencies, and political traditions shaped by the legacy of British and Portuguese colonialism. In Hong Kong, the differences between local society and the political culture across the border are a major source of friction, with hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong taking to the streets in often violent protests last year to push back against increased control by the Communist Party.

Standing among the futuristic towers of Shenzhen, just across the marshy borderland from Hong Kong, it’s easy to imagine the goal of technological leadership being within reach. In this city, mythologized as rising from a mere fishing village to a global metropolis within four decades, companies with a genuine claim to world leadership have their home.

More than a dozen Fortune Global 500 companies in the Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Shenzhen conurbation help drive a trillion-dollar economy that exports more than Japan does. The region spends double the national average on R&D, and Shenzhen alone accounts for more than a fifth of China’s high-end exports.

Huawei began in 1987 with its founder, Ren Zhengfei, repeatedly crossing the border, importing telephone switching gear from Hong Kong that he then resold to customers in China who were desperate for upgraded communications. Today the employee-owned company has sales in about 170 countries. At its corporate headquarters in Shenzhen, lavish reception rooms for visitors are modeled on Japan’s old Kyoto, with refreshments intended to make executives feel at ease before being pitched for deals on telecom hardware.

But the list of nations that see Huawei as a proxy for China’s geopolitical ambitions is growing. Following the U.S. lead, the U.K. is banning the company from its next-generation 5G networks and requiring that Huawei technology already installed in existing equipment be stripped out by 2027. Australia has shut the company out, as has Japan. India may curb Huawei and its tech neighbor in Shenzhen, ZTE Corp., from its networks as relations between the two states deteriorate.

This kind of tech decoupling could cost the world economy some $3.5 trillion in wasted output over the next five years, according to a report in July by Deutsche Bank AG. The costs arise from extra R&D, demand disruption, and supply chain rerouting that would become necessary if the current flow of know-how and parts—much of which already passes through China—shifts permanently.

That’s already happening at Huawei and, more broadly, in China. Huawei says that Trump sanctions enacted in May, which forbid companies using U.S. technology from supplying the Chinese company, cut it off from about 2% of its imported parts, which can’t be sourced elsewhere. To be able to completely replace lost technology could take Huawei an additional five to eight years, it says; outside estimates point to 10 years or more. That’s “a big loss for us,” Yu Chengdong, chief executive officer of Huawei’s consumer business group, said publicly in August.

Chinese leaders have frequently said that pressure from the outside will make the nation redouble its efforts to catch up technologically. There’s evidence that a broad push is under way to increase research and design capacity. Initial public offerings by Chinese semiconductor companies had raised a record $10 billion as of August as companies seek to localize supply chains.

That’s exactly the kind of duplication of effort that Deutsche Bank warns of, and there’s no guarantee that local companies can make up for what they’ve lost from the outside anytime soon. That could leave the GBA in the position of being a leading tech hub within and for China’s domestic market, but falling short of playing that role for the world.

Even as U.S. actions have hurt some tech companies in the Greater Bay Area, the Covid-19 pandemic has boosted others. The headquarters of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Co. is an appropriately clinical-looking, 35-story tower in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District. It manufactures, among other products, the SV800 and SV300 series of medical ventilators vital to treating patients severely affected by Covid-19.

The company’s three founders—including Li Xiting, a Singapore resident who was already the city-state’s second-richest man—had added about $17 billion to their combined wealth this year as demand soared. Mindray Vice President Huang Haitao says the company, which plows 10% of revenue back into R&D, aims to break into the global top 20 of medical equipment companies and push the industry’s frontiers into automation and artificial intelligence.

But Mindray, which says its medical equipment is used in the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and at Mayo Clinic campuses, may not be immune from U.S. targeting forever. In August, as part of his presidential campaign, Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden vowed to end American reliance on Chinese medical equipment. “Some parts of our equipment are manufactured in the U.S.,” Huang says. “For the sake of supply chain safety, we’ll abide by all American and international laws. At the same time, we’re also actively developing backup plans, which include looking for alternative suppliers.”

Innovation in the GBA is driven largely by companies, not universities, making the pace of progress more susceptible to the business cycle and the fortunes of any inpidual company. There is no Berkeley or Stanford here. China’s best minds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics still graduate from Tsinghua and Peking universities in the capital and Fudan University in Shanghai, thousands of kilometers away.

That’s an issue singled out by Eric Guo, chief artificial intelligence scientist at Guangdong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications Corp., the world’s fifth-largest smartphone manufacturer. The 36-year-old former Microsoft Corp. researcher has a Ph.D. from Purdue University in Indiana.

Sitting in corporate offices soon to be superseded by headquarters designed by Zaha Hadid, Guo praises the quality of life in Shenzhen. He points out that branches of China’s top-flight colleges are coming to Shenzhen, but more needs to be done, because the beauty and efficacy of university research is that it’s not constrained by making money in the short term. “Universities are the engines of innovation,” he says.

Less than 20 miles away, in central Hong Kong, it was university students who took to the streets during the summer of 2019, protesting first against a law that would erode the legal separation between the former British colony and the mainland, and then more generally against Beijing’s rule over the city.

In many ways, Hong Kong is doing what it’s always done—getting on with doing business with China—and it’s still the funnel through which most foreign direct investment flows into the wider GBA. But large parts of its population now see closer ties with the mainland as anathema, and rising tensions have pided a community that might have been expected to help knit together the GBA’s future economy.

That doesn’t bode well for what many in the business community see as the best long-term growth opportunities for either Hong Kong or the Greater Bay Area. “Hong Kong’s role is getting GBA companies to go global—a kind of adapter,” says Ben Simpfendorfer, founder of consulting firm Silk Road Associates. “Hong Kong needs to retain its connectivity to international markets.”

Beijing still pledges allegiance to the constitutional principle of “one country, two systems,” but the implementation of a national security law this past summer drew a quick response from the U.S., which removed a long-standing special trade privilege Hong Kong had enjoyed. That in itself “deepens pessimism” about the long-term business prospects in the city, according to a statement issued by the American Chamber of Commerce.

Policymakers in Beijing are plowing ahead with measures to ensure Hong Kong continues to play its role as the offshore financial center of the Greater Bay Area. The so-called Wealth Management Connect, for example, was announced in June, allowing residents in Hong Kong, Macao, and Guangdong to invest across the border.

But uncertainty is riding high. Nicholas Kwan, head of research for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, stresses that without an open and connected business and political environment, the city can’t play its proper role in the broader strategy. “We can’t just be part of China,” he says. “We also have to be part of the rest of the world.”

Some would say the same of the Greater Bay Area. As it was when Deng Xiaoping opened the region to foreign investment four decades ago, China’s dynamic south has once more been handed the role of driving the nation’s rise. But in an era when China, like Huawei, is being challenged on all sides, grand economic growth projects like the GBA have no guarantee of success, and Xi’s plans for the region now hang in the balance.

— With Edwin Chan, Gao Yuan, Venus Feng, and Iain Marlow

India puts up Rs 20,000 crore to lure global electronics makers, leaves China out

NEW DELHI: India has put up a massive 20,000 crore on the table to lure global electronics makers to set up shop here. But it is not inviting the big daddy of them all – its neighbour China – to the party.

India’s Electronics System Design and Manufacturing initiative aims to slash the country’s import bill for electronics goods which, if unchecked, could cross $400 billion by 2020 and even race past the amount spent on importing oil.

As part of its push, India is sending trade delegations to various countries, offering sops like tax breaks, to attract investment in electronics. But no team will be visiting China, where more than half the world’s contract manufacturing in electronics takes place.

“The anti-dumping cases on Chinese companies are well known,” said Ajay Kumar, a joint secretary at the Ministry of Communications and IT who heads the new electronics manufacturing plan. “China is known to grant high subsidies and loans and quote high incentives to attract investment from the world over.”

Instead, India hopes to entice investors from countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Germany and US with its new plan. In a meeting in late June, attended by major consultants like Frost and Sullivan, AT Kearney and PricewaterhouseCoopers, authorities ruled out approaching China for investments.

“It’s true that China is not our focus country, but that should not deter any Chinese company to come and invest in India,” said Kumar, adding that India was in some sense “competing with China for this kind of investment”.

Currently, India’s production constitutes only about 1.3% of the global electronics hardware production of $1.7 trillion.

In contrast, China is home to some of the largest electronics manufacturers such as Foxconn, Huawei and ZTE. Foxconn supplies components to almost all popular electronics brands, including Apple and Nokia. On the other hand, Huawei and ZTE have over the past couple of years become the preferred equipment vendors for telecom operators worldwide, including Indian players like

Airtel

and Reliance.

A senior PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant on e-governance said even if India tried to invite Chinese companies, it was not likely to succeed. “India remains a high cost country for electronics manufacturing in contrast with China,” said the PwC executive who did not wish to be identified. “It’s an investment promotion scheme, and would be prudent to invite countries where cost of manufacturing is higher than in India, like Japan.”

The Indian Semiconductor Association defended India’s decision to bypass China, saying the idea is to create intellectual property.

“Countries like the US and Japan have always been on the forefront of design and intellectual property in the world in semiconductor technologies,” said Rajiv Jain, associate director at ISA. “China on the other hand leads electronics manufacturing in the world. So, it may be good for India to focus on countries which drive IP and product creation.”

Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal is expected to lead a delegation to Germany in September to showcase India’s new policy. India will begin accepting applications for the investments from October. Through its recently announced Modified-Special Incentive Package Scheme, or M-SIPS, the Indian government offers up to 20% subsidy on capital expenditure incurred to set up manufacturing plants for electronics. If the plants are not in special economic zones, then the discount will be up to 25%.

harsimran.julka@timesgroup.com

Microsoft gets into 5G race with Azure cloud for telecom operators, aims to use AI for ops

Microsoft Corp unveiled a new cloud platform on Monday aimed at enabling telecom operators to build 5G networks faster, reduce costs and sell customised services to business clients.

After banning China’s Huawei [HWT.UL] from its telecom network, the U.S. government has been pushing big American companies such as Microsoft to get more involved with 5G – a technology which promises to enable everything from self-driving cars to remote surgery and more automated manufacturing.

The new platform will be on Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud computing business, and the company says it will reduce infrastructure costs, give flexibility to add services on demand and use artificial intelligence to automate operations.

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president for Azure Networking, told Reuters that it could cut costs by 30%-40% in some cases.

The developer of Windows and Office software entered the 5G arena after its acquisition of cloud networking companies Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch earlier this year.

“The telco DNA was obtained through those acquisitions and we went from a small number of engineers in this space to literally hundreds of engineers,” said Khalidi. “On the other hand, the foundational pieces, including edge compute, we have had in a pipeline for many years.”

The company has already partnered with companies ranging from telecom operators such as Verizon and AT&T to network equipment firms such as Samsung and Mavenir to either use or sell the new platform to clients.

Microsoft’s move will increase competition for existing 5G service vendors like Nokia and Ericsson , said CCS Insight analyst Nicholas McQuire.

On the downside, blocking TikTok opens a can of worms for Facebook, Google

By David Fickling

Be careful what you wish for.

You might think that the Trump administration banning Chinese ownership of video-sharing app TikTok in the U.S. on national security grounds would be a win for social-media competitors such as Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Twitter Inc. Selling Bytedance Inc.’s operations in several major English-speaking markets to Microsoft Corp. raises the hope that TikTok might suffer the sort of benign neglect that’s neutered other Microsoft-owned media assets, such as LinkedIn and Skype. Facebook lost no time in launching a copycat video-sharing service to compete.

The decision opens a Pandora’s Box that digital platforms might one day wish had been kept closed. By citing data privacy and foreign influence to justify its restrictions, the U.S. has thrown a spotlight on issues that Silicon Valley’s social media companies have done well to keep in the shadows as they’ve grown to world-spanning power.

While it’s tempting to label President Donald Trump’s actions around TikTok a “shakedown,” his administration hasn’t been uniquely hostile to foreign investment, despite a barrage of hot rhetoric and high-profile cases around Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. Even after a law was passed in 2018 to tighten national security scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., Washington’s takeover-review panel, investigations by last year were being initiated at a rate similar to during President Barack Obama’s second term. Foreign direct investment in the U.S., meanwhile, has continued to tick upward around long-term trend rates.

Media companies have always been regulated more tightly, especially in relation to foreign ownership. Rupert Murdoch had to give up Australian citizenship to buy a group of U.S. television stations in 1985, and little has changed since. When a British-Polish couple spent $8,000 buying a tiny radio station serving the upstate New York town of Tupper Lake in 2018, they needed to apply for a special waiver from the Federal Communications Commission.

In that context, the lax treatment of digital media platforms looks like a loophole that’s never been closed. TikTok hasn’t needed to get a permission note from the FCC to get a lock on the attention of tens of millions of Americans, any more than Facebook has needed to jump media-ownership hoops in other countries to become the prime news source to more than 2.4 billion active users outside the U.S.

Part of the reason for the distinction comes down to a simple issue of enforcement. Broadcasters are treated as special cases because they depend on licenses to the limited public radio spectrum, giving governments leverage that they don’t have over print and digital companies.

Still, behind all media regulation is a recognition of the industry’s importance in forming a country’s public sphere and shaping the direction of political debate. That’s an awkward space for democratic governments, given how it edges close to controls on freedom of speech. Historically, the solution has been to use antitrust powers to prevent any player getting too large an audience, combined with foreign investment and local-content rules to prevent outsize control by overseas owners.

Those regulations were designed for an era that had never conceived of Facebook, though. Thanks to that lack of oversight and decades of lobbying, the Silicon Valley companies that are now the world’s largest media businesses have been more or less exempt from the regulation that their print-and-broadcast peers still deal with.

The extent to which this has been the case is remarkable. Even among authoritarian countries, China is unusual for banning U.S. digital platforms. People in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Russia are respectively among the biggest users of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. That’s been a quiet victory for companies that make billions in revenue outside the U.S. The attack on TikTok has made this status quo far more difficult to maintain.

In Europe, privacy issues have already spawned the General Data Protection Regulation that now puts cookie pop-ups onto every website you visit. The European Union’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, has repeatedly warned that breaking up tech giants remains on the table, if only as a “last resort.”

It would be better for Silicon Valley’s social media companies if they could hold on a little longer to their fraying image as innocuous providers of cat videos and inspirational quotes, rather than under-regulated behemoths with the power to sway electorates. By putting that issue so firmly on the agenda, the Trump administration hasn’t done them any favors.

TikTok’s American makeover just took a bruising

By Tim Culpan

You can’t get much more American than Disney. So it was quite a coup when a Chinese upstart managed to snag one of the family entertainment giant’s senior executives.

Kevin Mayer was head of Walt Disney Co.’s streaming business before Beijing-based ByteDance Inc. tapped him to become chief executive officer of TikTok, the company’s short-video service for international markets. Less than four months later, he’s now gone from ByteDance, whose $140 billion valuation makes it the world’s biggest unicorn.

Beyond losing a CEO, Mayer’s departure bruises TikTok’s makeover into an American company that’s not beholden to the Chinese government. President Donald Trump alleges that it’s a national security threat because of close links to Beijing and access to data on U.S. users. He’s issued an executive order that essentially forces a sale to a non-Chinese buyer.

As my colleague Tara Lachapelle wrote when Mayer was appointed in May, he’d been considered a front-runner to lead the Magic Kingdom upon Bob Iger’s departure before the job went to Bob Chapek. Being passed over may have been a reason for Mayer to jump ship. Or it could have been the prospect of a lucrative package at a fast-growing company. Perhaps he simply wanted to lead an exciting new business on the cutting edge of entertainment and technology.

Whatever Mayer’s motives, one thing is certain: A key reason for ByteDance to hire him was to put an American face on a Chinese company trying to shed its roots and become a U.S. entity porced from even the perception of any ties to Beijing. Indeed, in suing the U.S. government this week, TikTok offered the nationality of its senior management as proof of its U.S. credentials.

The key personnel responsible for TikTok, including its CEO, Global Chief Security Officer, and General Counsel, are all Americans based in the United States—and therefore are not subject to Chinese law.

Mayer may have been a little naive. At the time of his appointment, Washington had already launched a national security review of the TikTok app, which curates user-generated short videos and has over 100 million U.S. subscribers. The Federal Trade Commission had fined ByteDance for violating children’s privacy. One user had become famous for being censored due to her camouflaged message of support for the rights of China’s Uighur minority.

Remember that the Trump administration had previously launched attacks on other Chinese companies, including ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co., while dozens more had been placed on blacklists over national security concerns.

Mayer should have seen what was coming, namely a push to either ban TikTok or force its separation from ByteDance. Yet his statement to staff, obtained by Bloomberg News, indicates he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, adapt to the change foisted upon him.

“As the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection,” the memo says. “I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration’s action to push for a selloff of the U.S. business.”

To be fair, the full circumstances of his resignation aren’t clear. It’s possible that Mayer was asked to leave, or that his departure was a precondition to a sale that’s due to be announced within weeks. There may be other factors that have yet to come to light, so he deserves some benefit of the doubt.

What’s not in question is the setback for TikTok and its parent, ByteDance. Mayer’s appointment brought with it the gravitas of a seasoned, experienced professional at the top of his game with more than 15 years at the world’s most-respected entertainment company. More importantly, TikTok loses a sense of Americanism that it desperately needs.

Even if the forced sale does go through — there’s a Sept. 15 deadline — TikTok will continue to face suspicion among those wary of Chinese influence, especially as the U.S. heads into a presidential election in which Beijing is a convenient scapegoat for many of the country’s troubles.

His role will temporarily be filled by General Manager Vanessa Pappas (who is of Greek-Australian heritage and a long-term U.S. resident). While a permanent CEO will also likely be a Westerner, Mayer’s short stint signals the kind of instability TikTok can ill-afford right now.

UK Parliament committee says Huawei colludes with the Chinese state

LONDON : The British parliament‘s defence committee said on Thursday that it had found clear evidence that telecoms giant Huawei had colluded with the Chinese state and said Britain may need to remove all Huawei equipment earlier than planned.

“The West must urgently unite to advance a counterweight to China’s tech dominance,” the Defence Committee said, adding that developments could prompt Britain to remove Huawei from 5G networks as early as 2025. Washington and its allies say Huawei technology could be used to spy for China. Huawei has repeatedly denied this.

China preparing an antitrust investigation into Google: Sources

BEIJING/SINGAPORE/SHENZHEN: China is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Alphabet Inc‘s Google, looking into allegations it has leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition, two people familiar with the matter said.

The case was proposed by telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd last year and has been submitted by the country’s top market regulator to the State Council’s antitrust committee for review, they added.

A decision on whether to proceed with a formal investigation may come as soon as October and could be affected by the state of China’s relationship with the United States, one of the people said.

The potential investigation follows a raft of actions by U.S. President Donald Trump‘s administration to hobble Chinese tech companies, citing national security risks.

This has included putting Huawei on its trade blacklist, threatening similar action for Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp and ordering TikTok owner ByteDance to pest the short-form video app.

It also comes as China embarks on a major revamp of its antitrust laws with proposed amendments including a dramatic increase in maximum fines and expanded criteria for judging a company’s control of a market.

A potential probe would also look at accusations that Google’s market position could cause “extreme damage” to Chinese companies like Huawei, as losing the U.S. tech giant’s support for Android-based operating systems would lead to loss of confidence and revenue, a second person said.

The sources were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter and declined to be identified. Google did not provide immediate comment, while Huawei declined to comment.

China’s top market regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the State Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

EUROPE’S EXAMPLE

The U.S. trade blacklist bars Google from providing technical support to new Huawei phone models and access to Google Mobile Services, the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.

Google had a temporary licence that exempted it from the ban on Huawei but it expired in August.

It was not immediately clear what Google services the potential probe would focus on. Most Chinese smartphone vendors use an open-source version of the Android platform with alternatives to Google services on their domestic phones. Google’s search, email and other services are blocked in China.

Huawei has said it missed its 2019 revenue target by $12 billion, which company officials have attributed to U.S. actions against it. Seeking to overcome its reliance on Google, the Chinese firm announced plans this month to introduce its proprietary Harmony operating system in smartphones next year.

Chinese regulators will be looking at examples set by their peers in Europe and in India if it proceeds with the antitrust investigation, the first source said.

“China will also look at what other countries have done, including holding inquiries with Google executives,” said the person.

The second source added that one learning point would be how fines are levied based on a firm’s global revenues rather than local revenues.

The European Union fined Google 4.3 billion euros ($5.1 billion) in 2018 over anticompetitive practices, including forcing phone makers to pre-install Google apps on Android devices and blocking them from using rivals to Google’s Android and search engine.

That decision prompted Google to give European users more choice over default search tools and giving handset makers more leeway to use competing systems.

Indian authorities are looking into allegations that Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app.