China’s idle youth problem. Job openings in China fell 7.6 percent during the first three months of 2019 compared with the fourth quarter of 2018 despite a short-term stabilization of the Chinese economy, according to a new report from the China Institute for Employment Research at the Renmin University of China in Beijing. Meanwhile, the number of potential applicants rose to the highest level since 2011, growing 31 percent over the previous quarter. The ratio of job seekers to job openings is now just 1.86. There are some major regional disparities, with around five job seekers competing for every opening in China’s more prosperous eastern and southern provinces – those most directly exposed to fallout from the trade war – compared with around two applicants competing for every opening in “rust belt” provinces in the northeast. This is an obvious problem, particularly as China produces more and more college graduates. And it may explain, at least in part, why Beijing is dusting off Mao’s playbook and sending young people to the interior en masse. Two weeks ago, the Global Times reported that the Communist Youth League was planning to send as many as 10 million young “volunteers” to rural areas by 2020 to “increase their skills, spread civilisation and promote science and technology.” On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing needed to “clarify the relationship between the party and Chinese youth movements, strengthen political guidance for young people, guide them to voluntarily insist on the party’s leadership, to listen to the party and follow the party.” It’s clear what’s keeping Chinese leaders up at night.
The tech war continues. The CIA has concluded that China’s National Security Commission, the People’s Liberation Army and a third branch of the Chinese state intelligence network have been funding Chinese telecom giant Huawei, according to a new report by British newspaper The Times. The CIA has not confirmed the report, which Huawei dismissed as baseless. But according to a CIA source, the intelligence has been shared with the other members of the “Five Eyes” intel alliance – the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada – as the U.S. continues its try to persuade allies across the globe to ban Chinese 5G equipment on national security grounds. The other Five Eyes governments have been more willing than most countries to follow the U.S. lead on the matter, though some, such as the U.K., haven’t gone quite as far as the U.S. would like, partly because Washington hasn’t been able to produce a “smoking gun” that Chinese tech is as threatening as claimed. Watch for any moves from these firms in the coming weeks that suggest the evidence reportedly provided by the CIA is indeed convincing. This will be critical to getting more skeptical countries like Germany on board, not to mention less wealthy U.S. defense partners in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia (which are ever more attracted to the cost advantages of Chinese tech). Ultimately, the direction most governments choose to go with 5G will be based primarily on their assessments not of Chinese intent but of Chinese capability – both China’s potential to use telecom infrastructure for nefarious aims and to host governments’ ability to detect and root out cybersecurity threats, wherever firms like Huawei get their funding from.
- Egyptians headed to the polls Saturday in a three-day referendum on constitutional changes that could allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
- Dozens of “yellow vest” protesters clashed with police in Paris.
- Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and his entire Cabinet resigned following the massacre of some 160 Fulani herders last month.
- According to a White House statement released Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Khalifa Haftar, the de facto leader of eastern Libya. They discussed the need to achieve peace and security in the war-torn country. The U.S. had been cooperating with the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, which Haftar’s forces have been trying to displace in an offensive over the past couple weeks.
- The U.S. Navy’s oldest operational warship, the USS Blue Ridge, made a port call in Hong Kong.
- The average nonperforming loan ratio of China’s “big six” banks – Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Bank of Communications, China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Postal Savings Bank of China – fell to 1.46 percent at the end of last year, compared with 1.51 percent at the end of 2017, according to Moody’s.