China’s Economy Slowed in April in “Turning Point”
Mark Magnier, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
China’s economic activity weakened more than expected last month on flagging factory demand, part of an anticipated gradual slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy for the rest of 2017. The weaker April data dovetails with other signs that China’s massive economic engine is losing steam after achieving 6.9 percent growth in the first quarter. Still, most economists believe China can achieve its growth target of 6.5 percent this year as momentum from the year’s strong start helps prop up the economy. Despite April’s weakening data, Beijing is grappling with two thorny structural problems: soaring property prices and debt levels after years of fiscal spending and easy-money policies.
Chinese Defense Advisor Says Djibouti Naval Facility is a Much Needed “Military Base”
Kristin Huang, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
An influential Chinese defense adviser explicitly called the navy installation China is establishing in Djibouti a “military base” and said China will need more facilities like it to protect the nation’s growing overseas interests. China is constructing a naval base in Djibouti to provide what it calls logistical support in one of the world’s busiest waterways. The defense ministry said in a statement last year that the facility was mostly for resupply purposes for anti-piracy, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. The annual congress in March had announced that the size of the navy would increase 15 percent, and the marine corps would receive a major expansion.
China, Addicted to Bootleg Software, Reels from Ransomware Attack
Paul Mozur, THE NEW YORK TIMES
China is home to the world’s largest group of internet users, a thriving online technology scene and rampant software piracy that encapsulates its determination to play by its own set of digital rules. But as the country scrambles to recover from a global hacking attack that hit its companies, government agencies and universities especially hard, its dependence on pirated software is getting a harder look. A large number of computers running pirated versions of Windows in China and Russia probably contributed to the cyberattack’s spread, according to the Finnish cybersecurity company F-Secure. Pirated software tends to be more vulnerable to malware and viruses. China, India and Russia were among the countries most affected by the ransomware attack, according to the Moscow-based computer security firm Kaspersky Lab.
Cuban Activists Denounce New Methods of Repression
Nora Gámez Torres, MIAMI HERALD
The government in Havana appears to be more nervous about its domestic opposition than usual, as the island heads into a complicated political transition. Authorities have expelled students from universities, arrested dissidents who want to run in the next elections and forced others into exile. The phones of dissidents and human rights activists also are tapped, making communication with journalists abroad difficult—all part of a campaign to crush criticism at a crucial time. “There is a campaign of annihilation in 2017,” said Eliécer Ávila, a young Havana engineer. Cuban ruler Raúl Castro is expected to retire around that date, which is why the government “is so deeply afraid,” said attorney Laritza Diversent, director of Cubalex, which offers independent legal advice and has proposed several reforms to the electoral system. Cubalex is not recognized by the government.
How North Korea Managed to Defy Years of Sanctions
Jane Perlez, Yufan Huang, and Paul Mozur, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Despite seven rounds of United Nations sanctions over the past eleven years, including a ban on “bulk cash” transfers, large avenues of trade remain open to North Korea, allowing it to earn foreign currency to sustain its economy and finance its program to build a nuclear weapon that can strike the United States. Fraudulent labeling helps support its garment industry, which generated more than $500 million for the isolated nation last year, according to Chinese trade data. North Korea earned an additional $1.1 billion selling coal to China last year using a loophole in the ban on such exports, and researchers say tens of thousands of North Koreans who work overseas as laborers are forced to send back as much as $250 million annually. Diplomats estimate the country makes $70 million more selling rights to harvest seafood from its waters. China accounts for more than 80 percent of trade with North Korea.
Inside North Korea’s Accelerated Plan to Build a Viable Missile
Alastair Gale and Jonathan Cheng, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
North Korea’s launch on Sunday of its most-sophisticated missile yet offered new clues into how serious the country is in its nuclear ambitions. In the past three years, North Korea has launched more major missiles than in the three previous decades combined. That acceleration is one of the most dramatic signs of leader Kim Jong-un’s push to overhaul the country’s weapons program since he took power in late 2011. He has modernized production of nuclear and missile parts, upgraded the program within the military hierarchy and overtly pampered engineers, forcing Western leaders to worry more about Pyongyang’s intentions than ever before.
US-China Trade Plan Hinges on Beijing’s Compliance
William Mauldin, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The US-China pact on greater access to the Asian giant’s economy relies in part on Beijing’s pledge to open markets in two areas—beef and electronic payments—that it has repeatedly promised to open before, only to continue blocking American firms. The trade plan, which so far has no provision for settling disputes, puts a spotlight on broader complaints about Beijing’s record of compliance with trade agreements. The US and other major economies say China hasn’t followed through with all of the commitments it made when it joined the World Trade Organization 15 years ago. Like other developing economies, China has used bureaucratic hurdles to block imports from the US and other countries.
EU Urges End to Venezuela Violence Against Protesters
The European Union is urging Venezuelan authorities to halt the use of violence against peaceful anti-government protesters and says it stands ready to help the country through its political crisis. EU foreign ministers said in a statement Monday that “violence and the use of force will not resolve the crisis in the country.” They said people’s rights “must be respected, including the right to peacefully demonstrate. It is crucial that all parties refrain from violent acts.” The ministers, meeting in Brussels, said that the EU “is fully committed to helping Venezuela find peaceful and democratic solutions and is ready to use all its possible instruments” to help. At least 38 people have been killed and more than 750 injured in more than a month of unrest.
Anti-Maduro Protests Persist in Venezuela, Policeman Shot Dead
Andrew Cawthorne, REUTERS
Opponents of President Nicolás Maduro staged sit-ins and roadblocks across Venezuela on Monday to press for elections, sparking new unrest that killed a policeman. Demonstrators have been on the streets daily since early April to demand elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign humanitarian aid to offset an economic crisis, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled legislature. Maduro accuses them of seeking a violent coup. Trying to vary tactics and keep momentum, protesters rode horses through Caracas on Saturday and took letters and flowers to police and military posts on Mother’s Day on Sunday. In the city of Valencia, demonstrators clashed with security forces, and the local governor, of the ruling Socialist Party, said a sniper shot a policeman in the head, killing him, on a major highway.