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Kenichiro Yoshida, president and chief executive officer of Sony, speaks at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Kenichiro Yoshida, president and chief executive officer of Sony, speaks at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sony’s gaming division appointed senior executive Jim Ryan as its new president and CEO on Tuesday.

Ryan will be appointed to his new role on April 1, taking the reins from John Kodera, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) said in a statement.

The executive previously served as SIE’s deputy president and was head of global sales and marketing before that.

“Our Game & Network Services business has grown into the Sony Group’s largest business in terms of both sales and operating income,” Yoshida said in a statement. “Furthermore, our business in this domain holds significant importance as our growth driver going forward.”

He added: “At the same time, this industry is relentlessly fast-moving, and to remain the market leader, we must constantly evolve ourselves with a sense of urgency.”

The move marks the second time in two years that the company has named a new PlayStation boss — Kodera was appointed in October 2017 — and comes after it reported a drop in profits and sales of its PlayStation 4 console.

Speculation has been growing over the firm’s next big console, as the PS4 approaches the end of its lifecycle. Sony President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida confirmed last year that the product was in development, but remained tight-lipped on the branding and features.

Tom Wijman, senior market analyst at gaming research firm Newzoo, said the leadership change was likely about Sony’s renewed focus on the services side of its business, the PlayStation Network, or PSN.

“Two key trends play a role here: firstly, game franchises are slowly turning into entertainment franchises,” Wijman said. “Secondly, in an era of gaming-as-a-service and the upcoming games subscriptions, owning IP (intellectual property) is very valuable.”

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Social media has become a battleground in Hong Kong’s protests

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Police officers line up during a protest against police violence during previous marches, near China’s Liaison Office, Hong Kong, China.

Edgar Su | Reuters

Hong Kong demonstrators have remained largely anonymous, using social media to avoid being identified and arrested by police authorities. Media experts said such tech has played a significant role in the documentation, organization, and assembly of the large-scale demonstrations.

Using social media as a tool to galvanize support during a political movement isn’t new — the image of a yellow umbrella was widely shared on Facebook to show support to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in 2014. But this time around, the protesters are using social media in a way demonstrating a heightened awareness of cybersecurity and an increased understanding of how to effectively communicate with the medium.

The ‘battle for public opinion’

Social media has changed the way people document history, said Tracy Loh, senior lecturer of communication management at Singapore Management University. She told CNBC that social media has played a “more apparent” role in the 2019 protests than ever before.

Just as in the 2014 “Umbrella Movement,” social media is being used by protesters to conceal identities, spread information, mobilize demonstrators and avoid detainment — but it’s now gone beyond that, according to Loh

“I think that what has changed now is that social media is used to win the hearts and minds of the people. Both sides are using images of police brutality and/or protester brutality to further their own agendas,” she said.

The ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong — a former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 — started as peaceful rallies against a single proposed law. They’ve since snowballed into a wider pro-democracy movement, with some even demanding full autonomy from Beijing and occasional outbreaks of violence and disruptions to the city’s operations.

Protesters have circulated images of a female protester that was injured in the eye by members of the police force, and videos of police brutality have been spread to galvanize demonstrators, explained Loh. But, in the meantime, Chinese authorities have also utilized the power of social media, pushing out videos of military vehicles on standby in the neighboring city of Shenzhen and circulating videos of protesters disrupting public transit operations.

Social media has been used “as a tool in the battle for public opinion,” said Loh. She added that it has become more and more difficult for users and consumers of online content because they have to “deal with misinformation and fake news and the associated damages that (such content) can cause.”

‘Leaderless’ action

The heightened awareness of encryption and anonymity shown by demonstrators is another thing that is different from the 2014 protests.

Telegram groups and channels have been created to share live news feed, action information, and “intelligence” about a variety of ongoing and upcoming activities, said King-wa Fu, associate professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hong Kong University. The professor added that those channels have been able to become
“powerful mobilization channels” as well as coordination tools.

In fact, many mobile messaging apps have seen a tremendous surge in downloads during recent months, according to Randy Nelson, head of mobile insights at San Francisco-based mobile data tracking firm Sensor Tower. He said first-time downloads of the Telegram secure messaging app grew 323% year-over-year last month in Hong Kong, reaching 110,000 versus 26,000 in July 2018. That compares to 92% growth for the rest of the world, Nelson told CNBC.

Local forums such as LIHKG, an online forum similar to Reddit, have also seen significant year-over-year growth driven by the protests, said Nelson. First-time downloads of that app grew +900% year-over-year last month in Hong Kong, adding 120,000 new users compared to 12,000 in July 2018, he said.

Fu said platforms like LIHKG have enabled smaller groups to “initiate new agenda, campaign ideas, and strategies.” On top of that, he said, Facebook’s Instagram has served as a platform for protesters to share “visually-compelling campaign posters, slogans, as well as image/video evidence of police violence,” and that has been something different from previous protests in Hong Kong.

The ongoing protests have remained leaderless, without a main figurehead, unlike the Umbrella Movement, where student leader Joshua Wong often publicly spoke on behalf of the protesters and created organizational Facebook events. He was even named one of TIME magazine’s Most Influential Teens of 2014. In doing so, Wong became a target when authorities were looking for someone to hold accountable and was later repeatedly jailed for unlawful assembly charges.

In the 2019 protests, there has not been an individual or organization that has claimed to be leading the movement.

Fu, a long-time examiner of the intersection between politics and media, told CNBC that although the movement this time around has been without a figurehead, social media tools have given the “leaderless” pro-democracy movement “characterization.”

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US bonds, US-China trade, currencies in focus

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Stocks in Asia were set to trade lower on Friday as yields on longer duration U.S. Treasurys declined.

Futures pointed to a lower open for Japanese stocks, with the Nikkei futures contract in Chicago at 20,355 and its counterpart in Osaka at 20,320. The Nikkei 225 last closed at 20,405.65.

Shares in Australia were also set to decline at the open, with SPI futures at 6,351.0, as compared to the S&P/ASX 200’s last close 6,408.10.

Investors will be watching for movements in the bond market, particularly in U.S. Treasurys. The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond declined to a record low on Thursday, while the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note touched a three-year low.

The historic drop in long-term U.S. bond yields came after the interest rates on the closely watched 10-year and 2-year Treasurys inverted — an bond market phenomenon that has historically been a reliable indicator of economic recessions.

US-China trade

Meanwhile, investors continue monitoring developments on the U.S.-China trade front. A spokesperson from China’s foreign ministry said Thursday that Beijing hopes the “U.S. side will meet China half-way ” on trade issues.

That statement came after China said earlier that the U.S. tariffs “seriously violated” a consensus reached by the two countries’ presidents at the G-20 summit in June.

For its part, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC Wednesday that a recent delay in upcoming tariffs was “not a quid pro quo ” in trade negotiations with Beijing.

“The language used by both parties oozes of continued defensiveness and antagonism,” Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy, wrote in a Thursday note.

“As long as this remains the case, investors will be nervous making it difficult for currencies and equities to rally,” Lien said.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 99.97 points higher at 25,579.39 after seeing its worst day of the year Wednesday. The S&P 500 was up 0.25% to end its trading day at 2,847.6, while the Nasdaq Composite closed slightly lower at 7,766.62.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 98.144 after bouncing from levels below 98.0 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 106.11 against the dollar after a volatile session yesterday that saw seeing highs below 106.0. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6771 after rising from levels around $0.675 in the previous session.

Here’s a look at some of the data due today:

  • Singapore: Merchandise trade data at 8:30 a.m. HK/SIN
  • Hong Kong: Revised gross domestic product data for the second quarter at 16:30 a.m. HK/SIN

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.

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Trump clarifies ‘personal meeting’ tweet, suggests Xi should meet Hong Kong protesters

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Meanwhile, the U.S. and China have both upped the ante in the ongoing trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

In early August, Trump announced he would slap 10% tariffs by September on the remaining $300 billion or so worth of Chinese imports not subject to levies.

But just two weeks later, Trump said he would delay some of those duties until Dec. 15 in order to avoid hurting American consumers during the Christmas shopping season.

The admission Tuesday from Trump, who has long claimed that his tariffs only helped the U.S. at China’s expense, sent the market soaring. The next day, however, the president claimed “the American consumer is fine with or without the September date, but much good will come from the short deferral to December.”

The U.S. has already imposed 25% tariffs on about $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, while China has fired back by slapping duties on about $110 billion in U.S. imports.

After Trump threatened to put tariffs on the remaining balance of Chinese imports, Beijing announced it would no longer buy U.S. agricultural products — a major blow to farmers who were already hurting from the trade war. The U.S. followed by labeling China a currency manipulator.

China on Thursday threatened further retaliation if new U.S. tariffs go into effect Sept. 1, as they’re largely still planned to do.

A few hours after the initial statement, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry took a softer tone, saying Beijing hopes to “meet the U.S. halfway” on trade issues.

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