Pro-democracy protesters set barricade on fire at a demonstration in Causeway Bay district on October 6, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.
Anthony Kwan | Getty Images News | Getty Images
BEIJING — China will take countermeasures against the U.S. in response to a bill that favors the Hong Kong protesters, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.” The bill requests that various government departments consider whether recent political developments in Hong Kong require the U.S. to change the region’s special trading status. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and exports from the mainland traveling through Hong Kong can potentially evade U.S. export controls and sanctions.
“If the relevant bill is finally passed into law, not only will it hurt Chinese interests and China-U.S. relations, but also seriously damage U.S. interests,” Geng Shuang, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said in a Chinese-language statement translated by CNBC.
“Regarding the wrong decision of the U.S., the Chinese side will have to enact effective countermeasures, firmly safeguard Chinese sovereignty, security and development interests,” he said.
Any legislation would need the Senate’s approval to become law. Tuesday’s bill was one of four pieces of legislation the House passed that took a tough stance on China.
Major protests in Hong Kong over a controversial extradition bill began in early June and have persisted in the months since. What began as largely peaceful demonstrations have turned increasingly violent, with protesters torching metro stations and police firing tear gas in recent weeks.
Geng emphasized that Hong Kong is part of China and an internal affair. He added that Hong Kong does not face “so-called human rights and democracy issues, but rather the issues of quickly ending violence, returning (the region to) order and upholding the rule of law.”
Trump wants South Korea to pay more for defense. He shouldn’t stop there
Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks at a joint press conference after the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) with South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo at the Defence Ministry in Seoul on November 15, 2019.
Jung Yeon-je | Reuters
It turns out President Donald Trump’s long-running demand that NATO countries pay more for their own defense isn’t just about Europe. Now, the administration is stepping up its efforts to get Asian countries to cough up more too.
The specific Asian country in the spotlight is South Korea. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper used his current trip there to pressure Seoul into paying more for the massive U.S. military presence there. According to one South Korean lawmaker Esper wants much more, as in five times more or $5 billion annually.
That sounds like a big mark-up. But let’s face it, defending the free world isn’t cheap. A big reason why is the countries that aren’t part of the free world, like China, are spending record amounts on defense as well.
Demanding that Seoul pay more is basically the only option the U.S. has now. That’s because the idea of closing American bases in South Korea or pulling out the 28,500 U.S. troops there is unthinkable in the face of the constant nuclear and conventional military threats from North Korea.
But cutting the number of U.S. bases isn’t, or shouldn’t be such a controversial idea in many other parts of the world. The U.S. currently has about 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. That number includes 174 bases and other military installations in Germany alone. We even have one in Aruba.
Each one of these foreign bases costs the taxpayers not just in maintenance bills, but in payments we often must make to those foreign countries to use their land or coastlines. There are also the costs of maintaining diplomatic relationships with those nations to make sure they don’t suddenly kick our troops and bases out. At last count, the cost of maintaining those bases is $156 billion per year.
It’s unrealistic to think most of the base maintenance cost can be eliminated. But a big chunk of it certainly can, especially if some of the politicians who typically protect certain bases from closure get out of the way.
While the Trump administration has seen some success in getting NATO countries to increase their share of defense spending, the base closing and U.S. troop removal part of the equation isn’t going as well. The continuing controversy over the removal of just a small number of U.S. troops from Northern Syria is the best example of that.
There are other more inventive ways to cut down on America’s costs to defend the free world that aren’t just proposals. One strong example is the agreement we have with Israel on how it uses the $3.8 billion in military assistance the U.S. sends to it annually.
Israel must spend at least 74 percent of that money on U.S.-made defense products, and by 2028, that requirement will rise to 100%. Often those products are co-developed with Israeli defense contractors, like the Iron Dome anti-missile system that’s been heavily used this past week during a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas.
These requirements aren’t just a form of American economic protectionism; they’re also a key security precaution. Mixing U.S. weapons systems with other defense products made by America’s enemies and allies alike can lead to finding weaknesses in those American systems.
That’s the reasoning behind the Trump administration’s decision to cut Turkey out of the F-35 stealth jet fighter program after Ankara decided to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.
That decision was driven by a fear that having the F-35s and S-400s in such close proximity could give Turkish or Russian engineers an easier path to discovering flaws in the F-35 that the S-400 could exploit. The same form of economic and military caution is driving a new threat by the U.S. to sanction Egypt if goes ahead with its plan to buy at least 20 more Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.
Not all of this plan is moving smoothly, but we do see the three key elements to achieving something many have long thought was impossible: reducing U.S. defense spending without jeopardizing security. The working formula is getting our allies to pay more, closing bases and removing troops where they’re not needed, and requiring countries we help protect to do their defense shopping exclusively with the U.S. All this and future U.S. administrations should do now is keep it up.
John Legere isn’t leaving T-Mobile to take WeWork CEO job
John Legere, chief executive officer of T-Mobile US Inc.
Chris Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images
T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere isn’t taking the WeWork CEO job, according to people familiar with the matter.
Legere, who became CEO of T-Mobile in 2012, has no plans to leave the company, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is confidential. CNBC and The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Legere was a candidate to be WeWork’s next CEO.
By taking himself out of the running, Legere is avoiding a potential conflict of interest. SoftBank is the controlling shareholder of Sprint, which is the process of merging with T-Mobile, and is the majority owner of WeWork. Legere was never the front runner to take the job, according to people familiar with the matter.
T-Mobile is still waiting for its acquisition of Sprint to be approved by numerous state attorneys general, who are suing to block the merger of the two carriers on grounds that it will hurt competition and lead to increased prices. That case goes to trial in December.
The delay has pushed the deal’s closing past a key date, Nov. 1, which allows both T-Mobile and Sprint to restructure terms of the merger, or even walk away. If Legere were to leave T-Mobile for WeWork, it could raise at least the perception of a conflict of interest.
Legere combines a brash attitude, somewhat reminiscent of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, with a strong track record of operational success, having transformed T-Mobile over the past decade from a bland No. 4 option in the U.S. wireless market to a strong and growing No. 3.
SoftBank is interviewing several candidates to replace current WeWork co-CEOs Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham, according to people familiar with the process.
Legere didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A WeWork spokesperson declined to comment.
Google cancels TGIF weekly all-hands meetings
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, speaks to the media before the opening of the Berlin representation of Google Germany in Berlin on January 22, 2019.
Carsten Koall | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Google is getting rid of one of its best-known workplace features: TGIF, its weekly all-hands meeting.
The company confirmed to CNBC that it will instead hold monthly all-hands meetings that will be focused on business and strategy while holding separate town halls for “workplace issues.” An email announcing the change was previously reported by The Verge.
Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin started TGIFs in 1999 as a forum where employees could regularly express concerns and discuss topics open and freely with management. At that time, the company was small enough to fit in a meeting room, but the all-hands continued to grow as the employee base grew — until recently, that is. Page and Brin stopped attending regularly in 2019. A company spokesperson said that the meetings had recently become a bi-weekly instead of weekly occurrence.
The new model comes as the company cracks down on the open work culture that’s long been part of its identity of holding free discussion. Employees have increasingly voiced their concerns about everything from the handling of sexual harassment to government hires and contracts. In recent months, employees have leaked meeting notes to the media, which have shown growing tension between executives and workers.
During the summer, it said it would ban political discussions from internal messaging forums. In late October, CEO Sundar Pichai said, in a leaked video, that the company was “genuinely struggling” with employee trust.
“In other places — like TGIF — our scale is challenging us to evolve,” Pichai said in a memo to employees this week. “TGIF has traditionally provided a place to come together, share progress, and ask questions, but it’s not working in its current form.”
In his note, Pichai alluded to recent leaks that employees have given to media.
“We’re unfortunately seeing a coordinated effort to share our conversations outside of the company after every TGIF,” the note reportedly states. “I know this is new information to many of you, and it has affected our ability to use TGIF as a forum for candid conversations on important topics.
Pichai’s note also stated that only 25% of Google employees watch TGIF any given week, compared to 80% a decade ago. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who used to attend regularly, reportedly stopped regularly attending in early 2019.
“People come to TGIF with different expectations,” the note stated. “Some people come to hear more about Google’s product launches and business strategies, others come to hear answers on other topics. By splitting the difference every week, we’re not serving either purpose very well.”
The note stated that Google’s TGIF team will set up “small group discussions” for feedback on the changes.
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