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Notebook Politics

FrankHoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

A Huawei retail center (FrankHoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)


A tech cold war

The U.S. blacklists Chinese tech giant Huawei as a trade war intensifies

Tensions between the United States and China rose in mid-May after the Trump administration placed Chinese telecom giant Huawei on a trade blacklist over espionage concerns. In response, Google said it would suspend business with the second-largest smartphone maker.

Two days later, the U.S. Commerce Department delayed the ban, giving tech companies permission to work with Huawei for another 90 days in order to keep smartphones up-to-date and secure.

Huawei smartphones are powered by Google’s Android system, with Google’s apps preloaded onto the phones Huawei sells internationally. Without an extension of the deadline, starting Aug. 19 Google will stop providing hardware, software, and technical support to Huawei phones. New versions of the phones will not access popular apps such as Google Play, Gmail, YouTube, and the Chrome browser. Huawei would only be allowed to use the public version of Android through an open-source license.

The ban would have little effect on Huawei users in China, as the country censors Google, but would affect Huawei’s large European market.

In a way, the United States is taking an approach China has long employed: China’s Great Firewall has blocked major U.S. tech companies from entering the country while spreading China’s homegrown tech companies overseas. Chinese tech companies still use American chips and software from companies such as Intel and Qualcomm, as Chinese companies are unable to make them.

The U.S. government is concerned that Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies could pass data from the 5G networks in other countries to the Chinese government, allowing Beijing to spy on the U.S. government, its citizens, and its companies. New Chinese security laws require companies to provide information to intelligence officials.

While Huawei claims it is a private company owned by its employees, a 2019 study found that Huawei is owned by a holding company that is 99 percent owned by a “trade union committee.” In China, these organizations are essentially owned and controlled by the government.

New Zealand and Australia have agreed to ban the company, but Britain, Germany, India, and the United Arab Emirates have refused U.S. efforts to persuade them to join the ban.

The Huawei ban comes after a breakdown in trade negotiations between the United States and China. The Trump administration increased tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and made plans to tax another $325 billion worth of additional Chinese goods. Long-term frustration exists over China’s practice of stealing U.S. intellectual property and forcing U.S. companies to transfer technology to Chinese companies in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

As tensions heightened, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV canceled scheduled programming and instead showed anti-American movies that depict Chinese soldiers fighting Americans in the Korean War, according to Hong Kong news site Inkstone. China may retaliate against the Huawei ban by cutting U.S. access to rare earth minerals, used for high-tech electronics and military equipment. On Monday, state media reported that President Xi Jinping visited a rare earth company in Jiangxi province.

Under Xi’s rule, the government has become more authoritarian, stifling religion, free speech, and dissent. Liberal economists who were once celebrated when China began to reform and open up are now silenced and barred from leaving the country. The Tiananmen Square massacre, which occurred 30 years ago in June, is still a censored topic. Remaining family members of those killed on that fateful day are still hoping and waiting for the government to investigate the massacre, punish those responsible, and clear protesters’ names.

According to Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, China’s hard-line stance is responsible for alienating the West: By refusing to revisit the Tiananmen Square massacre, it has placed itself in conflict with free nations.

“Ideology is what is really behind the trade war,” Zheng told the South China Morning Post. “The West has lost its hope on China because they think China has given up on universal values. The trade war is only an illusion—it is about conflicts of ideologies and material interests.”


Spying for China:

A U.S. federal judge sentenced former CIA agent Kevin Patrick Mallory to 20 years in prison for passing to China classified documents that “contained unique identifiers for human sources who had helped the United States government” in exchange for $25,000.

—This is an expanded version of the Notebook page that appears in the June 8 print issue.

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Vahid Salemi/AP

A worshipper attends a service at a Chaldean church in Tehran, Iran. (Vahid Salemi/AP)


Left behind

The Trump campaign promised to champion persecuted Christians, but the numbers tell a different story

When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Christians had good reason to believe the United States had turned a corner when it came to prioritizing persecuted believers overseas. But under his administration refugee admissions have plunged to historic lows, with persecuted Christians in the Middle East suffering from the fallout.

The number of Middle East Christians admitted into the United States in 2018 fell by a staggering 98 percent from 2016. Christians from countries Open Doors ranked highest for religious persecution saw a 76 percent decline from 2016 to 2018. The trend continues in 2019. By March 2019 the United States had welcomed only 30 Iranian Christians, 25 Iraqi Christians, and zero Syrian Christian refugees.

To some believers, these numbers tell a different story than Trump himself told in the past. In a January 2017 interview with Christian Broadcasting Network News, Trump implied that the Obama administration had overlooked the plight of persecuted Christians and said his administration would be different. “We are going to help them,” he said. “They’ve been horribly treated. If you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, at least very, very tough, to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim, you could come in. But if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.”

Much has been made of the 80 percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump, a key political bloc he continues to court. Yet he runs the risk of growing disillusionment among Christians for whom their persecuted brethren is a key concern.

Among them is a community of Chaldean Christians in a Detroit suburb in Michigan. The National Catholic Register reported that a growing community of Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria helped flip Macomb County, a key suburb, red. Trump won Michigan by a mere 10,704 votes. Chaldean Christians were largely responsible for Macomb’s flip. They voted for Trump because of “what is happening to Christians in Iraq and Syria, because we have loved ones in the area,” according to Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation.

But rather than welcoming their families into the United States, Chaldean Christians saw their own families threatened with deportation back to Iraq. In 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained around 130 Iraqi Christians from the area, some for criminal offenses committed decades ago. The community turned out on the streets, touting signs with pictures of Trump and the words “You vowed to protect us” and “Stop the Deportation.” (The deportation has been temporarily halted, in part due to the ACLU and local leaders’ lobbying efforts.)

Cliff Sims, a former administration staffer who wrote Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, noted in his book that Trump kept his promises on many things important to evangelicals, “but not the ones he made to persecuted Christians.”

Instead, persecuted Christians have become collateral damage in the administration’s tough policies on immigration and refugees.

In fiscal year 2018 the United States set a refugee ceiling of 45,000 people, but only welcomed 22,491 refugees, roughly half the goal. A good chunk of those were Christians, but often not from the areas where religious minorities face the harshest persecution and even genocide.

For fiscal year 2019 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a cap of 30,000. It is the lowest cap since President Jimmy Carter signed the Refugee Act into law in 1980. The United States has admitted 10,700 refugees so far in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018—2,000 are Christians from countries where they face persecution (28 from Iraq, and three from Syria).

“You have two things in conflict,” Sims told me. “Trump’s hard-line position on immigration and refugees; then you have a more nuanced piece of that—hey, but there are persecuted Christians there who are fleeing ISIS in Syria, in northern Iraq. If we don’t help them, who is going to?”

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Jones: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP • Gardner: J. Scott Applewhite/AP • Collins: Al Drago/Getty Images • McSally: Matt York/AP

Clockwise from top left: Doug Jones, Cory Gardner, Susan Collins and Martha McSally (Jones: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP • Gardner: J. Scott Applewhite/AP • Collins: Al Drago/Getty Images • McSally: Matt York/AP)


2020 vision

Gaining Senate control in 2020 seems an unlikely prospect for Democrats

The furor over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment showed how important Senate control is to our ongoing culture war. In January, candidates were already announcing their bids for U.S. Senate seats up for election in 2020. While it’s too early to make any strong predictions, an early glance at the 2020 Senate map suggests continued Republican control is the likeliest outcome.

Barring an unexpected resignation or death in office, the GOP will start the election holding 53 seats. The party is widely expected to gain the Alabama seat that Democrat Doug Jones won narrowly in 2017 against controversial Republican nominee Roy Moore. Jones surely would have lost the race against anyone else, and his vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation put him on the wrong side of that battle in his very Republican and socially conservative state. So long as Republicans nominate someone without scandal, Jones’ seat should be an easy gain for the GOP.

Gaining this seat would force the Democrats to win a net four seats to obtain control if they defeat President Trump, or five if they do not. Although Republicans are defending 22 of the 34 seats that are scheduled to be up for reelection in 2020, most observers do not think it will be easy for Democrats to gain that many.

Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner and Arizona’s Sen. Martha McSally are widely predicted to be the most endangered Republican incumbents. Gardner won narrowly in the Republican wave of 2014 and represents a state that has been trending Democratic for the past decade. McSally, who was appointed in December to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s term, just lost a tight Senate election in November. Although Arizona traditionally leans Republican, it swung sharply to the left in 2016 and 2018 on anti-Trump sentiment. Both McSally and Gardner will likely face well-funded challengers, as Democrats have little hope of regaining control unless they win both contests.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is probably the next most prominent Republican target. Although she is a moderate’s moderate, she still represents a state that has voted for Democratic presidential nominees since 1988. Collins’ vote in favor of Kavanaugh enraged Democratic activists, who will try to unseat her in retribution. She has beaten back strong challengers before, but in the current environment with low levels of split-ticket voting she will have to summon all of her personal appeal if a well-funded challenger does emerge.

After this, though, potential targets for Democrats get tougher to find. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, represents a state that twice supported Barack Obama, but the Hawkeye State seems to have shifted well to the right since then. Republican Kim Reynolds won her race for governor last year, and Democrats won a narrow majority of the total House votes cast in the state only because of controversial Republican Rep. Steve King’s weakness. Ernst is widely touted as a strong favorite heading into the year.

North Carolina’s Sen. Thom Tillis and Georgia’s Sen. David Perdue are other potential targets, but both states retain a Republican lean despite some recent suburban anti-Trump sentiment. While a strong Democratic contender like Stacey Abrams (in Georgia) or Roy Cooper (in North Carolina) could make either race a toss-up, both Republicans start the cycle as clear favorites to win a second term.

Attaining Senate control will be increasingly difficult for Democrats as long as they remain largely unattractive to America’s rural and small-town voters. The constitutional design of the Senate combines with the demographic reality that Democratic-leaning constituencies tend to live in larger metropolitan areas, tilting the map in a Republican direction. Unless that changes, Democrats could be shut out of Senate control for most of the next decade until the continued growth of the liberal-leaning nonwhite population in places like Florida, Arizona, and Texas finally alters the partisan lean in those key states.

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