3 June 2019

Katie Stanton

3 June 2019

Good morning,
 
After a decidedly soggy weekend in bonnie Scotland, I fancied reflecting on something a touch more international for this morning’s briefing.
 
So, in part one of this, my occasional two-part series, I’m going to lead a brief tour of the international news scape we tend to overlook in our all-consuming Brexit bubble.
 
Today: China.
 
Tomorrow marks 30 years since six weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations in China ended with the Tiananmen Square massacre on the 3-4 June 1989, when troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at unarmed, student-led protesters.
 
Estimates of the death toll still vary, but it is thought that between 1,500 and 4,000 demonstrators were killed and some 10,000 wounded.
 
Yesterday, defence minister Wei Fenghe defended the crackdown in a rare public acknowledgement of events. Wei told a regional forum that stopping the “turbulence” was the “correct” policy.
 
After giving a wide-ranging speech on trade and security at a regional forum in Singapore, General Wei Fenghe was asked about Tiananmen by a member of the audience. In response, Wei questioned why people still claim that China handled the events poorly, considering the country has since experienced relative stability and development.
 
Reporting on events in China is heavily censored and so the comments are significant.
 
While there are no official acts of remembrance for the events of 1989, each year the “world’s biggest censorship goes into overdrive” as algorithms and human expurgators purge the internet for any reference of the massacre. Those deemed too provocative in their attempts to evade the controls risk imprisonment.
 
Wei’s remarks come after Twitter was forced to issue an apology for suspending a number of accounts posting about China ahead of the anniversary. A tweet on its public policy account said the company was working to challenge accounts that engage in “platform manipulation, including spam and other inauthentic behaviours”.
 
But users had criticised the platform for blocking accounts and Republican senator Marco Rubio accused the company of becoming a Chinese government censor.
 
And Chinese state control does not stop there.
 
The Telegraph reported yesterday that China’s Uighur Muslims have been forced to break their fasts after Ramadan celebrations were banned. Uighur Muslims are an ethnic minority of Sunni Muslims, who live in a far-western region of China. US officials believe up to three million of them have been detained in internment camps.
 
Despite growing international pressure, China’s crackdown on the Uighur people and their shrinking culture is continuing throughout the holy month. Widespread police presence around mosques and communities as a method of intimidation has caused residents to be fearful of even muttering Islamic greetings.
 
Restaurants are forced to stay open, children are compelled to eat school lunches and local officials are increasing checks on people’s homes to ensure that they aren’t secretly observing the practice.
 
So, it’s clear that the past 30 years have done little to soften Chinese policy: officials will continue to eliminate and censor dissent, both on the internet and in person. But where entire ethnic minority populations risk being eradicated, the international community must now exert pressure for change.

NEWS

Donald Trump is set to arrive in the UK this morning for a three-day official state visit. The Queen will hold a state banquet at Buckingham Palace this evening for the president and first lady Melania Trump. Protests are planned across the UK.
 
Indian officials have said the chances of finding eight missing climbers alive in the Himalayas are “bleak”. The group was attempting to reach the summit of India’s second-highest peak Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand. It was confirmed yesterday that there had been an avalanche in the area. Of the eight climbers feared dead, four are Britons.
 
According to Tory leadership rivals, Michael Gove’s admission that he would be prepared to delay Brexit further would open the door of No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn. Other candidates vying to succeed Theresa May have said that Britain must leave the EU by 31 October, with or without agreement from Brussels. (£)

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

It’s a crucial week for Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail group as creditors are set to vote on his proposed restructuring plans on Wednesday. If landlords and the Pensions Regulator fail to back his proposals to shut stores and cut rents, the company could go into administration.
 
Santander and eBay are to launch a lending partnership for small businesses in an effort to tackle competition from tech giants and new digital rivals. Asto, a financial technology app owned by Santander, will start offering loans to the more than 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses that sell products through eBay in the UK later this year. (£)
 
Aberdeen Standard Investments has become the latest Provident Financialshareholder to say it will not accept the £1.1 billion all-share offer for the company from Non-Standard Finance. The hostile bidder risks being blocked from delisting the doorstep lender from the stock exchange as ASI joins Schroders, Coltrane Asset Management and M&G Investments in rejecting the bid. (£)

MARKETS

The week ahead
This week the UK hosts US president Donald Trump for a state visit. On Tuesday he will meet with prime minister Theresa May, who is due to stand down as leader of the Conservative party on Friday. Likely topics of conversation will include the role of Chinese telecoms provider Huawei in building the UK’s next generation 5G network, as well as the environment and potential successors for prime minister.
 
It is also speculated that Trump could meet former foreign secretary and Tory leadership front runner Boris Johnson on his tour, as well as political ally Nigel Farage.
 
Back in the wider world focus, analysts are eagerly watching to see how global markets behave today after the latest battle between Beijing and Washington. Tension rose over the weekend when China raised tariffs on $60 billion of US goods.
 
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank meets on Thursday, when rates are expected to remain on hold. The European Commission is also set to publish its assessment of the compliance of individual companies with the EU’s fiscal rules. Italy is considered most at risk.

Finals
Record
Sirius Real Estate Ltd.
Tatton Asset Management
Tricorn Group
 
AGMs
LMS Capital
Synairgen

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) PMI Manufacturing
 
Int. Economic Announcements
(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER)
(09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU)
(14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US)
(15:00) Construction Spending (US)
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)
(20:30) Auto Sales (US)

COLUMNS OF NOTE

As the US reacts to what is thought to be the country’s 150th mass shooting of the year to date, the New Yorker’s Michael Luo explores how one jarring picture can bring something that is now regarded as commonplace back to the fore. The picture features a man with dark red blood splattered across his chest. While we often see the aftermath of shootings – children filing out of schools, police surrounding the perimeter – we don’t tend to see the blood. The picture was indicative of a war scene and, juxtaposed with the leafy suburbs, was “undeniably startling”. (£)
 
Writing in The Atlantic, Amanda Mull examines what 10,000 steps a day will really get you. Mull considers the widely held target a clever bit of marketing, obscuring the more individual, nuanced nature of human wellbeing. We all follow basic guidelines: 2,000 calories, five-a-day, eight hours of sleep. But, she says, human health is “far too complicated to be reduced to a long chain of numerical imperatives”.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2019, more photos are taken every two minutes than were taken in the whole of the 19th century.

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

House of Commons
No business scheduled. 
 
House of Lords
No business scheduled. 
 
Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled. 
 
TOMORROW
 
House of Commons
Oral questions
Justice (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Driving (Persons with Dementia) – Rachel Maclean
 
Legislation
Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill: remaining stages
 
Backbench Business
Debate on a Motion on The Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme – Grahame Morris
 
Adjournment 
Transport in Hertfordshire
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Increasing the number of new homes built for social rent – Lord Shipley
 
Ensuring that Apprenticeship Levy contributions from creative industries are invested in creative industries skills development – Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury
 
Encouraging more people to use bus services – Baroness Randerson
 
Orders and regulations
 
Debate
Marking the 75th Anniversary of D-Day – Earl Howe
 
Scottish Parliament
Topical Questions (if selected) 
 
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Justice 
 
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Economy