PARIS — Two days after the deadly terror assault on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, France lived through another day of violence, fear and national soul-searching. A pair of hostage standoffs culminated in simultaneous raids late Friday by police that killed the presumed authors of Wedneday's attack, as well as a fellow Islamist terrorist accused of killing a police officer. Here are some of the key events.
1. SUSPECTS SURROUNDED Following a car chase, police surrounded Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers suspected of carrying out the killings at Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead. The brothers took refuge in the premises of a printing firm in Dammartin-en-Goele, 22 miles northeast of Paris . A graphic designer for the company was able to hide upstairs when the gunman entered without them being aware of his presence. Reports suggest the owner of the company, Michel Catalano was taken hostage. A tense hours-long standoff would ensue.
2. KOSHER MARKET A gunman believed to be Amedy Coulibaly, who has been linked to the killing of a policewoman on Thursday stormed into a kosher supermarket near the Porte de Vincennes in the east of Paris, taking at least 8 people hostage in the early afternoon.
3. BFM-TV Journalists from French news channel BFM-TV spoke to Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly during the standoffs, though the recordings were only aired after the sieges were over. During a two-minute telephone call at 10 a.m. to the premises where the Kouachi brothers were holed up, Kouachi claimed to be financed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen. At around 3 p.m., Coulibaly phoned the BFM-TV offices to announced that he was sent by the Islamic State and had received instructions from the Caliphate. He also said that he had been in contact with the Kouachi brothers to coordinate their actions.
4. DOUBLE STRIKE At approximately 5pm local time, simultaneous assaults were launched on the two sites. It is believed that the graphic designer trapped inside the printing firm in Dammartin-en-Goele was able to help the French special forces prepare the assault. When the assault was launched at Dammartin-en-Goele, Cherif and Saïd Kouachi charged out of the building firing at the police and were killed. At the Porte de Vincennes standoff, Amedy Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the building following several explosions.
5. THE TOLL The three hostage takers were killed in the police assaults. At Dammartin-en-Goele, the graphic designer and the printworks owner were unharmed, while four hostages were killed at Porte de Vincennes and four other seriously injured, including police officers.
6. STILL AT LARGE Hayat Boumeddiene, Amedy Coulibaly’s partner, is still on the loose. She has been linked to the shooting of the police officer Thursday morning.
7. PRESIDENTIAL WORDS French President François Hollande addressed the nation just before 8pm local time, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims, praising law enforcement for the operations and calling again on the nation to come together. The French must be “implacable in the face of racism and anti-semitism … These fanatics have nothing to do with Islam.” He ended with a call to unity, vowing that "We will come out even stronger. Long live the Republic. Long live France."
— Élysée (@Elysee) January 9, 2015
8. WHAT'S NEXT Hollande confirmed that he will participate in a march scheduled for Sunday afternoon, only the second time in the history of the French Republic that the head of state has taken to the streets in such a gathering. Other European leaders will be in attendance, including Germany's Angela Merkel, Italy's Matteo Renzi and Britain's David Cameron. But French officials have hinted that new measures must be taken to ensure public safety, though some have cautioned against imposing laws that undermine civil rights and stoke already frayed divisions in society.
Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.
BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.
TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.
For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.
No Western equivalent to WeChat
The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.
The flow of innovation is now changing direction.
The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."
Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."
This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.
10,000 new startups per day
There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."
In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.
The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.
Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."
China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.
China's super-app WeChat
The whole market runs on tech
Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."
As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.
Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.
Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.
The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.
Still lagging in some key sectors
There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.
China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.
Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.
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