WASHINGTON â€" The morning after Donald Trump once again embraced his hard-line immigration posture in a shouted speech, at least four members of his two-week-old Hispanic advisory council said they might not vote for the Republican presidential nominee and warned that his harsh rhetoric would cost him the election.
At meetings Thursday on the 14th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan, the candidateâ€™s top aides held the opposite view. They thought his tough talk on immigration â€" combined with a whirlwind trip to Mexico on Wednesday â€" had, in the words of one adviser, â€œwon him the election.â€
â€œHow do you like our poll numbers?â€ Trump excitedly asked in a brief telephone interview with The Washington Post on Thursday. He rattled off recent surveys that he said show his support has inched up.
For nearly two weeks, Trump has publicly and privately debated how best to describe his immigration positions, especially when it comes to the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
He spent days floating a series of possible changes and gauging the reaction, and even visited Mexico for a few hours Wednesday in a bid to appear more presidential. But later that night, he decided to stick with the far-right positions that were key to his success in the Republican primaries and could help him cement the support of white men â€" one demographic where he beats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The roller-coaster debate â€" which continued Thursday after a speech the campaign heralded as definitive â€" centered on Trumpâ€™s repeated calls during the primaries to deport all of the undocumented immigrants in the country. He suggested that his declaration applied even if they have lived here for decades, are contributing members of society or have children who are U.S. citizens, although he appeared to back away from his call to immediately deport all of the illegal immigrants living in the United States with a â€œdeportation force.â€
But in the end, the debate within the Trump campaign turned out to be about messaging rather than policy.
â€œHe hasnâ€™t changed his position on immigration,â€ Trump surrogate Katrina Pierson said on CNN last week in remarks that were widely mocked at the time but in hindsight seemed to capture internal thinking. â€œHeâ€™s changed the words that he is saying.â€
Willing to change?
The public side of the debate took a turn on Aug. 20, when Trump held a hurriedly organized Saturday meeting with a newly formed National Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower. He asked those around the table to share alternatives to mass deportation, signaling that he was willing to change his mind on the issue.
The council urged Trump to focus on how undocumented immigrants contribute to the nationâ€™s economy and abandon his plans to quickly deport millions â€" a view Trump heard from fellow business owners and wealthy Republican donors over the course of the summer. For several days, the candidate seemed to echo these views, saying in interviews with Fox News Channel that he would be willing to work with those who came here illegally and are living prosperous lives.
At a town hall meeting in Texas, Trump even polled audience members to get their input on the fate of the nationâ€™s undocumented immigrants, using his most flattering language to date.
But some Trump advisers told him that many voters like his stubborn dedication to issues that other politicians wonâ€™t touch, and warned that flip-flopping on immigration would make him no different from the career politicians he has accused of being â€œweakâ€ and beholden to donors.
These advisers urged Trump to use tough, nativist language in his immigration speech in Phoenix on Wednesday to create as sharp a contrast as possible with Clinton. They argued that by showing strength and force of leadership, Trump will attract undecided voters.
â€œWe had a serious adult conversation about where we are. The people that won this debate said, â€˜Look, this is what got us here, and we canâ€™t abandon it,â€™ â€ one Trump adviser said Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the campaignâ€™s internal deliberations. â€œThere were many of us who made input, and it was clear that the hold-the-line people, we had more sway with him. I think the political calculation is, you canâ€™t abandon the base.â€
By Thursday of last week, Trumpâ€™s tone was noticeably different during an interview with CNN, when he said that any immigrant who wants to become a legal resident would have to leave the country and apply to return â€" a process that can take many years.
â€œYou have a lot of people being deportedâ€ already, he said on CNN, having praised the policies of President Obama and former president George W. Bush in an earlier interview. â€œWeâ€™re going to do that vigorously.â€
As Trumpâ€™s campaign was debating whether and when he should give an immigration policy speech, the nominee received a three-page invitation from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The prospect of a preelection Trump visit alarmed several Mexican cabinet members, but Peña Nieto decided to do it. Advocates for the meeting viewed it not as a chance to raise the presidentâ€™s sagging approval ratings, but as a political gamble that was important in the long run in case Trump won.
But Trump surprised them by agreeing to come within days. Not all parts of the Mexican government were fully informed about the plan, and the U.S. Embassy was alerted to the visit by the Secret Service, arranging the logistics of his trip.
Trump arrived Wednesday afternoon â€" hours before he was to give his immigration speech in Phoenix â€" and met with Peña Nieto for about an hour. Each then gave friendly remarks praising his neighboring nation. Many pundits lauded Trump for seeming willing to work with the leader of a nation that he has insulted so deeply during his campaign.
Hours later, Trumpâ€™s tone changed significantly as he gave his formal policy speech â€" broadly painting many undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and promising that he would quickly deport millions. At least 5 million immigrants would be subject to rapid deportation under Trumpâ€™s latest proposals, according to a Post analysis.
â€œThat is all him. Those are his decisions,â€ a top campaign aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks. â€œHe got very different viewpoints on immigration. But in the end, it was all him. That speech has to be his words, his cadence, his delivery.â€
Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani â€" who traveled with Trump to Mexico and has been a key figure in the candidateâ€™s discussions on the issue â€" said the contrasting speeches showed Trumpâ€™s range.
â€œThis is what a president has to be able to do,â€ Giuliani said. â€œIf youâ€™re meeting with a head of state, youâ€™ll act differently than if you were at the Heritage Foundation speaking to scholars or speaking at a rally. Thatâ€™s why Trump seized on the invitation so quickly. He wanted to show that he could operate on several fronts and speak to different audiences, boldly and regardless of the risk.â€
But the harsh tone of the policy speech stunned Jacob Monty, a member of Trumpâ€™s Hispanic advisory council and a Houston-based immigration lawyer. Monty has helped Trump raise money and wrote a newspaper column in June headlined, â€œA Latinoâ€™s case for Donald Trump.â€
â€œThe speech was just an utter disappointment,â€ he said in an interview Thursday.
Soon afterward, Monty resigned from the advisory group and posted on Facebook that he will not vote for Trump.
â€œI donâ€™t want to be a prop like the Mexican president,â€ Monty said in the interview. â€œWe were out there defending him. And then to be just lied to like that â€" it doesnâ€™t feel good. Itâ€™s not okay.â€
Others felt the same way. Ramiro Peña, a Texas pastor, called the advisory council â€œa scamâ€ in an email to campaign and party leaders, according to Politico. Massey Villarreal, a Houston businessman, deemed the speech â€œawfulâ€ in an interview with NBC Latino. Alfonso Aguilar, a Latino activist, tweeted that he felt â€œdisappointed and misled.â€
Even as those defections were unfolding Thursday morning, more than a dozen senior Trump campaign staff members met at Trump Tower to map out their strategy for the rest of the race. The mood in the room was charged and optimistic, with attendees praising Trumpâ€™s speech and trip as a jolt to his bid, according to two people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting.
One Trump ally involved in the talks Thursday described Wednesdayâ€™s drama as the â€œday that won him the electionâ€ because of Trumpâ€™s reiteration of his conservative views on immigration, which many in his orbit consider crucial to wooing economically frustrated working-class voters.
And in another sign that Trumpâ€™s orbit would continue to hold to its combative ethos, longtime conservative operative David N. Bossie was introduced as the new deputy campaign manager. Bossie, previously president of the Citizens United advocacy group, has been a prominent investigator of Clinton controversies for decades.
â€œA friend of mine for many years,â€ Trump said, speaking from his office in New York. â€œSolid. Smart. Loves politics, knows how to win.â€
Yet even after his big speech, Trump continued to send mixed signals.
â€œWeâ€™re going to sit back, weâ€™re going to assess the situation, weâ€™re going to make a decision at that time,â€ he said on Fox News Channel on Thursday night about undocumented immigrants who had not committed other crimes. â€œI want to see, before we do anything further, I want to see how it shapes up when we have strong, impenetrable borders.â€
*Joshua Partlow in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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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