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Elon Musk praises Chinese workers for ‘burning the 3am oil’ – here’s what that really looks like | Elon Musk

How do you become the richest man in the world? In Elon Musk’s case, part of it involves making workers in China put in hours that would be unacceptable according to labor norms elsewhere.

On Tuesday, the Tesla boss praised Chinese factory workers for pulling extreme hours while taking a shot at American workers. “There is just a lot of super talented hardworking people in China who strongly believe in manufacturing,” the billionaire said. “They won’t just be burning the midnight oil, they will be burning the 3am oil, they won’t even leave the factory type of thing, whereas in America people are trying to avoid going to work at all.”

Musk’s comment comes as Tesla’s massive Shanghai “Giga-factory” pushes its workers to the limit to meet production targets amid an ongoing pandemic lockdown.

In April, Tesla restricted its Shanghai workers from leaving the factory under a so-called “closed-loop” system originally developed by Chinese authorities to contain Beijing Olympics participants. While locked inside, the workers were reportedly made to work 12-hour shifts, six days in a row, and to sleep on factory floors. Production at the plant was forced to halt this week due to parts shortages, the company said.

Labor rights and safety violations have been reported at Tesla’s Shanghai factory since it opened in 2018, with some workers making as little as $1,500 a month in what an investigation by local journalists called the “Giga-sweatshop.”

Even in the United States, Musk is well known for his disregard for labor norms and work-life balance: the tech billionaire infamously declared “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”. He has bragged about making Tesla’s US employees work 100-hour weeks, while claiming to have worked 120-hour weeks himself. In March, Musk called an all-hands meeting for his other company, SpaceX, at 1am.

These practices are on par with China’s extreme work culture, nicknamed “996”, in which workers are expected to work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. The practice has been the source of protests in recent years and has been characterized as a form of modern slavery.

Workers walk outside the Tesla Giga-factory in Shanghai, China, in November 2019.
Workers walk outside the Tesla Giga-factory in Shanghai, China, in November 2019. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Eli Friedman, a China labor expert and associate professor of international and comparative labor at Cornell University’s ILR School, said Musk’s remark should be understood in the “broader context of American corporations taking advantage not just of the low cost of labor in China, but the flexibility”.

For bosses like Musk, “that’s the comparative advantage: the fact that you have hundreds of thousands of workers that you can literally wake up in the middle of the night and put them on the production line,” Friedman said.

“It’s tapping into a kind of Orientalist narrative about these kind of robotic Chinese workers who, [Musk] says in a sort of valorized way, that this is a good thing,” the researcher added.

Officially, Chinese labor law mandates a 40-hour work week, with employees allowed up to 36 hours of overtime a month – which would come out to just over a 48-hour work week. But that’s not what happens in practice.

“There’s no pretence anywhere that that’s enforced,” said Friedman. “Excessive overtime is kind of a built-in feature of the whole model of industrial development in China. Very long hours and compulsory overtime, while not legal, are also completely the norm. And this is done regularly in consultation with local governments who are also tasked with enforcing the labor law.”

Employees in China are often asked to sign a “striver’s pledge” which waives their right to overtime pay and paid time off. And while many corporations in China have unions, the unions are funded by the employer, which makes them essentially powerless to negotiate against management, Friedman noted.

Tesla did not respond to questions about its factory’s work hours and policies.

China’s gruelling culture of extreme hours has been celebrated by tech billionaires in the country, including Alibaba’s Jack Ma, who has called the “996” system a “huge blessing”, and rival company JD.com’s Richard Liu, who has called workers who work fewer hours “slackers”.

In recent years, a growing movement of Chinese workers has stood up to oppose overwork, with some activists using tools like GitHub to compile lists of Chinese companies accused of violating labor laws. Anger over the country’s extreme work culture intensified last January after a 22-year-old worker for Shanghai-based e-commerce firm Pinduoduo collapsed and died after leaving work at 1.30am, after a run of brutally long shifts.

Incidents like these helped drive a trend among young Chinese social media users early last year promoting “tang ping”, or “lying flat” as a passive protest against work, which has since been restricted on the Chinese internet. Later in the year, China’s top court ruled that forced and excessive overtime was illegal, but the ruling has not been well enforced. Work stoppages, often unofficial “wildcat” strikes, continue to occur regularly in China.

Chinese and American labor norms have clashed in recent years, as bosses pit teams against each other.

The 2019 Netflix documentary “American Factory” described the conflicts that arose after a Chinese billionaire, Cao Dewang, opened a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant in Ohio. “American workers are not efficient, and output is low,” Cao complained at one point in the film. “I can’t manage them.”

Last week, the Wall Street Journal revealed that some of the US-based employees at Chinese-owned TikTok were expected to pull back-to-back all-nighters and spend as many as 85 hours a week in meetings to keep up with their Chinese colleagues.

In the United States, employees covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act must receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. But the law places no cap on the number of hours an employee can work.

The grim backdrop to Musk’s comments is that “American workers are in a very subjugated position as well, unfortunately”, said Friedman.

“The not-at-all subtle threat is that these Chinese workers are a threat to you white American workers. If you don’t meet that standard, then your jobs are on the line.”

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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