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ON THIS DAY IN 1884, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, “Among other interesting events that the weather of today threatens to interfere with is the ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the great Bartholdi statue of Liberty, about which we have heard so much of late, and done so little. This will be the first step toward putting into material form that lively appreciation of a nation’s good will and a great sculptor’s munificence that is graceful in itself, and eloquent of our highly cultivated national morality.

It may be added that this step bears to those that are to follow before the expression is perfected the relation that a pint pot hole holds to the Atlantic Ocean, or to put it more accurately and less extravagantly, that the paltry sum already raised to meet the expense of erecting the pedestal bears to the enormous amount of money that will be necessary to the completion of the project.”

***

ON THIS DAY IN 1897, the Eagle reprinted an editorial from the New Orleans Times-Democrat, which said, “At the last election in New York the people of that state abolished hard labor in its penitentiaries. This was done for the protection of the workingman, who complained at having to compete with convict labor … Half a dozen industries had been tried at Sing Sing so as to cause the least disturbance of the industrial world, but no matter what field the convicts invaded, it was found that their output and labor disturbed prices and wages … As New York is rich and well able to support its convicts in idleness, nothing could be said against the financial part of this position. Unfortunately, another possible effect of idleness was not taken into consideration … the probability that the convicts will go insane from the combination of idleness and confinement. That idleness, combined with solitary confinement, has a tendency to produce insanity has long been known. One of the most distinguished alienists in the country has laid down the following indisputable proposition: ‘The very worst and most hopeless and most pitiable cases that we get are those of the men driven mad by idleness in the state prisons. Their cases present actual brain lesions — the brain lesions that are recognized by all alienists as due solely to continued torture.’”

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Chinese leaders focus on tech as they make 5-year plan

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leaders met Monday to formulate an economic blueprint for the next five years that is expected to emphasize development of semiconductors and other technology at a time when Washington is cutting off access to U.S. technology.

President Xi Jinping’s government is working to promote self-sustaining growth supported by domestic consumer spending and technology development as tensions with trading partners hamper access to export markets and technology.

The ruling Communist Party wants Chinese industry to rely on domestic suppliers and consumers, a strategy it calls “dual circulation.” Economists warn that while this might help to reduce disruption of trade disputes with the United States and other partners, it will raise costs and hurt productivity.

The Five-Year Plan, the 14th in a series issued since the 1950s, is the foundation for government industrial plans in the heavily regulated economy. Its broad outlines are due to be announced after the meeting ends Thursday but the full plan won’t be released until March. Legal and regulatory changes and plans for individual industries will follow.

Innovation will “drive China’s manufacturing industry and push it up the global value chain while strategically ensuring domestic supply,” the official Global Times newspaper said. “Achieving independence in key areas, such as scientific research and finance, is expected to be a focus.”

The latest plan is expected to emphasize domestic development of semiconductors for computers and smartphones — China’s biggest single import by value — next-generation telecoms, artificial intelligence and other fields.

The ruling party has promoted semiconductor development for two decades but Chinese makers of smartphones and other products still rely on the U.S., Europe and Japan for processor chips. Beijing feels increased pressure after the Trump administration cut off access to most American supplies for Huawei Technologies Ltd., a global maker of smartphones and switching equipment, in a feud over technology and security.

“While the biggest challenge for Beijing five years ago was a weak economy, the one today is a potential decoupling with the U.S.,” Macquarie economists Larry Hu and Xinyu Ji said in a report.

Decoupling is a concept that has gained attention as the Trump administration has pushed American companies to return manufacturing to the U.S. and rely less heavily on production in China.

Likewise, Beijing’s plan is likely to emphasize “lower reliance on foreign suppliers for strategic products such as food, energy, semiconductor and other key technologies,” Hu and Ji wrote.

China, where the pandemic began in December, became the first major economy to begin the struggle of economic recovery after the ruling party declared victory over the disease in March.

Automakers and other major industries are back to normal production. Consumer spending edged back above pre-virus levels in the quarter ending in September.

The push for self-sufficiency might hamper economic growth by diverting resources away from more productive uses, Julian Evans-Pritchard and Sheana Yue of Capital Economics said in a report.

“Pursuing self-sufficiency may still be rational as a form of insurance against aggressive decoupling by the U.S. and its allies,” they wrote. “But China’s economy would be better off if such insurance weren’t needed in the first place.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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