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After Huawei Blow, China Says US Must Show Sincerity for Talks

The United States must show sincerity if it is to hold meaningful trade talks, China said on Friday, after U.S. President Donald Trump dramatically raised

the stakes with a potentially devastating blow to Chinese tech giant Huawei.

China has yet to say whether or how it will retaliate against the latest escalation in trade tension, although state media has taken an increasingly strident tone, with the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily publishing a front-page commentary that evoked the patriotic spirit of past wars.

China’s currency slid to its weakest in almost five months, although losses were capped after sources told Reuters that the central bank would ensure the yuan did not weaken past the key 7-per-dollar level in the immediate term.

The world’s two largest economies are locked in an increasingly acrimonious trade dispute that has seen them level escalating tariffs on each other’s imports in the midst of negotiations, adding to fears about risks to global growth and knocking financial markets.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about state media reports suggesting there would be no more U.S.-China trade talks, said China always encouraged resolving disputes between the two countries with dialog and consultations.

“But because of certain things the U.S. side has done during the previous China-U.S. trade consultations, we believe if there is meaning for these talks, there must be a show of sincerity,” he told a daily news briefing.

The United States should observe the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and they must also keep their word, Lu said, without elaborating.

On Thursday, Washington put telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, one of China’s biggest and most successful companies, on a blacklist that could make it extremely difficult for the telecom giant to do business with U.S. companies.

That followed Trump’s decision on May 5 to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, a major escalation after the two sides appeared to have been close to reaching a deal in negotiations to end their trade battle.

‘Wheel of destiny’

China can be expected to make preparations for a longer-term trade war with the United States, said a Chinese government official with knowledge of the situation.

“Indeed, this is an important moment, but not an existential, live-or-die moment,” the official said.

“In the short term, the trade situation between China and the United States will be severe, and there will be challenges. Neither will it be smooth in the long run. This will spur China to make adequate preparations in the long term.”

The impact of trade friction on China’s economy is “controllable,” the state planner said on Friday, pledging to take countermeasures as needed, Meng Wei, a spokeswoman for the National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC), told a media briefing.

The South China Morning Post, citing an unidentified source, reported that a senior member of China’s ruling Communist Party said the trade war with the United States could reduce China’s 2019 growth by 1 percentage point in the worst-case scenario.

Wang Yang, the fourth-most senior member of the Communist Party’s seven-member Standing Committee, the top decision-making body, told a delegation of Taiwan businessmen on Thursday that the trade war would have an impact but would not lead to any structural changes, the paper said, citing an unidentified source who was at the meeting.

One company that says it has been making preparations is Huawei’s Hisilicon unit, which purchases U.S. semiconductors for its parent.

Its president told staff in a letter on Friday that the company had been secretly developing back-up products for years in case Huawei was one day unable to obtain the advanced chips and technology it buys from the United States.

“Today, the wheel of destiny has turned and we have arrived at this extreme and dark moment, as a super-nation ruthlessly disrupts the world’s technology and industry system,” the company president said in the letter.

The letter was widely shared on Chinese social media, gaining 180 million impressions in the few hours after it was published on the Weibo microblogging site.

“Go Huawei! Our country’s people will always support you,” wrote one Weibo user after reading the letter.

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Trade Tensions Seen Tightening Job Market for Chinese Graduates

A record number of 8.34 million university graduates are set to enter the Chinese job market this summer amid escalating trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Observers say that as China’s export-dependent economy braces for more hits from tariff hikes, which U.S. President Donald Trump recently imposed, the country’s job markets will be tighter for everyone including fresh graduates.

And the impact of a job mismatch among college graduates has long weighed on their actual employment rate at only 52% this year, according to a recent survey.

That means more than 4 million graduates will soon join the ranks of those unemployed, although many of them may opt to pursue higher education, the survey found.

Tightening job market

“Graduate employment has always been problematic in China. Given the current situation with the trade war, I think we should expect it to be even more so this year,” said Geoffrey Crothall, spokesperson at China Labor Bulletin.

“And there’s always been a mismatch between the expectations of graduates, the reality of the job markets and particularly the expectations of employers,” he added.

Graduates will either take longer to find a job or settle with one that has lower pay or poor career prospects, Crothall said.

Making matters worse, the number of job opportunities in China is on the wane as China tries to move away from labor-intensive industries, said Wang Zhangcheng, head of the Labor Economics Institute at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.

“The transformation of industrial structure and the U.S.-China trade war [is making the situation worse]. Also, China’s economy no longer grows at a fast pace. Instead, it has matured with mid- to low-paced growths. Under such circumstances, the demand for labor has declined,” Wang said.

“Plus, many jobs have been replaced by robots as a result of the development of artificial intelligence in the past two years. That surely adds pressure on job seekers,” he added.

Fewer jobs, more seekers

A recent report by Renmin University of China (RUC) and career platform Zhaopin.com found that the number of job seekers in China grew 31% year-on-year in the first quarter – the highest growth in workers since 2011 — while the number of job vacancies shrank by 11% at the same time.

China’s job market prosperity index has dropped to a record low since 2014, it concluded.

However, the latest available state statistics paint a slightly different picture.

Official data showed that China’s surveyed unemployment rate in urban areas stood at 5.2% in March, down 0.1 percentage points from February.

Analysts described the country’s job markets as “stable overall” although the surveyed unemployment rate in 31 major cities went up 0.1 percentage points month-on-month, to 5.1% in March – the highest since late 2016.

Still, China’s State Council has made “saving jobs” one of its top policy priorities since late last year, offering incentives for firms with no or few layoffs and subsidies for internships or on-the-job training.

And college graduates remain a focal point of the council’s employment stabilization plan, along with migrants and laid-off workers.

Distorted graduate employment

China used to boast a graduate employment rate of more than 90% as universities rushed graduates to sign so-called “tripartite employment agreements” with potential employers.

Any refusal may risk their chances of thesis defense or diplomas.

Such agreements are nonbinding on the employers to offer jobs, but distort the overall graduate employment rate, which has allowed universities to attract new students – a fraud that the Ministry of Education now forbids.

In a recent notice, the ministry has disallowed universities from withholding graduates’ degree certificates if they refuse to sign such agreements.

In spite of the ban, graduates still complain about “being forcefully employed.”

On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, one user wrote, “Our school still forces you to sign the agreements. The career adviser calls every day, pulling a long face.”

Another student from Rizhao Polytechnic in Shandong province noted, “Those who have signed the agreements have completed their thesis defense while many of us who haven’t signed the agreements can do nothing but wait.”

One user urged that unless the government writes the ban into law and imposes penalties, no universities would comply.

Job mismatch

Another cause of concern for graduate employment is the long-standing mismatch between the knowledge and skills students have acquired from years of studies in universities, and the private sector’s actual job requirements, professor Wang said.

Given the shifts of production paradigms and “widening structural gaps in labor forces allocations, many of our universities have set up professional courses which may not keep up with the changing [requirements] of the labor markets. That leads to the scenario that many graduates may not find the right career fit for their skills,” the professor said.

As a solution, the education ministry has encouraged universities to focus on fundamentals by providing multifaceted cultivation of talents, so graduates leaving school will meet what different jobs require.

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China Diplomat Confirms Limits on Ramadan in Xinjiang

A Chinese official denies allegations by activists that China’s government is blocking Muslim religious practices in the restive Xinjiang region during the holy month of Ramadan.

A Chinese diplomat in neighboring Pakistan said Beijing has put only partial restrictions on Ramadan activities, not a total ban on fasting by the Uighur minority in Xinjiang.

“There’s no blanket ban. That’s Western propaganda,” Lijian Zhao, the deputy chief of mission at China’s embassy in Islamabad, told VOA.

Zhao said that Xinjiang residents were free to fast during Ramadan and that restrictions were limited to those with official responsibilities to ensure their religious practices did not interfere with their public duties.

“Restrictions are with the Communist Party members, who are atheists; government officials, who shall discharge their duties; and students who are with compulsory education and hard learning tasks,” he said.

The official’s comments come as human rights activists and Uighur advocacy groups have expressed concern about the Chinese government’s widening its repression of thousands of Uighurs as they joined millions of Muslims from around the world to fast during Ramadan, which began May 5 and continues for a month.

​Tougher restrictions

Dolkun Isa, the head of the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, told VOA that Uighurs who are working in the public sector and students are asked to appear daily at canteens during lunch or they will be accused of secretly fasting and hiding “extremist” tendencies.

Disputing Zhao’s assertion that the restrictions were limited, the exiled Uighur leader Isa said government workers were also forced to take home food and share with their family members. Other common Muslim practices, such as attending prayer and wearing a headscarf, are also banned for local residents.

“In some cases, Uighur employees are forced to take home pork and ordered to share with their families,” said Isa. “The restrictions on Ramadan have been in place every year since 2016, but they are especially hard this year.”

Separatist movement

The vast region of deserts and mountains in the northwest is home to nearly 22 million people and has the greatest concentration of Muslims in China, estimated to be about 11 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities.

Conflict in the region is not new. The Chinese government has for decades suppressed a separatist movement by Uighurs to establish an independent state called East Turkestan. Uighurs accuse the government of forcing demographic changes by settling millions of Han Chinese in the region.

The government in Beijing has in recent years faced growing international condemnation over the detention of more than a million minority Uighurs and other Muslims in so-called re-education camps.

​Detention camps

Earlier this month, Randall Schriver, who leads Asia policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, said that the estimated number of detainees could be “closer to 3 million citizens.”

“The Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps,” Schriver said at a Pentagon briefing.

The term “concentration camps” is generally associated with the death camps operated by Nazi Germany in 1940s.

Chinese officials, however, say that their measures in Xinjiang are needed to combat the threat of terrorism and that the camps are nothing but vocational training centers. They are asking the U.S. to “stop interfering” in their domestic affairs.

“We urge the relevant U.S. individual to respect the fact, abandon bias, exercise prudence in words and deeds, stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs, and earnestly contribute to mutual trust and cooperation between us,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang at a press briefing last week.

Shuang said their measures at “vocational and educational training institutions” operate according to law and they endorse all ethnic group members with “positive social effects.”

Anti-terror law

In December 2015, China passed its controversial anti-terror law, which according to Human Rights Watch gave government agencies “enormous discretionary powers.”

The government’s April 2017 regulations to “prevent extremism” drew international outcry, with critics saying they violated basic human rights and religious freedom.

According to the state-run newspaper China Daily, the regulations forbid people in the region from wearing full-face coverings and long beards. They also prohibit them from “choosing names in an abnormal way” or “rejecting or refusing state products and services that include radio and television programming.”

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Taiwan to Vote on Formal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage

Taiwanese legislators are scheduled to decide Friday on legalizing same-sex marriage, marking a potential first in Asia.

 

Lawmakers pressured over the past two years by LGBT groups as well as church organizations opposed to same-sex marriage will choose between bills that broadly legalize the unions and give couples many of the tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to male-female married couples.

 

If the legal changes are approved, Taiwan would become the first place in Asia with a comprehensive law supporting same-sex marriage.

 

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court in May 2017 said the constitution allows same-sex marriages and gave parliament two years to adjust laws accordingly.

 

The court order mobilized LGBT advocacy groups pushing for fair treatment, as well as opponents among church groups and advocates of traditional Chinese family values.

 

“It’s a breakthrough, I have to say so. I could not imagine that could happen in just a few years,” said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.

 

Religion, conservative family values and political systems that discourage LGBT activism have stopped momentum in Asian countries from China through much of Southeast Asia into the Middle East. Thailand, however, is exploring the legalization of same-sex civil partnerships.

 

Taiwan’s acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships began in the 1990s when leaders in today’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party championed the cause to help Taiwan stand out in Asia as an open society. Although claimed by China as its own territory, Taiwan is a self-governing democracy with a vibrant civil society.

 

Opponents have raised fears of incest, insurance benefit scams and children confused by having two mothers or two fathers. Both sides of the issue have held colorful street demonstrations and lobbied lawmakers.

 

In November 2018, a majority of Taiwan voters rejected same-sex marriage in an advisory referendum.

 

Bills on the table Friday include one authored by the government. Another version plays to both sides of the debate by allowing marriages but with conditions such as calling them “unions” and imposing restrictions on adopting children.

 

“If it doesn’t go through, that would be disappointing,” said Hsu Pei-chieh, 30, a Taipei office worker hoping to marry her female partner and raise at least one child. “If we’re married it would be easier for the outside world to understand us.”

 

Opinion surveys in 2012 and 2015 found that slight majorities of Taiwanese backed legalizing same-sex marriage.

 

A defeat for the bill in the legislature on Friday would allow the Constitutional Court order to proceed, effective May 24. Same-sex couples could register their marriages then with local governments, but without guarantees of the legal benefits given to male-female couples.

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Chinese-American Pei, Famed Architect, Dies at 102

I.M. Pei, the versatile, globe-trotting architect who revived the Louvre with a giant glass pyramid and captured the spirit of rebellion at the multi-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has died at age 102.

 

Pei’s death was confirmed Thursday by Marc Diamond, a spokesman for Pei’s New York architectural firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

 

Pei’s works ranged from the trapezoidal addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the chiseled towers of the National Center of Atmospheric Research that blend in with the reddish mountains in Boulder, Colorado.

 

His buildings added elegance to landscapes worldwide with their powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces. Among them are the striking steel and glass Bank of China skyscraper in Hong Kong and the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Beijing. His work spanned decades, starting in the late 1940s and continuing through the new millennium. Two of his last major projects, the Museum of Islamic Art, located on an artificial island just off the waterfront in Doha, Qatar, and the Macau Science Center, in China, opened in 2008 and 2009.

 

Pei painstakingly researched each project, studying its use and relating it to the environment. But he also was interested in architecture as art — and the effect he could create.

 

“At one level my goal is simply to give people pleasure in being in a space and walking around it,” he said. “But I also think architecture can reach a level where it influences people to want to do something more with their lives. That is the challenge that I find most interesting.”

 

Pei, who as a schoolboy in Shanghai was inspired by its building boom in the 1930s, immigrated to the United States and studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He advanced from his early work of designing office buildings, low-income housing and mixed-used complexes to a worldwide collection of museums, municipal buildings and hotels.

 

He fell into a modernist style blending elegance and technology, creating crisp, precise buildings.

 

His big break was in 1964, when he was chosen over many prestigious architects, such as Louis Kahn and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to design the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston.

 

At the time, Jacqueline Kennedy said all the candidates were excellent, “But Pei! He loves things to be beautiful.” The two became friends.

 

A slight, unpretentious man, Pei developed a reputation as a skilled diplomat, persuading clients to spend the money for his grand-scale projects and working with a cast of engineers and developers.

 

Some of his designs were met with much controversy, such as the 71-foot faceted glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris. French President Francois Mitterrand, who personally selected Pei to oversee the decaying, overcrowded museum’s renovation, endured a barrage of criticism when he unveiled the plan in 1984.

 

Many of the French vehemently opposed such a change to their symbol of their culture, once a medieval fortress and then a national palace. Some resented that Pei, a foreigner, was in charge.

 

But Mitterrand and his supporters prevailed and the pyramid was finished in 1989. It serves as the Louvre’s entrance, and a staircase leads visitors down to a vast, light-drenched lobby featuring ticket windows, shops, restaurants, an auditorium and escalators to other parts of the vast museum.

 

“All through the centuries, the Louvre has undergone violent change,” Pei said. “The time had to be right. I was confident because this was the right time.”

 

Another building designed by Pei’s firm — the John Hancock Tower in Boston — had a questionable future in the early 1970s when dozens of windows cracked and popped out, sending glass crashing to the sidewalks, during the time the building was under construction.

 

A flurry of lawsuits followed among the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., the glass manufacturer, and Pei’s firm. A settlement was reached in 1981.

 

No challenge seemed to be too great for Pei, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which sits on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Pei, who admitted he was just catching up with the Beatles, researched the roots of rock `n’ roll and came up with an array of contrasting shapes for the museum. He topped it off with a transparent tent-like structure, which was “open — like the music,” he said.

 

In 1988, President Reagan honored him with a National Medal of Arts. He also won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, 1983, and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, 1979. President George H.W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.

 

Pei officially retired in 1990 but continued to work on projects. Two of his sons, Chien Chung Pei and Li Chung Pei, former members of their father’s firm, formed Pei Partnership Archiitects in 1992. Their father’s firm, previously I.M. Pei and Partners, was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

 

The museum in Qatar that opened in 2008 was inspired by Islamic architectural history, especially the 9th century mosque of Ahmed ibn Tulun in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. It was established by the tiny, oil-rich nation to compete with rival Persian Gulf countries for international attention and investment.

 

Ieoh Ming Pei (pronounced YEE-oh ming pay) was born April 26, 1917, in Canton, China, the son of a banker. He later said, “I did not know what architecture really was in China. At that time, there was no difference between an architect, a construction man, or an engineer.”

 

Pei came to the United States in 1935 with plans to study architecture, then return to practice in China. However, World War II and the revolution in China prevented him from coming back.

 

During the war, Pei worked for the National Defense Research Committee. As an “expert” in Japanese construction, his job was to determine the best way to burn down Japanese towns. “It was awful,” he later said.

 

In 1948, New York City real estate developer William Zeckendorf hired Pei as his director of architecture. During this period, Pei worked on many large urban projects and gained experience in areas of building development, economics and construction.

 

Some of his early successes included the Mile High Center office building in Denver, the Kips Bay Plaza Apartments in Manhattan, and the Society Hill apartment complex in Philadelphia.

 

Pei established his own architectural firm in 1955, a year after he became a U.S. citizen. He remained based in New York City. Among the firm’s accomplishments are the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

 

Pei’s wife, Eileen, who he married in 1942, died in 2014. A son, T’ing Chung, died in 2003. Besides sons Chien Chung Pei and Li Chung Pei, he is survived by a daughter, Liane.

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Consumers Start to Feel Pinch From US, China Trade Standoff

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Russia to Release Killer Whales in New Habitat, Despite Expert Advice

Russia is to free captured killer whales over the next month, but will not return them to their original habitat despite expert advice, a scientist said Wednesday.

The animals will instead be released from their pens in Russia’s Far East and may “disrupt vacationers” at resorts nearby, said Vladislav Rozhnov, who was involved in talks over their fate.

Nearly 100 belugas and orcas were captured last summer and kept in small pens by commercial firms who had planned to deliver them to aquariums, including in China where the industry is booming.

Ten killer whales, or orcas, will be released “in late May to early June,” Rozhnov said during a briefing at the Russian environment ministry.

He said it would be more ideal to transport them to where they had initially been captured, as Russian and foreign scientists have advised, but this was deemed too costly.

Instead they will be freed in the bay where they have been held near the town of Nakhodka — more than 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) south from where they were actually caught in the Sea of Okhotsk.

There is a risk that the whales will “stay near the pens where they were fed” and bother humans, he said.

“Science gives recommendations, but the decision is taken by government authorities,” said Rozhnov, who heads the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Environment and — with other agencies — is part of a council on the fate of the whales.

“We hope that the released animals will go north and return to their native waters,” he said.

Time constraints

The environment ministry said in a statement that transporting the animals to the Sea of Okhotsk could injure the animals and cause stress. Constructing rehabilitation enclosures at a faraway release site would be too complicated, it added.

“Due to constraints of time, the realization of this is difficult,” the ministry said.

Russian officials last month met with U.S.-based conservationists Jean-Michel Cousteau and Charles Vinick, who visited the facility with the killer whales and 87 beluga whales, also captured last year.

Rozhnov said there was no precise decision on the beluga whales, but that scientists now were looking into genetic evidence of family ties between the captured juveniles and known beluga groups in the wild.

‘Aggressive’ orcas

In a statement Wednesday, Cousteau’s team warned that releasing the killer whales near the facility where they were being held carried a “high number of significant risks.” They included potential conflict with people and boats in the area due to “aggressive behaviours observed in some of the orcas.”

Such a release “leads to likely long-term costs and diminished potential for survival,” the team said. They said the whales should be taken to where they were captured following an “acclimatization period” in remote enclosures.

Russia is the only country still catching wild orcas and belugas. The controversial trade of marine mammals has boomed in recent years together with the aquarium industry in China, which uses Russian animals in its new marine parks.

Although some fisheries officials have defended the capture as a legitimate industry, scientists argue it threatens the species’ populations.

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Costs Mounting in US From Trump’s Tariff Fight With China   

The costs seem to be mounting in the U.S. from President Donald Trump’s tit-for-tat trade tariff war with China, both for farmers whose sales of crops to China have been cut and U.S. consumers paying higher prices for imported Chinese products.

The government said Wednesday that to date it has paid out more than $8.5 billion to American farmers to offset their loss of sales to China and other trading partners because of foreign tariffs imposed by Beijing and other governments.​

​WATCH: Consumers Start to Feel Pinch From US, China Trade Standoff

Trump last year pledged up to $12 billion in aid to farmers — chiefly soybean, wheat and corn growers, and those who raise pigs. Trump says he could ask Congress for another $15 billion if U.S. farmers continue to be hurt by China’s tariffs of as much as 25%  on U.S. agricultural imports.

The U.S. had been shipping $12 billion worth of soybeans a year to China, but Beijing’s imposition of the tariff severely cut down on the U.S. exports as China bought the beans from other countries.

Trump said Tuesday on Twitter, “Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now. Hopefully China will do us the honor of continuing to buy our great farm product, the best, but if not your Country will be making up the difference based on a very high China buy. This money will come from the massive Tariffs being paid to the United States for allowing China, and others, to do business with us. The Farmers have been ‘forgotten’ for many years. Their time is now!”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow acknowledged to a television interviewer last weekend that “to some extent” U.S. consumers will bear the brunt of higher costs on Chinese goods after Trump’s tariffs have been levied on the imported goods.

Trade Partnership Worldwide, a Washington economic consulting firm, estimates in a new study the typical American family of four people would pay $2,300 more annually for goods and services if Trump imposes a 25% tariff on all Chinese imports, as he says he is considering.

Such higher tariffs would hit an array of Chinese-produced consumer goods — clothing, children’s toys, sports equipment, shoes and consumer electronics — that are widely bought by Americans.

If that does not happen, but the existing U.S. tariffs remain in place, the research group says the average U.S. family would pay $770 in higher costs each year.

The U.S. imported almost $540 billion in Chinese goods in 2018, while the U.S. exported $120 billion, a trade imbalance that Trump is seeking to even out with imposition of the tariffs. The U.S. exported almost $59 billion in services to China, while importing only $18 billion, but services are not directly affected by tariffs.