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CEO Daily: Wednesday, 25th January

Good morning.

As Donald Trump pursues his ‘America First’ policies, China’s Xi Jinping continues to offer himself as the new leader for a global economy. In addition to his speech in Davos last week, he is aggressively touting China’s multi-billion dollar “One Belt, One Road” initiative to provide infrastructure investment in some 60 countries in Eurasia, East Africa and Oceania—a kind of modern-day Marshall Plan.

But a big problem with China’s global ambition is that it lacks global companies. While more than 100 Chinese companies now rank on Fortune’s Global 500 list, the vast majority are state-owned—companies like State Grid, China National Petroleum, and Sinopec (Nos. 2, 3 & 4)—that do very little business outside of China. They owe their massive size to the massive size of the Chinese market and to government protection from outside competitors, rather than to any proven ability to compete in the world. It’s hard to imagine how China can replace the U.S. as the world’s economic leader until that changes.

One of the few exceptions is Huawei, which has long sold telecommunications equipment around the world, and is now posing a serious challenge to Apple and Samsung in the smartphone business. It has struggled in the U.S., in part because of national security concerns, but has been a powerhouse elsewhere. In Finland, for instance—home to Nokia, the one-time leader of the cell phone business—Huawei in the last year passed both Apple and Samsung to take the market lead.

My colleague Scott Cendrowski profiles Huawei’s rise in the February issue of Fortune magazine, but you can read the story online today, here. If Xi Jinping’s bid for global economic leadership is going to be taken seriously, he will need to stop coddling state-owned companies, and start nurturing a lot more Huaweis.

News below.


Alan Murray

Top News

Trump Will Reveal Plans for Border Wall, Refugee Ban

President Donald Trump is expected to begin signing executive actions on immigration this week, including one aimed at accomplishing one of his most vocal campaign promises: the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Aimed at stemming illegal immigration along the southern border with Mexico, a key point in Trump’s promises to build the wall was that Mexico would pay for its construction. Mexico has said repeatedly that it will not pay for the wall. Meanwhile, Trump is also expected to sign an order restricting the entry of refugees into the U.S., as well as a temporary visa ban on anyone entering the U.S. from Syria and several other majority-Muslim countries until the vetting process is tweaked.  The Associated Press

Target CEO Lobbies Washington Against Trump Border Tax

Target CEO Brian Cornell recently made a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and lobby against the GOP’s proposed border adjustment tax. President Donald Trump has put forth the tax proposal, which would force companies that shutter U.S. factories and open facilities overseas to pay a 35% tariff on products shipped back to the U.S. Retailers have warned that such a tax would force them to raise prices, as the proposal would eliminate their ability to deduct the cost of merchandise they bring in from overseas. Target confirmed that the company is “monitoring closely” how the tax proposal could affect the retail industry, while a Wal-Mart Stores spokesman also told Fortune the company is “tracking the issue.”  Fortune

• Trump Woos Automakers, Pushing for More U.S. Jobs

In a meeting with the leaders at top automakers on Tuesday, President Trump promised to ease environmental regulations and offered lower corporate taxes as part of his pitch to keep more manufacturing jobs from leaving the U.S. Meeting with Ford Motor’s Mark Fields, General Motors’ Mary Barra, and Fiat Chrysler’ Sergio Marchionne, Trump promised a more corporate-friendly environment for companies investing in the U.S. while also warning of potential consequences for corporations that ship work overseas. Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Japanese automaker Toyota said it will add 400 jobs and invest $600 million in an Indiana plant. Wall Street Journal, subscription required

• Cisco Paying $3.7 Billion for ‘Unicorn’ Software Startup

Networking giant Cisco announced its acquisition of AppDynamics to add to its growing Internet of things and applications group. Cisco will pay $3.7 billion for AppDynamics, which makes business software that monitors the performance of clients’ apps. The company is a so-called unicorn startup with a valuation greater than $1 billion. By selling to Cisco, AppDynamics will halt plans for an IPO that the company had planned for early-2017. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

• Elon Musk: Tillerson Could Be ‘Excellent’ Sec. of State

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Tuesday to post some optimistic thoughts about fellow billionaire Rex Tillerson. Responding to a Tweet from The Economist, which touted the former ExxonMobil CEO’s integrity, Musk wrote that he agreed and that Tillerson “has the potential to be an excellent [Secretary] of State.” In a follow-up post, Musk added that Tillerson “is an exceptionally competent executive [and] understands geopolitics.” Musk is one of multiple high-profile CEOs who have been added to President Trump’s team of strategic advisors. Tillerson’s confirmation as Secretary of State will get a full Senate vote next week after his nomination won the backing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week. Fortune


Trump Gags Government Agencies

President Trump’s administration reportedly informed employees at several federal agencies this week that they have been barred from making statements, or providing documents, to the public and the media. The gag orders, which include bans on social media for some federal agencies, affects employees at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. (The EPA was also ordered to freeze all grants and contracts until further notice.) The orders also came after the Interior Department was ordered to temporarily halt action on its Twitter accounts after the National Park Service retweeted posts over the weekend showing smaller crowds at Trump’s inauguration than those at President Obama’s. Fortune

• Gary Cohn Cashing Out at Goldman Before Joining Trump

Gary Cohn is leaving his gig as COO of Goldman Sachs to join the Trump administration as director of the National Economic Council. Cohn’s departure from the Wall Street banking giant comes with a roughly $284 million payday, as the banker will immediately collect about $65 million in cash to cover future bonuses he would have earned under his Goldman contract. In addition, Cohn must liquidate his current stock holdings before taking on his government post, which should mean another $220 million-worth of Goldman equity that he’s either accrued over the years or was due. Bloomberg

• Zuckerberg Says ‘No’ to Presidential Rumors

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg refuted the recent rumors that he might be gearing up for a future run for the White House. Zuckerberg said “No” in response to a question about the rumors from the website BuzzFeed, adding that he is focused on his work for Facebook as well as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization he founded with his wife, Priscilla Chan. Speculation over a possible political turn for the social networking giant’s co-founder had intensified in recent weeks as he’s toured the U.S. interacting with community leaders across the country. Zuckerberg also recently hired Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to run policy and advocacy efforts at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.   BuzzFeed


Summaries by Tom Huddleston, Jr.;