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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 5, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Rescue workers stand on the river bank as the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star is pulled out of the Yangtze against sunset, in Jianli, Hubei province, China, June 5, 2015. Only 14 survivors, one of them the captain, have been found after the ship carrying 456 overturned in a freak tornado on Monday night. A total of 103 bodies have been found. REUTERS/China Daily CHINA OUT. Rescue workers stand on the river bank as the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star is pulled out of the Yangtze against sunset, in Jianli, Hubei province, China, on June 5, 2015 (China Daily/Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Up to 440 presumed dead after Chinese cruise ship capsizes. A Yangtze River cruise ship sank during a torrential rainstorm in Hubei Province Monday evening. While emergency services rushed to respond, four days later only fourteen passengers have been rescued, making this the most deadly peacetime maritime disaster in China’s recent history. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 30, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila January 30, 2015. Aquino urged legislators on Wednesday not to abandon a plan for autonomy for Muslims to end a decades-old insurgency after the clash in which dozens of people were killed, saying doing so would dash hopes for peace. A top official described the clash on Sunday, which shattered a three-year ceasefire, as a "misencounter" during a bid to arrest two militants who had taken refuge with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY) Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila, on January 30, 2015 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Forty-four commandos killed in the Philippines. On January 25, forty-four commandos in the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) were slain in a firefight with two Muslim rebel groups in the southern province of Maguindanao. The area in which the raid took place is currently held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who signed a peace deal with the government last year to end years of fighting; MILF was apparently uninformed of the planned raid. The team of 392 had been deployed to capture two high-value terror suspects: suspected bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan. President Benigno Aquino held a ceremony to honor those killed and urged the nation to support the ongoing peace process. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 19, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters). A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Pakistan engulfed in anger and grief after the Taliban kills 132 schoolchildren and sixteen teachers. Members of the Pakistani Taliban attacked a military school in Peshawar, killing 132 schoolchildren and 16 teachers, many of them shot at point-blank range and some burned alive. The Taliban claimed that the attack was to avenge Pakistani military operations in the northwest Taliban haven of North Waziristan. Read more »

The Interview and Its Challenge to North Korea’s Leadership

by Scott A. Snyder
the-interview-premiere A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film The Interview in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Courtesy: Reuters)

Today is the third anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death, marking the completion of a traditional period of mourning for Korean leaders and the presumed consolidation of power under Kim Jong-il’s successor, Kim Jong-un. During the three-year mourning period following the death of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung in the mid-1990s, Kim Jong-il waged a struggle behind the scenes to overcome the Arduous March, a famine that decimated North Korea’s population. In 1997, Kim Jong-il emerged publicly as chairman of the National Defense Commission and as leader of a “military first [pdf]” policy. Read more »

Zuckerberg’s Love Affair With Xi Jinping

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS) Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, on April 4, 2013. (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently stirred up controversy by advising his employees to read Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book The Governance of China, because he wants them to “understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The book appeared prominently placed on his desk during a recent visit from China’s Internet czar Lu Wei, and he apparently has bought a number of copies to share with others. (To be clear—and I am assuming Mr. Zuckerberg realizes this—Xi’s book is not a book that he, himself, wrote; it is a collection of his speeches and interviews.) For the free publicity he is providing the Chinese leader, Zuckerberg has been widely condemned on the Chinese Internet. Given Zuckerberg’s position as the CEO of one of America’s leading technology firms, it is worth exploring whether such criticism is deserved. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 8, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing, on June 2, 2010. Microsoft Corp appears to be the latest U.S. company targeted by China for anti-trust investigation after government officials paid sudden visits to the software firm's Chinese offices on July 28, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing, on June 2, 2010. Microsoft Corp appears to be the latest U.S. company targeted by China for anti-trust investigation after government officials paid sudden visits to the software firm's Chinese offices on July 28, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China cracks down on U.S. technology companies. Beijing has begun warning Chinese officials to stop buying U.S. information technology, including antivirus defense by Symantec (as well as Russian Kaspersky Lab), Apple products, and Microsoft software, for national security reasons. China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce conducted surprise inspections of Microsoft’s China offices, saying that it suspected monopolistic practices. The probe now includes consulting firm Accenture, which consults for Microsoft on financial issues. Beijing also banned its officials from buying iPads and other Apple products [Chinese]. China has a long history of tension with Microsoft and other U.S. technology companies, which has been exacerbated since Edward Snowden began releasing information about NSA practices that target China. Read more »

China Has a History of Not Trusting Microsoft on Cybersecurity

by Adam Segal
A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing, June 2, 2010. Microsoft Corp appears to be the latest U.S. company targeted by China for anti-trust investigation after government officials paid sudden visits to the software firm's Chinese offices on July 28, 2014. Picture taken June 2, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing on June 2, 2010. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Reports of China investigating Microsoft for possible violations of anti-monopoly laws have tied the action to continuing tensions over cybersecurity. In response to the Department of Justice’s indictment of five alleged PLA hackers, as well as revelations in some of the documents released by Edward Snowden that appear to expose the NSA hacking into Chinese targets, Beijing has increased focus on the security of the products of Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, Intel, and others. Newspaper articles have called these companies the guardian warriors, highlighted the alleged vulnerabilities that China’s reliance on these companies creates, and pushed for banks, government offices, and others to shift to Chinese competitors. Read more »

How China Becomes a Cyber Power

by Adam Segal
Employees work inside a LCD factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 8, 2013. Chinese flat screen makers, once dismissed as second-class players in the global LCD market, are drawing envious looks from big names such as LG Display Co Ltd and Samsung. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters) Employees work inside a LCD factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 8, 2013. Chinese flat screen makers, once dismissed as second-class players in the global LCD market, are drawing envious looks from big names such as LG Display Co Ltd and Samsung. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

One of the justifications for the creation of the Chinese leading group on cybersecurity and information technology was the need to move China from a “big” network country to a “strong” cyber power (从网络大国走向网络强国). While China has the world’s largest number of Internet users and a vibrant domestic market, policymakers and outside analysts seem to have significant concerns about Beijing’s technological prowess, the coherence of its international strategy, and its ability to respond to the growing sophistication of cyberattacks. It is one thing to be big, it is another to be powerful.
Read more »

Chinese Cyber Espionage: We Know the Who, How, Why, and Why it Matters–We’re Missing the What to Do

by Adam Segal
A demonstrator from the pro-China "Caring Hong Kong Power" group protests over claims from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) hacked computers in the Chinese territory, outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong July on 9, 2013. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) A demonstrator from the pro-China "Caring Hong Kong Power" group protests over claims from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) hacked computers in the Chinese territory, outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong July on 9, 2013. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Three documents that came out this week lay out the “who,” “how,” “why,” and “why it matters” of Chinese cyber espionage. Unfortunately, we still lack the “what to do.”

The “who” and “how” was contained in a new report, Putter Panda, by the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike [Full disclosure: CrowdStrike helps fund a speaker series at CFR]. The report, like the Department of Justice (DoJ) indictment of five hackers alleged to be part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Mandiant’s 2013 APT1 report, uses IP addresses, email accounts, and other forensic details to describe attacks on European and U.S. businesses and government agencies, with a particular focus on the satellite, aerospace, and communications sectors. CrowdStrike identified a hacker using the handle “cppy”, and through images posted on a picture sharing website and other clues linked the individual to PLA 3rd Department 12th Bureau Unit 61486 in Shanghai. Read more »

Is Washington Getting China Policy Wrong?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on May 21, 2014. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

It would be easy to think that U.S. policy toward China has gone off the rails. Washington is at odds with Beijing in the East and South China Seas; accusations of cyber espionage are flying across the Pacific; and Beijing is signing big oil and gas deals and talking about shared security concerns with Moscow, even as the United States is trying to coordinate sanctions against Russia for its crisis-inducing behavior in Ukraine. Read more »