The Region Today: China’s ambitious vision, Indonesia’s graft fighters and Vietnamese hacking

By: Euan Black - Posted on: May 15, 2017 | Current Affairs

Southeast Asia Globe’s daily rundown of the region’s top stories

Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a toast during a welcome banquet for the Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 14 May 2017. Photo: EPA/Wu Hong/Pool
Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a toast during a welcome banquet for the Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 14 May 2017. Photo: EPA/Wu Hong/Pool

15 May 2017

China launches ambitious initiative to shape world after its own image

A number of Southeast Asian leaders were in attendance as President Xi Jinping pledged more than $100 billion for infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa at the opening ceremony for the Belt and Road forum in Beijing on Sunday.

Referring to the initiative as the “project of the century”, Xi outlined how China would build bridges, rails and ports in over 60 countries, in a bid to promote a form of “economic globalization that is open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all”.

The One Belt, One Road initiative has drawn comparisons with the US’ post-war Marshall Plan, which helped the superpower realise its geopolitical ambitions while simultaneously overcoming the challenge of overproduction. Most Western leaders, however, declined invitations to join the launch. [New York Times]

Despite illegal cross-border timber trade, EU signs deal with Vietnam

Cambodia’s Environment Minister Say Sam Al said on Sunday that the government had already been probing reports of large-scale illegal logging operations carried out by Vietnamese companies in Ratanakiri province prior to the release of the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency’s recent report on it.

The fact that the Environment Ministry’s investigations failed to yield any results despite the large-scale nature of the operation pointed to interference from higher ups, according to Marcus Hardtke, an expert on forest crime in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, the EU and Vietnam signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Thursday, the first in series of a steps to ensure Vietnam’s timber exports to the European market are legally sourced. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, EIA’s findings will have on negotiations. [The Cambodia Daily]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Cambodia’s logging committee: clampdown or shakedown?

Death threats and violence ‘like breakfast’ for Indonesia’s corruption fighters

Indonesian President Joko Widodo campaigned for the presidency on the promise that he would tackle the country’s crippling corruption.

But while the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has made significant strides to combat graft, critics say Widodo’s administration is failing to provide adequate protection to KPK employees, leaving them vulnerable to violence and politically-motivated judicial attacks.

“It was our morning breakfast,” said Abraham Samad, the former head of the country’s anti-corruption commission, of the terror, intimidation and threats that came with the job. [South China Morning Post]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: New governor faces uphill struggle to unite Jakarta after divisive election

Signs point to Hanoi’s role in hacking, cybersecurity firm says

A recent report from the cybersecurity company FireEye reveals that tactics used by Vietnamese hackers to probe foreign companies for trade secrets, follow dissidents and undermine enemies suggests government complicity.

FireEye watched one Vietnamese hacker group called OceanLotus particularly closely.

According to Nick Carr, a security expert at FireEye and the primary author of the report, the group “accessed personnel details and other data from multiple victim organizations that would be of very little use to any party other than the Vietnamese government”. [New York Times]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Where China stokes conflict, Vietnamese dissidents find opportunity

Bodybuilding bulking up in Singapore as more take up sport

Increasing numbers of Singaporeans are taking to the weight room as the sport starts to shed its steroid stigma, bodybuilding organizers said as 36 contestants across 10 different classes competed in the show in front of a crowd of 300 at the WBPF Invitational Championships.

Pradip Subramaniam, president of the World Bodybuilding & Physique Fitness Federation (WBPF) Singapore, said he had worked hard to help the sport clean up its steroid stigma, which had “cast a shadow over the sport” for “too long”.

“In fact there are millennials who are using social media, such as Instagram to highlight their love for the sports. There are even those who have 10,000 followers on their account,” he said. [Yahoo Singapore]

Related reading from Southeast Asia Globe: Paralympic Singaporean swimmer Theresa Goh gets ready for Rio