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Xi Jinping hails 'improved cyber ecology', says state to direct strategic tech research

Samsung and TSMC hit with chip tech patent suit; Ant Group's DB hits AWS; PayPal drops Hong Kong rights group; and more

Asia In Brief Chinese president Xi Jinping has opened the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party with a call for the nation he leads to win the race for development of “core technologies” and to become self-reliant in strategic tech.

The speech marked a shift in president Xi's language since his remarks at the same event five years earlier, when he spoke of markets driving innovation. In his Sunday speech he spoke of innovation being focused on national strategic requirements – therefore led by the State - and linked the development and implementation of information technology to national security.

Xi also spoke about China's internet industry, saying that over the last five years of his rule "cyber ecology continued to improve". That's almost certainly a reference to China's internet having been largely cleansed of content of which the Party does not approve – and perhaps also a nod to China's recent crackdown on major tech companies, on grounds their activities put profit and growth ahead of the national interest.

Xi's speech did not mention which technologies China regards as "core" or as priorities for development. But the president did say China plans to nurture world-leading talent to build it.

The speech also included a pledge to reunify (peacefully) with Taiwan, which would give China access to world-leading tech, but did not rule out forceful reunification .

Communication was a significant theme of the speech. Xi pledged to ensure the Party line can always reach citizens' eyes and ears.

"We will improve the systems for communications across all forms of media and create a new environment of mainstream public opinion," Xi said, before outlining another goal to "improve the system for conducting comprehensive cyberspace management and foster a healthy online environment."

– Simon Sharwood

Hong Kong democracy group claims PayPal stopped service

Hong Kong's League of Social Democrats (LSD), one of the territory's few remaining active pro-democracy groups, claims that PayPal has stopped allowing donations to its cause.

On its Facebook page the League quotes an email it claims to have received from PayPal Hong Kong that states "upon review of your account we have determined there to be excessive risks involved."

State-controlled Chinese media have characterized the League as a "cult" – a term often used to describe the Falun Gong religious organization which is banned in China.

PayPal has not replied to our request for comment on the allegation.

– Simon Sharwood

Vietnam doubles down on digital transformation

Vietnamese prime minister Pham Minh Chinh last week reiterated the importance of digital transformation to the nation's reform agenda.

In a speech delivered on National Digital Transformation Day, Pham pledged five to pursue five priorities:

  • Improve the number and quality of administrative processes offered online, by delivering a national online authentication scheme;
  • Increase Vietnam's talent pool by focusing on developing skills needed for digital transformation;
  • Promote faster business adoption of digital services, with shared digital infrastructure seen as one way to make that effort faster and more affordable;
  • Educate stakeholders about the benefits of digital transformation, to encourage adoption;
  • Build infrastructure and institutions to make the above possible, then watch Vietnam soar up e-government efficiency rankings.

– Simon Sharwood

Ant Group's distributed database available on AWS

OceanBase, a database developed by Alibaba's financial services arm Ant Group, has gone on sale in Amazon Web Services' marketplace.

The distributed relational database solution is offered as an alternative to MySQL and has the pedigree of operating Ant's colossal payments services, plus substantial implementations at major Chinese financial institutions.

The AWS Marketplace page for the product describes it as capable of storing more than 320 billion data rows in a single table.

"It can smoothly scale in or out online (more than 100 nodes in a single cluster) and can automatically achieve load balancing without interrupting system operation after scale-in or -out, which is transparent to applications," OceanBase claims.

While China is a major source of enterprise hardware, little software from the Middle Kingdom reaches the rest of the world. The debut of OceanBase on AWS is therefore significant.

– Simon Sharwood

Australian telco Optus says hack victims don't need to replace passports

Australian carrier Optus issued an update in a stock exchange filing on Friday regarding the cyber attack it faced in late September that exposed customer data in such quantity that a threat actor could potentially open a bank account in a victim's name. "As a result of discussions with the Australian Government, Optus is now communicating to customers whose passport number was exposed in the cyber attack that they will not need to replace their passports," the telco explained [PDF]. Optus further detailed that the company is working with the government to "safeguard customers from the possibility of identity crime, including providing advice on actions impacted customers should take, if any."

The company received much criticism from the public at the time of the attack for failing to notify victims adequately. The data breach is under regulator investigation to discover whether Optus took reasonable steps to protect customers' personal information.

Singapore says yes to Coinbase selling digital payment tokens

US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced last week it received regulatory approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to offer digital payment token products and services in the island nation. MAS has so far given approval to 15 companies, though it has not been shy about its scepticism over cryptocurrency. The regulator has repeatedly warned retail investors to steer clear of investing in the alterna-cash.

Cyber attacks in Vietnam up 20 percent year on year

Vietnam's National Cyber Security Center released statistics regarding cyber attacks, including an almost 20 percent year-on-year increase in the attacks on businesses and organizations in September. A total of 998 cyber attacks in September of 2022 brings the total so far in 2022 up to more than 9,500 and counting.

Toshiba narrows field of bidders

Toshiba has reportedly picked Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) as a preferred bidder to buy the company. JIP is reportedly hoping to acquire the troubled Japanese MNC with help from Orix and Chubu Electric Power. Negotiations are rumoured to be focused on the price and funding.

In other news

Our regional coverage from last week included news of the US granting exemptions to its latest round of restrictions on exports of advanced chips and equipment to China. SK hynix, Samsung, TSMC and Intel all were given a one-year reprieve from complying.

Toshiba launched a commercialized robot inspection service for power plant turbine generators.

The Chinese city of Shenzhen offered hefty subsidies to boost its chip industry as US sanctions continue to bite.

China launched a solar observation satellite into orbit that, if all goes to plan, will study the Sun for a minimum of four years.

Samsung's Ukraine headquarters were damaged during a Russian attack on Kyiv that targeted civilians.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has pegged the solution to costly, slow and inefficient cross-border payments on the implementation of industry-led blockchain stablecoin transactions and multi-CBDC platforms.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) went into damage control mode after a launch of its Epsilon rocket was terminated with a self-destruct command on Wednesday.

Fujitsu and Japan's Keio University want the internet to have an endorsement feature that verifies information and hinders fake news.

India's minister of state for electronics and information technology has hinted that he will very likely extend the deadline to comply with sweeping new information security rules set in the name of national security.

Also in India, the IT minister hinted at the imminent release of a revised data protection law that would drop requirements for sovereign data storage – an outcome that would please big tech.

The illegal war in the Ukraine has led to a small and strange boom in Chinese electric blanket exports to Europe.

Singapore-owned Australian telco Optus will face investigations after its train wreck of a data breach in late September.

Also in Australia, the union representing Apple Store employees has called for a strike as part of efforts to increase pay and improve working conditions.

Toyota has come clean about an outsourced developer who left the key to customer info on a public GitHub page for five years, exposing almost 300,000 email addresses and customer management numbers of T-connect assistance users.

And finally, a political expert opined that US semiconductor technology trade restrictions will make life very hard for Chinese American techies working and living in China. ®

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