Pro-China campaign targeted YouTube with AI avatars

PLUS: Beijing wants ten-minute reporting of infosec incidents; Infosys CFO bails; TikTok's Indonesia comeback approved, for now

Asia In Brief Think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) last week published details of a campaign that spreads English language pro-China and anti-US narratives on YouTube.

The campaign, which ASPI calls Shadow Play, includes 30 YouTube channels that have collectively published over 4,500 videos, accumulating 120 million views and 730,000 subscribers. ASPI reported the accounts to YouTube and 19 of the channels were subsequently removed. According to the think tank, Shadow Play has been operating since mid-2022. At times it uses AI to generate voiceovers. "To our knowledge, this is one of the first times that video essays, together with generative AI voiceovers, have been used as a tactic in an influence operation," explained ASPI.

One account used an avatar to present its vids – an act the think tank believes was the first instance of a Chinese AI-generated avatar being used in an influence operation.

ASPI concluded the operator of the campaign is Mandarin-speaking and is likely "a commercial actor operating under some degree of state direction, funding or encouragement."

Shadow Play advanced six distinct narratives, with two dominant themes: that China is "winning" a technology war with the US; and the competition for rare earth minerals.

Other narratives include that "the US is headed for collapse and its alliance partnerships are fracturing; that China and Russia are responsible, capable players in geopolitics; that the US dollar and the US economy are weak; and that China is highly capable and trusted to deliver massive infrastructure projects," outlined ASPI.

Infosys loses fourth senior exec

The chief financial officer (CFO) of India-based IT outsourcer Infosys has resigned from his position, according to a December 11 regulatory filing.

Nilanjan Roy's last day as CFO will be March 31, 2024. Current deputy CFO Jayesh Sanhrajka will step into the role on April 1.

According to a press release, Roy, who has been CFO since 2018, "has decided to step down to pursue his personal aspirations outside of Infosys." Roy's is the fourth significant departure from Infosys announced in 2023. CEO Mohit Joshi departed for rival Tech Mahindra in March 2023. The other two execs include head of HR, Richard Lobo, and chief information security officer Vishal Salvi.

China proposes ten-minute deadline for data breach reporting

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last Friday published draft guidelines for reporting of data security issues. The proposed regime would require victims of severe breaches to notify authorities by phone within ten minutes of detecting an incident.

That swift response should not be onerous, as the proposal requires Chinese orgs to establish emergency response teams. After a breach, that team is expected to operate 24 hours a day until the issue is addressed.

Reports to authorities must be comprehensive, with omission of details punished.

"Any unit or individual who commits other dereliction of duty or dereliction of duty during emergency work shall be subject to industry supervision," the proposal states (after machine translation). – Simon Sharwood

TikTok's Indonesian gambit gets ministerial nod

Indonesia's Minister of Trade has voiced support for the proposed strategic partnership between Chinese social media giant TikTok and local super-app developer GoTo.

"Hopefully what the government is doing with Tokopedia and TikTok and others will help the [e-commerce] ecosystem to really provide great benefits for the progress of SMEs and industry, for the economic progress of the country," detailed trade minister Zulkifli Hasan, according to local media.

Hasan specified that the government would give the e-commerce collaboration three-to-four-months to operate, and would thereafter assess its progress.

The announcement of the collaboration came just months after Indonesia banned the practice of embedding e-commerce facilities in social media platforms.

China's jetliners make first overseas foray

China's home-made passenger jets, the C919 and ARJ21, landed in Hong Kong last Tuesday – an event that was celebrated with a ceremonial water salute. The flights were the first overseas journeys for the planes.

The C919 was designed as a competitor to Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. It completed its first commercial flight in May.

The flight to Hong Kong was seen as putting the C919, and the smaller ARJ21, in the shop window for airlines worldwide.

Three Arrows Capital faces court

Leaders of failed crypto outfit Three Arrows Capital faced questions in a Singaporecourt last Wednesday after successfully evading having to provide details into where its assets lie since its collapse in 2022.

Zhu Su, the co-founder of the now-defunct crypto business, reportedly took the stand and was interrogated by lawyers for the liquidator, Teneo. Zhu was arrested in September as he was trying to leave Singapore. He is expected to serve four months in jail for failing to comply with investigations.

In Other News …

Last week's regional coverage kicked off intriguingly, with the Chinese government's plan to make a game out of internet censorship by quizzing the populace on subjects like regulations and Socialist values.

Meanwhile Nvidia chief Jensen Huang told an audience in Singapore that his chip shop is working closely with the US government to design chips it can sell into China without violating export bans – but the US commerce secretary countered that she's not keen on vendors edging right up to the line. She later conceded that since most AI applications would be commercial and not military in nature, the accelerator champ could and should sell chips to China.

A Belgian man found out the hard way that the US is serious about those restrictions when he was arrested for having masterminded the smuggling of millions of dollars worth of contraband tech into China and Russia.

South Korean giants Samsung and SK hynix announced a partnership with Dutch conglomerate ASML – which makes the lithography equipment needed for cutting-edge chips – to establish a research lab in the Korean peninsula.

The Canalys APAC Forum in Bangkok made the news a few times, including when Lenovo's senior veep Che Min Tu admitted that the world's biggest PC vendor intends to keep making Chromebooks because people want them – even though they're an environmental disaster and lousy for profit margins. Ah, Capitalism.

Lenovo's not just making cheap trashy notebooks though, and it was among the first out of the gate with an announcement about building servers based on Intels's brand spanking new Emerald Rapids processors. The servers, designed for datacenters and high performance computing, will naturally be tweaked for AI, because it's 2023 and everything is AI now.

Back at the Canalys APAC Forum, Dell's APAC and Japan president Peter Marrs warned Nvidia that while it's the undoubted leader in the AI processor space right now, the industry is clamoring for AI accelerators and won't wait for the champ to deliver its ballyhooed but delayed next generation. On the other hand, a panel at the Forum revealed that while AI may be the hype flavor of the month (or year) few businesses actually have any concrete idea what they would do with it.

China's technological competition with the US is not just in terms of AI, but also in space exploration. On that front, a group of scientists from the Middle Kingdom intend to put a quadcopter on Mars – much as the US did with a helicopter. A quadcopter should be able to carry heavier loads of longer distances though.

Also in China space news, the magnificently named Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology Co., also boringly called i-Space, recycled a rocket after only 38 days – a huge milestone in the development of reusable launch vehicles.

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