March 31, 2015

"Activists battling internet censorship in China said Monday they had proof a massive online assault on their websites had been coordinated by the Chinese authorities."

The Guardian In recent days, popular coding service GitHub faced a massive denial of service (DDoS) attack – an online attack aimed at bringing down a service by overloading it with fake traffic. by Dominic Rushe

'The attack started last Thursday and targeted two GitHub projects designed to combat censorship in China: GreatFire and CN-NYTimes, a Chinese language version of the New York Times.

'In a statement on the GreatFire.org blog, an activist identified as “Charlie” wrote: “On March 17th 2015, our websites and partner websites came under a DDoS attack. We had never been subjected to an attack of this magnitude before. This attack was unusual in nature as we discovered that the Chinese authorities were steering millions of unsuspecting internet users worldwide to launch the attack. We believe this is a major cybersecurity and economic threat for the people of China.”

'After consulting with independent researchers and the internet community, GreatFire claims to have established that the attack was made by hijacking the account of millions of global internet users, inside and outside China.

'Those users received malicious code which was then used to launch cyber-attacks against GreatFire.org’s websites. Among the users targeted were customers of Baidu, which offers a Chinese search engine and a Wikipedia-like service, and is one of China’s largest internet companies.

'According to GreatFire, Baidu’s Analytics code – a service that tracks and reports website traffic – was one of the files replaced by malicious code. Baidu Analytics is used by thousands of websites.

'GreatFire released a research report titled “Using Baidu to steer millions of computers to launch denial of service attacks” to back up its claims.'

"If the Rhodes Trust is good at anything, it’s selecting energetic and ethical young people."

Seattle Times The organization that administers Rhodes scholarships, the prestigious grant program that sends promising students to the University of Oxford, is preparing to expand to the developing world and other countries and will soon begin naming scholars from China. By DAVID BARBOZA via The New York Times

'The move into China, announced Monday, is the first step in what the program expects to be its biggest expansion since it made women eligible in the 1970s. It is meant to cultivate a more diverse crop of young people the program hopes will become leaders in their countries, adding to a list that includes Nobel Prize recipients, former U.S. President Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia.

'By entering China, the program, which has struggled financially in recent years, is also creating a new platform to raise money. But even among the many alumni who believe that an expansion is overdue and that Chinese students should be a part of it, there is some concern about whether the Communist Party will try to exert pressure on the selection process to exclude university students whom the authorities view as critical of the government.

'The decision comes amid a big push into China by some of the world’s most selective universities seeking new students, new sources of funding and ways to develop programs and research institutes inside the country. The group includes Harvard, Yale and the University of California, Berkeley.'

"Government officials keen on joining golf clubs often do so under false names..."

The West Australian China has closed down nearly 70 "illegal" golf courses, a government statement said, in what appears to be the first sign of enforcement of a decade-old ban. via AFP

'The announcement by China's ministry of land and resources comes amid a high-profile anti-graft campaign spearheaded by President Xi Jinping, which has seen crackdowns on banquets, lavish gift-giving and other official excesses.

'The ruling Communist Party has long had an ambivalent relationship with golf, which is both a lucrative opportunity for local authorities and a favoured pastime of some officials, but closely associated with wealth and Western elites.

'"Presently, local governments have shut down a number of illegally-built golf courses, and preliminary results have been achieved in clean-up and rectification work," read the announcement on the ministry's website late Monday.'

"Once the defaults begin -- and places like Haikou run out of money -- there's no telling how wobbly China may become."

Bloomberg China's Xi Jinping made a lot of grand promises over the weekend, pledging a new order where China and Chinese-led institutions such as the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would promote prosperity across the region. By William Pesek

'But he was on shaky ground -- literally. The Boao Forum where Xi spoke took place in Haikou, capital of China's island province of in Hainan, whose local government, it seems, may not be able to pay its debt this year.

'Much has been written about the $50 billion AIIB, which has won support from staunch U.S. allies Australia, South Korea and the U.K., among others. Xi is clearly relishing what looks like a soft-power victory over the U.S., gleefully touting China as a one-stop shop for "markets, growth, investment and cooperation opportunities." Before he starts writing checks, though, Xi should take a closer look at China's own books. Haikou's is just one of many local governments grappling with a $4 trillion-plus debt pile. If Chinese leaders are going to achieve their growing international aspirations, they're going to have to be far more ambitious about getting their financial house in order first.

'At 282 percent of GDP, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, China's total debt now exceeds America's 269 percent and Germany's 258 percent. Even more worrying: If the credit buildup continues at its current pace, that ratio will explode to 400 percent by 2018. At those levels, China would be dangerously susceptible to a surge in long-term interest rates that triggers an accelerating series of defaults in economically-vital sectors like real estate. Even if China can avoid a South Korea-like crash, the resulting slowdown could precipitate a second wave of default risks and financial chaos from which Beijing would take years to recover. China would suddenly be an exporter of deflation, not development aid. 
 
'Yes, China is still growing 7.3 percent, its potential seems boundless and it's run by smart policy makers who are aware of where the cracks in the system lie. But then, the conventional wisdom said the same of Japan 25 years ago. To gain some semblance of control, Xi's government needs to do three things immediately: cap China's credit bubble, rein in state-owned enterprises and create a mechanism to begin disposing of bad debts. Trouble is, Xi's government isn't doing enough to address any of them.'

more here

"Chongqing is home to some of the largest bridges in the world, which in most western cities would be landmarks."

Quartz Until 1997, Chongqing was a neglected city in the poor Sichuan province. It is two hours by plane to any of China’s richer and better-known cities like Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen. by Richard Macauley

'It clambers for space between mountains and rivers—the massive Yangtze tears a winding path through the city—and for much of its history, the city was left alone because its geography meant trade with even the rest of China was difficult.

'Since 1997, though, it has benefited from the government’s elevation to the rank of “municipality,” which means it enjoys special status among Chinese cities and extra investment opportunities.

'Today, Chongqing is the spearhead of one of the government’s biggest domestic projects; to bring wealth and opportunities to the hundreds of millions of people that live in western China, the majority of the country that does not yet benefit fully from the immense wealth generated on the east coast.

'Throughout 2014, the municipality’s official population grew by over 4,000 people each week to 29.9 million (link in Chinese). Officially, Chongqing’s central urban population is almost 8 million, but unregistered laborers push the official figure up substantially. Last year, Chongqing’s GDP grew by 12.3%—well above China’s national average 7.4%—to 1.3 trillion yuan ($204 billion), or roughly the size to Qatar’s.

'Franco’s images, which will appear in his forthcoming book, Metamorpolis, capture Chongqing’s massive urbanization, and detail how that intersects with the city’s population, whether indigenous or recently resettled.'

photos by Tim Franco here