from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 3, 2013

May 03, 2013

A traditional Chinese tourist junk sails past Rubber Duck by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman at Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on May 2, 2013. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)
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Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Shanghai diners fed rat, mink, and fox instead of lamb. Despite many jokes that restaurants in China replace expensive cuts of meat with cat and dog, it turns out that fox, mink, rat, and other small creatures are the counterfeiters’ animals of choice. A recent raid in Shanghai alone netted ten tons of counterfeit meats and sixty-three suspects, who are accused of earning about $1.6 million in illicit sales of fake mutton. The raid was part of a crackdown by the Ministry of Public Security that started in January, and the police have since arrested 904 suspects and raided 1,721 butcheries and workshops across the country. “In fake lamb, it is easy to pull apart the fat from the red meat. In real lamb, the fat is difficult to separate,” explained a police tweet on Weibo that was forwarded more than 10,000 times.

2. China and India still at an impasse. Officials in New Delhi are increasingly worried about China’s incursion into Indian-controlled territory, and the Indian media has been covering the story extensively (see Sinocism for May 2 for a full roundup of stories). Though both sides have tried to play down the incident, with Chinese media curiously silent on the issue, the confrontation represents the most serious rise in tensions between the two Asian giants since the 1980s. The question that is puzzling analysts is: why now? What does China gain from reigniting old tensions? With maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas, Beijing seems to be antagonizing—by its own actions­­—many of its neighbors. Could Russia be next?

3. North Korea sentences a U.S. citizen. Though Pyongyang has dialed down its bellicose rhetoric of late, the hermit kingdom continues to draw the wary eye of Washington. Most notably, North Korea sentenced naturalized U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae to fifteen years of hard labor for unspecified “hostile acts.” He has been detained since late last year and was originally charged with crimes “aimed to topple” the government. Further south, the last South Korean workers left the Kaesong Industrial Complex, marking the first time all workers have withdrawn. Meanwhile, the Pentagon issued a report to Congress warning that the North “will move closer” to having the ability to hit the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, but it neglected to provide a timeline.

4. CEIP releases report on China’s military. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a report on Friday entitled “China’s Military and the U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2030: A Strategic Net Assessment.” In short, the report argues that China’s military will close the gap with that of the United States, but economic interdependence between the world’s two largest economies will prevent cold war or all-out war. On the other side of the Pacific, Australia just released its 2013 Defense White Paper, striking a more conciliatory tone towards China’s military modernization while promising to update its own fleets of aircraft, submarines, and patrol boats. The white paper is in stark contrast to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2009 document, which took a much more confrontational approach towards China.

5. Alibaba buys stake in Weibo. Internet commerce giant Alibaba bought an 18 percent stake in China’s popular Weibo microblogging service for $586 million. The two companies hope the collaboration will draw Weibo users to Alibaba’s e-commerce sites and increase advertising and social commerce services revenue for Weibo. The deal shores up one of Alibaba’s weaknesses, social media, as it prepares for its IPO in the next year.

Bonus: Giant rubber ducky invades Hong Kong. A six-story tall inflatable duck floated into the Hong Kong harbor on Thursday. The duck was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, who said it represents global unity and the idea that the world is “one giant bathtub.” See pictures from the event here.