from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 19, 2014

A British Airways airplane flies past a signage for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London on April 22, 2014. (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters)

September 19, 2014

A British Airways airplane flies past a signage for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London on April 22, 2014. (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters)
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Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China fines GlaxoSmithKline nearly $500 million for bribery. A Chinese court fined British pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 3 billion yuan ($489 million) after the one-day, closed-door trial ended, finding the company guilty of bribery. Several officials of the company, including Mark Reilly, the former head of GSK in China, were also given suspended jail sentences. GSK said that it remained committed to operating in China despite the ruling. The company is also being investigated in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and has been accused of corrupt practices on smaller scales in Poland, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. By some estimates, GSK’s actions in China led to over $150 million in illegal revenues.

2. Tension flares at the disputed border during Xi-Modi meetings. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on Wednesday--Indian Prime Minister Modi’s sixty-fourth birthday--to sign a slew of agreements, including a pact to make Ahmedabad the sister city to Guangzhou in China. Xi pledged $20 billion in Chinese investment, significantly lower than the expectations in the media, but still substantial. Despite the cordiality of the meetings, around a thousand Indian troops were mobilized on Thursday to face an equivalent number of Chinese troops near the Line of Actual Control. Modi hinted that a transformation of China-India relations depends upon a border resolution.

3. China injects $81 billion into top banks. The Chinese central bank, the People’s Bank of China, is injecting 500 billion yuan into the country’s top five banks in an effort to combat slower-than-expected growth in the Chinese economy. Those five banks—all state controlled—account for three-fifths of the market and are well positioned to make loans to the government’s favored industries. The injection will be in the form of a three-month, low-interest-rate loan to the banks, and it is predicted to have an impact similar to that of a 0.5 percent cut in the reserve requirement ratio. Cutting the reserve rate, however, would be a broader and longer-lasting move and would not allow the government to dictate where the money goes.

4. Report cites ‘modern slavery’ in Malaysian factories. According to a report released this week, nearly one in three migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry suffer from conditions of modern-day slavery. The monitoring group, Verité—which conducted the survey on commission by the U.S. Department of Labor—also found that 92 percent of the migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry had paid recruitment fees in excess of legal or industry standards. Other migrant workers were employed in forced situations because their passports had been taken away. While no companies were singled out, the findings could prove troublesome for consumer electronics companies if the United States and others move to adopt standards to eliminate indentured servitude from the global supply chain.

5. Japan’s Noguchi elected president of space explorers’ group. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi was elected president of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), a Houston-based association of current and former astronauts from thirty-five nations at their annual planetary congress. The meeting was held in Beijing for the first time, and at a press conference Noguchi said that he would seek greater Chinese inclusion in international space cooperation. Noguchi is the first Asian to assume the post, and his election comes at a time of growing interest and investment in space among Northeast Asian nations. Japan’s Ministry of Defense recently announced that it wants to establish a new unit to track space debris; China’s military has plans to establish a space force; and South Korea is investing heavily in satellite technology.

Bonus: Beijing hosts first-ever all-electric car race. The race, which included Formula E race cars, is the first of ten such races to take place through June next year. Team Audi, driven by Brazil’s Lucas di Grassi, took first place. There are fewer safety concerns because the cars do not carry petroleum-based fuel. The series is designed to drum up interest in electric cars.

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