Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. India becomes the first Asian nation to reach Mars. India’s space program celebrated a huge victory this week, successfully launching an orbiter to Mars on its first attempt. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) managed to send the Mars Orbitor Mission, affectionately nicknamed MOM, on a budget of $74 million; many have been quick to point out that it cost less than the production of the Hollywood hit movie, Gravity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a celebration of the mission’s success, and schools in India organized programs to commemorate the entry of MOM into Mars’s orbit. The first images of the red planet were uploaded to Twitter, sparking a Twitter conversation between Modi and ISRO’s orbiter.
2. Chinese vice premier vows greater efforts to combat climate change. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said China will commit to a more carbon-efficient economy by 2020 at the UN Climate Summit, the largest high-level climate meeting since 2009. "As a responsible major country, a major developing country, China will make even greater effort to address climate change," Zhang said. His remarks followed those of U.S. President Barack Obama, who called out China’s hesitance to a global climate treaty. As a nation that produces nearly one-third of the world’s carbon emissions, China is generally seen as a necessary component in leading efforts to combat climate change.
3. Taiwan investigates Chinese smartphone company over cybersecurity concerns. Recent reports have alleged that Xiaomi, the leading domestic smartphone maker in China, was sending Taiwanese user information to the mainland. According to the Taiwanese National Communications Commission, the government has begun independent tests on the phones. The concerns highlight not only cross-strait politics, but also international accusations that China’s government and companies are a threat. Earlier this year, a Finnish security company released evidence that Xiaomi, a privately owned company, had collected address book data without permission. Xiaomi apologized for that incident in August.
4. Abe vows to make Japan “hydrogen-based society.” Speaking at CFR’s New York headquarters on Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his desire for Japan “to be the front-runner in the energy revolution,” specifically through the development and popularization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs). The Abe administration first announced in June that it would encourage the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology and in July announced that it would subsidize purchases of hydrogen-powered cars by at least two million yen. Japanese auto-makers have been developing hydrogen fuel-cell technology, including a one-hundred-station “hydrogen highway,” for several years, with plans for the first HFCVs to enter the market in early 2015. Japan’s focus on hydrogen fuel-cell technology represents one part of the Abe administration’s broader push for reforms in the energy sector, which has struggled in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
5. China sentences Uighur scholar to life in prison. The Urumqi People’s Intermediate Court found Ilham Tohti, a former economics professor at Minzu University in Beijing, guilty of separatism after a two-day trial. He was also stripped of his political rights for life and had all of his personal property confiscated. Mr. Tohti is known outside China as a moderate voice against China’s harsh policies in the western-most province of Xinjiang, and his sentence was seen as unusually harsh, earning Beijing the condemnation of the United States, European Union, and United Nations. The ruling comes amid a broader crackdown by the Chinese government in Xinjiang, as protests and violence in the region have increased over the past year; fifty people were reportedly killed last weekend after a series of bomb blasts and riots in Luntai County, southwest of Urumqi.
BONUS: Chinese vendor caught lacing noodles with opium. Noodle connoisseurs in China’s Shaanxi province may be eyeing their food more closely after a vendor admitted to adding powdered poppy plant – from which opium is made – to his dishes. The vendor’s secret, addictive ingredient came to light when a customer tested positive for opium following a routine traffic stop. The noodle shop owner, Mr. Zhang, admitted to buying two kilograms of poppy buds for $100 and was released after a fifteen-day detainment.