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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Google promises more localised content for Malaysian websurfers

By JO TIMBUONG
intech@thestar.com.my

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian websurfers can look forward to more localised Internet content and services now that popular search engine company Google Inc has cemented its presence in the country.
Google, which just opened an office at the Petronas Twin Towers here, made a commitment to boost local content of its web services such as Google Maps, Google News and Google Translate.
Google Maps is a navigation service while Google News is a news aggregator that features events from all over the world. Google Translate is a translation service where keyed-in words and phrases are translated from one language to another.
“Our key aim in Malaysia is to provide a local experience (in our services) for our users here,” said Julian Persaud, Google managing director for South-East Asia yesterday.
He cited as an example the power of localised content.
“I had to use Google Maps on my smartphone to guide the taxi driver to my destination in Kuala Lumpur the other day,” Persaud said.
Google Malaysia country manager Sajith Sivanandan said it was such localised services that Google wanted to develop further.
“Having a local presence will better enable us to engage with Malaysian users and content producers,” he said.
Persaud said setting up the Malaysian office is a natural progression for Google, which has been active in the country for some time already.
He said the country’s information technology infrastructure and improved broadband penetration were some of the other reasons that prompted Google to open its office here.
He declined to state the amount Google spent on setting up the office here.
“We tend to start humbly and then grow from there; it was the same for us in Singapore. We grow as the market grows,” he said.
Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir officiated at the event to open the Kuala Lumpur office.

Malaysia may rein in online media

But proposed amendments to publications Act still at early stage, says Home Minister


KUALA LUMPUR - THE Malaysian government is looking into making changes to regulations governing online media, but Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said yesterday that the proposed amendments are still at an early stage.
The Home Ministry's secretary-general Mahmood Adam said on Tuesday that the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 would be amended to include online publications, and would be tabled in Parliament as early as March.
The amendments could affect Internet content, blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, he said.
The proposal follows concerns in government circles that online media and blogs are becoming increasingly vocal in attacks on the government and have raised many sensitive issues regarding race and religion.
On the other hand, the government is often reminded by its critics that former premier Mahathir Mohamad had pledged not to censor the Internet in 1995 when he launched the Multimedia Super Corridor, an ambitious plan to draw international cyber investors.
Mr Mahmood's announcement drew widespread concerns from online players and lawmakers. They said if the changes come through, news sites and political blogs that have mushroomed over the past decade could well be subjected to the same stringent rules as print publications under the PPPA, including getting annual licences.
Read the full story in Thursday's edition of The Straits Times.
hazlinh@sph.com.sg

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Google opens Malaysia office

(AFP)


KUALA LUMPUR — Search engine Google said Wednesday it will open a Malaysian office, its second in Southeast Asia, following significant growth in Internet usage in the country.
Google Southeast Asia chief Julian Persaud said Malaysia has one of the "highest percentages of usage of Google's Web browser, Chrome, in Asia Pacific" together with 17 million Internet users from a population of 27 million.
"The online environment in Malaysia is growing rapidly, with significant developments in both broadband Internet access and e-commerce activities," he told reporters.
"We are pleased to establish our newest operations in Kuala Lumpur, where we can draw from the highest quality local talent to further help users find the information they're looking for," he added.
Persaud said Google was targeting small and medium enterprises in Malaysia with its "search and display" services, aimed at helping them reach new markets.
He said the Malaysian operations, set up four years after the creation of Google's first Southeast Asian office in Singapore, would customise products such as Google Maps, Google News and Google Translate for the local market.
Google said it will hire a record number of people this year, taking on more than 6,000 workers worldwide.
Persaud also said the return of co-founder Larry Page to the company's helm in April would not affect operations in the region.
"I don't see it as much of a change as the current CEO will still be in the company... It's business as usual," he said.
Last week, in a surprise shakeup of its top management, the California-based company announced that Eric Schmidt, its chief executive over the past decade, would step aside in April and be replaced by Page.
Despite revenues of nearly $30 billion last year, Google is under pressure from new rivals such as Facebook and Twitter for the attention of Web surfers, advertising dollars and engineering talent.

When Hornets Growl

The new, supersonic face of e-warfare.

  • By D.C. Agle

No soft underbelly here: The EA-18G Growler hauls missiles, fuel tanks, and electronic warfare pods.

Two hours north of Seattle, Washington, at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the entrance to Puget Sound is guarded by a citadel dedicated to the aerial mastery and manipulation of one of the universe’s fundamental particles—the electron. The site, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, was originally envisioned as little more than a waypoint for patrol aircraft scanning the Sound for invaders in World War II.
Today, the station has evolved into the headquarters for the Navy’s airborne electronic attack mission, a shadow world where the electromagnetic spectrum—the range of radiation frequencies—is the battlefield, and jets firing radio waves, microwaves, and infrared waves instead of bullets can wreak havoc without a trace. Now, as the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet morphs into the EA-18G Growler, the Navy’s e-warfare capability has gone into afterburner.
In electronic warfare, various pods and antennas on an airplane send and receive these high-powered electromagnetic signals to disrupt, suppress, or disable an enemy’s radar-based defenses and communications networks. Called aerial electronic jamming, the practice can make a flight of attack airplanes accompanied by a Growler vanish from enemy radar screens in a storm of disorienting electromagnetic noise, like an orchestra drowning out a bugle. Or a Growler can slouch into passive mode, eavesdropping on the enemy for extended periods to gather intelligence.
For some 40 years, those at Whidbey have been practicing the black art of jamming from inside the cockpit of Grumman’s drumstick-shaped EA-6B Prowler. But that aircraft, which flummoxed a generation of enemy radar operators in Vietnam, is aged, overbooked, maintenance-needy, and downright slow.
In 2009, the first operational squadron of EA-18G Growlers, the Prowlers’ successors, began tearing through the skies around Whidbey. By the end of 2014, the Navy plans to take delivery of 114 Growlers. At $67 million each, the G comes with a lot of bells and whistles.
The electronic attack community likes the Growler’s speed and its ability to fly from either airfield or carrier deck. Pilots like the fact that it will be able to stand back and jam for other airplanes, called standoff jamming; or, because it’s able to keep up with Super Hornets, that it will provide modified escort jamming in almost all phases of an attack mission, targeting in particular an adversary’s airborne and ground-based anti-aircraft missile capabilities. And everyone likes the cut of its jib. The Growler has the DNA of a fighter, so it is more suited to a Hollywood closeup than its bulbous and blistered predecessor.
Yet those who fly the Growler for the “Scorpions” of VAQ-132 at Whidbey, the first operational squadron, know their place in the world: below the radar. “Oh, we’ll never have a Top Gun movie made about us,” says Lieutenant Commander Eric Sinibaldi, a Scorpion electronic warfare officer. “The problem we have as electronic attack guys is there is no kinetic. You don’t see a bomb blow up.” The only way to confirm how e-warfare methods worked in a given scenario would be to ask the enemy what effects he witnessed.
Jack Dailey, a retired Marine Corps general and the director of the National Air and Space Museum, flew McDonnell RF-4s and jammers in Vietnam, including the Grumman EA-6A, the two-seat e-warfare precursor to the four-seat EA-6B. He also flew the Douglas EF-10B Skyknight, an e-warfare version of the F3D. He confirms that the work was quiet but very intense. “The mission was classified so nobody knew what we did,” he says, a fact largely true of the Growler’s mission now. “We had a song we sang: ‘We’re the senior squadron in the East, we fly the most but we do the least.’ And we did fly a lot. Always airborne, always orbiting, always watching.”
From Allied landings on D-Day to NATO’s bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999 to the Israeli air force’s reported successful targeting of a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, militaries that have manipulated the electronic spectrum have had a major advantage.
“If [e-warfare aircraft] are not airborne to support the strike, the strike does not go,” says Commander Jeff Craig, the Scorpions’ commanding officer. “Guys are recognizing the threat today is much more diverse.”
That realization trickles down to the people on the ground who get cover from the electronic warfare mission.
“You come back to the chow hall maybe a couple of weeks after working with [the troops] and actually sit and eat dinner with them,” says Lieutenant Kristen Levasseur, another Scorpion electronic warfare officer. “And they ask you, ‘Were you guys the ones out there that night?’ You say yes, and they tell you the crazy stories about what went on, and thank God you were there.”
E-WARFARE first broke out on the high seas during the 1901 International Yacht Races, now called the America’s Cup. Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi had planned to provide radio-telegraph updates from a boat to the Associated Press on shore. But a competitor, the American Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company, eager for an exclusive, constructed a more powerful transmitter. As the racing yachts Columbia andShamrock II tacked around Sandy Hook at the northern tip of the New Jersey coast, the airwaves that should have carried the Morse code dots and dashes of Marconi’s transmitter were instead saturated with noise from American Wireless, rendering his dispatches indecipherable.
It took just three more years for electronic jamming to truly go to battle. During the 1904 Russo-Japanese War, Russian radio-telegraph stations at Port Arthur on the Chinese coast interfered with wireless communication between Japanese ships trying to shell the Russian naval base there. A decade later, radio jamming went to the battlefields of World War I, but both sides opted more often to gather enemy transmissions. In World War II, Germany struck a blow in the expansion of e-warfare: On February 12, 1942, as the German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen bolted from the bombed-out French port of Brest via the English Channel to the relative safety of German waters, all behind a curtain of German electromagnetic interference, English radar screens turned to gibberish. Known as the Channel Dash, it compelled the Brits to start waging e-warfare in earnest.
Among their first tasks was to address Bomber Command’s losses due to the early warnings enabled by German radar. The RAF turned to the unsung Boulton Paul Defiant, a two-seat, four-gun, one-turret fighter that failed to achieve the stardom of the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire.
“The Defiant was designed to pull alongside and below German bombers and pour rounds into the engines and fuel tanks, protected from return fire by the bomber’s own structure,” says Les Whitehouse, a British aircraft historian with the Boulton Paul Association. “It could out-turn the Hurricane, Spitfire, and Messerschmitt Bf109. What it could not do was outrun the Bf109.” This made the Defiant vulnerable, so the RAF assigned it to training, air-sea rescue, night patrol, and work with airborne radar countermeasures.
Five months after the Channel Dash, eight Defiants were flying formation over the south coast of England, using “Moonshine,” a new radar technology the Brits had created, to try to fool one of Germany’s powerful Freya early warning radars, this one near Cherbourg, France. Moonshine reradiated Freya’s radar waves back with a larger, identical pulse combined with the natural pulse off the Defiants, giving the appearance that a pack of a hundred heavy bombers was approaching. Before the last pulse of Moonshine had been sent, 30 German fighters were in hot pursuit of a phantom bomber group. Less than two weeks later, Defiants again fooled Luftwaffe ground controllers, who vectored 144 fighters toward an imaginary air raid while a dozen B-17s and their fighter escorts attacked the rail yards at Rouen, France.
“England was not the only country to get into airborne electronic countermeasures during the war,” says Daniel Kuehl, director of the Information Operations Concentration Program at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. “Everyone did. But the Brits and the Americans were the best at it, and they won. From World War II on, electronic warfare becomes essential to operating and winning a war.” The airborne jamming genie was out of the bottle, and the Defiant had shown that you didn’t have to be fast or glamorous to get the job done.
Which was good news for the homely EA-6B Prowler, the U.S. Navy’s primary jammer since 1971. The airplane, a Grumman A-6 Intruder stretched 4.5 feet and equipped with two more electronic warfare officers in shoulder-to-shoulder back seats, ripples with tumor-like bulges and pods housing the airplane’s jamming equipment. The subsonic Prowler, first flown in May 1968, had electronics that were tailored to counter Soviet-built radar stations launching the Mach 3.5 SA-2 radar-guided missiles that, early in the Vietnam conflict, were downing U.S. Air Force pilots in alarming numbers—one American airplane lost for every two SA-2s fired.
John McCarty, a tour guide and gallery lead at the National Electronics Museum in Washington, D.C., worked for Westinghouse in the Vietnam years developing electronic countermeasures. On visits to South Vietnam, he watched as strike groups returned to base missing airplanes downed by SA-2s. “Pilots made it clear that they would rather have a 500-pound bomb to drop than a piece of mysterious equipment hanging on a wing,” says McCarty. “But afterward they started seeing that aircraft flying with our jamming pods were returning and those [without] were not coming back as often, so the conclusion became obvious.” The Navy began calling up every jammer it could get.
“We had done our workups in preparation to go to the Mediterranean,” says Bob Pettyjohn, a retired Navy captain and Prowler pilot aboard the carrier America. “Ten days before we left, the Navy said, ‘Whoa, not so fast! You’re going to Vietnam.’ Well, the other guys on the boat weren’t too happy about the change in plans, with the exception of the two Phantom fighter squadrons aboard ship who looked at us as the biggest MiG bait ever to come down the pike.
“The first flight we flew over there in the Prowler, when we turned on the jammers, every radar in North Vietnam lit up. They had never seen anything like the Prowler.”
Once on station, Prowler crews found themselves flying at all hours. “They would have a carrier flying noon-to-midnight cycles, and another from midnight to noon,” says Pettyjohn. “The idea was you could shut everything down and people could get some sleep. But since we were covering everybody, they would sometimes have to get up in the middle of the night just to launch one of our airplanes. So the America didn’t like us. I can remember one night blasting off the America at three o’clock in the morning to cover the B-52s. We get airborne and I look in the rearview mirror and see all the lights go off. They were happy we were gone so they could go back to sleep.”
Night and day, the Prowler built up a reputation as crucial to a strike group’s ability to penetrate North Vietnamese air defenses. “I can gladly and gratefully attest to the incredible effectiveness of the Prowlers,” says former space shuttle commander Michael Coats, who flew the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II in Vietnam. “They were fantastic, and a combat pilot’s best friend in a high-threat environment.”
By 2016, the 93 Prowlers still flying (170 were built between 1968 and 1991) will be either the property of the Marine Corps, which plans to fly them until at least 2019, or decommissioned, with a few ending up on a pole in front of an airfield.
“IN THE PROWLER, you had four guys working an older weapon system,” ex plains Eric Sinibaldi. “Now, with only two guys in the Growler with a newer weapon system, it requires both to be really on the same page to fight the jet.”
Some have joked that the pilot in the EA-6B was just a chauffeur. No one can say that of the Growler. Integrating the pilot into the electronic attack mission involved more than 200 Prowler pilots and electronic warfare officers running numerous missions in the Growler simulator at Boeing’s St. Louis facility. This revealed that it takes a lot more automation, as well as advanced cockpit displays that clearly present critical data, to get two people to do the work of four. “I think it’s fair to say they tend to be a different breed of cat,” says Captain John Green of e-warfare crews. Green runs the Navy’s airborne electronic attack program at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. “If the average brain is 14 pounds, maybe Prowler and Growler guys are 16.”
The Prowler’s steam gauges and thumb wheels have been replaced in the Growler with digital, flat-panel displays. And compared to the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet, a fully loaded G is 1,400 pounds heavier, with 66 more antennas, an additional half-mile of wiring, and 1.5 million more lines of software code. A Link 16 data exchange network lets the Growler send and receive data with other airplanes on the fly, allowing Growler crews to effectively “peer over the shoulders” of other airplanes in the strike group in real time to see what their radars and other data gathering systems see. The crewmen wear helmet-mounted cueing systems that display targets and flight data on the inside of the visor to enhance their head-up awareness (see “Hard Hat Zone,” Then & Now, Aug./Sept. 2008). The Growler’s electronic countermeasures system, called Improved Capabilities (ICAP) III, was originally deployed on the Prowler. To make ICAP III work in the Growler, engineers had to reconfigure its ALQ-218 jammer. The system’s main receiver, called the “football” when it was perched like the Super Bowl trophy atop the Prowler’s vertical tail, has been split into a pair of sleeker antennas, one on each of the Growler’s wingtips. Rounded off at the front and back, the receivers have the same weight and center of gravity—but slightly higher drag—as the AIM-9 air-to-air missiles that Super Hornets carry there. Because its brawny electronics had to go somewhere, the ALQ-218 also robbed the Growler of its 20-millimeter Vulcan cannon. Still, the G carries air-to-surface missiles to take out radar dishes and other emitters, and air-to-air missiles to confront airborne threats.
With its wingtips occupied by the new antennas, the Growler still has nine external points for pods, fuel tanks, and missiles (see p. 44). The most recognizable payloads are the detachable ALQ-99 jammer pods, each with a ram air turbine, a passive mini-propeller on the nose of the unit that spins in the slipstream to generate its electricity. The innards of the 15-foot-long, canoe-shaped devices have been updated several times since their introduction. The pods limit the Growler’s speed, but chances are, with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that reportedly can see 200-plus miles, the crew won’t get surprised by even a high-speed adversary.
The Growler hasn’t had time to compile a track record, and the Navy isn’t saying when it might deploy to Afghanistan. In one of the world’s poorest countries, where there are virtually no enemy missiles or anti-aircraft radars, the EA-18G might be a bit overqualified. But it can jam a Taliban cell phone call, or a signal from an electric garage-door opener intended to set off a roadside bomb. Some reports on the ground say that EA-6B Prowlers can now do “courtesy burns,” pre-flying the route of a truck convoy, emitting electrons all along to trigger buried explosives. The Navy offers no comment on such a capability.
Militaries sometimes tend to fight the last war, because it is the war they know. E-warfare is the realm in which they can least afford to do that. Yet, in times of relative peace, jamming advocates are forced to speak up to keep the funding flowing for research and development.
“Electronic warfare is something that everybody wants when you’re in combat, but nobody is willing to pay for in peacetime,” says Jack Dailey. “It’s extremely difficult to justify because it has to be based upon handling a threat that may not have been developed yet.”
The Navy has been sharing a few details about its Next Generation Jammer program, which will replace the ALQ-99 on the Growler at first, and then on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Central to the jammer will be developments in AESA radars that promise much wider frequency coverage, better identification of sophisticated waveforms, and more seamless integration between the AESA and jammer.
And while it’s difficult to anticipate if the nemesis will be a cell phone or an advanced missile radar, one thing is for certain: the Navy will need the very best electronic countermeasures available to watch, listen, and act.
When D.C. Agle isn’t writing, he’s doing his best to refrain from growling as he changes his five-monthold twins’ diapers for the umpteenth time.
Note: Article from www.airspacemag.com

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

China's Internet Users Beat the Twitter Ban

Written by Terry Ng


A Tweet by Any Other Name

Although Twitter has been blocked in China since it was used to spread images and messages of deadly Uyghur riots in Xinjiang in July 2009, millions of Chinese Internet users have found a way around the blockage.

They have their own version of Twitter, called microblogs, which are offered by China's major Internet portals. Indications are that while the authorities are nervous about the messages, which can be 140 characters long, and have shut down some threads, mostly they have left them alone. Internet users can repost the threads after they have been censored, and the followers of that tweet can forward the post within a second, creating a huge Internet traffic.

The number of microblog users in the country has increased to 53.11 million, making up 13.8 percent of China's Internet users last year. A recent report by Shanghai Jiaotong University said 11 of 50 major events triggering hot public debate were first made known to the public by microblogs. Analysts believe microblogging plays an important role in raising civic awareness and exerting pressure on officials, even though – if the authorities demand – sensitive materials will still be deleted.

Luk Wah, a postgraduate student in Beijing, said she previously only used the Internet for e-mails or to watch video clips or news. She seldom writes on the Internet, she said, because she believes she has nothing special to share with others. But she opened a microblog in Sina, China's major Internet portal, two weeks ago, after her father had been detained for two weeks in Liaoning Province and her mother went missing.

Her father was involved in an economic dispute against the local government, and the local court ruled that the father should be compensated. But when he went to the local government office to demand compensation, officials detained him, allegedly because he had caused a disturbance.

"I am desperate and want your help," she wrote, leaving her mobile phone number.

"I am not a computer-obsessed woman. I believe communication via the Internet is something only fashionable people do," she told Asia Sentinel. "I used other methods to deal with my father's case, but all efforts were futile. I was so desperate and I did not know what to do. I didn't even know what a microblog is. But I needed someone to help."

The attention generated was beyond Luk's expectations. She received dozens of phone calls from strangers asking about her father's condition. She was thankful to the microbloggers after her father was released Friday.

"I almost want to write a thank you letter to Sina," she said.

Wang Sixin, a professor at the Communication University of China, said the easy-to-use feature of microblogging enabled many people who were reluctant to discuss public affairs to express their views.

"Unlike blogs or other online forums, you don't need to write long articles. Only 140 characters or a picture is enough," he said, adding that the other functions of microblog, which allow users to forward and comment on others' posts enable Internet users to interact with each others, forming a large group.

When negotiations with officials fail, or when they failed to attract the attention of mainstream media, or when the mainstream media are banned by the propaganda machine from reporting certain topics, the Internet users just write 140 words in the microblogs. The impact of such a little thread can be unimaginable, and undesirable to officials.

Zhong Rujiu, a 22-year-old sales in Yihuang county, Jiangxi Province, is constantly updating the situation of her sister and mother in her microblog, which has about 30,000 followers.

Zhong's family attracted nationwide attention on September 10, 2010, when more than 100 officials forced them to accept a deal to demolish their homes to make way for a transportation terminal. The negotiation broke down, and Zhong's mother, 59, sister, 31 and uncle, 79, set themselves afire to express their anger. The uncle died, and the two other women survived.

When Zhong and her other sister went to go to Beijing six days later to petition to central authorities, officials followed them to an airport in Jiangxi. The two fearful women locked themselves inside an airport toilet for 40 minutes, during which they use their mobile phones to update their conditions to journalists and other Internet users. Zhong's brother said in his own microblog that he was under house arrest.

One of the reporters, Deng Fei from the Phoenix Weekly, posted more than 20 threads over the next few hours about the situation faced by the sisters. Each of these threads were forwarded by hundreds of Internet users.

The saga ended up with the removal of several officials, including the county head and the deputy party secretary of the county construction bureau. The deputy head of the county public security bureau was also reprimanded.

Officials are getting more fearful about the Internet. A survey of 300 officials and ordinary citizens conducted by the People's Forum magazine last April showed that 47 percent of officials afraid of being monitored by Internet users, most of them are at county level.

Zhang Hongfeng, a deputy head of a district level environment bureau in Hunan Province, believes microblogs reflect the strong desire for citizens to participate in public affairs, and that is a headache for some governments.

Zhang is considered an open-minded official because he often writes on his blog about problems faced by ordinary people, and he participates enthusiastically in his microblog over in the Yihuang self-immolation incident.

"The microblog and the Internet changes how the government operates," he said. "The government cannot handle problems in black box operations. They have to be transparent and subject to higher public scrutiny."

Another illustration of the powerful impact of microblogging is Guo Yuanrong, who was confined to a mental hospital for 14 years after he accused officials of corruption. When friends and family failed to get wide attention after talking to local government and the media, they posted a story in an online forum that said Guo's daughter was willing to "marry to or be a slave of" the man who could save her father.

The gist of the story was spread through the microblog, immediately drawing the attention of the media and leading to rampant discussion over the wrongful detention. The local government ultimately was forced to release Guo -- although he has no such a daughter willing to be a slave.

Wang, the Communication University of China professor, says he expects more people will use microblogs to express grievances along with the economic development of China, when people are more frustrated with officials' lack of response to their problems, especially land acquisition.

"Only when their problems are solved will people stop using microblogs or other media to express their grievances," he said. "Microblogs enrich the interaction of people facing problems with the outside world. It is a platform for these people to get attention and criticize the government."

The microblog may send a chilling effect to officials because very often it is used to show distrust to the government. When Qian Yunhui, a former village chief of Zhejiang Province, was crushed to death by a truck on December 25, an Internet user wrote in his microblog that Qian was murdered by the government.

The thread attracted attention of others, leading to the discovery that Qian had helped villagers petition the government over land acquisition issues. Many Internet users quickly concluded that Qian was ordered to be crushed because he had offended the authorities.

Zhao Lihua posted two articles on her microblog written by Qian accusing local officials, and the threads were followed by more than 20,000 and 6,000 people.

The government concluded the death was merely a traffic accident, and ruled out the possibility of murder, but the microbloggers quickly dismissed the findings.

The impact of the 140-word thread is often magnified when renowned journalists and opinion leaders join the discussion. In Qian Yunhui's case, the local government first remained silent, but was later forced to convene a press conference when the microblogs were full of sympathy for Qian, and investigative reporters such as Wang Keqing, who broke a story that hundreds of kids in Shanxi Province were affected by a problematic vaccine, devoted their attention to the incident.

Wang said he believes the microblog will help to shape the country's political and power structure.

"Some officials may be shivering and are under immense pressure," he said. "When problems are exposed, authorities at higher levels may exert pressure to fix them. The lower officials cannot hide the problems anymore."

Both Wang and Zhang, the district level deputy environment chief, said it is more difficult for the propaganda machine to censor microblogs than normal blogs and online forums.

"It is not controllable," Zhang said.

However, there are incidents of censorship. Texts in support of jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and images of the empty chair that represented Liu's absence in Oslo, Norway, were deleted after they were posted.

The microblogs of Wu Danhong, an assistant professor at the China University of Political Science and Law who writes under the alias Wu Fatian, have been blocked and deleted. Wu said he was told by a Sina manager that it was a decision "from the top" because Wu's posts had dealt too much with politics.

A reporter from Youth Times approached Sina, and was told that Wu had spread messages attacking the government. Although Wu re-opened the microblogs through different user names, they have been blocked sporadically.

The government may also attempt to silence the Internet activist Chen Yonggang, who created the fake daughter story to save Guo Yuanrong from the mental hospital, who said officials had told him that they are well aware of his wrongdoings.

Fearful of the repercussions, Chen said he may not use the Internet to express grievances of others. Although he said he would help people negotiate with the governments, he will not pursue their cases further through the Internet if the officials refuse to take remedial actions.

"If I damage the big environment, it will be difficult for me to survive," he said.



Note: Article from Asia Sentinel

Friday, January 21, 2011

Malaysia's New Opposition Party

Written by Sholto Byrnes


Zaid Ibrahim's venture: mosquito party or the real thing?

Introduced not only by the country's national anthem, but also to the strains of the Rolling Stones' "I can't get no satisfaction," Malaysia's newest political party was officially launched at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday.

Kita, the People's Welfare Party, announced its president, Zaid Ibrahim, aims "to bring back the politics of goodwill and compromise that started this nation 54 years ago... so that politics and public service can be made honorable once again."

Neither of the current alternatives would do, he said. The governing Barisan Nasional coalition "will always be autocratic and authoritarian," while the opposition led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim "says and does whatever it takes for the sake of winning elections."

There was grand, idealistic talk of defending the secular nature of the 1957 constitution, ending discrimination, fighting ideas of "superiority and hegemony" (a reference to the Malay supremacists who would consign the country's Chinese and Indian citizens to permanent second-class status) and ensuring that there were "equal opportunities for all, regardless of caste, colour or creed."

Big words indeed for a new party, however laudable – especially given that the Barisan and its predecessor, the Alliance, centered around three parties representing the country's main races, the Malays, Chinese and Indians, have won every national election since independence. Many would ask, too, why Zaid needs to start another party. Doesn't the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, stand for more or less the same program as Kita? Moreover, Pakatan's success at the 2008 general election, when it won control of five of Malaysia's 13 states and denied the Barisan the two thirds supermajority in parliament that had allowed it to amend the constitution, is in the past.

Now that the political tsunami has receded, there is much debris left behind for Pakatan to deal with. In February 2009 it lost one state, Perak, back to the Barisan. There have been constant disagreements and bickering over the demands of one of its constituent parties, the Islamist PAS, for hudud (Islamic) laws and an Islamic state to be implemented if they came to power – anathema to its left-leaning coalition partner, the mainly Chinese Democratic Action Party.

Meanwhile Anwar, the leader of Pakatan's other member, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, and of the opposition overall, remains bogged down in another sodomy trial. (The first was after he was fired as deputy prime minister to Dr Mahathir in 1998, and resulted in a conviction, subsequently overturned. The latest charges surfaced in 2008 and led to the current trial which has been going on since last February and shows no sign of ending; it is due to resume next month).

Shouldn't Zaid be doing all he can to help Pakatan Rakyat rather than setting up a new party that will appeal to the same constituency, thereby risking splitting precious opposition votes?

It would be fair to say that Zaid divides opinion. The founder of the country's biggest law firm and renowned for his outspoken defense of human rights, Zaid was hailed as proof that the Barisan was serious about reform when he was appointed by then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Law Minister in March 2008. He resigned after six months over the continued use of Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act, and was welcomed into the ranks of Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat the following June.

Last month, however, he quit PKR as well in a row over internal party elections. While standing for the deputy presidency in November, Zaid alleged serious irregularities with the voting process and turned angrily on Anwar. The election was being rigged and PKR had become a vehicle for its leader and his cronies, he said, adding that the current accusations of sodomy against him were undermining the opposition's cause. As if that wasn't enough, Zaid told me in an interview after his resignation that he thought Anwar was "guilty as hell" in any case.

Some have accused Zaid of arrogance and poor judgment. PKR didn't end up looking like furthering his own ambitions, goes the argument, so he has set up a party (technically, relaunched and renamed a tiny previous grouping) that will. On the other hand, PKR's whiter-than-white reformasi mantle is now beginning to appear striped with dynastic purple now that the party is led by Anwar, its president is his wife, and has as one of its new vice presidents his daughter.

And Zaid's ruthlessly honest analysis of Malaysia's problems, particularly the need for a re-evaluation of the position of the Malays, his calls to an end to rent-seeking and for the building of a new meritocracy that does not unduly stress race or religion, is almost unmatched. Perhaps the only other Malay politician to advance something similar convincingly is Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the veteran finance minister who is, unusually for an UMNO MP, fondly regarded and admired across the spectrum. Significantly, he wrote the preface to Zaid's latest book, "I, too, am Malay".

What are its chances? Kita has already been dismissed as a "mosquito" party – a minor irritant, but whose bite has no significant impact. Asked what effect it would be likely to have, one leading UMNO MP said it would have none, apart from appealing "to a few people in Bangsar" – a dismissive reference to the Kuala Lumpur enclave with a long and occasionally notorious reputation for liberalism and permissiveness.

If that is brave UMNO talk, the opposition coalition may have more worries. Even if Kita does not field many candidates in the next general election – its ambition in that field is so small that Zaid admitted to me that they may not win "any seats at all" – in Peninsular Malaysia, it could still cost Pakatan dear.

The key industrial state of Selangor, for instance, is already on a knife edge. The Pakatan state government has dealt poorly with a number of issues recently, appearing divided and handing the Barisan propaganda victories over signs bearing the logo of Prime Minister Najib's 1Malaysia policy, the question of whether Muslims should be allowed to work in establishments that serve alcohol, and the appointment of a new state secretary that has led them, disastrously, to be portrayed as being disrespectful to Selangor's sultan. It is not implausible that a few votes siphoned off to Kita could lose Pakatan its proudest gain of the 2008 election.

Zaid's goal, however, is more both more modest and yet more ambitious than insults suggest. His "moderate, democratic and liberal" party, he conceded, was not about to try to win the next general election. "We are in this for the long haul," he said. "Kita is not just a political party; it's a movement, it's an ethos to be handed down to future generations. This is about real change in the way we do business. Because what we have now just isn't working."

And he does have a plan. "The answer is the middle class here," he told me during our interview. Well, that's Bangsar at least.

For a more imminent change, he said, look east. "The answer is Sarawak and Sabah." He elaborated yesterday. The people of Malaysia's Borneo states, who have provided a "fixed deposit" for the Barisan government in terms of MPs for decades, should stop voting "for a regime that has denied them for the best part of our independent years."

Far more non-Malay and non-Muslim than the Peninsula, but with considerable numbers of the indigenous peoples who are legally privileged along with the Malays as bumiputras – sons of the soil, they can be "the lynchpin of change," said Zaid. "They can determine if Malaysia is to remain a cosmopolitan multi-ethnic democracy or be ruled by the politics of hegemony. They can determine if Malaysia is to remain a free, secular democracy or a tyranny of the majority."

Zaid has not only a plan, but an ally in the person of Jeffrey Kitingan, a former PKR vice president who announced the formation of the United Borneo Front to campaign for a better deal for Sarawak and Sabah on the same day Zaid unveiled news of Kita last month.

As Kitingan pointed out recently: "West Malaysians take up 166 seats in parliament which are fragmented almost 50/50 after the 2008 elections. If all 56 Sabah and Sarawak MPs amalgamated and had the Borneo Agenda at the forefront of their hearts and their minds, they will be able to have a greater say in parliament."

All pie-in-the-sky? Maybe. But look at the proposals so far, and what you find is a new, loose alliance that speaks to a genuinely multiracial audience, that promises to safeguard but also give a fairer deal to all bumiputra, whether Malay or not, while ending discriminatory practices against Chinese and Indians and acknowledging their contribution to Malaysia. Oh, and guaranteeing the superiority of civil law over shariah courts and protecting freedom of religion.

Zaid talked a lot yesterday about the country's founding prime minister, the genial, tolerant Tunku Abdul Rahman. Actually, he is going further than the Tunku would ever have dared in terms of urging a unity that does not over-privilege one section of society, or its faith, over another. It sounded, in fact, rather a lot like a new Malaysia. Were it not already the title of someone else's policy, he could even have called it a One Malaysia. Now there's a thought....

Sholto Byrnes is a contributing editor of the New Statesman (UK) and divides his time between London and Kuala Lumpur.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

China's Military Comes Into Its Own

By Rodger Baker
Chinese President Hu Jintao is visiting the United States, perhaps his last state visit as president before China begins its generational leadership transition in 2012. Hu’s visit is being shaped by the ongoing China-U.S. economic dialogue, by concerns surrounding stability on the Korean Peninsula and by rising attention to Chinese defense activity in recent months. For example, China carried out the first reported test flight of its fifth-generation combat fighter prototype, dubbed the J-20, during U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to China the previous week.
The development and test flight of China’s J-20 is not insignificant, but it is also by no means a game changer in the U.S.-China defense balance. More intriguingly, the test highlights how China’s military increasingly is making its interests heard.

The J-20 Test Flight and China’s Strategic Concerns


The J-20 test flight shone a light on China’s strategic concerns and reflected some of the developing capability that addresses those concerns. The Chinese fear a potential U.S. blockade of their coast. While this may not seem a likely scenario, the Chinese look at their strategic vulnerability, at their rising power and at the U.S. history of thwarting regional powers, and they see themselves as clearly at risk.
China’s increased activity and rhetoric in and around the South and East China seas also clearly reflect this concern. For Beijing, it is critical to keep the U.S. Navy as far from Chinese waters as possible and delay its approach by maximizing the threat environment in the event of a conflict. Though the J-20 is still a work in progress, a more advanced combat fighter — particularly one with stealth capabilities — could serve a number of relevant roles toward this end.
The Chinese are still in the early stages of development, however. They are experimenting with stealth shaping, characteristics and materials, meaning the degree to which the J-20 can achieve low observability against modern radar remains an open question. Significant changes to the design based on handling characteristics and radar signature can be expected. And true “stealth” is the product of more than just shaping. Special coatings and radar-absorbing materials only top a lengthy list of areas in which Chinese engineers must gain practical experience, even allowing for considerable insight gained through espionage or foreign assistance. China still is thought to be struggling with indigenously designed and manufactured high-end jet engines, not to mention the integration of advanced sensors, avionics and the complex systems that characterize fifth-generation aircraft. It is too early to infer much from the single flight-tested prototype, something the United States learned during the Cold War when initial U.S. estimates of the Soviet MiG-25 attributed far more sophistication and capability to the design than proved to be the case after a Soviet pilot defected with his aircraft years later.
The Chinese role for the J-20 is based on a different set of realities than those the Soviets and Americans faced during the Cold War, meaning the J-20 prototype should not be judged solely by the American standards for fifth-generation aircraft. More than having the most advanced aircraft in the sky, the Chinese value the ability to maintain high sortie rates from many bases along the country’s coast to overwhelm with numbers the superior U.S. combat aircraft, which would be expected to be operated from aircraft carriers or from more distant land bases.

The J-20 Test’s Timing


Perhaps more interesting than the test was its timing, with its associated political implications. For weeks before the test flight, Chinese message boards and blogs were filled with photographs of the new prototype on the tarmac, conducting taxi tests in preparation for its first test flight. Foreign military and defense observers closely monitor such sites, and their “leaked” images renewed attention to China’s fifth-generation development program, about which there has been plenty of speculation but little hard detail. Chinese defense and security officials also closely monitor such boards, but the officials chose not to shut them down — clearly indicating Beijing’s intent to draw attention to the test.
Gates asked Hu about the test when the two met in Beijing. According to some media reports citing American officials present at the meeting, Hu appeared surprised by the question and somewhat perplexed by the details of the test — the implication being that Hu was unaware of the test and that the Chinese military may have acted out of turn. Gates told reporters that Hu had assured him the timing was coincidental. After being asked for his own thoughts regarding the relationship between the military and the political leadership in China after his meetings with Chinese civilian and defense leaders, Gates noted that he had become concerned about that relationship over time. He added that ensuring civilian and military dialogue between the two countries was important.
Although Gates did not say the Chinese military tested the J-20 without political clearance from Hu, the idea was certainly suggested by the media coverage and Gates’ response. On the surface, this seems rather hard to believe. Hu, as president of China and general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, also serves as chairman of China’s parallel Central Military Commissions (one is under the government, the other under the Party, though both have exactly the same makeup).
That the head of China’s military would not know about a major new hardware test coming a week before his trip to meet with the president of the United States and coinciding with a visit of the U.S. defense secretary seems a reach. Furthermore, given the amount of attention just beneath the surface in China to the imminent test, and the subsequent attention in the foreign media, it would be startling that the Chinese president was so poorly briefed prior to meeting the U.S. defense secretary. If indeed the test surprised Hu, then there is serious trouble in China’s leadership structure. But perhaps the issue isn’t one of knowledge but one of capability: Could Hu have stopped the test given the timing, and if so, would he have wanted to stop it?

The Rising Influence of China’s Military


Rumors and signs of the rising influence of the military establishment in China have emerged over the past few years. Since the 1980s, China has focused on and invested in a major reorientation of its military from a massive land army focused on territorial defense to one that emphasizes naval and air capabilities to protect China’s interests in the East and South China seas and beyond into the western Pacific. This has included expanding China’s reach and a focus on anti-access and area-denial capabilities, with accelerated development in this arena in recent years.
Some systems, like the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, are uniquely tailored to countering the U.S. Navy. Others, like an expanding and more aggressive Ocean and Fisheries Administration, is directed more at China’s neighbors in the South and East China seas, and at asserting China’s claims to these waters.
This change in focus is driven by three factors. First, China sees its land borders as being fairly well locked down, with its buffer territories largely under control, but the maritime border is a vulnerability — a particular concern for a trade-based economy. Second, as China’s economy has rapidly expanded, so has Beijing’s dependence on far-flung sources of natural resources and emerging markets. This drives the government and military to look at protection of sea-lanes, often far from China’s shores. Third, the military leadership is using these concerns to increase its own role in internal decision-making. The more dependent China is on places far from its borders, the more the military can make the case that it is the only entity with both the intelligence and the understanding to provide the necessary strategic advice and perspective to China’s civilian leadership.
There is also the issue of a modernizing military looking out for itself, battling for its share of China’s budget and economic pie. A key part of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s fundamental military reforms was stripping the military of much of its business empire. At the time, the state — while funding the military — assumed that military-run industry would supplement the defense budget. In short, the military ran industries, and the profits were used to support local and regional defense needs. That kept the official state military budget down and encouraged enterprising commanders to contribute to China’s economic growth.
But over time, it also led to corruption and a military where regional and local military commanders were at risk of becoming more intent on their business empires than on the country’s national defense. Money that largely had gone to support the living of the troops was sidelined and funneled to the military officials. And the faster the Chinese economy grew, the more profit there was for the taking. Regional military leaders and local governments teamed up to operate, promote and protect their own business interests regardless of the state’s broader national economic or social priorities. China’s central leadership saw troubling parallels to older Chinese history, when regional warlords emerged.
In response, Jiang ordered the military largely out of business. Military leaders grudgingly complied for the most part, though there were plenty of cases of military-run industries being stripped of all their machinery, equipment and supplies, which were then sold on the black market and then unloaded at bargain prices to the cronies of military officials. Other companies were simply stripped and foisted on the government to deal with, debts and all. Jiang placated the military by increasing its budget, increasing the living standard of the average soldier and launching a ramped-up program to rapidly increase the education of its soldiers and technical sophistication of China’s military. This appeased the military officials and bought their loyalty — returning the military to financial dependence on the government and Communist Party.
But the success of military reform, which also involved seeking greater sophistication in doctrine, training, communications and technology, has also given the military greater influence. Over time, the military has come to expect more technologically, and China has begun experimenting with technology-sharing between military and civilian industry to spur development. The drive for dual-use technology, from the evolving aerospace industry to nanotechnology, creates new opportunities for military officials to promote new weapons-system development while at the same time profiting from the development. As China’s global economic power has grown, the military has demanded more funding and greater capabilities to protect national interests and its own prerogatives.
But China’s military officials are also growing more vocal in their opinions beyond the issue of military procurement. Over the past year, Chinese military officers have made their opinions known, quite openly in Chinese and sometimes even foreign media. They have addressed not only military issues but also Chinese foreign policy and international relations. This step outside the norm has left the Chinese diplomatic community uncomfortable (or at least left it expressing its unease with the rising influence of the military to their foreign counterparts). This may be an elaborate disinformation campaign or a slightly higher level of the griping typical of bureaucrats, or it may in fact reflect a military that sees its own role and significance rising and is stepping forward to try to grab the influence and power it feels it deserves.
One example of the ostensible struggle between the military and the civilian bureaucrats over Chinese foreign policy played out over the past year. Through nearly the first three-quarters of the year, when the United States carried out defense exercises in the Asia-Pacific region — whether annual or in response to regional events like the sinking of the ChonAn in South Korea — the Chinese would respond by holding their own series of exercises, sometimes on a larger scale. It was a game of one-upmanship. But the foreign ministry and bureaucracy purportedly argued against this policy as counterproductive, and by the fourth quarter, China had shifted away from military exercises as a response. Instead, it once again pushed a friendlier and more diplomatic line even as U.S. exercises continued. By the November 2010 crisis over North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, China had returned to its standard call for moderation and dialogue.
If this narrative is accepted, the military response to being sidelined again was to leak plans to launch an aircraft carrier in 2011, to reinvigorate international attention to Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles, and to test the new Chinese fifth-generation aircraft while Gates was in Beijing and just before Hu headed to Washington. A Chinese military motivated by nationalism — and perhaps an even stronger interest in preserving its power and influence within China — would find it better to be in contention with the United States than in calm. This is because U.S. pressure, whether real or rhetorical, drives China’s defense development.
But the case could as easily be made that the Chinese political leadership has an equal interest in ensuring a mixed relationship with Washington, that the government benefits from seemingly endless U.S. criticism of Chinese defense development. This is because such criticism increases Chinese nationalism, distracting the people from the economic troubles Beijing is trying to manage. And this is the heart of the issue: Just how well-coordinated are the military and civilian leadership of China, and how stable is their relationship?

An End to the Chinese Miracle


The Chinese miracle is nearing its natural conclusion, as Beijing begins to face a reality like that seen by Japan, South Korea and the other Asian Tigers that all followed the same growth pattern. How that crisis plays out is fundamentally different depending upon the country: Japan has accepted the shared long-term pain of two decades of malaise; South Korea saw short, sharp, wrenching reforms; Indonesia saw its government collapse. The reliability of the military, the capability of the civilian leadership and the level of acceptance of the population all combine to shape the outcome.
A divide between the military and civilian leadership would mean that China, already facing the social consequences of its economic policies, is facing another significant issue at the same time: the balance of civilian-military relations. However, a carefully coordinated drive to give the appearance of a split may help China convince the United States to ease economic pressure to avoid exacerbating this “split” while also appealing to nationalistic unity at home.
But even small signs of a split now are critical because of the stresses on the system that China will experience when its economic miracle expires in the not-so-distant future. Mao and Deng were both soldiers. Their successors were not. Neither Jiang Zemin nor Hu Jintao has military experience, and incoming President Xi Jinping similarly lacks such training. The rumors from China suggest that the military plans to take advantage of Xi’s lack of experience and use its influence to shape his policies. The leadership transition may provide a chance for the military to gain more influence in an institutional way, allowing it to drive a hard bargain and buy a bigger share of the pie in the fifth generation set-up.
For most of modern China’s history, the military has been an internal force without much appetite for more worldly affairs. That is now changing, appropriately, due to China’s growing global prominence and reliance on the global economy. But that means that a new balance must be found, and China’s senior leadership must both accommodate and balance the military’s perspective and what the military advocates for.
As Chinese leaders deal with a generational transition, expanding international involvement and an increasingly difficult economic balance, the military is coming into its own and making its interests heard more clearly. How this balance plays out will be tremendously significant.


Read more: China's Military Comes Into Its Own | STRATFOR

China's Military Comes Into Its Own is republished with permission of STRATFOR."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stealthy Chinese J-20 Vulnerable

China’s newest combat aircraft prototype, the J-20, will require an intense development program if it is going to catch up with fast-moving anti-stealth advances.
In fact, anti-stealth will bring into question all stealth designs: How much invulnerability will current low-observability techniques offer as air defense systems adopt larger and more powerful active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radars? From the early days of AESA development, a key goal was to build a radar that could detect very small objects—such as a cruise missile at a distance great enough to target and shoot it down—or a larger object like a fighter with a very low-observable treatment.
Airborne detection of stealth aircraft may already be an operational capability. In a series of tests at Edwards AFB, Calif., in 2009, Lockheed Martin’s CATbird avionics testbed—a Boeing 737 that carries the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s entire avionics system—engaged a mixed force of F-22s and Boeing F-15s and was able to locate and jam F-22 radars, according to researchers. Raytheon’s family of X-band airborne AESA radar—in particular, those on upgraded F-15Cs stationed in Okinawa—can detect small, low-signature cruise missiles.
Moreover, Northrop Grumman’s lower-frequency, L-band AESA radar on Australia’s Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft is larger and potentially more capable of detecting stealth aircraft at longer ranges.
Lockheed Martin also hinted at a JSF anti-stealth capability in 2009 in a reference to combat with sophisticated, foreign aircraft. “The F-35’s avionics include onboard sensors that will enable pilots to strike fixed or moving ground targets in high-threat environments, day or night, in any weather, while simultaneously targeting and eliminating advanced airborne threats,” said Dan Crowley, then-executive vice president and F-35 program general manager.
Better images emerging from China point clearly to the J-20’s use of stealth technology, but major uncertainties and questions remain unresolved.
The overall shape resembles that of the F-35 and F-22, which have a single “chine line” uniting the forebody, upper inlet lips, and wing and canard edges with a curved surface above that line and flat, canted body surfaces below it. The wing and canard edges are aligned: The wing and canard leading edges are parallel and the trailing edge of each canard is aligned with the opposite wing’s trailing edge. The same basic philosophy also has been adopted in British, Swedish and Japanese studies for stealth fighters.
The aim in all cases is to endow a practical, agile fighter configuration with a “bow-tie” radar signature, with the smallest signature around the nose and the greatest (still much lower than that of a conventional aircraft with curved or vertical-slab sides) to the side. The fighter’s mission planning system, using a database of known radar locations, then derives a “blue line” track that weaves between radars and avoids exposing the side-on signature to those radars more than transiently.
The “diverterless” supersonic inlet avoids a signature problem caused by a conventional boundary layer diverter plate. For example, the F-22 has a conventional inlet, which is likely to require extensive radar absorbent material (RAM) treatment.
The biggest uncertainty about the Chinese design concerns the engine exhausts, which as seen on the prototype are likely to cause a radar cross-section (RCS) peak from the rear aspect. One possibility is that a stealthier two-dimensional nozzle will be integrated later in the program; however, the nozzles on the current aircraft show some signs of RCS-reducing sawtooth treatment, suggesting that the People’s Liberation Army has accepted a rear-aspect RCS penalty rather than the much greater weight and complexity of 2D nozzles.
Other features are less clear. Stealth development has been dogged by detail-design challenges. All the antennas on the aircraft have to be flush with the skin and covered with surfaces that retain stealth properties while being transparent in a specific frequency. Maintainability becomes a complex tradeoff: Some systems requiring frequent attention will be accessed via landing gear and weapon bays, and others by latched and actuated doors that can open and close without affecting RCS—but the latter involves a weight penalty.
Perhaps the toughest hurdle is managing radio-frequency surface currents over the skin. Early stealth designs used heavy, maintenance-intensive RAM. The F-22 introduced a much lighter surface treatment, but it has proven unexpectedly difficult to maintain, causing corrosion issues. Lockheed Martin now asserts that the F-35 will be robust and affordable to maintain in service, with a combination of a high-toughness, sprayed-on topcoat and a conductive layer cured into composite skin panels.
The Chengdu J-20 design has struck many analysts and observers as familiar and somewhat different from the F-22, F-35 or Sukhoi T-50.
“The J-20 is reminiscent of the Russian MiG-1.42 both in terms of planform and also with regard to the rear fuselage configuration,” says Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The most obvious difference is the greater forward fuselage shaping as the basis for low-observable characteristics, along with the different engine intake configuration. The MiG program was canceled by the Russian government around 1997,” he notes. However, the similarity to the MiG concept may suggest some collusion with the Russian aviation industry.
The J-20 made its first flight shortly before 1 p.m. Beijing time on Jan. 11. The flight ended three weeks of anticipation that began in late December when the new design started taxi tests.
The discussion about the program will now shift to the aircraft’s mission (fighter or, more likely, long-range strike), sensors (strike missions would require a high-resolution, long-range radar) and communications (which would demand high-speed data links and sophisticated integration).
Conventional radars have only one-half to one-third of the range of an AESA radar. Moreover, the movement of a conventional, mechanically scanned radar antenna provides a tell-tale glint of radio-frequency reflections to enemy aircraft with advanced radars. Such reflections undercut the effectiveness of a stealth airframe. China is known to be pursuing newer radar technology.
“It’s too early to tell the true status of the Chinese AESA program,” says a Washington-based intelligence official. “We’ve seen lots of press and air show information on the program, but that doesn’t automatically translate into a robust development or give us an accurate look at where [China] is as far as fielding one anytime soon.
“Like the [high-performance] engine, it’ll be a challenge to take the step from older radars to one designed for a fifth-generation fighter,” he says. “Again, though, the J-20 is just the first or second—depending on whom you believe—prototype in a very long development program.”
If the Chinese conduct a few months of flight tests and there are no more aircraft involved in the program, this might indicate that the J-20 is a proof-of-concept or technical demonstrator. If there are several aircraft eventually, a prototype program would be a more likely conclusion.
The flight occurred during a visit to China by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says Chinese President Hu Jintao confirmed the event to him in talks. However, Gates still believes the U.S. will retain a preponderance of stealth fighters through 2025.
Photo Credit: Internet via Airpower Australia

Malaysia's One-Two Punch for Journalism

Bloggers to face sedition law, a prominent journalist is suspended 




Malaysia suffered two ominous blows to independent journalism last week, one with the announcement that the government is about to formulate a sedition law to cover bloggers, who are fast becoming some of the most independent news providers in Malaysia.

The second was the suspension of the National Union of Journalists President Hata Wahari from his job at the Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysia, one of several newspapers controlled by the United Malays National Organization, the country's biggest political party, for advocating an impartial press.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's Home Affairs Minister, announced on Jan. 13 that the federal government will write guidelines to define "online sedition," a move which critics say is an overt attempt at cyberspace censorship.

"On a whole, officers from the home ministry, PM's department and the information ministry have agreed on the contents of the guidelines," Hishammuddin said in a prepared statement, adding that seditious items are expected to include "malicious news," pornography, false information and other cyber crimes.

No one knows just what will be in the new law. "We actually have no clue at this point, the government has not even had a public airing, there has been no consultation with the press itself," said Chuah Siew Eng, program officer for the Center for Independent Journalism in Kuala Lumpur. "We can only rely on news reports. There is no freedom of information law that would force them to divulge what is in it."

"What we're seeing in Malaysia is part of a much longer-term trend," said Bob Dietz, Asia Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The country never really emerged from the Mahathir years in the same way, say, that Indonesia had from Suharto. As Internet activity has grown the people in power – UMNO – have had to distance themselves from Mahathir's promise not to interfere with online activity. Frankly, resorting to sedition charges to control press activity – traditional or digital – is a tactic we regularly see in other countries where the government is straining to stay in power."

Other critics were quick to point out that Malaysia's existing sedition law, a holdover from British colonial Malaya in 1948, has already been used on bloggers. Chuah Siew Eng pointed out the government threatened sedition charges against bloggers who insulted the memory of the late Sultan of Johor. Last year, authorities also threatened sedition charges against Asia Sentinel for critical reporting on the country but never followed through.

However, many observers agree that a main target is Raja Petra Kamarudin, the irrepressible editor of the online publication Malaysia Today, who fled the country ahead of charges of criminal libel and sedition for, among other things, suggesting incorrectly that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's wife Rosmah Mansour was present at the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006. Two of Najib's bodyguards were convicted of the murder and, although one confessed that they were to be paid RM100,000 to kill the woman, no attempt was ever made to find out who was going to pay them.

"I think there is no reason for such a law," said Tony Pua, an opposition Democratic Action Party Member of Parliament and prominent blogger, in a telephone interview. "Existing laws are very easy to use, broad and nonspecific. The sedition act itself should be repealed or substantially reduced in terms of scope."

That seems unlikely to happen. In particular, Malaysia's growing legions of bloggers played a major role in the relative drubbing that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition took in national elections in 2008, winning only 51.1 percent of the popular vote and running behind the three opposition parties on the mainland. It lost the three most urbanized and industrialized states – Perak, Penang and Selangor but was saved partly by gerrymandered constituencies long-rigged in its favor, and partly by Sabah and Sarawak, which voted solidly for the status quo. For the first time since independence, the Barisan lost its two-thirds lock on the Dewan Rakyat, or parliament.

As to Hata, the Utusan Malaysia reporter, on Jan. 11, the Malay-language daily informed the veteran reporter that he would be suspended until the completion of an investigation into charges that he had tarnished the newspaper with statements he made to independent media last year calling for press freedom. He has criticised Utusan several times for publishing pro-Umno propaganda and blamed its editorial policy for the dwindling circulation of the UMNO flagship paper, which once boasted the highest daily circulation in Malaysia but has now fallen to sixth.

He faces eight counts of misconduct for issuing statements to news portals and is expected to face a disciplinary hearing on Jan. 17 and, say other reporters, is likely to be fired.

A 16-year veteran reporter with Utusan, Hata was elected president of the country's National Union of Journalists in September. If he is sacked, he would be the third Utusan employee to lose his job because of his activity with the journalist union. Former NUJ president Yazid Othman and NUJ-Utusan Malaysia chairperson Amran Ahmad were also dismissed earlier. If he loses in disciplinary hearing on Jan. 17, he will also be forced to give up the chairmanship of the nUH.

The letter informing Hata of his suspension was draconian at least. He was not only ordered to stay out of anyUtusan Melayu offices but stated that he was not allowed to "leave his neighborhood" and would have to be in areas that are reachable by the company "at all times." He is also barred from bringing in outside counsel to the disciplinary hearing and must rely on the NUJ branch at Utusan Malaysia for assistance.

V Anbalagan, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, told the online publication Malaysiakini that the directive to impose "house arrest" on Hata was utter nonsense.

"I don't know where Utusan derived their power from. Which law says it can do this? Utusan is not the police, nor is it the Attorney-General's Chambers," he said.

He added that while he will be present at the daily's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur in an attempt to represent Hata, the NUJ will still adopt a wait-and-see approach until the decision from the inquiry is made.

"We just want to go through due process. We want to fight the DI (domestic inquiry) first. We are not going to protest now, but we will wait for the outcome of the DI," said Anbalagan.

Following Utusan's suspension of Hata, a Facebook group has sprung to his support for those who wish to register their objection to his treatment. 



Note: article from ASIA SENTINEL