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China Reform Monitor - No. 805

Iranian and Chinese hackers in cyber-skirmish;
Japan and Vietnam draw closer as tensions rise in South China Sea

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
February 3, 2010

January 6:
 Beijing will develop Hainan's tourism potential and has designated the island, located in the South China Sea, to administer the disputed Paracel, Spratly and Zhongsha archipelagos also located there. China and Vietnam have contested the uninhabited Paracels for centuries. Beijing has a military presence on the largest of the Paracels, Woody Island, where it has built a runway and maintains weather stations on other islets. Both China’s navy and that of Vietnam patrol the waters making the possibility of conflict ever-present.
South China Morning Post’s editorial page warns: “The possibility of conflict is high. Building resorts on the Paracels could lead to provocation and further raise fears about China's expansion.”
 January 8:

 Vietnam’s Ambassador to China, Nguyen Van Tho, has told a press briefing in Beijing that Vietnam has “fully legal and historical evidence to prove its sovereignty over archipelagos of Paracels and Spratly Island chains.” The diplomat emphasized Vietnam's economic activities in the sea and Hanoi’s territorial sovereignty,
Vietnam’s Phap Luat reports.
 [Editor’s Note: In a move sure to rankle Beijing, the Vietnam-Japan Cooperation Committee (VJCC) convened a 2-day meeting in Tokyo on January 17th. Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem and Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada co-chaired the meeting. Japan “wishes to bolster cooperation and exchange with Vietnam as strategic partners,” Okada said,
according to a press release on Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs official website
. Established in 2006, the VJCC works as a forum for the two countries to “map out measures” and “boost cooperative relations.”]
January 11:

 Russia’s Rosoboroneksport has agreed to supply China 43 RD-93 aircraft engines in 2010. The contract was signed as part of a framework agreement on the supply of 100 RD-93 aircraft engines to China signed in 2006. Negotiations are underway on a new contract to supply another 100 RD-93 engines to China, which plans to buy up to 500 in total. The RD-93 engine was developed for the new Chinese fighter, the FC-1, which is manufactured for export. The first contract for the delivery of 150 fighters was concluded with Pakistan, where the fighter is assembled from Chinese components. China’s more advanced J-10 fighter also uses a Russian engine, the AL-31FN. The last contract for the delivery of 122 AL-31FN engines concluded in January 2009 was worth about $500 million,
Russia’s Vedomosti reports.
January 12:

 For several hours the most popular Chinese search engine,, redirected users to a site attributed to the Iranian Cyber Army. The search engine is widely regarded as having good relations with Beijing and has never been associated with sensitive content. The hacker attack sparked a bizarre online battle as Chinese hackers apparently retaliated by targeting Iranian sites. The People's Daily site published a screen grab showing a message reading "This site has been hacked by the Iranian Cyber Army,” alongside a picture of the Iranian flag. Last month the group attacked Twitter, which has been used by Iranian opposition supporters. Beijing and Tehran are allies and it was not immediately obvious why hackers targeted Baidu,
The Guardian reports.
 January 13:

 Gipson Hoffman & Pancione – the law firm representing California-based Cybersitter, LLC in a $2.2 billion suit against China’s government and three Chinese computer makers (China-based Lenovo Group, Haier Group, and Taiwan-based Acer Inc.) – announced it has suffered cyber attacks originating in China. The firm said the attacks are similar to those suffered last year. The parental-control software maker is alleging that Chinese software developers copied thousands of lines of its code for the anti-pornography Green Dam Youth Escort software. The firm’s attorneys began receiving trojan emails that were disguised to appear as emails from colleagues but constructed to retrieve data from their computers. The attacks on both Cybersitter and its law firm originated in China and targeted the information in their private servers,
the Wall Street Journal reports.