Asian Insider March 29: A look inside Huawei's campus

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


Today, the world gathered in Christchurch to remember victims of the terror attack, the war between the EU and the world’s top two palm oil producers escalated, we peeked inside Huawei’s new campus and more.


Thousands, including leaders from around the world, gathered in Christchurch today for a remembrance service in honour of the 50 people who were killed in the terror attack on March 15. The names of the victims were read out as those gathered stood in silence. Later the speakers, including family members of those lost, called for the legacy of the tragedy to be a kinder, more tolerant New Zealand.

Mr Farid Ahmed, whose wife Husna was killed in the mass shootings said: “I want a heart that will be full of love and care and full of mercy and will forgive easily, because this heart doesn't want any more lives to be lost."

Why it matters: Today’s ceremony was the exclamation point of what has been widely-regarded as an exemplary response to tragedy. The calm, compassionate reaction of the people of New Zealand and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have surely set the high bar for how a society holds together in the face of a potentially deeply polarising attack.

Full story: Christchurch mosque victims' names read out to silent crowd at New Zealand memorial


Maria Ressa, the chief executive of online news platform Rappler was arrested today shortly after landing in Manila. This is the second time the vocal critic of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been taken into custody this year. Last month she was arrested over a complaint of cyber libel. Today, she is accused of violating a law barring Filipinos acting as owners of local companies on behalf of foreigners.

Why it matters: Her arrest last month was seen as an escalation in the battle of President Duterte against his critics and an attempt to clamp down on the free press. While nothing happened for more than a month, this week’s events show that the president has been undeterred by the pushback.

Go deeper: Maria Ressa, founder of news site Rappler and Duterte critic, arrested again


Days after Indonesia threatened to pull out of the Paris climate deal over Europe’s push to reduce the use of palm oil, Malaysia added another warning. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in an interview with Reuters that the EU risks opening up a trade war over its palm oil policies. The European Commission concluded this month that palm oil use in transport fuel should be phased out by 2030 because of the environmental impact of planting it.

Why it matters: Indonesia and Malaysia are the two largest producers of palm oil in the world and the industry provides thousands of jobs and brings in billions of dollars for both economies. Both consider the crop critical and see the moves by the EU not as an environmental measure, but one aimed at replacing the use of palm oil in everything from chocolate spread to lipstick with European-produced rapeseed oil.

Go deeper:

EU risks 'trade war' with Malaysia over palm oil: PM Mahathir Mohamad

Indonesia threatens to quit Paris climate deal over palm oil


So what is Huawei’s campus like? You know the gleaming modern glass and stainless steel buildings of Apple and Google campuses? Well Huawei’s Guangdong campus is nothing like that. The 1.4m sq m campus may be in China and be filled with Chinese signs, but it looks like a town in Europe. There are buildings, statues and cobblestone paths modeled after European towns and an imposing European castle serves as one of its main buildings. The different districts are all named after European cities like Paris, Burgundy and Verona.

The big picture: Huawei’s campus is typically off-limits to all except staff, family and clients but the ongoing media tours aren’t there simply to show off its architecture. Huawei is trying to combat perceptions that it is a secretive organisation closely linked with the Chinese government. By opening its doors, it is hoping journalists come away seeing it as a modern, open organisation - no different from any of the other tech giants.

Go deeper: From Paris and croissants to castles and piazzas: Welcome to Huawei's new R&D hub

Not all good news: Today, Britain publicly chastised Huawei for failing to fix long-standing security flaws in its mobile network equipment and revealed new "significant technical issues".


Despite being surrounded by full-sized real aircraft at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition in Malaysia, a small scale model of a flying vehicle has been catching all the attention this week. The rough model, which looks like a four-propeller drone with seats for two, is called the Vector and has been the star of the show.

Why?  Malaysia is not best known for car production. The first national car project started in the 1980s drew frequent criticism for poor build quality and unimaginative models. Hence there was, to put it mildly, some scorn poured in the direction of Dr Mahathir’s Mohamad’s idea of starting a new national car project when he returned to power last year.That scorn turned to mockery last month when the entrepreneur minister said that the new national car project would involve a flying car. He didn’t give any details but said a prototype would be unveiled later this year. This curious model, showing up a month later, might well be that prototype though no one is willing to confirm it. After all, the reception to it hasn’t been any more encouraging. Trust the Internet to point out that the design of the model makes it look like the flying car is being powered by household fans.

Why it matters: At the moment, it probably doesn’t matter. But it will be interesting to see if Malaysia actually puts this into production and then is able to find some practical applications for it.

Background: Malaysia's flying car plan jets into controversy


Malaysia looks set to bail out yet another beleaguered government agency. It is mulling over a RM3 billion (S$1 billion) rescue package to ease cash flow for the Federal Land Development Authority, or Felda, and the 112,635 Malay families and their descendants whose livelihoods depend on the land development scheme.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today he had a “productive working dinner” the previous night in Beijing, kicking off a day of talks aimed at resolving the bitter trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in Washington on April 10, Yonhap news agency said today, citing the South Korean presidential office.

That’s it for today. Have a good weekend. We’ll be back on Monday.