David Pilling

Much of the action in China is now centred in cities you’ve probably never heard of.  Read more

David Pilling

After a murder comes disposal of the body. Neil Heywood, the British businessman who got mixed up with China’s powerful Bo family, was hurriedly cremated after police pronounced he had died of alcohol poisoning. In Pulp Fiction, when Vincent, played by John Travolta, accidently shoots an informer, he calls for a professional, Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), to help him get rid of the evidence.

In both cases time is of the essence. In Pulp Fiction, all traces of the body must be removed by the time Bonnie, who lives in the house where the corpse has been hidden, returns from work. In China, the mess surrounding Bo Xilai, the party secretary of Chongqing whose downfall was precipitated by Heywood’s murder, had to be dealt with by the time of the 18th Party Congress, now set to begin on November 8. Read more

David Pilling

A woman looking at social media website Weibo. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman views social media website Weibo. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

In China, as is doubtless the case elsewhere, the distinction between online and offline is blurring. That presents the Communist party with a potentially dangerous problem. Online comment can serve a useful official function, allowing people to blow off steam and giving them the impression of freedom of expression. So long as it never leaves the realms of hyperspace, no harm done. Read more

David Pilling

I just came across this revamped version of what purports to be North Korea’s official website. Even if it is not, and is just a fan site, it is a credit to what is described on the homepage as a genuine workers’ state in which “all the people are completely liberated from exploitation and oppression”.

I’ve never been to North Korea (visa still pending) but, from what I can make out from this site, it sounds like a pretty wonderful place. It is apparently the only country where “the workers, peasants, soldiers and intellectuals are the true masters of their destiny” and in a “unique position to defend their interests”. Read more

David Pilling

A pro-democracy protester holds a placard with picture of blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Photo AP

First Wang Lijun. Now Chen Guangcheng. If anybody else sneaks into a US diplomatic mission in China we might really have a story on our hands.

The events that have electrified China over the past few months come safely under the category of things you couldn’t make up. In February, Mr Wang, chief of police of Bo Xilai, China’s most charismatic politician, turned up in the US consulate in Chengdu. He brought with him piles of documents, including what is said to be evidence of the murder of a British businessman, allegedly by Mr Bo’s wife. Read more

David Pilling

It’s hard to see why a Shakespearean play about a Scottish king should be controversial in Thailand. Nevertheless, the Thai film board has seen fit to ban a local film version of Macbeth.

One of the producers says the film board obviously thinks the story of Scottish regicide retold in the film, Shakespeare Must Die, is an allegory about Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister. Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, is disliked by many Thai royalists for allegedly challenging the authority of the king, something he has always denied. Read more

David Pilling

Few can now doubt that Japan’s economy, hardly in the most robust of shapes anyway, has taken a battering from last year’s tsunami. On Monday, data showed that output fell between October and December for the third time in four quarters as companies battled a perfect storm of problems.  Read more

David Pilling

Rick Perry eat your heart out. According to the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s government plans to dissolve 10 of 88 state bodies deemed inefficient or with overlapping authority.

That easily beats the timid reform proposal from the Republican presidential candidate who appears content to get rid of just two government departments – or was it three? Read more

David Pilling

(Top row L to R) Thai deputy prime minister Kittirat Na-Ranong, Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, Peruvian president Ollanta Humala Tasso and (front row L to R) Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Chinese president Hu Jintao and Canada prime minister Stephen Harper – Image AFP/Getty

There may be a leadership crisis in Europe, but Asian leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Honolulu mostly appeared as relaxed as the bronzed holidaymakers stretched out on Waikiki beach.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, was so laid back he began his presentation at the parallel business leaders’ forum with a song of his own composition.

The tune, accompanied by sappy lyrics worthy of a charity single, was about saving the environment, a sentiment that Indonesia sometimes honours in the breach.

Still, the retired general credited with bringing political stability and economic growth to his country of 240m people, appeared in confident mood. He said that the economy, which has been growing steadily above 6 per cent, was fairly resilient to the troubles in Europe. He pointed to a deficit of just 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product – which he said would be lower next year – and public debt/GDP levels of 25 per cent. Are you listening Lucas Papademos? Read more

David Pilling

The Chinese are voting again. Having lost their chance to determine the outcome of Happy Girls, an audience-participation talent show that has mysteriously vanished from next year’s schedules, they are voting instead for Ai Weiwei, the artist and thorn in Beijing’s side. Read more