Belt and Road Forum: China’s global leadership experiment

China has invited international leaders to weigh in on shaping the future design of its Belt and Road Initiative at a summit in Beijing. European governments are curious to find out if China is truly willing to multilateralize and institutionalize its flagship foreign policy project.

The first international container train travelling from Jinhua city in the eastern province of Zhejiang to Kazakhstan in January 2016. Image by Imagine China

When China hosted the G20 summit in Hangzhou in 2016, an article in The Guardian hailed the event as “a new phase in the nation’s global economic confidence and leadership.” There is no question that G20 was a big milestone for China, but a much more obscure event – at least for a Western audience – might end up being more pivotal for China’s ability to lead globally.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, to be held in Beijing on May 14 and 15, will revolve around China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its flagship foreign policy initiative. BRI is China’s from scratch attempt at building a cross-regional integration project, driven by financing the construction of new highways, railways, ports, power grids and other infrastructure to better connect China to South and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. While it has been difficult to keep track of the specifics, more than 65 countries are BRI “partner countries” and about 926 billion USD in investments have been announced.

China has to convince the skeptics

In light of these figures, BRI has attracted greater scrutiny lately, specifically in the U.S. and Europe. China has to convince skeptical observers that it won’t just throw money at often economically dubious infrastructure projects for its own strategic gain, regardless of transparency and governance standards. Also, Beijing is facing accusations that it does too little to factor in the interests of countries along the Belt and Road corridor.

If China plays its hand right, inviting the world to a conference could turn out to be a smart move. The Belt and Road Forum could dispel concerns by giving others within the scope of the project a chance to weigh in on it. The stated goal of the conference is to discuss the future trajectory of BRI and to adopt a communiqué setting out joint priorities and principles of cooperation. However, in preparing a working draft of the communiqué in the run up to the conference, Beijing has apparently given rather little consideration to input from other BRI countries, and it remains to be seen how much stakeholder input can be integrated over the course of the two-day event.

Building upon Xi’s speech in Davos

The Belt and Road Forum also gives China a chance to build upon President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in which he presented China as a guardian of the liberal global economic order. Just like the Davos speech, the international forum is yet another chance to brand Beijing as a political and economic antipode to Washington, as the U.S. administration under Donald Trump focuses inwards and retreats from economic cooperation in Eurasia and worldwide.

Given the cross-regional nature of BRI, the meeting in Beijing also makes for an interesting political experiment outside traditional alignments and alliances. The eclectic guest list of 28 heads of state and government includes the presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, alongside the prime ministers of Spain, Italy and Poland. Other EU member states will send senior government officials such as Germany’s Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries.

Three conceivable summit outcomes

Although is not clear from the outside what the Chinese leadership envisages as concrete outcomes for the summit, but three are conceivable:

  • The introduction of complementary “soft power” elements, such as a Belt and Road education fund or cultural exchange program, appears likely, as Beijing has recently presented a scheme for mutual recognition of academic degrees by 48 countries along the Belt and Road.
  • China might make a few high-profile BRI-related project funding promises, although Beijing’s enthusiasm for outbound investments has cooled down in recent months.
  • A Chinese invitation to all BRI countries to make steps towards a multiregional FTA would be a very bold (and not necessarily likely) move that would open up a new page in Chinese free trade endeavors.

Apart from that, the event will check all the boxes of traditional international summitry. We can expect the announcements of cooperation agreements and commercial deals. Even representatives of civil society and industry will be present at the meeting. Also, the Belt and Road Forum was preceded by a Silk Road security conference (in which Spain among others took part), underlining that BRI has a strong security dimension in addition to its obvious economic focus.

It is not at all clear whether China will live up to its promise of allowing participating stakeholders to have a greater say over the trajectory of BRI, but the G20 experience shows that China is willing to take on feedback in a multilateral setting. The BRI Forum could thus become the steppingstone towards the greater institutionalization of the initiative that especially Western countries might hope for. (See previous blogpost “Germany wants Europe to help shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”) At the same time, it could become another important marker of a shift towards a global order that is increasingly influenced by China.

BGI Presentasikan Dermaga Raksasa di Hadapan Investor China

BGI Presentasikan Dermaga Raksasa di Hadapan Investor China
Komisaris Best & Grow Investment Ishak Charlie (kiri) dan Menteri Koordinator Bidang Kemaritiman RI Luhut Binsar Panjaitan. Foto/Istimewa
JAKARTA – ‎Best & Grow Investment (BGI) menggelar pertemuan dengan para investor asal China menjelang peresmian acara One Belt One Road (Forum Investasi Dunia) di Beijing, China, pada 14-15 Mei 2017. BGI mengenalkan berbagai potensi investasi di Indonesia, salah satunya terkait rencana pembangunan dermaga Industri Raksasa berskala global atau Port Estate (GIIPE) di Kota Medan, Sumatera Utara.

GIIPE sebagai pusat pengembangan industri baru di Kota Medan akan mendorong aktivitas perekonomian di Sumatera Utara. Pelabuhan laut di kawasan ini akan menekan biaya logistik karena terkendala akses jauh dari pelabuhan ke kawasan industri.

GIIPE nanti menjadi tempat strategis karena terintegrasi dengan kawasan industri dan hunian. Kelebihan ini menjadi keuntungan sendiri untuk para investor

Dalam forum tersebut, salah satu investor China, Shenzen Qixin Construction Group Co Ltd, melalui Deputy Chairman Ye Hong Xiao sudah menyatakan tertarik berinvestasi di GIIPE.

Sebagai perwakilan Pemerintah Indonesia, Menteri Koordinator Bidang Kemaritiman RI Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, dan Menteri Perindustrian (Menperin) RI Airlangga Hartarto, turut mempromosikan rencana ini.

Luhut Panjaitan mengemukakan, Indonesia adalah negara dengan tujuan investasi yang paling menjanjikan. Sebagai gambaran, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) menunjukkan data sepanjang kuartal IV-2016 pertumbuhan Produk Domestik Bruto (PDB) negara G20 turun tipis di rata-rata 0,7%.

“Sementara Indonesia bisa mempertahankan pertumbuhan PDB-nya di level 1,2%. Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS) mencatat, pertumbuhan ekonomi Indonesia pada kuartal I tahun 2017 berada di angka 5,01%,” ujarnya, dalam keterangan tertulis yang diterima SINDOnews, Sabtu (13/5/2017).

Menurut Luhut, investor tidak perlu takut berinvestasi di Indonesia. Karena pemerintah sudah merevisi regulasi yang memberatkan calon investor.

“Pemerintah Indonesia menyambut baik  kawasan GIIPE dan mendorong para investor untuk berinvestasi dalam proyek tersebut. Selama kerja sama saling menguntungkan, Pemerintah Indonesia akan memberikan dukungan penuh dan menjamin kenyamanan investasi kepada pada investor,” katanya.

Senada dengan Luhut, Menperin Airlangga Hartarto menyatakan, Indonesia melalui Kementerian Perindustrian memberikan rekomendasi dan dukungan terhadap pengembangan kawasan GIIPE. Pemerintah Indonesia juga menyambut baik acara ini.

Sementara itu, Komisaris Best & Grow Investment, Ishak Charlie memaparkan berbagai keunggulan berinvestasi di GIIPE. Kawasan GIIPE berlokasi di Percut Sei Tuan, Medan, Sumatera Utara. Letaknya sangat strategis, 16 km dari pusat Kota Medan, 3.5 km dari Bandara Internasional Kuala Namu, dan 9.5 km dari pelabuhan Belawan.

“Sebelum mengembangkan GIIPE, Best & Grow Investment sudah terbukti sukses mengembangkan proyek di Sumetera Utara, terutama di Medan, seperti Hotel JW Marriot, Medan, Centre Point Medan, Housing/Town House. Best & Grow Investment bisa menjadi mitra bisnsis terpercaya,” terangnya.

GIIPE menempati lahan seluas 2.000 Ha dan masih akan melakukan ekspansi lahan seluas 1.000 Ha. Proyek GIIPE terbagi dalam Power Plant seluas 200 Ha, Seaport seluas 200 Ha, Industrial Estate seluas 1.000 Ha, Residential seluas 200 Ha, Cruise Port, Golf & Palm Resort seluas 100 Ha, Central Business District seluas 300 Ha, dengan nilai total investasi USD7.438.000.000 (sekitar Rp99 triliun).

World’s biggest building project aims to make China great again

The ‘Belt and Road initiative’ could see hundreds of billions spent from Mongolia to Malaysia, Thailand to Turkmenistan and Indonesia to Iran

by in Tashkurgan

When the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, unveiled what some call the most ambitious development plan in history, Zhou Jun decided almost immediately he should head for the hills.

The 45-year-old entrepreneur packed his bags and set off for one of his country’s most staggeringly beautiful corners: a sleepy, high-altitude border outpost called Tashkurgan that – at almost 5,000km (3,100 miles) from Beijing – is the most westerly settlement in China.

“I saw a great opportunity to turn this little town into a mid-sized city,” Zhou explained during a tour of ‘Europa Manor’, a garish roadside spa he recently opened for Chinese tourists along the Karakoram, the legendary 1,300km highway that snakes through China’s rugged western mountains towards the 4,700m-high Khunjerab Pass.

Zhou said he was part of a wave of entrepreneurs now pouring into this isolated frontier near Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, hoping to cash in on President Xi’s “Belt and Road initiative”, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure campaign that looks set to transform large swaths of Asia and the world beyond.

“This place is going to see big changes,” predicted Zhou, who hails from the central city of Xi’an, as he guided his visitors through an R&R centre filled with plunge pools, wicker chaise lounges and fake plastic trees.

Tajik women who are optimistic about the region’s redevelopment.
Pinterest
Tajik women who are optimistic about the region’s redevelopment. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

This weekend world leaders including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will gather in Beijing to celebrate Xi’s plan, which supporters hail as the start of a new era of globalisation but sceptics see as a strategic ploy to cement China’s position as Asia’s top dog.

“The Belt and Road forum will go down as a landmark event in the history of Chinese foreign policy,” boasted a frontpage commentary in the Communist party’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, on the eve of the event, which bears the unfortunate English acronym “Barf”.

As the last stop on the Karakoram before the border with Pakistan, Tashkurgan stands on the front line of one of the most ambitious components of Xi’s project: the $62bn China-Pakistan economic corridor (Cpec).

Officials in Beijing and Islamabad claim the corridor – a vast web of planned infrastructure projects running diagonally from the resource-rich region of Xinjiang in western China to the deep-water port of Gwadar on Pakistan’s Arabian coast – will spark an “economic revolution” in the south Asian country.

The jaw-dropping landscape of glaciers and grasslands around Tashkurgan, an ancient Silk Road trading hub that is home to China’s Tajik ethnic minority, has changed little in hundreds, if not thousands, of years. “It is worth a journey from England merely to see this place,” the British adventurer Robert Shaw marvelledafter trekking through the region’s “stupendous peaks” in the late 1860s.

Children in the town of Tashkurgan.
Pinterest
Children in the town of Tashkurgan. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

But this obscure and secluded town is now bracing for a revolution of its own, as authorities cook up grand plans to transform it and the surrounding region.

In order to ferry people and equipment into this far-flung outpost, which is seven hours’ drive from the nearest major city, one of China’s highest altitude airports is being built just south of town on the Pamir plateau, a sparsely inhabited region previously the preserve of farmers, nomads and yaks.

Construction teams on both sides of the border have been rebuilding some of the most treacherous stretches of the Karakoram, the world’s highest transnational highway and a project that took two decades and more than 1,000 lives to build.

Further ahead, there are spectacular plans to build the so-called Khunjerab railway, a high-altitude line that would run roughly alongside the Karakoram and link north-eastern Pakistan with the Chinese city of Kashgar.

Such proposals are music to the ears of fortune-seekers such as Zhou who have flocked to this landlocked town to open improbably named businesses such as the Sea Front International Hotel.

Passengers sit in an open topped vehicle on the Karakoram Highway,
Pinterest
Passengers sit in an open topped vehicle on the Karakoram Highway, Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

“The next 10 years are going to bring tremendous change,” Zhou boasted. He claimed, with a heavy dose of hyperbole, that the town’s future might resemble that of skyscraper-studded mega-cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Muzaffar Shah, a Pakistani salesman who was passing through the Chinese city on his way back from a shopping expedition to the bazaars of Kashgar, said he also sensed change was coming.

Shah remembered his first trip to Tashkurgan, in 1993, when “it was nothing”. “This is growing very fast [now] – very, very fast,” he added over a plate of yak curry by the Karakoram, which Chinese travellers call the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway. “Everything has changed.”

Over the coming years Tashkurgan is unlikely to be the only place to feel the effects of China’s infrastructure crusade, which some compare to America’s post-war Marshall plan to rebuild Europe.

Nuyuft Arkin, a 45-year- old farmer, outside the new home on the outskirts of Tashkurgan.
Nuyuft Arkin, a 45-year- old farmer, outside the
new home on the outskirts of Tashkurgan. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

From Mongolia to Malaysia, Thailand to Turkmenistan and Indonesia to Iran, a slew of Chinese projects, including power plants, solar farms, motorways, bridges, ports and high-speed rail links, are set to be built with support from China’s banks and work force.

According to some estimates, China will bankroll some $150bn of infrastructure projects each year in countries that embrace Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative.

Tom Miller, the author of a recent book about Xi’s Asian infrastructure blitz, said the Belt and Road schemes were part of a vast wave of Chinese capital that was now “washing over the world”.

So many economic and geo-political goals lay behind the program that it defied one simple definition but essentially it was Xi’s answer to Donald Trump’s #MAGA: “Let’s Make China Great Again”.

“It is part of a push to cement China’s position as the undisputed power of Asia,” he said.

“China’s greatest strengths are financial – it has enormous economic muscle – and building infrastructure. So it is putting those things together and using its economic diplomacy to build roads, railways, ports, powerlines [that will help] integrate Asia [and] puts China at the centre of Asia.”

“It is very significant because China is the only country that has the capacity to build infrastructure like this and the only country that is willing to do it,” Miller added.

“You can be very sceptical about what the Belt and Road itself means … but nobody doubts that China is lending a lot of money and building a lot of stuff.”

The winds of change have already been blowing in Tashkurgan and affecting its 40,000-strong population.

Physically and culturally, the town, which is the main home of the Sarikoli-speaking Tajik minority, is about as far from Beijing as you can get, without crossing China’s 22,000km border.

An exhibit at the local government museum, the Tajik Folk Culture Exhibition Hall, describes its natives as having “typical features of Caucasian race, with light skin coloration, golden yellow or dark brown hair, dark blue or gray brown eyes, thin lip, high nose, not high cheekbone, developed body hair and beard.”

Slowly, however, the make-up of the population is changing. Locals say the last decade has seen a major influx of Mandarin-speaking immigrants from China’s ethnic Han majority after the government began trying to boost the local economy by turning the picturesque border town into a tourist destination.

Those efforts intensified following an outbreak of deadly ethnic rioting in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, in 2009 as authorities began pushing for a burst of “leapfrog” economic development that might calm the province’s violence-hit south.

Miller said one of the Belt and Road initiative’s key aims was to bring development and stability to China’s deprived periphery by linking such regions with overseas markets.

“Particularly in Xinjiang, China believes that economic development can help solve some of the security questions with its own militant Muslim minority and Islamist problems over the borders. They think that if you give people jobs and economic hope then perhaps they will be less inclined to foment insurgencies and other things,” he said.

“I think they are mistaken there … but that is how they think,” Miller added.

A Chinese flag flies over Tashkurgan.
Pinterest
A Chinese flag flies over Tashkurgan. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

The ever-present security forces on Tashkurgan’s otherwise tranquil streets give it the feel of an Alpine resort crossed with the West Bank and public expressions of dissent are rare.

Asked how they felt about the town’s future, locals firmly stuck to the party line and said they were hopeful Xi’s project would inject new life into the area.

“We fully support the Belt and Road initiative,” beamed Narzi Baygim, a 23-year-old Tajik tour guide who said she hoped it would bring more tourists to the region. “I think it will help connect China to other countries and to promote friendship.”

Rebiya, a 22-year-old interpreter, said she was glad to have been born and raised in such a scenic and pristine corner of China. “Living here is like living in heaven,” she said.

But development was welcome, she said, shrugging off the suggestion that Tajik traditions might be diluted by the influx of outsiders.

“[Our culture] has been passed down over the past 2,000 years and has become part of our DNA,” she said. “I don’t think it will vanish just because of economic development.”

While business people are banking on the transformation of the region around Tashkurgan, not everyone is convinced the reality will live up to Xi’s grand vision. Some point out that since the Belt and Road initiative began in 2013 trade between Xinjiang and foreign countries has actually fallen.

Rahber Khan, the owner of a Pakistani restaurant near the town’s main square, said he feared most Chinese investment was destined for the strategic port of Gwadar, not the impoverished region where his family lived.

“Maybe in the future we are growing but right now we don’t see anything good in front of us,” said Khan, 39, who is originally from Ghulkin, a village just over the border.

“I’m not sure if it’s coming or not,” he said of plans to connect Pakistan and China with the Khunjerab railway, adding: “It’s just talking.”

Before this weekend’s summit in Beijing, China has trumpeted its commitment to the “game-changing” initiative in a barrage of state-sponsored propaganda.

“At a time when certain western powers are retreating into protectionism and isolation, China has been promoting the globalisation of the economy in a spirit of openness and inclusiveness,” the official news agency Xinhua declared.

The English-language China Daily newspaper described the drive as “one of the most important public goods China offers the world”.

Outside Khan’s restaurant, the Communist party has also set out its stall, stamping its message onto a giant red billboard that towers over Tashkurgan’s main square.

“Build a beautiful Xinjiang!” the sign reads. “Make a Chinese dream come true!”

Bertemu Presiden Jokowi Dalam Acara One Belt One Road, Best & Grow Investmen Laporkan Perkembangan Industri Kota Medan

Bertemu Presiden Jokowi Dalam Acara One Belt One Road, Best & Grow Investmen Laporkan Perkembangan Industri Kota Medan

BEIJING–Minggu,  14 Mei 2017,  Best & Grow Investmen yang saat ini sedang mengembangkan kawasan Golden Integrated Industrial Port Estate (GIIPE) di Kota Medan, Sumatera Utara, bertemu dengan Presiden Joko Widodo, disaksikan Menteri Koordinator Kemaritiman Republik Indonesia H.E. Mr. Luhut Binsar Panjaitan dan Menteri Perindustrian Republik Indonesia H.E. Mr. Airlangga Hartarto. Pertemuan dilangsungkan disela kehadiran Presiden

BEIJING–Minggu,  14 Mei 2017,  Best & Grow Investmen yang saat ini sedang mengembangkan kawasan Golden Integrated Industrial Port Estate (GIIPE) di Kota Medan, Sumatera Utara, bertemu dengan Presiden Joko Widodo, disaksikan Menteri Koordinator Kemaritiman Republik Indonesia H.E. Mr. Luhut Binsar Panjaitan dan Menteri Perindustrian Republik Indonesia H.E. Mr. Airlangga Hartarto.

Pertemuan dilangsungkan disela kehadiran Presiden Jokowi dalam forum One Belt One Road di Beijing, China.

Ibu Paramita Ersan sebagai representative dari Best & Grow Investmen menyampaikan update kepada Presiden Jokowi bahwa pada tanggal 13 Mei 2017, Best & Grow Investmen telah menyelenggarakan Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, yaitu forum pertemuan dengan para investor asal China.

Menteri Koordinator Kemaritiman Republik Indonesia H.E. Mr. Luhut Binsar Panjaitan dan Menteri Perindustrian Republik Indonesia H.E. Mr. Airlangga Hartarto juga turut hadir dalam pertemuan tersebut.

Melihat perkembangan ekonomi Indonesia dibawah kepemimpinan Presiden Jokowi yang terus bergerak maju, para investor asal China sangat tertarik untuk ikut berinvestasi dalam GIIPE, salah satu yang sudah menyatakan ketertarikannya adalah Shenzen Qixin Construction Group.

Presiden Jokowi dan Ibu Paramita Ersan

Karena itu, Ibu Paramita Ersan sebagai perwakilan dari Best & Grow Investmen juga menyampaikan terimakasih kepada Presiden Jokowi yang terus berusaha membuat iklim investasi di Indonesia semakin kondusif. Hal ini yang menjadi daya tarik bagi para investor untuk berinvestasi di Indonesia.

Laporan kepada Presiden Jokowi disampaikan sebagai bagian dari dukungan Best & Grow Investmen terhadap keikutsertaan Pemerintah Indonesia dalam forum One Belt, One Road di Beijing, China. Selain itu, Ibu Paramita Ersan juga menyampaikan kepada Presiden Jokowi prospek pengembangan GIIPE terhadap perekonomian nasional dan terutama terhadap perekonomian di Kota Medan, Sumatera Utara.

Lokasi GIIPE juga sangat strategis, berlokasi di Percut Sei Tuan, Medan, Sumatera Utara. Letaknya sangat strategis, 16 KM dari pusat Kota Medan, 3.5 KM dari Bandara Internasional Kuala Namu, 9.5 KM dari pelabuhan Belawan. GIIPE menempati lahan seluas 2.000 Ha dan masih akan melakukan ekspansi lahan seluas 1.000 Ha. Project GIIPE terbagi dalam Power Plant seluas 200 Ha, Seaport seluas 200 Ha, Industrial Estate seluas 1.000 Ha, Residential seluas 200 Ha, Cruise Port, Golf & Palm Resot seluas 100 Ha, Central Business District seluas 300 Ha, dengan nilai total investasi USD 7.438.000.000 (lebih dari seratus triliun rupiah).

Adanya pelabuhan laut dalam kawasan ini akan meminimalkan biaya logistik yang biasanya terjadi karena jauhnya akses kawasan industri dari pelabuhan. Terintegrasinya kawasan industri dengan pelabuhan laut dan kawasan hunian serta kelengkapannya dalam satu paket, merupakan nilai keuntungan tersendiri bagi para investor yang ingin bergabung bersama Best & Grow Investmen dalam mengembangkan GIIPE.

The rise of VR, live video and new content formats

As demand for online video surges to record highs, two Asian newspaper stalwarts have developed their own popular digital news offerings, each in different formats and platforms.

After seeing its audience consumption habits shift rapidly to mobile, the nearly 90-year-old Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily in Malaysia, the largest-selling Chinese-language paper outside Greater China with a daily circulation of about 400,000, made the bold move to launch pocketimes.my, a fully mobile online video service. Since 2014, it has produced thousands of videos, mostly in-house.

‘Know your audience’

After training its staff in video skills, pocketimes.my now produces a variety of video product offerings. These include twice-daily five-minute-long newscasts, explainer videos (e.g. What is Brexit?), a weekly talk show called Pocket Talk, and breaking/live news coverage (e.g. its 40-hour live coverage of the 2015 Bersih clean government rally and its 14-hour live show as the 2015 Sarawak state election results unfolded).

“Pick the right event to go live, (something) your audience cares about. Entertainment videos rarely work for us, so know your audience well,” advised Tan Lee Chin, Chief Content Officer of MCIL Multimedia, previously Sinchew.com.my’s online editor.

Pocketimes.my is also a vehicle for revenue generation. It has developed Pocket Health, a five-minute-long, 20-episode health information show sponsored by a traditional wellness company and a popular 20-episode reality show called VJ Search.

VJ Search was an integrated marketing solution in the form of a three-week bootcamp for 10 finalists vying to be a Pocketimes.my host. The four-month-long sponsored campaign involved seven roadshows across Malaysia and was widely cross-promoted in the newspapers and digital platforms.

Besides producing original content, Pocketimes.my also acquires shows from China and South Korea, sells advertisements on these programmes and even offers digital product placement.

Chosun Ilbo’s VR unit

Looking further north, South Korea’s most widely-read newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, has turned to virtual reality (VR) to grab the attention of its flagging Millennial reader demographic. It launched a VR unit in December 2015, comprising a director, two team members and one intern. Because it has no production personnel or equipment, it outsources production to VR partner Pocket Memory. Each three-to-five-minute clip costs upwards of US$2,500 to produce.

According to Hyo-Seop Shin, head of the 96-year-old newspaper’s Digital News Division, which is pioneering VR journalism in South Korea, the story remains at the heart of every VR project. Stories are selected based on news values, whether they are 360-degree friendly, and whether they are in hard-to-access places. The team’s most popular story so far has been the behind-the-scenes construction of South Korea’s Lotte World Tower.

(See another recent story of ours about Chosun Ilbo here.)

Broken lenses and frozen batteries

“It was one of the first three VR stories we did. It was freezing cold and we had many accidents while shooting, but seeing Seoul cityscape from the highest building in Seoul was unforgettable. It was the best user experience through VR!” said Shin, whose team had to contend with strong winds, a broken lens and batteries that stopped functioning in the cold.

Other VR stories produced so far include preparations for the Pyeongchang Winter Games, nearly 30 clips at the Rio Olympics, presidential election campaigns and behind-the-scenes looks at a butterfly park, fashion show, K-pop star training and medical surgery. The team has also received enquiries from advertising agencies for native advertising solutions. Its first sponsored VR video featured skydiving by Special Forces soldiers. The client: South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense.

Product strategy at TechCrunch

When it comes to launching new products, Nicole Wilke, TechCrunch’s head of product, has a slew of progressive product strategy tips and approaches to offer. She urges managers to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses against the backdrop of challenges faced by the industry, prioritise goals in terms of whether they involve high or low effort and seize opportunities. Such opportunities for TechCrunch and its big sister, Wired.com, include:

  • Experimenting early and often with emerging technologies and platforms, such as WordPress VIP, Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP and Chatfuel, for first-mover advantage. TechCrunch manages to do this with a team of only two engineers, leveraging off its strong partnerships with technology providers.
  • Using smart products to grow and support its events business, such as creating its own event networking app for participants at its flagship Disrupt conference and using WordPress VIP plug-ins to build its own Disrupt marketing site. This site was later re-skinned for native advertising.
  • Prioritising mobile when designing or revamping products to drive users back from platforms directly to its own products.

Drawing from the experience of both Wired.com and its predecessor, HotWired, the first commercial content site on the Internet, which launched in 1994, and later how their print and digital newsrooms, tools and processes were integrated and editorial and sales efforts synergized, Wilke had this reminder, “Execute brilliantly. Keep your team focused so that you can achieve big wins, maximize efficiency, validate big bets early and often with testing.”

Such a strategy has enabled Wired.com to win four Webby awards including for best magazine site, make its website load twice as fast, achieve a 71-percent increase in mobile traffic, and establish the online publication as a leader in high-impact, beautiful advertising.

Ishak Charlie’s Best & Grow Signs Up Chinese Design Firm for Its Latest Industrial Complex in Medan

Ishak Charlie’s Best & Grow Signs Up Chinese Design Firm for Its Latest Industrial Complex in Medani

Jakarta. Best & Grow Investment Group, a Medan-based property company, signed up Shenzhen Qixin Construction Group, a Chinese design and architectural firm to help the former develop a $7.4 billion integrated industrial estate in North Sumatra.

Best & Grow and Shenzhen Qixin signed the partnership agreement in Beijing in the weekend, with Minister of Industry Airlangga Hartarto and Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan as witnesses.

Luhut said he hopes Best & Grow’s partnership with an international design company will encourage more foreign companies to invest in North Sumatra. “They’ll have the full support of the government,” Luhut said in a statement on Sunday (14/05).

The complex, called the Golden Integrated Industrial Port Estate (GIIPE), is the brainchild of local tycoon Ishak Charlie, Indonesia’s 150th richest man according to Globe Asia.

Ishak was part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s envoy visiting China last week to woo Chinese investors to put money in the industrial complex project.

Ishak, who is also the commissioner in Best & Grow, said the GIIPE has opened up 2,000 hectares of land in Percut Sei Tuan, an area 16 kilometers from the Medan city center, 3.5 kilometers from Kuala Namu International Airport and 9.5 kilometers from Belawan Port.

The company plans to expand the industrial complex by 50 percent to 3,000 hectares over the next few years, and equip it with a power plant, a sea port, a housing complex, a cruise-ship port, a golf club and a business zone.

Previous Best & Grow projects include the JW Marriott hotel in Medan and one of the city’s largest shopping malls, Centre Point, as well as plenty of housing complexes and townhouses.