Waiting for China

Since China began to open up and reform its economy in 1978, growth has averaged almost 10% a year, and more than 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty. There have also been significant improvements in access to health, education and other services, with the mainland now an upper-middle-income country.

23 May 2022

NEWSPAPER SECTION: ASIA FOCUS

WRITER: NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG



Reclaiming our future

The Asia-Pacific region is at a crossroads today -- will it further break down or break through to a greener, better, safer future?

23 May 2022 10

The Quad at a crossroads

When the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was first conceived as a strategic coalition of the four leading democracies in the Indo-Pacific, many doubted it would amount to much. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi mocked it as a "headline-grabbing idea" that would dissipate "like the sea foam in the Pacific or Indian Ocean".

23 May 2022 10

Post-pandemic healthcare

Health crises and emergencies such as Covid-19 have brought into sharp focus the critical need for preparedness. The unprecedented pandemic has led to a dynamically changing environment across the healthcare industry, posing challenges that call for innovative solutions.

16 May 2022 10

AROUND ASIA

Buzz

Conflicts and natural disasters forced tens of millions to flee within their own country last year, pushing the number of internally displaced people to a record high, monitoring groups said on Thursday. Some 59.1 million people were registered as internally displaced worldwide in 2021 -- a record expected to be broken again this year amid mass displacement inside war-torn Ukraine. Around 38 million new internal displacements were reported in 2021, with some people forced to flee multiple times, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council. While 2020 produced record-breaking movement due to natural disasters, new internal displacements from conflict in 2021 surged to 14.4 million -- a 50% jump from 2020 and more than doubling since 2012.

  • Philippines

    President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr says the Philippines' ties with China will expand and "shift to a higher gear" when he takes power, signalling an intent to advance the pro-Beijing agenda of outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte. Mr Marcos, who won the May 9 election by a landslide, said he held "very substantial" talks by phone last Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who assured him of support for his "independent foreign policy", and agreed to hold more comprehensive discussions. "The way forward is to expand our relationship not only diplomatic, not only trade, but also in culture … to address whatever minor disagreements we have right now," Mr Marcos said.

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  • Laos

    A child's tooth at least 130,000 years old found in a cave in Laos could help scientists uncover more information about an early human cousin, a study said on Tuesday. Researchers believe the discovery proves that Denisovans — a now-extinct branch of humanity — lived in the warm tropics of Southeast Asia. Very little is known about the Denisovans, a cousin of Neanderthals. Aside from a handful of rare fossils, Denisova man left little trace before disappearing — except in the genes of human DNA today. Through interbreeding with Homo sapiens, Denisovan remnants can be found in current populations in Southeast Asia and Oceania.

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  • Malaysia

    Malaysia is still reviewing the possibility of cutting its crude palm oil export tax, the Commodities Ministry said on Friday, even after Indonesia lifted an export ban that had rattled the market. Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin had earlier proposed lowering the tax to 4-6% from the current 8% to help exporters seeking to secure orders from global buyers unable to obtain supplies from Indonesia. The finance ministry is still reviewing the plan, she said, adding that she still supports the idea of helping Malaysian exporters in the short term.

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  • Indonesia

    Indonesia will lift its ban on palm oil exports this week, President Joko Widodo said on Thursday, relieving pressure on the global vegetable oil market after prices spiked because of the suspension and the war in Ukraine. Jakarta issued the ban on April 28 to secure supplies in the face of a domestic shortage. The president said he made the decision based on existing supplies "and considering there are 17 million people in the palm oil industry", adding that he would monitor developments to ensure supplies would be available at "affordable prices".

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  • Myanmar

    The defence chief of Myanmar's shadow government has called for international help to arm resistance forces fighting the ruling military, requesting support similar to that being given to Ukrainians battling invading Russian troops. The people of Ukraine and Myanmar's pro-democracy militias are all fighting for freedom and giving their lives, but those taking on Myanmar's well-equipped army need more than "morel support" and international solidarity, said Yee Mon, defence minister in the National Unity Government (NUG). "We will be much more appreciative if we get physical support such as arms and funding," he said in handwritten remarks provided to Reuters.

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  • Singapore

    Singapore's financial sector is creating more jobs than local staff can fill and the city-state will lose its competitiveness if it does not stay open to global talent, the head of the central bank said on Thursday. "A 'Singaporeans only' approach will be fatal for Singapore as a global financial centre as there are simply not enough locals to meet the fast-expanding specialist needs of financial institutions," said Ravi Menon. His comments come at a time when Singapore is adopting stricter visa and hiring restrictions, in a bid to allay local concerns about foreign workers snapping up higher-paying jobs.

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  • Vietnam

    A court in Vietnam on Thursday sentenced a former deputy health minister to four years in prison for involvement in a trading ring for fake medicines. Truong Quoc Cuong, 59, was accused late last year of helping local firms to import 148 billion dong (US$6.4 million) worth of fake medicines to sell domestically, according to the Ministry of Public Security. Dozens of senior health officials have been accused in recent weeks of wrongdoing in medical procurement, including claims they overstated the cost of coronavirus test kits.

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  • Cambodia

    Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to shift his official date of birth to the day he was actually born, despite having used the wrong day for decades. He said he made the decision following the death of his elder brother on May 5, which he suspects might be in some way related to his sibling also having an incorrect date of birth that caused a conflict with the Chinese zodiac calendar. It is common for Cambodians aged 50 or older to have two birthdays as many lost their birth certificates during the Khmer Rouge terror from 1975-79. Hun Sen said he had two dates of birth, one on April 4, 1951, and the other on Aug 5, 1952, the latter of which is correct. The zodiac, he added, is something that "should not be ignored".

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  • Japan

    Consumer prices in Japan posted their biggest jump in seven years in April, official data showed on Friday, as global commodity prices soared and the yen slumped against the US dollar. The core consumer price index, which excludes fresh food, rose 2.1% year-on-year, the first time since March 2015 that the figure has breached the 2% target set by the Bank of Japan. The rise underscores the impact of skyrocketing energy costs, which have been magnified by higher import prices.

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  • India

    India is considering allowing traders to ship out some of their wheat sitting at ports after a sudden ban on exports of the grain prevented dealers from loading cargoes, trade and government sources said on Thursday. New Delhi banned wheat exports on May 14, as an intense heat wave hit output and domestic prices hit a record high. The sudden ban trapped about 1.8 million tonnes of the grain at ports, potentially forcing traders to take heavy losses. On Tuesday, the government allowed grain awaiting customs clearance to be shipped out. But traders are pressuring the government to further relax its ban.

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  • China

    China's plans to bolster growth as Covid outbreaks and lockdowns crush activity will result in a whopping US$5.3 trillion pumped into its economy this year. The figure — based on a Bloomberg calculation of monetary and fiscal measures announced so far — equates to roughly a third of China's $17-trillion economy, but is actually smaller than the stimulus in 2020 when the pandemic first hit. That suggests even more could be spent if the economy fails to pick up — a possibility raised by Premier Li Keqiang earlier this week. "There's still a lot of space for a stronger fiscal policy, which is more effective in supporting growth now," said David Qu, China economist at Bloomberg Economics.

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  • South Korea

    US President Joe Biden embarked on Friday on his first official trip to South Korea and Japan, where he was to unveil a new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework as a key vehicle for US engagement in the region. Mr Biden was also seeking to firm up support for his plans to help Ukraine fend off Russia and to counter security threats posed by China and North Korea, which analysts said might be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.

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  • Australia

    Australia on Friday reported its first monkeypox case in a traveller who recently returned from Britain, while a probable case of infection was identified with testing being carried out to confirm it. A man in his 30s who arrived in Melbourne on Monday has the virus, the Victoria state health department said, while the probable case was identified in Sydney in a man in his 40s who had recently travelled to Europe. Cases of monkeypox have been identified in several non-endemic countries in recent weeks, including Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Canada and the United States. Monkeypox, which mostly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare virus similar to human smallpox, though milder.

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  • Hong Kong

    John Lee, the chief executive-elect of Hong Kong, plans to propose a closed-loop system to facilitate quarantine-free business travel between the city and mainland China, according to local media reports. The suggestion reportedly is backed by the business community, which sees it as a practical short-term fix while Hong Kong works toward a full reopening later. Closed-loop systems typically require employees to live in hotels or dormitories, sealing them off from their families and the wider community. They've been used frequently in China to keep production running during recent lockdowns.

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  • Taiwan

    Taiwan expressed "dissatisfaction and regret" over the World Health Organization's failure to invite it to attend this week's annual assembly in Geneva, amid diplomatic pressure from China to isolate the island. China insists that Taiwan should not be treated as an independent country as it considers the island to be a breakaway province. Taiwan has complained that its exclusion from the WHO hampered efforts to fight Covid-19, saying the UN body had failed to "stay neutral and professional".

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  • North Korea

    North Korea said on Friday it was achieving "good results" in its fight against its first confirmed Covid-19 outbreak, as the number of people with fever symptoms rose past 2 million and deaths reached 65 as of Thursday. The wave of Covid infections has fanned worry about a lack of medical resources and the almost total absence of vaccines in the isolated country. Local media reports say herbal treatments are being offered, and some people are promoting gargling with salt water. Pyongyang has sought unspecified assistance from China but has bot responded to offer from South Korea and the United States, to send help, a South Korean official said.

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IN NUMBERS

Nareerat Wiriyapong

COMMENTARY

Time to move on from Zero Covid

It's finally time for Shanghai residents to breathe easier and feel a greater sense of freedom. After nearly two months of lockdown, the commercial hub of 25 million started to allow more people to go out to buy groceries for the first time last Thursday after a fifth straight day of no new Covid-19 infections outside quarantine areas.

READ MORE >

Other News

23 May 2022

Time to move on from Zero Covid

It's finally time for Shanghai residents to breathe easier and feel a greater sense of freedom. After nearly two months of lockdown, the commercial hub of 25 million started to allow more people to go out to buy groceries for the first time last Thursday after a fifth straight day of no new Covid-19 infections outside quarantine areas.

23 May 2022
16 May 2022

Risk prevention

A Chinese government proposal for a financial stability guarantee fund to safeguard against systemic risks has attracted attention from many parties.

16 May 2022 1
16 May 2022

Politics and peril for Asian women

The political landscape in Asia has been very dynamic lately, but it is a disappointment to me personally that events have not been kind to women.

16 May 2022
16 May 2022

Weapons against waste

Researchers have found microplastics. This comes on the heels of news that microplastics were found in human blood, which may travel around the body and enter organs.

16 May 2022
9 May 2022

Time for plastic detox

Anyone who has ever strolled along a beach is familiar with the sight … plastic straws, snack packaging, some of it dating back years, plastic bottles and other junk washed up on the sand. It's enough to spoil your vacation memories -- and it's also part of a global crisis.

9 May 2022 1
9 May 2022

Holiday mood

Returning to Phuket for the first time in three years, Henri Giscard d'Estaing is busy visiting government officials and business partners on the southern island world-renowned for its white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, historical old town and delicious food.

9 May 2022
9 May 2022

Will China hit its growth target?

In early March, Premier Li Keqiang announced that China was targeting GDP growth of "about 5.5%" this year. That would be ambitious even without Russia's war against Ukraine and the attendant increases in global energy and food prices.

9 May 2022
9 May 2022

Sihanoukville pays the price for heavy reliance on Chinese

For several years now, Cambodia has been receiving billions of dollars in Chinese investment as part of China's Belt & Road initiative (BRI). Between 2013 and 2017, Beijing invested US$5.3 billion in the Southeast Asian country. Between 2016 and 2019, the two countries signed 65 cooperation agreements to finance infrastructure projects such as seaports, highways, airports, power stations and even an oil refinery.

9 May 2022 23
9 May 2022

The case for a four-day work week

Having a work-life balance is a growing priority for many workers. It has come into even sharper focus as employees learn how to live with the pressure brought by the protracted coronavirus pandemic.

9 May 2022
2 May 2022

Food price solutions a priority

Food prices are on the rise everywhere in the world. In Thailand, prices of limes have been at historical highs for months, now as much as 10 baht each in wet markets. Instant noodle makers want to hike their prices by up to 20% as raw material costs have surged, but Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit insists they can't.

2 May 2022