In today’s bulletin: Asian economies prepare for transition to a Biden presidency; Suu Kyi’s party claims victory in Myanmar elections; China’s PLA to step up modernisation efforts; shock suspension of Ant IPO to slash group’s value; Japan’s new heir to the throne , and more.
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Asia readies for a Biden presidency
Congratulatory messages for President-elect Joe Biden have been pouring in from several countries in the region, with government leaders expressing hopes of strengthening ties with Mr Biden’s administration. Political observers, meanwhile, predict a return to congenial diplomacy.
Chinese media, which has taken the lead in commenting on US-China ties before the government, sounded optimistic in its editorials and expressed hope that bilateral trade would be one of the issues to be taken up by the Biden administration.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In said he will ensure there is no gap in the alliance with the United States and the process of ensuring peace on the Korean peninsula.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden and also referred to Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’ South Asian roots, noting it was a day of pride for all Indian Americans not just her “chittis” or aunts.
In Taiwan, however, there was concern over whether US policy towards Taipei would change and the matter came up for discussion in Parliament. But Mr Chen Ming-tong, who heads Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, repeatedly reassured lawmakers that a fundamental change in ties seemed unlikely.
What a Biden win means for the financial markets by Ven Sreenivasan, Associate Editor
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party claims election victory
Myanmar’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has claimed that it has won enough seats in Parliament, in elections held yesterday, to be able to return to form the government once again.
Party spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters that the party, led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, had won the 322 seats in parliament it needed. Official results have yet to be announced.
Sunday’s polling saw a strong turnout of people despite many more cases of coronavirus infections. Myanmar watchers have said the results will be a barometer of how people view the first term of Ms Suu Kyi’s government.
Public spat before election in Myanmar underscores continuing military-civilian tussle by Tan Hui Yee, Indochina Bureau Chief
China’s PLA to step up pace of reform
A term in a communique issued at the end of China’s Fifth Plenum meeting has caught the attention of China watchers. The term ‘bei zhan’ translates to prepare for war. It appeared again in a set of Central Committee “proposals” released last week that fleshed out details from the communique issued last month.
China Correspondent Danson Cheong says the appearance is an indication of the wide recognition, among China’s top leaders, of the deterioration in the country’s external environment and that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) urgently needs to get on a war footing.
While the PLA has come a long way since its beginnings in 1927 as a guerilla army of workers and peasants, there is also recognition that it doesn’t compare with the world’s leading militaries. Some analysts are saying there is a new deadline to modernise the PLA by its 100th anniversary in 2027.
Does China want to establish a military presence in Cambodia?
Ant Group’s stalled IPO seen slashing its value by $188 billion
China’s shock suspension of Ant’s US$37 billion IPO just days before its listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai could see the company’s value slashed by as much as US$140 billion (S$188 billion).
New regulations on the company could force Ant to raise more capital to support its lending operations. Under the proposed new rules, Ant will need additional capital to meet more stringent regulatory demands. Reports suggest that it might need to provide at least 30 per cent of funding for loans. Currently only about 2 per cent of loans sit on Ant’s balance sheet, with the bulk of funding coming from bank partners.
Ant will also have to seek national licenses to operate across the country. This and other new regulations may reduce the firm’s valuation by about half.
Japan formally proclaims Crown Prince Akishino heir to throne
Japan formally proclaimed Crown Prince Akishino the first in line as heir to the throne on Sunday in the last of a series of ceremonies after his elder brother, Emperor Naruhito, became monarch last year, following their father’s abdication. Under Japanese law, only males can inherit the throne, so Emperor Naruhito’s only offspring, 18-year-old Princess Aiko, is ineligible.
In other news…
Covid-19 neutralising antibody test kit by Singapore researchers: A kit that detects whether someone has antibodies which neutralise the coronavirus, invented by Singapore researchers, has become the first of its kind to receive authorisation from the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The kit, known as cPass, can be used to see if vaccines work, check the proportion of the population infected by coronavirus, and can also assist in contact tracing.
Pandemic set to worsen Japan’s dismal birth rate: Alarm bells are ringing over Japan’s fertility crisis as it is expected to be further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, writes Japan Correspondent Walter Sim. The Health Ministry estimates that there will likely be 845,000 newborns this year, 20,000 fewer than last year which was also the fifth straight year of decline.
Malaysia’s opposition leaders question budget proposals: Malaysia’s opposition may not support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s 2021 budget if the government doesn’t make changes to it, opposition politicians led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today. According to the Parti Keadilan Rakyat president, six demands made by his Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition do not figure in the budget.
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