Asian Insider, Jan 14: Biden picks Asia policy point man, Umno a casualty of Malaysia’s emergency

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: Trump signs tweaked China investment ban, Biden picks Asia policy point man, Umno a casualty of Malaysia’s emergency, China sees most Covid-19 cases in 10 months, SIA raises US$500m in US dollar bond debut, and more.

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Trump signs tweaked China investment ban; Biden picks Asia policy point man

US President Donald Trump has signed an order requiring US investors to completely divest their holdings of securities of alleged Chinese military companies by November 2021, further curbing Chinese access to US capital markets days before he leaves office. The United States will not ban American investment in Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings and Baidu, however, according to a person familiar with the discussions. 

Meanwhile, all cotton products and tomatoes from China’s Xinjiang region will be barred from entering the US, as Washington ramps up pressure on Beijing for oppressing Muslim-minority Uighurs and allowing firms’ alleged ill treatment of their workers. 

The latest developments come as US President-elect Joe Biden picks Obama-era veteran Kurt Campbell as his senior official for Asia policy. Mr Campbell’s greatest challenge will be to recalibrate Mr Trump’s fractious relationship with Beijing to allow Mr Biden to cooperate on issues like climate change while still pursuing policies aimed at changing Chinese behaviour. 

More on China-US relations: 

China’s Xi Jinping pens letter to Starbucks tycoon to promote US-China trade 

Also read the latest US news: 

US correspondent Charissa Yong: Trump becomes first US president to be impeached twice 

M’sia needs 12 weeks to flatten curve, Umno a casualty of emergency

Malaysia may need 12 weeks to flatten its Covid-19 curve, the health ministry’s director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said, adding that the projection could change after a fortnight of the movement control order, which was this week imposed in five states and three federal territories including Kuala Lumpur. 

The regions placed under stay-home orders contribute more than two-thirds of Malaysia’s gross domestic product. Analysts said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s declaration of a state of emergency – which could last until Aug 1 – will allow the government to enact immediate laws to support the battered economy, but could undermine investor confidence. 

Regional correspondent Leslie Lopez writes that Umno, until recently the most influential partner in the country’s shaky Perikatan Nasional coalition, is emerging as the main casualty of the emergency. Party officials fear that the latest challenges facing Umno, already racked by factional infighting, could push it into a breakup it may never recover from. 

Delve deeper: 

Malaysia correspondent Hazlin Hassan: Opposition chief Anwar urges MPs to appeal to King to lift emergency 

S’pore, KL will work closely to keep supply chains going 

WHO experts arrive as China sees most Covid-19 cases since March

World Health Organisation experts have arrived in central China’s Wuhan city to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. After their 14-day quarantine, the team will interview people from research institutes, hospitals and the market where the virus was first reported. 

Their arrival comes as China reports its biggest daily jump in new Covid-19 cases in more than 10 months, with infections in northern Heilongjiang province nearly tripling. The new outbreak comes ahead of the country’s traditional holiday travel rush. Public vaccinations will start around Chinese New Year, which begins on Feb 12, authorities said. 

Meanwhile, China has pledged to work with Indonesia to make South-east Asia’s most populous country a regional vaccine production hub, Indonesia correspondent Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja reports. 

Get the latest Covid-19 updates at our dedicated website. 

SIA raises US$500m in US dollar bond debut

Singapore Airlines has raised US$500 million (S$664 million) in its US dollar bond debut, with demand exceeding US$2.85 billion. The oversubscribed issue was anchored by high-quality institutional investors, the company said. 

The five-year bonds, which carry an annual coupon of 3 per cent per annum, will mature on July 20, 2026. They are due to be issued on Jan 20 at 99.573 per cent of their principal amount. The US bond issue brings to S$13.3 billion in additional liquidity that SIA has raised since the start of the 2020/2021 financial year. 

Airlines are hoping travel will resume later this year as countries roll out their Covid-19 vaccination programmes. SIA is Asia’s first major airline to tap the global debt markets this year, after a rush of deals in the second half of 2020. 

Related: SIA staff to get Covid-19 vaccine from Jan 13 

Google ‘experiment’ blocks Australian news from local searches

Google is hiding several Australian news sites from some local users, in an experiment that comes amid Canberra’s push to compel tech firms to pay media outlets for their content. Old links or content from other sites were appearing in searches instead, the Australian Financial Review reported. 

Australia’s plan to force Google and Facebook to pay media organisations when their platforms host their content or face millions of dollars in fines – due to take effect this year – has drawn the tech companies’ ire. A Google spokesman said the search changes were part of the “tens of thousands of experiments” it runs.

In other news…

Asia’s poultry farmers battle bird flu outbreak: Asia’s chicken farmers are confronting the region’s worst bird flu outbreak in years, with the deadly virus affecting farms stretching from Japan to India, roiling some poultry prices and showing no signs of easing. 

Qatar peace deal and the lessons for Asia: Last week’s release from an Indonesian prison of the Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, while the Arab world celebrated the peace deal that lifted the Saudi Arabia-led blockade on Qatar, serves to remind us of the linkages that connect us to the Western part of Asia, Associate Editor Ravi Velloor writes. 

Indian farmers extend protests after rejecting court proposal: Tens of thousands of farmers will continue their protests against India’s new farm laws until they are repealed, rejecting the top court’s decision to keep them in abeyance and adding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s woes. 

Blaze at luxury Langkawi resort threatened surrounding rainforest: Quick action by firemen averted a major disaster and possibly saved the tropical rainforest on the Langkawi holiday island from being engulfed in fire this week. 

South Korean woman who abused adopted toddler to death charged with murder: South Korean prosecutors have charged a woman who abused her 16-month-old adopted child to death with murder, amid rising public anger over the case. The little girl died of severe abdominal injuries, including a ruptured pancreas, after suffering months of extensive abuse, South Korea correspondent Chang May Choon reports. 

 

That’s it for today. Have a good day, and check back tomorrow for more. 

Magdalene 

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