Asian Insider, Nov 3: America votes; Jokowi endorses jobs law; Jack Ma warned

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: America votes, as fears of violence loom; India & China track US elections closely; Indonesian President signs omnibus law despite protests; Thailand attempts reconciliation committee with former premiers; Jack Ma warned by China’s regulators; Twitter tries cloud workforce, and more. 

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America votes as fears loom of a volatile week ahead

Millions of Americans were preparing to cast their votes for America’s next President in polls taking place today (Nov 3). Early trends hinted at a record voter turnout, legal challenges over ballot counting and fears of violence in the aftermath of Election Day. 

President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden spent the eve of the election making a final push in key swing states – mostly Midwestern ones which Mr Trump won by razor-thin margins in 2016 – that could push either of them over the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, writes US Correspondent Charissa Yong.

Though latest opinion polls show Mr Bilden ahead of Mr Trump nationally, his lead has narrowed slightly with the race tightening in some key battleground states. This means Mr Trump could still garner the majority of Electoral College votes to become the winner, says US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh.

Join us as we track the US election results by clicking here.  

Delve deeper 

What time results are expected and which states to watch

Battlegrounds for 2020 US elections: Will these states stay loyal to Trump?

Trump v Biden: Who’s better for Asia

ST Asian Insider video: China, India keenly watch US elections

There is a sense in the strategic community in New Delhi, intensified by clashes with China on the Himalayan border, that India needs to deepen its relationship with the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to New Delhi on a swing through South Asia – after which he also visited Vietnam – is seen as part of that, Straits Times India Bureau Chief Nirmala Ganapathy shares with Asian Insider in ST’s weekly video and podcast show.

In China, meanwhile, the leadership is of the view that whoever is elected, it will not end Washington’s hawkishness on China, says China Correspondent Elizabeth Law. 

And ironically, while President Donald Trump has been tough on China and ramped up the trade war, he has also been good for President Xi Jinping in terms of triggering Chinese national solidarity, she said.

Indonesian President Joko signs controversial jobs bill into law

Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo signed the contentious omnibus law on Monday despite several protests that have taken place, signalling his intent to pursue economic reforms necessary to revive the country’s economy.

The law will allow for the simplification of more than 70 overlapping regulations, cut bureaucracy, standardise permit procedures to attract foreign investment, create jobs and boost the economy, which has been badly battered by the coronavirus pandemic, writes Regional Correspondent Arlina Arshad.

This year, Indonesia, which is South-east Asia’s largest economy, is expected to shrink for the first time since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. While the law has received support from the business community, protests are expected to continue. 

Also read

Indonesia expects export, investment boost after US extends trade privileges by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Indonesia Correspondent

Thailand attempts reconciliation panel to end dispute

Thailand’s House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has approached former premiers and leaders of political parties to form a reconciliation committee that will include representatives of protesters, in a bid to end protests. 

The move comes a day after Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn reminded all that Thailand is “the land of compromise”. 

Those who’ve been approached include former prime ministers Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Anand Panyarachun and Abhisit Vejjajiva. Matters were also to be discussed with Mr Somchai Wongsawat. But with recommendations of past reconciliation committees not being followed through, observers say protest groups may well remain on the streets.

Read more 

K-pop’s social media power spurs Thailand’s youth protests

Jack Ma warned by China’s regulators on Ant group’s expansion

China’s regulators have warned Ant’s billionaire co-founder Jack Ma and senior executives that the company could face new regulations on its expansions, in a move that signalled regulatory risk for the fintech giant just a day before its trading debut on Thursday.

The offshoot of Chinese Alibaba group dominates China’s payments market via Alipay app, runs the growing Yu’ebao money market fund as well as two of the country’s largest consumer lending platforms. A credit scoring unit and an insurance marketplace also falls within its operations.

While details of Ant’s meeting with regulators was not available, sources said Ant’s leadership team was told that the company will face increased scrutiny and be subject to restrictions on capital and leverage similar to banks. Those that the meeting included the country’s central bank and three other top financial regulators.

Ant has been hit with a wave of fresh rules in recent months as China tightens control over online lenders and companies that operate multiple financial business lines. 

More on this: 

Jack Ma blasts global financial regulators’ curbs on innovation

Why China’s Ant, biggest-ever IPO, says it’s a tech firm not a bank

Twitter wants to test cloud workforce concept

Social media giant Twitter has begun testing the concept of a cloud workforce that will allow for collaborations even with employees based anywhere. The company was the first American firm to declare in May that its employees could work from home forever. It’s human resource professionals are tweaking policies suitably in the belief that there is much to gain. Tech editor Irene Tham reports.

Also read: The office has a future, post-pandemic

In other news…

Sri Lanka rescues 120 whales after mass stranding: Sri Lanka’s navy and volunteers rescued 120 pilot whales stranded in the country’s biggest mass beaching, but at least two injured animals were found dead, officials said. Sailors from the navy and the coastguard along with local volunteers pushed back at least 120 whales by dawn today after a gruelling overnight rescue, they added. 

Singapore-based hedge fund is world’s best-performing with 275% gains: Singapore-incorporated firm QQQ Capital Management posted gains of 275 per cent between January and September, making it the top hedge fund in the world, according to Eurekahedge data. Now Chinese tycoon Qian Yong Qiang is working to turn it into a wealth management giant.

US calls China’s warnings over journalist visas ‘unacceptable’: The United States dismissed as “unacceptable” Beijing’s warnings of further retaliation if the visas of Chinese journalists working in America weren’t renewed. The US Embassy in Beijing made these remarks in response to a warning issued by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin of “firm countermeasures” if Washington didn’t change its approach.

A promise for Bihar voters triggers call for free vaccines for all: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party’s promise of free Covid-19 vaccines for poll-bound Bihar state has not only been called out for being an election ploy, but has also triggered a demand for free vaccines for the entire country of 1.35 billion people, writes India Bureau Chief Nirmala Ganapathy.

Thanks for reading the Asian Insider & The Straits Times. We’ll be back with you tomorrow.  

Shefali

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