Asia News Weekly

Podcast: Xi-Ma summit, Myanmar elections and more

Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands with Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou during a summit in Singapore on Nov 7, 2015.
Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands with Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou during a summit in Singapore on Nov 7, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

The past week has been a week of landmark events. First Mr Xi Jinping and Mr Ma Ying-jeou met in Singapore, marking the first time the two leaders from both sides have sat down for a meeting. Then Myanmar held elections that are poised to move the country more towards democracy. Mr Scott Harold, Deputy Director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, and Mr Jonah Blank, Senior Political Scientist with the RAND Corporation, join Asia News Weekly's Steve Miller in his latest podcast. This week's podcast also looks at other interesting developments in Asia.

History made in Singapore as China and Taiwan Meet

On Nov 7, 2015, in Singapore, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, or as they referred to one another at the meeting as simply Mr Xi and Mr Ma, met face-to-face, marking the first time the leaders of mainland China and Taiwan have done so since nationalists fled to the island after losing a Civil War in 1949. Why did the meeting take place and was it an attempt by Mr Ma to garner a boost for his Kuomintang Party? For those answers, SMr cott Harold, Deputy Director, of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, joins the podcast to share his views.

Democracy in action in Myanmar

On Nov 8, 2015,  more than 30 million went to the polls in Myanmar to choose a new government. It’s being billed as the most important vote the country has undertaken in 25 years, when the military junta voided the election results. Mr Jonah Blank, Senior Political Scientist with the RAND Corporation, unpacks the significance of the results and identifies the new government's biggest hurdles.

North Korea: No nukes, frustration, and another purge?

North Korea is never one to shy away from wanting to be in the news; however, this week's updates have little to do with claims made by those in Pyongyang. First an update on previously reported tunnels being excavated near a nuclear test facility. Then, how the United States isn't the only one frustrated with the lack of commitment denuclearization talks are receiving. Finally, how the absence of a key official at a state funeral may signal another leadership purge.

China throws weight around, more stand up

China has pretty much had its run of the South China Sea for a few years, with small, ASEAN member states unable to successfully push back against Beijing, but that changed when the USS Lassen  sailed through what the Chinese side termed as "Chinese waters". Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly told US Secretary of State John Kerry, that Washington's decision had raised regional tensions. Chinese President Xi Jinping then made it known that ongoing disputes in the South China Sea shouldn't be on the docket next week at this year's APEC summit. Jakarta announced this week that if diplomacy fails with Beijing, it may also file a case against China in The Hague.

What's next for BRICS

Back in 2001, Brazil, Russia, India, and China came together to boost the lending power of the IMF. In 2010, South Africa was added to the group, and as of 2015, the BRICS members accounted for over 3 billion of the world’s population, or about 42%. However, Goldman Sachs, the organization that actually coined the term BRIC in 2001 has decided to folds its BRIC fund into a general emerging market fund.

History in India as transgender officer appointed

A woman has made history in India by becoming the nation’s first transgender police officer. Prithika Yashini from Tamil Nadu won a legal battle that allowed her to be hired as a police sub-inspector. Her application was earlier rejected because the organisation didn’t recognise a third gender status. Estimates predict about 0.04 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people are transgender and have faced harassment for decades. Prime Minister Modi recently stressed the need to amend or change laws to address these complex issues.

Malaysian health authorities tackle e-cigarettes

Malaysia may not have decided to ban the electronic version of cancer sticks, but Dr Noor Hisham says the sale of liquids containing nicotine would only be allowed to be conducted via licensed pharmacists or registered medical practitioners. 

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The writer is an Internet, radio, and television travel/news expert based in South Korea, and a member of the Asia American Journalists Association. Asia News Weekly is a weekly podcast that presents commentary and analysis of the region’s biggest stories.