Asian Insider Aug 2: US-China tariff wars, Japan-S.Korea spat, China's media ban

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

In today’s bulletin: Hopes for US-China trade deal dashed, Seoul threatens retaliation against Japan in trade spat, Asean to navigate its own way, China's media ban ahead of founding anniversary and more.

Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.

US-CHINA TRADE TRUCE OVER?

There was some optimism in the air just before the Osaka G-20 meet in June about the two countries coming to a negotiated settlement on their trade spat. But US President Donald Trump's announcement today seems to have eliminated much hope about a trade deal anytime soon. Trump said he would impose a 10 per cent tariff on a further US$300 billion in Chinese imports. The new import taxes, which Trump later said could go “well beyond” 25 per cent, will be imposed beginning Sept. 1 on a long list of goods expected to include smart-phones, laptop computers and children’s clothing. China warned of measures from its side should Washington proceed to levy extra tariffs on the remainder of Chinese imports. Trump's announcement follows a crucial meeting in China between trade representatives from both sides earlier this week, which US media reports, was not very fruitful with the Chinese were unwilling to concede to American requests. 

Why this matters? The uncertainty will have a further adverse effect on global growth and supply chains. Trump's announcement apparently caught Chinese officials by surprise. “If the U.S. is going to implement the additional tariffs, China will have to take necessary countermeasures,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing on Friday.  She didn't elaborate on what those measures would be. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has also said "Imposing new tariffs is absolutely not the right solution to trade frictions." The wait is on now, for September 1. 

Go deeper: 

China says US’ new 10% tariff ‘not a constructive’ way to end trade war

Trump's new tariffs throw cold water on hopes for China deal, raise worries over US economy

US and China: Are the superpowers heading for a collision, or can they be frenemies?

Weary US businesses brace themselves for fresh tariffs

Neither side in a hurry to reach deal

SOUTH KOREA-JAPAN TRADE ROW WORSENS

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in has vowed stern action against Japan, after Tokyo stripped Seoul of its fast-track export status earlier today. The President set up a task force to deal with the matter while the South Korean Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Seoul would remove Japan from its "white list" of trusted trading partners. Angry South Koreans demonstrated against the move, accusing Japan of 'economic invasion'. 

Why it matters: The trade spat between Japan and South Korea follows a worsening of the situation on the US-China trade front and will heighten trade uncertainty. South Korean shares slumped 1 per cent on Friday, with the economy already reeling from the consequences of the US-China trade spat. Japan's decision takes effect on Aug 28. Thereafter, South Korean firms might need to take extra administrative steps to obtain import permits, that could potentially slow down purchases of a wide range of Japanese goods. 

Read the full story by ST's Japan Correspondent Walter Sim here: 

Japan to strike South Korea off white list of trusted trade partners, Seoul announces reciprocal action

Japan removes South Korea from white list: Q&A on this list of 'trusted' trading partners

Go deeper: 

Angry South Koreans accuse Japan of 'economic invasion'

History gets in the way of better Japan-South Korea ties

Seoul-Tokyo spat a combination of history, trade and territory

ASEAN TO NAVIGATE WAY FORWARD ON OWN TERMS

Southeast Asia's regional grouping Asean plans to stick to its own path despite pressures from US and China. The 52nd meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Bangkok has seen some tense moments with the two countries slamming each other for their recent acts. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised China for its coercion in the South China Sea while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned parties outside the region against amplifying disputes between rival claimants.  

Speaking to reporters in Bangkok, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the alliance can protect its interests by being united and "by signalling to all superpowers and rising powers around us that we want, to the maximum extent possible, to do so on our terms".

Meanwhile, Asean and China are likely to take up the second draft of a maritime code of conduct in the South China Sea between China and South-east Asian countries in October, a Thai government official said. 

CHINA'S BAN ON ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA

The 70th anniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China is coming up on October 1 and in the run-up to that China's television regulator has banned 'entertainment driven' historical dramas. The regulator has asked broadcasters to air patriotic content instead. 

Why this matters: China has been preparing zealously for the anniversary that will see a massive military parade with the nation's weaponry on show and Beijing's giant new airport being opened. At a time like this, the move by Chinese television regulators signals concerns they could have about possible repercussions of the entertainment media on society. Some of China's idol dramas have been banned for being a negative influence on society.

Here are some related stories that might interest you: 

China's rumble over royals 

What's behind China's crackdown on Story of Yanxi Palace and other period dramas

Beijing's giant new airport set to open on eve of China's 70th birthday 

BEHIND ZOMATO'S 'FOOD DOES NOT HAVE A RELIGION' TWEET

Zomato, a food delivery company in India, has earned itself new customers in the country after it declined to accede to a customer's request to not have a non-Hindu driver deliver his food. The customer went online to share his annoyance and Zomato retaliated with this tweet: "Food does not have a religion. It is a religion". The tweet has gotten more than 83,000 likes and close to 27,000 retweets. And the controversy is continuing, two days after the incident.

Read our India Correspondent Debarshi Dasgupta's full story here: 

Intense online debate in India after Zomato refuses to pander to Hindu customer's religious bias

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

KIM'S NEW MISSILES: The North Korean projectiles launched early Friday  appeared to be new short-range ballistic missiles, South Korea’s government said. The missiles flew 220 km and reached an altitude of 25 km, the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said.

INDONESIA'S NEW AMNESTY SCHEME: Indonesia might again offer a tax amnesty, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said. South-east Asia's largest economy offered a pardon for tax offenders in exchange for low penalty rates for nine months ending in March 2017. The scheme was regarded as among the world's most successful due to the size of assets declared and the revenue generated. 

GOLDEN BREW: A rare Assam tea has sold for a world record price at auction in India, highlighting a boom for speciality teas while the industry as a whole is in crisis. A 2kg lot of Maijan Orthodox Golden tea sold for 141,002 rupees (S$2,787) or 70,501 rupees per kilogram on Wednesday (July 31). An unidentified Belgian trader bought the tea through a local agent, an auction official said.

That's the wrap for today. It's been a busy Friday. For news over the weekend, sign-on to www.straitstimes.com/global. We'll be back on Monday with the latest on Asia, and the world. Thanks for reading. 

Shefali