Asian Insider: Beijing raises Covid-19 alert | Cloud over Myanmar

Dear ST reader,

Some parts of China are now gripped by a new wave of Covid-19 cases and the capital Beijing is ramping up efforts to prevent a major flare-up barely two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics. 

As the first anniversary of the Feb 1 Myanmar coup nears, the fate of the country continues to hang in the balance even as armed conflict escalates amid a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Beijing raises Covid-19 alert

Despite the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Chinese authorities have said there will be no lockdown for Beijing in the lead-up to the opening of the Winter Games on Feb 4. 

The next few weeks will be key to whether China will remain the last major country in the world to pursue a zero-Covid-19 policy or possibly ease up on it, writes China correspondent Elizabeth Law.

Cloud over Myanmar

Over the weekend, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Mr Hun Sen that as Asean chairman, the Cambodian premier needs to engage with all parties concerned about the Myanmar crisis

What does the future hold for the country one year since the coup? Do look out for our special report this Saturday.

Looming large over Cambodia this year as it assumes the rotating chairmanship of the 10-member bloc is China. Phnom Penh's long-standing close relationship with Beijing is likely to pressure Mr Hun Sen to adopt policies in China's favour, writes Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee in the weekly Power Play column.

Elections galore

The frequency of recall votes in Taiwan - as many as 16 since 2016 - has led to voting fatigue for both voters and politicians and raised the question of whether there is too much "direct democracy" on the island. Analysts say the bar for such votes need to be raised in order for them to be meaningful, reports Taiwan correspondent Katherine Wei. 

Meanwhile, election campaigning has gone virtual in India ahead of several upcoming state elections after the authorities banned physical rallies in view of the pandemic. Political parties are investing much resources in engaging voters on social media and organising online rallies. But a strong digital campaign does not automatically translate into wins, reports India bureau chief Nirmala Ganapathy. 

Over in Thailand, the opposition Democratic Party's victory in last weekend's by-elections signalled a possible comeback for the country's oldest party. But analysts tell Thailand correspondent Tan Tam Mei that the results revealed more about the conflict within the ruling coalition.

Slowing growth

China's birth rate fell to a record low of 7.52 in 2021, extending a downward trend despite a landmark decision to allow couples to have up to three children and a slew of measures to help with raising them. 

Its economy performed slightly better, growing at 8.1 per cent. But economists said its recovery has been lacklustre, reports China correspondent Aw Cheng Wei.

No time to read? Listen to a summary on this podcast by China bureau chief Tan Dawn Wei.

Lure of workation

How do you make remote working even more attractive? By combining it with leisure. Employees in many countries are embracing the travel-as-you-work trend, logging on to the office from scenic holiday spots. Read about it in this feature by ST correspondents.

South KoreaWork-leisure hybrid the new normal for millennials

Japan: 'Bleisure' faces hurdles despite popularity 

IndiaUrbanites flock to Goa for better work-life balance 

Wild cats in the city

Leopard cats are probably not something one would expect to find in a megacity like Beijing. Some researchers from Peking University have been on the hunt for these wild cats to learn how they survive in a metropolis of over 20 million people. Watch a video by China correspondent Danson Cheong.

Flat white, mate?

Australia has famously rejected coffee chains such as Starbucks, opting instead for independent cafes with their own roasts and brewing methods. Its brand of coffee culture has also spread globally, with Australian-style cafes springing up around the world. Enjoy a cup of flat white and some avocado toast in Jonathan Pearlman's Letter from Sydney.

Hope you enjoy this week's selection. Stay safe and thank you for reading The Straits Times.

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