Asian Insider: China’s new military rules | Credit crunch in Asia

Dear ST reader,

This week, China observers are trying to interpret a new set of rules governing the "non-war" deployment of the People’s Liberation Army. Across Asia, millions of households and small businesses are facing difficulty securing credit as they try to recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is set to visit Ukraine and Russia, and Japan has started campaigning for its Upper House election.

New rules for China’s military

A set of trial rules governing the "non-war" deployment of the Chinese military has come into effect, with analysts saying it is a warning to those who might threaten China's security and internal stability in a politically sensitive year. A lack of clarity over what the rules, signed off by Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, contain has fuelled concern among pundits that they provide a legal basis for expanded deployments of the People's Liberation Army overseas, including in an invasion of Taiwan, China correspondent Danson Cheong reports.

Tensions between China and the United States have risen further in recent days over the legal status of the Taiwan Strait. Assistant foreign editor Magdalene Fung explains the finer details of the dispute in our Debrief column. Listen to our Power Play podcast for more on the prickly issue of Taiwan, or check out the China Perspective podcast for the latest hot topics on the China-US relationship.

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Asia’s Covid-19 credit crunch

Across Asia, millions of people who lost their livelihoods during the coronavirus pandemic now face a new hurdle: access to credit. Households and small businesses, including hotels, restaurants and farms, are grappling to put the pieces back together, trying to secure credit amid rising inflation and wage costs. In the latest Asian Insider Special, regional correspondent Jeffrey Hutton looks at their struggle to recover, as their savings run dry and banks tighten lending.

Also read: US recession will drag Asia's growth but the region may avoid a sharp downturn

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Widodo to visit Ukraine, Russia

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo will visit Ukraine and Russia this month. With the upcoming trip, Mr Widodo "opted to try to contribute and not to remain silent" amid the "complicated situation and complex problems" that the world is facing, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said. The president will meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv before continuing on to Moscow where he will meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Indonesia correspondent Linda Yulisman reports.

Follow us here for all the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

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Japan's Upper House election

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be able to breathe easy if his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) scores big in an Upper House election on July 10, for which campaigning began this week. Mr Kishida has a “golden era” ahead of him to consolidate his policies and standing within the party, Japan correspondent Walter Sim writes. But rising inflation and a fast-depreciating yen are likely to be key issues in the upcoming polls. These issues have been causing simmering discontent, with the opposition blaming the premier for inaction over what they have termed “Kishida inflation”.

More from Japan this week: Court rules against same-sex marriages

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Australia's new face of diplomacy with China

“Competition without catastrophe” has become the new catchphrase as the new Labour government resets Australia's relations with China and the South Pacific. Mr Anthony Albanese’s new administration is now enjoying the benefits of presenting a fresh face to China after years of growing mistrust, and to the United States and Pacific partners as well after years of concern about Australia's climate policy, Jonathan Pearlman writes in this week’s Power Play column.

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Mystery on the Mekong River

In the latest of The Unsolved Mysteries of South-east Asia podcast series, Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee dives into the secrecy surrounding the source of the mystical “serpent fire” – red and orange fireballs that emerge from the Mekong River once a year, a phenomenon celebrated in Thailand annually. Is it a natural occurrence, or a long hoax that has spanned decades? Decide for yourself after listening to our podcast.

Check out all the other podcasts in this ongoing series here.

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A tranquil hideaway in Taiwan

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The Matsu Islands provide a healing retreat from the hustle and bustle of city living, with its stunning scenery and laidback atmosphere transporting one back in time, Taiwan correspondent Katherine Wei writes. Snag some cool Instagram shots from a “blue tears” tour of Beihai tunnel, where an ethereal blue glow of algae lights the waterway after nightfall. And visit Daqiu Island, inhabited only by the elegant Formosan sika deer. Taiwan remains closed to foreign tourists for now, but keep these travel spots on your bucket list for when the borders reopen, hopefully within the year.

Discover more travel gems around the world from the First Flight Out series here.

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