Asian Insider Dec 5: Asian of the Year, Beijing-Seoul turnaround in ties, Pakistani girls for China

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


In today’s bulletin: Indonesian President Joko Widodo voted ST’s Asian of the Year 2019; China and South Korea eye an improvement in ties after three years; Huawei’s legal challenge in US court; over 600 Pakistani girls sold as brides to China and more.

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Every year, in early December, a panel of editors from The Straits Times meets to vote for the Asian of the Year. The nominees are those who not only make or shape the news but also help contribute positively to Asia in the process. This year, the panel voted for Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, for being a unifying figure in an age of chaos and disruption. He was selected not only because he 'cemented' his position in Indonesia's faction-ridden politics, but also raised the country's global standing. The leader of the most populous country in South-east Asia also led the framing of the document titled 'Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific' that redefines and reasserts Asean's centrality amid ongoing strategic rivalry between the United States and China. 

Read more: 

ST Citation for Asian of the Year 2019

Jokowi a soft-spoken leader who lets his actions do the talking

Jokowi personifies Indonesia's rise


Friends can turn foes and then friends again. Three years ago, South Korea's decision to deploy the US anti-missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) to protect the country from threats posed by North Korea, upset China and impacted on bilateral ties. Now that seems set for a correction as China's State Councillor Wang Yi, who also serves as foreign minister, flew down to Seoul to meet South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. Reports said discussions may well result in a possible Seoul trip for Chinese President Xi Jinping to South Korea.

Here’s more: 

China makes strategic move to mend ties with S. Korea amid rivalry with US: Experts

Half-North Korean, half-Chinese kids struggle in South Korea 

'Truly ashamed' Moon Jae-in calls for early warning system with China to fight dirty air


It looked like matters would take a turn for the worse within Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which forms a key part of Malaysia's ruling coalition, with differences between party president Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy Azmin Ali, as a four-day national assembly gets underway. But an eleventh hour compromise was reached late Wednesday. However, with other controversies already swirling, observers worry that the truce could well be temporary. 

Don't miss: 

Anwar Ibrahim denies sexual harassment allegation by male ex-staff member

Incident involving Anwar led to assault: Ex-assistant

PKR feud at boiling point as annual party congress looms


Chinese telecom giant Huawei has petitioned a court in the United States to overturn a ban that prevents local carriers in the US from tapping into a US$8.5 billion fund to buy equipment. Huawei says it doesn't pose a threat. 

Catch up: 

Huawei urging suppliers to break the law by moving offshore: US commerce chief Wilbur Ross

Huawei to shift research centre to Canada from US

Fighting extradition, Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou writes of 'moments of fear'


In a shocking discovery, investigators in Pakistan found hundreds of young girls and women from across the country being sold as brides to Chinese men. Some trafficking networks have been busted but the probe is proving difficult. Two months ago, a Pakistani court acquitted 31 Chinese nationals involved in the crime.

Also read:

UK truck deaths: Lured by human smugglers' promise of a better life, many end up dead or as modern-day slaves

After fleeing North Korea, women get trapped as cybersex slaves in China


RAPE VICTIM SET ABLAZE ON WAY TO COURT: A 23-year-old rape victim was set ablaze by a gang of men, including the alleged rapist, as she made her way to court in the northern India on Thursday, stirring public outrage and shame over the scourge of crimes against women.

'YOU SOUND LIKE SOCRATES' DATING ADVICE SLAMMED: A Japanese magazine that advised women to compliment men on their intelligence by saying "You sound like Socrates" has been ridiculed in the country ranked one of the world's worst for gender parity. The 'JJ' magazine is targeted at young women. 

AUSTRALIA TO PROBE FOREIGN INTERFERENCE: Australia has established an investigation into potential foreign political interference through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WeChat. The review comes amid heightened Australian concerns that China is seeking to interfere in Canberra's affairs. 

That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you tomorrow. Thanks for reading. 

- Shefali