Asian Insider Jan 16: US-China deal aims to defuse tension, Hong Kong beyond 2047 and Wuhan flu reaches Japan

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


In today’s bulletin: We look at the mechanism that has been included in the US-China deal to prevent retaliatory actions by either party; how Hong Kong can maintain its “One Country Two Systems” status beyond 2047, and Japan’s Wuhan flu scare after a man from China returned with the disease.

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Even as China agrees to buy an additional US$200 billion worth of US goods and services for the next two years, US correspondent Charissa Yong reports that the US-China trade deal signed on Wednesday (Jan 15) comes with a dispute resolution process that is aimed at deterring retaliatory tariffs against enforcement action and forestalling tit-for-tat escalations of the trade war. This means that if one side imposes punitive tariffs in response to the trade deal being violated, the other side will not be able to retaliate with counter-tariffs or lodge a complaint at international trade forums about the tariffs. If the party alleged to have violated the agreement thinks that the action taken was in bad faith, the only remedy is to get out of the agreement. This is designed to prevent escalation of disputes.

US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh said that the US-China signified a win for President Donald Trump even though it is at best, an interim deal.  “The contrast could not have been greater: The House voting to send articles of impeachment to the Senate, and their target, President Donald Trump, holding an ebullient event at the White House to sign a United States-China phase one agreement packed, it appears, with concessions by China,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He said the deal bears both economic and political significance, as the world’s two biggest economies marked a truce in the lingering trade impasse. 

What next after the US-China Phase One deal


Hong Kong correspondent Claire Huang reports that Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has said that the "one country, two systems" framework under which the city enjoys freedoms unknown in China could continue after 2047 deadline if the people fully respect it. The city’s leader on Thursday (Jan 16) made the point that as long as the principle is fully understood and implemented, especially by the younger generation, there is “sufficient ground” for people to believe that Hong Kong can continue to have a high degree of autonomy beyond 2047 as provided for under the principle. Under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, Beijing promised that Hong Kong will retain its free market way of life and its existing legal, political and financial systems for 50 years from when the British handed the city back to China in 1997.

This principle is enshrined under Article 5 of the Basic Law - the city’s mini constitution - and China is under no obligation to uphold it once it expires.

SEE ALSO:  Opposition law makers ejected for causing ruckus and holding placards with rude messages to mock Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam


Japan correspondent Walter Sim reports that Japan has confirmed its first case of infection from the mystery Wuhan pneumonia-like virus. A man in his 30s living in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, was tested positive for the new virus strain. The patient, who is a Chinese national, first developed fever symptoms on Jan 3 during a visit to Wuhan. He returned to Japan on Jan 6, and was hospitalised on Jan 10. He recovered and was discharged on Wednesday (Jan 15), with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases confirming that his illness was caused by the new coronavirus strain.

SEE ALSO:  A Chinese woman has been warded in Thailand for the Wuhan flu


Global Affairs correspondent Jonathan Eyal reports that members of the European Parliament have expressed their "grave concern" about Britain's proposed treatment of European Union citizens after the British leave the EU at the end of this month. No fewer than 610 of the European Parliament's total of 751 MPs supported a resolution this week which urged the British government to offer EU nationals settled in the United Kingdom a reassurance that they will not lose their right of residence by issuing them with "a physical document as proof of their right to reside in the UK". The government in London has shrugged off the European Parliament's appeal, claiming that the interests of EU citizens on its soil are already adequately addressed.

Read more: S$229 billion and counting: The cost of Brexit for the UK


 India Correspondent Rohini Mohan reports on the controversies that arose from the demolition of four high-rise lakeside apartment complexes that was aimed at deterring builders from breaking India’s environmental laws. Last September, after over a decade of litigation, the Supreme Court ordered these high-rise luxury apartment buildings in Maradu to be torn down as they were built within 200m of the Vembanadu lake, in violation of environmental rules protecting coastal zones. Among some 350 owners of the apartments were affluent businessmen, corporate professionals, a movie director, a popular emerging actor, non-resident Indians and retired bankers. The Supreme Court ordered the Kerala government to give them 2.5 million rupees (S$47,500) each, as compensation.

 "Is it a joke? Last year, someone bought a flat here for 13.3 million rupees. With 2.5 million, you can't even buy a 1,000 sq ft property," one of the owners said.


We look at how climate changes are impacting countries in the region

SINGAPORE: Environment correspondent Audrey Tan reports that 2019 proved to be one of the hottest years on record in Singapore, with the annual mean temperature hitting 28.4 deg C. A mean temperature of 27.94 deg C from 2010 to 2019 also made it the hottest decade ever.

INDONESIA:  Two small islands in South Sumatra have disappeared as a result of rising sea levels driven by climate change, while four other islands are already on the brink of vanishing

JAPAN: Record low snowfall in Japan has forced many ski resorts to shut their doors and is threatening a World Cup ski jumping competition, with organisers forced to truck in extra powder.

AUSTRALIA: Millions of animals might have perished in the bushfires but man’s best friend Taylor, a four-year-old English springer spaniel, is not giving up in rescuing many others. See these heart-warming pictures of those that were saved by both humans and their best friends.


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See you again tomorrow!

Ooi Boon