Asian Insider, Jan 22: China warns Sars-like virus could mutate, US role in Asia, Indonesia's electric vehicle plans hit roadblock

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Hi,

In today's bulletin: A Chinese official has warned that the Sars-like virus could mutate, raising further concern, Japan observers highlight US' role in regional stability in a survey, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam embarks on a charm offensive at Davos, Indonesia's plans to build a production hub for electric vehicles hits a roadblock and more.

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CHINA WARNS SARS-LIKE VIRUS COULD MUTATE, 400+ CASES IN 13 PROVINCES, NEW YEAR TRAVEL NEARS

The fallout from the Wuhan virus widened with 440 cases being reported in 13 provinces across the country. Another 2,197 cases of close contact with patients had been confirmed and there was evidence of "respiratory transmission" of the virus, China's National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin told reporters. Nine people with the infection have died.

Meanwhile, measures are being put in place to contain the spread of the disease with hundreds of millions of people set to travel across the country for this week's Chinese New Year holiday. The World Health Organisation is due to hold an emergency meeting later today.

Here are some of the latest reports on the mysterious virus:

New virus adapting and mutating, says Chinese official

Apple-supplier Foxconn tells Wuhan employees in Taiwan for Chinese New Year to stay back

Chinese doctor investigating outbreak says he was infected

As Wuhan virus spreads, economists warn of potential threat to China's economy

Taiwan calls on China to share 'correct' virus information

How airlines and airports are dealing with Wuhan virus

UNITED STATES KEY FACTOR IN NORTH-EAST ASIA STABILITY, SURVEY SHOWS

America figures in top three spots in a listing of threats to regional stability in North-east Asia, in a survey by Japanese think-tank Genron. The ranking identifies the impasse in US-North Korea denuclearisation talks, US-China strategic rivalry and the uncertainty of the US presidential election this November as major threats.

Japan Correspondent Walter Sim says that the fact that Japan's long-standing ally features so prominently in the poll of 307 observers reflects an unease over US policies and overall commitment to the region.

Read more on regional stability matters:

South Korea's Moon optimistic about US resuming talks with the North

Kim stresses need for 'offensive' measures

New trade agreement won't reset strained ties

HONG KONG LEADER CARRIE LAM LAUNCHES CHARM OFFENSIVE AT DAVOS

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has embarked on a charm offensive to urge global businesses and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that her city is open for business. She is accompanied by several officials from her team, which includes her trade secretary, top officials from the stock exchange, airport authority, MTR Corp and the head of Swire Group. She is due to speak later tonight.

Follow our coverage of Davos 2020 here.

And here are some of the latest reports:

No date set for phase two talks with US, says China trade team member

China promises to open its doors even wider

Tree-planting takes root as a new trend in eco-conscious Davos

Tapping digital economy opportunities and helping shape its future key reasons for S'pore taking part in WEF: Iswaran

INDONESIA'S PLANS TO BE ELECTRIC VEHICLES PRODUCTION HUB STUMBLES

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has long wanted to make his country a production base and a consumer market for election vehicles. Big car makers such as Toyota and Hyundai Motor have signed up but there's a roadblock obstructing faster growth. Regional Correspondent Jeffrey Hutton says there are too few electric charging stations. Read his story to find out more.

Here's more on Jokowi's EV plans:

Jokowi wants vehicles in new Indonesian capital to be autonomous and electric

Jokowi wants Indonesia to be more than a raw material giant

CASHLESS HONGBAOS

Chinese New Year is round the corner and hongbaos (or red gift packets) remain popular. But the trend now is to go cashless with some people promising their elderly family members bigger packets or e-hongbaos, if they are willing to receive cashless hongbaos. Deputy Tech Editor Trevor Tan says there are many e-hongbaos for people to choose from, here in Singapore.

More on hongbaos:

Hongbao to boost bonds

IN OTHER NEWS

THAI FUTURE FORWARD PARTY'S LINKS TO ILLUMINATI: Thailand's second-largest opposition party survived a bid to be dissolved, after being found not guilty by the Constitutional Court of seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy due to insufficient evidence. The petition against the party alleged, among other things, that the party had links to the Illuminati, a secret society that conspiracy theorists say is angling for world domination and therefore is a threat to the monarchy. Thailand Correspondent Hathai Techakitteranun says the ruling gives the party some reprieve but it is still facing possible dissolution in another case.

INDIA'S TOP COURT DEFERS HEARING ON CASES AGAINST CITIZENSHIP ACT: India's top court deferred a hearing on cases challenging the constitutional validity of the new Citizenship Amendment Act that introduced religion-based criteria for citizenship and sparked a month of often violent protests across the country. A three-judge panel said a larger constitution bench would consider requests to stop the government from implementing the act. But it is unclear when the court will issue a ruling.

NETFLIX PREPARES TO TAKE ON COMPETITORS: The streaming giant faces its toughest year with technology and media giants such as Apple, AT&T, Comcast and Walt Disney bringing new video platforms online. Netflix is promising new shows and movies and will increase spending by 20 per cent this year to bring its programming budget to about US$12 billion.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading and we'll be back tomorrow.

- Shefali

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