Asian Insider Jan 23, 2019: Malaysian palace intrigue, faltering trade talks and Day 2 at Davos

Malaysian palace intrigue

If all goes as expected tomorrow (Jan 24), then Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, 59, will be chosen as the Malaysian king or Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Yet very little about this round of succession has gone according to script.

From a shock abdication, rumours of marriage to a Russian model and now talk of behind-the scenes lobbying, the normally humdrum internal voting process has suddenly seized the nation’s attention. Adding to the interest is questions of what sort of impact the new monarch - seen as a protector of Islam and champions of the politically dominant Malay race - will have on the country’s tumultuous political climate.

Analysis from the Malaysian bureau:

Malaysian King’s resignation averts crisis but could spark new tensions

Abdication complicates the making of a king

Davos Day 2

Trade and climate change are expected to feature prominently in the speech China’s Vice-President Wang Qishan will deliver at the World Economic Forum today. His address is the most anticipated of the second day in Davos after an opening day dominated by news on Huawei and the US-China trade talks.

Today, Brazil’s somewhat controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro received mixed reviews for his keynote speech, his first at a major global meeting, where he threw out the welcome mat for big business and foreign investors. Meanwhile, there was considerable star power at the panel on climate change where British naturalist David Attenborough was interviewed by Prince William.

What we would like to see at Davos: A wish list for the WEF

Singapore at WEF:

- Singapore releases model governance framework for AI

- WEF panel upbeat about benefits of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Follow our coverage of the World Economic Forum here.

Are trade talks faltering?

Stocks in Asia slipped today amid anxiety that the US-China trade talks might be hitting a wall. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied a Financial Times report that the Trump administration has rejected an offer for preparatory talks ahead of next week’s high-level negotiations but he also noted that the two sides still have significant disagreements. Observers agree that while China may be willing to help narrow its trade surplus with the US, it is unlikely to accede to the structural reforms the US wants.

Clouding the issue today is also the war of words over the impending extradition of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

Commentary: Can Asean cope with the trade war?

Elections in Thailand, at last

The promised but much-delayed general election in Thailand to end military rule that has been in place since 2014 has finally been confirmed by a royal decree. Earlier plans to hold an election on Feb 24 were set aside after the government raised concerns that it may clash with some of the royal ceremonies for the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The election is now almost definitely to be on March 24.

Get up to speed on the Thai elections:
-Faces to watch
-Thai politics 101

And finally, for something completely different

There’s been more truly bizarre antics on planes today, but I thought I’d leave you with this story of an unfortunately named fish and chips shop in Australia. The shop in Queensland, Australia - owned by former policewoman Carolyn Kerr - has been forced to close following months of criticism and even a boycott. Its name? The Battered Wife.

That’s it for today’s Asian Insider. Thanks for reading and see you next time.

- Jeremy

What else you need to know today:

-Australia is investigating reports that a Chinese-Australian dissident is missing and might have been detained in his native country

-Hong Kong is unveiling a Bill making disrespect of China's national anthem a crime

-The second woman carrying a gene-edited foetus is 12-14 weeks pregnant, says Chinese scientist

In the 20th century, we established that labour is not a commodity. In the 21st century, we must also ensure that labour is not a robot” said the chair of UN global commission on the future of work