In today's bulletin: China orders the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu, the growing trade walls of South-east Asia, a glimmer of hope for Delhi's coronavirus fight, Hong Kong faces a fresh virus wave, Malaysian stock market value close to overtaking Singapore, Myanmar prepares to launch a satellite and more...
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CHINA ORDERS CLOSURE OF US CONSULATE IN CHENGDU IN TIT-FOR-TAT MOVE
In retaliation for the US shutting down the Chinese consulate in Houston on Tuesday, Beijing announced on Friday that the US Consulate in Chengdu had 72 hours to close, China Correspondent Elizabeth Law reports.
Beijing's retaliatory announcement came just hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese people and "free nations of the world" to change the behaviour of the Chinese Communist Party, in a major policy speech. The Chinese foreign ministry said that the speech disregarded reality and was filled with ideological bias.
Ties between the world's two largest economies are at their worst since normalisation of relations 40 years ago, with a range of issues including trade, Hong Kong, espionage and China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic souring the relationship.
Reprisals by either side have escalated sharply under President Donald Trump's administration, despite his repeated expressions of admiration for President Xi Jinping.
While his campaign strategists have been intent on portraying him as tough on China for re-election purposes, Mr Trump has wavered in both his language and actions on the Chinese government since taking office in 2017.
China Bureau Chief Tan Dawn Wei writes that the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston was an electoral move, according to analysts.
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THE GROWING TRADE WALLS OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA
From Associate Editor Ravi Velloor: Just when you thought South-east Asia was on the threshold of a unique geoeconomic opportunity to soak up investments leaving China and from others seeking neutral venues amid the strategic tussle between Western nations and Beijing, it looks as though the economic crunch accentuated by the coronavirus pandemic is spurring protectionist instincts instead, to the region's detriment.
To get a sense of this, look no further than the data on trade-related non-tariff measures (NTMs) put out by Cari, the CIMB Asean Research Institute.
NTMs are policy measures other than Customs tariffs. According to Cari, Asean member states have a combined 9,494 NTMs in place. That is way higher than their number 20 years ago and about 4,000 more than the number in 2015.
GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR NEW DELHI AFTER STEADY FALL IN DAILY COVID-19 CASES, INDIA CASES RISE
India Correspondent Debarshi Dasgupta has some welcome good news from the Indian capital, once the worst-hit city in the country.
New cases have dropped from an average of 3,400 per day for the week beginning June 19, to a daily average of 1,430 for the seven days since July 14. Delhi, in fact, recorded 954 cases on July 20, its lowest daily increase since May 27.
This potential inflection point comes on the back of aggressive testing that has resulted in a higher rate of detection, leading to the subsequent isolation and treatment of patients. Tests in Delhi increased almost threefold, from an average of about 7,110 per day during the week beginning June 12 to an average of 19,659 for the week beginning July 14.
Across the country, however, the situation is less positive. India reported over 49,000 fresh cases of coronavirus with 740 new deaths on Friday, marking the biggest daily surge in cases even as officials in some states complained of shortages of vital drugs for those hospitalised.
FRESH CORONAVIRUS WAVE WORSENS HONG KONG'S ALREADY DISASTROUS OUTLOOK
The coronavirus reared its head again with 123 new cases reported in Hong Kong on Friday, including 115 that were locally transmitted. The sudden spike in cases may have stemmed from Hong Kong's willingness to let seafarers skip quarantine while changing ships in the city, a leading health expert said.
Since late January, more than 2,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 16 of whom have died.
Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang reports that mask wearing will be enforced in all indoor public places. This comes just as Hong Kong's increasingly uncertain political and financial outlook worsens.
Must read: Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang reports that Hong Kong's healthcare system faces a crucial week ahead
MALAYSIAN STOCK MARKET VALUE CLOSE TO OVERTAKING SINGAPORE ON GLOVE GAINS
Thanks to meteoric gains in glove-maker stocks, Malaysia's equity market capitalisation is close to surpassing that of its richer neighbour Singapore.
Malaysia's market value has surged 41 per cent since a March low to hit US$379 billion (S$525.3 billion) as the coronavirus pandemic supercharged demand for medical gloves and shares of the manufacturers.
That puts Malaysia about US$4 billion away from surpassing Singapore's market capitalisation for the first time in more than 16 years, according to data that only include actively traded primary listings.
MYANMAR JOINS BAND OF ASIAN NATIONS LAUNCHING SATELLITES
Myanmar is preparing to launch its first-ever satellite, joining an unlikely coalition of nascent space nations aiming to protect millions from environmental disasters.
The future "super constellation" of micro-satellites from nine Asian countries will track typhoons, seismic activity and water flows, as well as provide data on land use, the growth of crops and disease outbreaks.
It is the first space venture for Myanmar, the least economically developed country in a consortium that includes the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Must read: Unlocking the quantum Internet from space
IN OTHER NEWS
HONG KONG COUPLE ACQUITTED OF RIOTING CHARGES: A Hong Kong couple were found not guilty of rioting during last year's pro-democracy protests on Friday in a ruling that could see hundreds of others avoid jail time. More than 9,000 people were arrested during months of massive and sometimes violent demonstrations in the financial hub, initially sparked by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
INDIA, CHINA SET FOR MORE TALKS TO DE-ESCALATE HIMALAYAN STANDOFF: Indian and Chinese diplomats were set for more talks on Friday to narrow differences on ways to pull back troops eyeballing each other across a disputed border in the western Himalayas, where 20 Indian soldiers died in a clash over a month ago.
TRAVELLERS TO MALAYSIA HAVE TO UNDERGO QUARANTINE AT DESIGNATED CENTRES FROM FRIDAY: All travellers coming into Malaysia will have to undergo mandatory quarantine upon arrival from Friday, said Senior Minister (Security) Ismail Sabri Yaakob. He said these travellers will have to enter designated quarantine stations for 14 days.
That's it for today, thanks for reading and have a great weekend.