Asian Insider July 3: How did Beijing - and Hong Kong - get it all so wrong?

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

WHAT NEXT IN HONG KONG?

Hong Kong’s protesters are lying low but the lull may not last. Some of them say they are fearful of repercussions after the violence of Monday night when a mob stormed the Hong Kong Legislative Council, reports China Correspondent Danson Cheong. The pause may also be giving protesters the time to evaluate their next step. 

China continues to keep a close watch. Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has maintained a garrison in the city but its troops keep a low profile. Rarely are they even seen in uniform in public. But on Tuesday, a PLA-linked newspaper ran photos of a military drill held last week in Hong Kong, a move that analysts interpret as a warning. Beijing has called for a criminal investigation into the storming of the legislature, describing it as a blatant challenge to the “one country, two systems” framework that has given the city its semi-autonomous status for 22 years. 

The territory once used to embody East Asia’s animal entrepreneurial spirit. It had efficient administrators, fine judges, a world-class financial regulator and a police force that was more respected than feared. All of these stand undermined in today’s Hong Kong. How did things come to such a pass? Both Beijing and Hong Kongers must share the blame for the city’s steady and continuing march to irrelevance, says Associate Editor Ravi Velloor.

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It might be portrayed as a leaderless protest but the storming of Parliament on Monday showed impressive levels of coordination. Protesters left notes telling their fellow assailants to leave books and display cabinets with expensive trinkets unharmed. “Preserve cultural objects”, “Don’t destroy”, read two notes next to a display cabinet. Another sign was stuck to a fridge containing drinks. “We are not thieves,” it read. “We won’t take without asking.”

Why has Hong Kong grown increasingly wary of Chinese control? Some fault the repeated encroachments by Beijing on Hong Kong’s special status.

What are the protesters mad about?

US-CHINA DEAL BY THE YEAR-END?

The United States and China could reach a deal to end the protracted trade war by the end of this year or early next year, experts told a forum organised by The Straits Times on Wednesday. But they agree that the rivalry between the world’s two largest economies is here to stay and the world will see the co-existence of “competition, cooperation and restrictive engagement” between the two countries for the years to come.

WILL A NON-GANDHI LEAD INDIA’S CONGRESS PARTY?

Mr Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday resigned as president of the India’s main opposition Congress party. He took the blame for his party’s rout in national elections won with a landslide by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rightist Bharatiya Janata Party. “Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president,” Mr Gandhi said on Twitter. Mr Gandhi, 49, had been seeking to become the fourth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to become prime minister. He had been Congress president since December 2017. The party should seek a leader without further delay, he said, opening the door for a non-Gandhi to take over the 134-year-old party headed mostly by the Nehru-Gandhi family.

ZAHID’S COMEBACK MAY REIGNITE MAHATHIR

Not all in Malaysia’s main opposition party Umno are joyfully anticipating the return of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as their president. Mr Zahid Hamidi made waves with his sudden announcement on Sunday that he is ending his gardening leave. The former deputy premier will have to devote some energy to fighting 87 charges of graft, more than double the number faced by his former boss Najib Tun Razak. But party insiders told Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh that what they really worry about is that Mr Zahid Hamidi’s return could spur Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 93, into resuming a hostile stance against the once-dominant party.

WILL AN ASIAN HEAD THE IMF?

The nomination of Ms Christine Lagarde as European Central Bank president on Tuesday has opened up a vacancy to replace her as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief. The IMF has traditionally been run by a European just as the World Bank, its sister institution, has been run by an American. Some analysts think the duopoly will hold, especially after US President Donald Trump’s World Bank nominee David Malpass faced no challenge from the Europeans in April. The logic is that the US, therefore, is not going to object to the Europeans keeping the IMF post. With 16.5 per cent of the voting power on the IMF board, the US retains an effective veto over IMF decisions. But given Europe’s shrinking role in the global economy, it is a matter of time as to when the post passes on to a candidate from a large emerging economy such as China, India or Brazil.

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

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Samsung tries again with redesigned Galaxy Fold smartphone

Viral photos of wanted German man selling barbecue chicken in Thailand lead to his arrest

Dam bursts in western India after monsoon rains

Two sashimis, three steaks’: Japan whale restaurants cheer hunt resumption

Big cats of Instagram: Pakistani elite’s love of exotic wildlife

And that’s it for today. We’ll see you again tomorrow with more news and insights from Asia.

- Bhagya