Asian Insider, June 25: India plans new tariffs on China imports, Mahathir-Anwar stalemate, Singapore telcos finalise 5G vendors, Jack Ma no more China’s richest

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

Hi all,

In today’s bulletin: India plans new tariffs on China imports, Mahathir-Anwar stalemate hurts opposition pact, Singapore telcos finalise 5G vendors, Alibaba’s Jack Ma dethroned as China’s richest, Jetstar Asia to cut one in four staff, and more.

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INDIA PLANS NEW RULES, TARIFFS ON CHINA IMPORTS AMID RISING TENSIONS

India plans to impose strict rules and higher tariffs on Chinese imports, as a military stand-off between the two neighbours threatens economic ties. At least 370 types of products such as chemicals and consumer electronics will be affected by tougher quality control, while import duties are being discussed on goods including furniture and auto components. China is India's biggest source of imports. 

Beijing on Wednesday (June 24) pinned the blame for the flare-up in hostilities entirely on India, China bureau chief Tan Dawn Wei writes. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused India of first building roads and bridges in Galwan Valley since April, and then reneging on an agreement reached during negotiations earlier this month. 

The two sides had just agreed on broad strokes to disengage from the disputed area in the Ladakh region on Monday, India bureau chief Nirmala Ganapathy reports. But satellite images from the same day showed China appeared to have built new structures near the site of the border clash over the past week, while India reinforced the flashpoint area with fighter jets, military trucks and artillery. 

Delve deeper: 

Apple, Cisco, Dell products among US goods from China held up at Indian ports 

MAHATHIR-ANWAR STALEMATE PULLS MALAYSIA’S OPPOSITION PACT APART

The momentum for opposition Pakatan Harapan's counter-coup stalled just inches from the finish line after a failure to agree on who would lead Malaysia should the coalition succeed in toppling Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysia bureau chief Shannon Teoh writes. 

The inability to reconcile Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's bid to take power for the third time and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's desire to end a 22-year wait to become premier makes it a case of so near, yet so far, in the light of the ruling Perikatan Nasional's wafer-thin majority. The Muhyiddin administration appears to be 114-strong, just above the simple majority of 112. 

With the ruling coalition preparing to call for early polls to claim a more secure mandate, time is not on the side of the disjointed opposition as the stare-down continues between Dr Mahathir and Mr Anwar. Their lack of unity may end up paving the way for a landslide PN victory. 

Read more: 

Dr Mahathir and Anwar: When love and hate collide 

SINGAPORE’S LOW COVID-19 DEATH RATE, AS CASES SURGE ELSEWHERE

Coronavirus patients are faring far better in Singapore than elsewhere in the world, with 26 deaths out of more than 42,000 people infected. Experts say this is because most of those infected are young and healthy, and that the country’s healthcare system has not been overwhelmed so all patients can receive the best care possible, senior health correspondent Salma Khalik writes. 

Countries in other parts of the world are still battling new surges in infections. China reported 19 new cases on Wednesday (June 24), 13 of them in Beijing. South Korea’s port city of Busan is “gripped with fear” over the emergence of a Russian ship cluster, correspondent Chang May Choon writes. Hong Kong recorded its seventh coronavirus death on Thursday, the third in a span of a week, correspondent Claire Huang reports. Australia posted its biggest daily rise in cases in two months. And the United States hit a new single-day high with more than 35,900 fresh cases. 

Read more: 

Elizabeth Law: Separating fact from fiction as China fights 2nd Covid-19 wave 

Coronavirus yet to peak in Americas as global cases near 10 million: WHO 

SINGTEL, STARHUB-M1 CONSORTIUM FINALISE VENDORS FOR 5G COVERAGE

Technologies from Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia will power the core of Singapore's two nationwide 5G networks, forming the backbone of its digital economy, Tech editor Irene Tham writes. The two firms will be the respective key vendors for Singtel and a joint venture between StarHub and M1, which won the rights to build the two networks.The telcos have to blanket the whole island with 5G connectivity by 2025. 

TPG Telecom did not win the nationwide 5G licence, but it will be allowed to operate smaller 5G networks that provide spot coverage using airwaves that are in abundance. TPG has selected China's Huawei as its key vendor. 5G connectivity will bring Singapore a step closer to a future of driverless vehicles, on-the-go cloud gaming, and robot-run factories and ports. 

Go deeper: 

5G networks planned for Singapore: What you need to know 

AUSTRALIA OVERHAULS UNI FEES TO STEER STUDENTS TOWARDS JOBS

Australia is overhauling its university fees to steer students towards fields with jobs and away from those seen as having less prospects. The controversial move comes as the country faces a surge in unemployment and reels from the loss of international students due to the coronavirus pandemic, Jonathan Pearlman writes. 

Annual fees for university courses in agriculture, psychology, foreign languages, architecture and maths will be cut by 46 per cent to 62 per cent, while those for law and commerce degrees will rise by 28 per cent. The cost of arts degrees will more than double. The fee overhaul has been widely condemned. 

Read also: 

Planning an overseas college education amid a pandemic 

IN OTHER NEWS

JETSTAR ASIA TO CUT ONE IN FOUR OF ITS SINGAPORE WORKFORCE: Singapore budget carrier Jetstar Asia will cut a quarter of its workforce next month. The cuts of up to 180 people across all parts of its business affect 26 per cent of its workforce, while most of its remaining employees will stay furloughed until the end of the year. The layoffs are part of Qantas Group’s three-year post-Covid-19 recovery plan, which includes reducing the group’s pre-crisis workforce by at least 6,000 people, including some 220 pilots. Qantas owns 49 per cent of Jetstar Asia. 

ALIBABA’S JACK MA DETHRONED AS CHINA’S RICHEST BY TENCENT’S PONY MA: Tencent Holdings' US$40 billion (S$56 billion) surge this week and the recent ascent of Pinduoduo Inc have reshuffled the ranking of China's richest people. Tencent's Pony Ma, worth US$50 billion, has surpassed Jack Ma's US$48 billion fortune, becoming China's richest person. And Colin Huang of Pinduoduo, a Groupon-like shopping app, has squeezed real estate mogul Hui Ka Yan of China Evergrande Group out of the top three with a net worth that now stands at US$43 billion.

JAPAN CONSIDERS STRIKE CAPABILITY TO REPLACE MISSILE DEFENCE SYSTEM: Japan is to consider the acquisition of weapons able to strike enemy missile launchers to bolster defence against North Korea after a decision to cancel the Aegis Ashore missile defence system. Any first-strike capability would represent a fundamental shift in Japan’s military posture that could raise the concern of neighbours. The United States, Japan’s main ally, has also had reservations about it gaining an independent strike capability. 

That’s it for today. Thank you for staying with us and check back for more good stories tomorrow. 

Magdalene