Asian Insider, May 11: Fears of a second Covid-19 wave, Beijing-Washington spar, Hong Kong’s educational reforms

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

Hi all,

In today’s bulletin: New Covid-19 clusters in China & S.Korea raise alarm, differences between China-US grow, the future of liberal studies to be decided in Hong Kong, job fears and the bright spots in businesses once Covid-19 subsides, unique spots in Singapore to allow coronavirus patients to recover, and more.

Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.


Did economies open up too soon? China has sacked an official in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei Province and the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, after six, new confirmed Covid-19 cases emerged at a residential community that had previously reported 20 cases.

Separately, the appearance of a cluster of 11 cases in Shulan city, in China's north-eastern Jilin province bordering North Korea, raised fresh alarm about an outbreak in the isolated, neighbouring country. China moved today to put the city under lockdown. 

Meanwhile, South Korea decided to delay the reopening of schools by a week to May 20th, after the unexpected emergence of a new cluster in the Itaewon neighbourhood of Seoul. A total of 86 new confirmed Covid-19 cases nationwide have been traced to the cluster.  

Elsewhere, nations were taking calibrated moves to reopen their economies. Singapore will allow some more facilities and businesses to resume operations from May 12 while India said it would allow a limited reopening of its rail network from tomorrow.

Read also: 

All masks, no fireworks: Shanghai Disneyland in muted reopening after coronavirus shutdown

South Korea scrambles to contain new coronavirus outbreak threatening Seoul


Barely days after the US and China agreed to create a favourable environment to allow for the implementation of the Phase 1 trade deal reached between the two countries, reports were emerging of the continuing differences between the two on several issues. 

China, over the weekend, issued a 30-page, 11,000 word rebuttal of allegations by leading US politicians over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. While reports from Washington said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were preparing to issue a warning about cyber hacking from China into American research in the ongoing race to develop vaccines and treatments for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, China warned Washington today that it will take countermeasures in response to the US decision to tighten visa guidelines against Chinese journalists and urged the United States to immediately "correct its mistake".

Read also: 

US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh: China, US stand-off over origin of Covid-19 deepens

Global Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Eyal: The myth of the pandemic's impact on US-China rivalry


The city of Hong Kong is set to take a decision on the future direction of liberal studies for teenagers in schools. This was disclosed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam as part of a wide-ranging interview on education reforms with a pro-Beijing newspaper. 

The move is set to raise some concern as the pro-Beijing camp in the city has blamed the liberal studies programme partly for the unrest in the city 

In the interview, the CE said there were people in schools who had deliberately misled students with false and one-sided information and this was not just limited to liberal studies but other subjects as well including Mandarin and English, reports Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang.

Hong Kong schools, liberal studies under scrutiny

East Asia Editor Goh Sui Noi: One country, two systems, different viewpoints


The pandemic is still raging around the world even as countries are beginning to ease lockdowns and allow some workers to return to their workplaces. And it's likely to continue for some more weeks and months with a vaccine or a cure still not readily available.

What's certain though is that many jobs will be at stake, businesses will be upended and bankruptcies will be several as people and companies reevaluate all that they are doing in preparation for a post-Covid19 world.

But there will be silver linings too. Some businesses will thrive in the new "low-touch" economy, in which staying healthy will be the prime concern. 

Here's an insight: 

Fresh pastures in the Covid-19 economy: From supermarkets to remote-working tools

Associate Editor Vikram Khanna: The challenge and promise of the post-Covid-19 economy

Associate Editor Ven Sreenivasan: New economy will emerge from new normal after pandemic


Difficult times require creative solutions. After making space at exhibition grounds at Singapore expo, a port terminal and exploring a cruise ship, Singapore is now looking at some areas of Singapore Racecourse at Kranji that could be converted into community recovery facilities as the number of cases spiral. The country had 486 new Coronavirus infections today, taking the total count to 23,822.

Read more: 

Community care facilities for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms will double bed capacity to 20,000 by end-June

Sports Hub's OCBC Arena, selected ActiveSG indoor halls to house foreign workers


MALAYSIAN PM MUHYIDDIN'S CAMP TO OUST FORMER PM MAHATHIR & SON: The days of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his son Mukhriz Mahathir as leaders of the ruling Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia they founded are numbered, as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's faction has lost patience with the duo who continue to cling to the ousted Pakatan Harapan (PH), writes Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh. Not only is the party set to confirm that the two leaders are no longer members, but plans to oust Datuk Seri Mukhriz as Kedah chief minister and finally install a state government aligned to Tan Sri Muhyiddin's loose Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact are also nearly complete, he says. 

INDIA-CHINA BORDER SKIRMISH: Indian and Chinese troops on border patrols skirmished briefly in the northeastern state of Sikkim neighbouring China, the south Asian nation's defence ministry said, blaming "aggressive behaviour on both sides". Four Indian soldiers and seven Chinese troops were injured, reports said.

JAPAN MOVES TO LIMIT FOREIGN INVESTMENT:  Japan detailed an array of companies that will be subject to new rules restricting foreign investment, moving to protect industries it says are core to national security from the influence of foreign state interference.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Stay safe and we’ll be back with you tomorrow.