Asian Insider, Nov 17: Calls for a US-China ties reset; British diplomat in China earns hero status

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In today's bulletin: Leaders call for a new chapter in US-China ties under Biden at a key global forum; hopes & anxieties during another day of coronavirus; Thai police fire water cannon at protesters near Parliament; US chamber shares concern about Washington being left out of world's largest trade pact; British diplomat earns hero status after daring rescue, and more.

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Leaders call for a new chapter in US-China ties under Biden

World leaders called for a new chapter in ties between the United States and China as President-elect Joe Biden's government takes charge, at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum being held virtually. Relations between the two economies hit new lows during the Trump administration with differences cropping up over trade, technology, security and several other matters.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hoped Mr Biden will develop a framework for an overall constructive relationship with China. This means a relationship in which the United States and China remain in competition with issues to resolve, but ultimately do not want to collide and will work to develop areas of common interests while constraining the areas of disagreement, he said.

Former President Bill Clinton said Chinese president Xi Jinping's long-term reign has upended US-China relations and would require Mr Joe Biden's incoming administration and its allies to take a more coordinated approach to dealing with Beijing. Mr Clinton made these remarks while speaking to former British PM Tony Blair at the Forum.

Meanwhile, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said the two countries should find some basis for cooperation, or risk sliding into a catastrophe "comparable to World War I".

Also read:

Biden's foreign policy: A prognosis by Tommy Koh

Slip-ups, anxieties and hopes during another day of coronavirus

In the east, South Korea was looking at reimposing social distancing measures following a sudden spike in the number of coronavirus infections. While in the west, US President-elect Joe Biden warned that the United States might see more deaths if people didn't cooperate on tackling the growing number of infections, which was obstructing efforts to get the economy on track.

Meanwhile, Moderna's announcement late on Monday that the vaccine it is developing - which is based on the same technology as Pfizer's and appears to be equally effective - could be stored at regular refrigerated temperatures for up to a month, sparked new hope that many more people across the world could get the vaccine.

As of now, Pfizer's vaccine has to be kept at negative 70 degrees and can only be refrigerated for up to five days. The announcement, which came ahead of Moderna's statement, had dampened hopes in countries unable to deal with the storage temperature issue.

With these announcements, global attention is also turning to where the precious vaccines can be manufactured, and if sufficient amounts can be churned out quickly enough for everyone. Assistant Foreign Editor Magdalene Fung delves deep into the issue to share her insights in her report.

Thai police fire water cannon at Parliament protesters

People in Thailand watched anxiously on television as Thai riot police fired water cannon at protesters who tried to make their way through razor wire barricades to Parliament, even as it was discussing possible changes to the constitution.

Protesters threw back coloured smoke bombs at the police. They had gathered after hundreds of royalists had gathered earlier to urge Parliamentarians not to change the constitution.

Those opposed to the government are demanding the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, and reforms to curb the powers of the monarchy.

US being left behind after Asia forms RCEP, says US chamber

The US Chamber of Commerce has expressed its concerns about the United States being left behind with the formation of the 15-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). But it has also said Washington should not join the bloc.

The trade pact covers 30 per cent of the global economy and 30 per cent of the global population, joining for the first time China, Japan and South Korea. It aims to progressively lower tariffs across many areas, in coming years, once it comes into force.

The US as well as India are absent from RCEP.

British diplomat in China earns hero status after daring rescue

British diplomat Consul General Stephen Ellison has become a hero in China after a video of him rescuing a student from a swollen river racked up tens of millions of views on social media. The video was taken as he leapt into action to save a woman who had fallen into a river coursing through the tourist town of Zhongshan.

In other news...

Olympics to take place in Japan next year, and fans will be allowed: The International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach has expressed confidence that the Tokyo Games will be held successfully next year, with spectators allowed to attend. IOC will arrange to ensure vaccination of both athletes and visitors before they arrive in Japan, he said.

Fugitive Malaysian business Jho Low describes 1MDB millions as loans: Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho has claimed that millions of dollars siphoned from 1MDB, Malaysia's debt-ridden state fund, were merely "loans" to him. And has blamed former prime minister Najib Razak for the downfall of the fund.

Whatsapp launches digital payments in India: WhatsApp joined the list of companies offering digital payments in India, a phenomenon witnessing a surge during the pandemic. The new service joins a market dominated by other international players and their payment apps such as Google (Google Pay), Walmart (PhonePe) and Amazon (Amazon Pay).

Thanks for reading the Asian Insider & The Straits Times. We'll be back with you tomorrow.


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