Asian Insider, Nov 27: Muhyiddin's budget boost will be short-lived; India looks to counter China

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

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In today's bulletin: Muhyiddin's celebration over budget win likely to be short-lived; India steps up efforts to draw neighbours closer to counter China; Tepid response to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's epic policy address; Dyson to invest $4.9b in Singapore, UK, Philippines; AstraZeneca says likely to run new global trial on Covid-19 vaccine; and more

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Muhyiddin's celebration over budget win likely to be short-lived

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has emerged victorious in a much-anticipated showdown in Parliament, with his Budget 2021 approved in a simple voice vote.

There were no defections of lawmakers from Umno, the largest party in his Perikatan Nasional pact, and opposition MPs barely raised a whimper as the Bill was moved to a three-week-long committee stage of debates before a third and final reading is approved.

The win is a huge boost for the Parti Pribumi Bersatu chief, underlining how the King's endorsement was a potent obstacle for those planning to out his slim-majority government by defeating the Bill.

Nevertheless, Mr Muhyiddin's celebration is likely to be short-lived, with both friend and foe continuing with deal-making for power in the "new normal" of Malaysian politics.

Indeed, the intense behind-the-scenes machinations that have become the norm since the shock end of Umno's six-decade rule at the 2018 polls is set to resume in the new year and it is a matter of when, not if, Mr Muhyiddin's tenuous grip on Parliament will come under assault again.

Go deeper:

Malaysian PM Muhyiddin's federal budget passes Parliament test

Malaysia's King calls on MPs to pass Budget 2021

Umno calls for political ceasefire, a week after threatening to pull out of PN government

India steps up efforts to draw neighbours closer to counter China

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval are in Nepal and Sri Lanka, respectively, while Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is in the Seychelles, as part of efforts to mend strained ties with the South Asian neighbours and wrest back waning influence from China.

India has found it hard to match Chinese investments in infrastructure and security in smaller South Asian nations over the last decade, but its own policies have added to frayed ties.

New Delhi is preparing for its months-long Himalayan border conflict with China to extend through the winter, with both sides amassing thousands of troops, tanks and missiles on the frontier, while fighter jets are on standby.

Here's more:

Indian and Chinese troops settle in for winter of discontent along disputed border

India scrambles to buy winter gear from US amid row with China

Tepid response to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's epic policy address

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's 30,000-word annual policy address on Wednesday (Nov 25) appears to have fallen flat in the Legislative assembly, judging by the tepid response to over 200 or so Beijing-backed initiatives she proposed.

Even pro-Beijing lawmakers in the chamber - the only ones left after the recent exit of the opposition bloc - did not appear to be enthralled, with photos circulated online that showed a number of them napping and one of them placing an order for HK$9,600 (S$1,660) worth of hairy crabs.

That has led to questions from some quarters over whether the Chief Executive has run out of ideas to help the territory get over the political, social and economic crises it now faces.

Read more:

What would Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers' mass resignation mean for the city

China ends absolute poverty

China's Guizhou province has announced that its last nine impoverished counties have been lifted out of poverty, officially marking the end of absolute poverty in the country.

This has been achieved through a massive effort, with strong pressure on local governments to fulfil targets and close to three million party cadres deployed to villages around the country to help poor families.

President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China (CCP) have pegged their legitimacy and credibility on eradicating absolute poverty and the achievement is likely to boost the Chinese leadership's image ahead of the 100th anniversary of the CCP next year.

Dyson to invest $4.9b in Singapore, UK, Philippines

British technology firm Dyson intends to set up a new advanced manufacturing hub in Singapore through a £2.75 billion (S$4.93 billion) investment that will also include the United Kingdom and Philippines, with a view to double its portfolio of products and venture into new fields by 2025.

The company will hire additional engineers in fields such as software, machine learning and robotics and resources will be funneled into research areas such as next-generation motor technology, connectivity and material science.

The company said the new advanced manufacturing hub in Singapore will bring together its various facilities and drive innovation in the field, while it also intends to establish a new university research programme in Singapore to drive product development and build on existing global initiatives.

Read more online:

St James Power Station will be Dyson's new global HQ in Singapore

AstraZeneca says likely to run new global trial on Covid-19 vaccine

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca is set to run an additional global trial to assess the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine after questions over the results from its late-stage study, which could hinder its chances of getting speedy US and EU regulatory approval. Instead of adding the trial arm to an ongoing US process, a new study would be run to evaluate a lower dosage that performed better than a full amount in AstraZeneca's study.

In other news...

South Korea foils North Korea attempt to hack Covid-19 vaccine makers: South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) has foiled North Korean attempts to hack into South Korean companies developing coronavirus vaccines, lawmakers were informed on Friday (Nov 27). The revelation came after Microsoft said earlier this month that hackers working for the Russian and North Korean governments have tried breaking into the networks of seven pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in South Korea, Canada, France, India and the United States.

Fists and pig guts fly in Taiwan parliament debate on US pork: Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party's lawmakers flung pig guts and exchanged punches with other legislators on Friday (Nov 27) in a bitter dispute over easing US pork imports. While the move has been welcomed by Washington, the KMT has strongly opposed the decision, tapping into public concern about food safety after several high-profile scandals in recent years.

Australia to discharge 13 soldiers after Afghan war crimes probe: Australia's army has moved to discharge 13 soldiers after a damning report on the unlawful killing of civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan. The report had recommended that 19 individuals be referred to the Australian Federal Police, compensation be paid to the families of victims, and that the military carry out a slew of reforms.

That's it for today. Hope today's bulletin was interesting for you. Thanks for reading and we'll be back with you tomorrow with a special edition of Asian Insider.


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