Asian Insider, Oct 14: Thai protesters face off with royalists; Chinese visa scam in Australia

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In today’s bulletin: Xi vows to make China a global tech leader, in Shenzhen; Malaysian King postpones all meetings till movement curbs are lifted; Bidenomics could be good for Asia; and more.

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Thailand's capital Bangkok witnessed yet another face off between protesters demanding constitutional reforms and royalists, in the latest of over 200 demonstrations that have been held across the country since January. 

Protest leaders are demanding that fresh elections be called after the Constitution is amended, writes Indochina Bureau Chief Tan Hui Yee. 

The country's 2017 Charter allows for a 250-seat Senate appointed by the previous junta administration, among other elements that critics say are designed to keep Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in power. The former coup leader now leads a coalition government that continues to keep several former junta leaders in key positions.

Interestingly, the protesters arrived early, out of concern that they could be blocked by royalist supporters.

Delve deeper:

6 things to know about Thailand's anti-government protests


China President Xi Jinping promised to press on with efforts to make China a global leader in technology and strategic industries, despite efforts by the United States and others to counter its rise. He was speaking at a special event to mark the 40th anniversary of Shenzhen's establishment as a special economic zone. 

Reaffirming his commitment to "opening up and reform" as a strategy to gain economic advantage, he called for the making of the southern metropolis into a "model city for a great, modern socialist country".

His speech signalled support for the development of the Greater Bay Area. It could also mean bolder policies to knit together several cities - including Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau - to create a regional powerhouse rivalling Tokyo Bay or Silicon Valley.

At the event, President Xi called on the young in Hong Kong and Macau to move to the Greater Bay area to secure their future. His address comes at a time when the country's imports are surging and exports are showing strong gains.


Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's bid to replace Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been stalled by at least two weeks as the country's King announced a postponement of all meetings till movement curbs are lifted.

The King was to meet key political players in the coming fortnight. However, new dates for such meetings will be announced after the restrictions have been lifted.

Meanwhile, in a late night decision yesterday, Malaysia's largest ruling party Umno threatened to pull out of the ruling government. Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan said the party's top leadership was mulling over a withdrawal from the Perikatan Nasional government following a meeting chaired by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Also read: 

Muhyiddin says he trusts Malaysian King's judgment on Anwar issue


Elections in the United States, due to be held on Nov 3, could well see Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at the White House, if recent polls are any indication, although that is far from certain.

With this, speculation has been gaining momentum on what could "Bidenomics" be and its likely implications for Asia.

Just as the Trump administration has spent much of the past four years tearing up the economic and social legacy of the current president's predecessor, a Biden administration will sweep away a lot of the Trump-era policies, from taxes and subsidies to regulations, global trade and climate change, writes Associate Editor Vikram Khanna.

For Asian economies, the changes would be positive on at least two counts, he says. Read his column for more.


Murky details of a Chinese visa scam are emerging as Australian politician faced an inquiry today. Mr Daryl Maguire, who quit the New South Wales (NSW) state parliament in 2018, said he had received envelopes full of thousands of dollars in cash at his parliament office as part of a scheme for Chinese nationals to fraudulently acquire visas.

He agreed with the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption that the scheme, where Chinese nationals paid large sums for a business in NSW to pretend they were employed there, was a scam. He and his business associate Maggie Wang received up to A$20,000 for each business they recruited to the scheme.

In other news ..

QANTAS LAUNCHES CLOTHING LINE: Cash-strapped Qantas Airways today launched a range of pricey athleisure clothes as its latest revenue-raising scheme to help weather the coronavirus pandemic. The branded range includes T-shirts and cashmere sweaters designed by Australian Martin Grant, and comes after recent sold-out sales of bar carts from retired Boeing Co 747 planes and business class pajamas and amenity kits.

JAPAN TO EXPORT ARMS TO VIETNAM: Japan plans to sign an agreement with Vietnam to allow it to export defence equipment and technology to the country. The deal will be signed during Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's visit to Vietnam and Indonesia next week. The move is part of Tokyo's attempts to strengthen defence capabilities of Indo-Pacific nations, reports said.

WTO WILL HAVE A FEMALE LEADER: World Trade Organisation members have selected two final candidates - Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee - to advance to the final round in the race to lead the Geneva-based trade body, according to people familiar with the matter. This will mean that WTO will likely have the first female director-general in its 25-year history. WTO General Council Chairman David Walker is due to formally announce the results to the institution's delegates on Thursday morning in Geneva.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading the Asian Insider newsletter and The Straits Times. We’ll be back with you tomorrow. 


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