Asian Insider, Oct 30: Power shifts in Indo-Pacific; Umno factionalism diffuses pressure on Muhyiddin

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

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin:

Power shifts in the Indo-Pacific; Umno factionalism diffuses pressure on embattled premier; Spending scandals in Australia prompt calls to create a national anti-corruption body; Hong Kong economy shows first signs of revival since protests began; Malaysia's Mahathir says Muslims have right to kill French, Twitter deletes post

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

Speaking Of Asia: Power shifts in The Indo-pacific

This week’s share sale by Ant Financial, which operates the Alipay platform, serves as a quick lesson in the swiftly shifting weight in global affairs, writes Straits Times Associate Editor Ravi Velloor.

The World Economic Outlook released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this month makes the trend even more plain, with China’s economy almost a sixth larger than America’s (US$24.2 trillion versus the United States’ US$20.8 trillion) when measured by purchasing power parity.

This poses questions such as whether institutions like the IMF should stay based in the US if that country is no longer the No. 1 economy, and also whether New York is the best place to locate the United Nations when four of the five biggest economies in the world are going to be Asian before too long.

Power shifts typically take place slowly and by no means is China’s ascent a one-way journey, though the Lowy Institute’s recent publication of the 2020 Asia Power Index indicates that China can afford to be patient.

Asia and the world need to prepare for this new reality, with the coronavirus pandemic likely to have been an inflexion point for the global shift in power just as the 1956 Suez Canal crisis is seen today as a watershed in Britain’s decline.

Go deeper:

Will China's dragons eat the American unicorns?

Jack Ma’s Ant IPO lures $4 trillion of bids in retail frenzy

Shot in the arm for R&D as Beijing breaks into a sprint in tech war

Umno factionalism diffuses pressure on embattled premier Muhyiddin

Internal schisms in Umno, the largest party of the Muhyiddin  Yassin government, has led to indecisiveness that saw a series of meetings this week end in little more than an affirmation of the status quo even though Malaysia’s King refused consent on Sunday (Oct 25) for an emergency declaration, writes Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh.

However, the once-dominant Malay party's call for elections to be held after the coronavirus pandemic is under control is as much about ensuring a stable government as resolving its own divisions.

The one uniting theme in Umno is disgruntlement over playing second fiddle to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in sharing the spoils of power, while also being sidelined in important decisions, and the message from the party was that Bersatu may have to contest the next general election on its own.

Here's more:

Umno wants elections to be held once Covid-19 pandemic is under control

Malaysian King's advice on PM Muhyiddin's budget causes stir

Spending scandals in Australia prompt calls for national anti-corruption body

A series of scandals in recent weeks has led to growing calls for the Australian federal government to set up a long-awaited national anti-corruption commission.

In Australia, states tend to have strong anti-corruption bodies that have led to the downfall of several leaders, but there is no similar federal body.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has drawn flak over his cool reception to the idea, asserting that he was concerned it would divert from the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read more:

Australian politician tells inquiry Chinese visa scheme was a scam

Hong Kong economy shows first signs of revival since protests began

Hong Kong’s economy is showing the first signs of emerging from a crippling recession sparked by political unrest last year, which was deepened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, the recovery is nascent and Hong Kong will need more robust commerce and tourism to sustain a return to economic growth.

Hong Kong’s efforts to stimulate the economy also remain under scrutiny, with storefronts shuttered and unemployment at an almost 16-year high as of September.

Read more online:

Hong Kong to take US to WTO over 'Made in China' label rule

Hong Kong urged to boost stimulus using fiscal war chest

Malaysia's Mahathir says Muslims have right to kill French, Twitter deletes post

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad sparked off widespread anger after tweeting that Muslims had a right “to kill millions of French people” after a deadly attack in Nice. Twitter initially flagged his tweet as “glorifying violence” and did not remove it, but the tweet was deleted entirely shortly afterward.

In other news

JAPAN EASES TRAVEL CURBS FOR SINGAPORE, CHINA, SEVEN OTHERS: Japan has eased travel curbs for Singapore, China, Australia, South Korea and five other countries and regions, as the country steps up efforts to revive its economy while preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Japan lowered its infection risk advisory level for these territories as well as Thailand, Taiwan, New Zealand, Brunei and Vietnam to level two from level three, telling its citizens to avoid non-urgent, non-essential trips.

NEW ZEALAND VOTERS APPROVE EUTHANASIA, STUB OUT RECREATIONAL MARIJUANAA New Zealand referendum has legalised euthanasia in the country, while another has banned the recreational use of cannabis, the country’s Electoral Commission has said. Votes in the referendums were cast alongside ballots during a general election that returned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to power.

TYPHOON MOLAVE SLAMS INTO FLOOD-HIT VIETNAM, BRINGING DEATH AND MORE MISERY: Typhoon Molave has set off a series of landslides that buried towns and villages in Vietnam, leaving more than 60 people dead or missing even as the country struggles with catastrophic floods. Molave, one of the biggest storms to hit the country in two decades, also cut power to millions of people and damaged 56,000 houses.

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.

Arvind