Asian Insider Sept 11: Japan’s Cabinet reshuffle, hazy skies in South-east Asia, Jack Ma bows out

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

In today’s bulletin: Japanese PM Shinzo Abe shakes up his Cabinet; haze raises tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia; the world’s biggest trade pact hits a snag; Jack Ma bows out of Alibaba in style; and more.

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ABE SHAKES UP CABINET

Shinjiro Koizumi, the 38-year-old son of former Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi, was the most notable new appointment today as Prime Minister reshuffled his Cabinet. The younger Koizumi is a darling of Japanese media and tipped as one of the possible successors to Abe. But the shake-up also raised the profiles of other contenders, especially Toshimitsu Motegi, the new foreign minister. Motegi, 63, a Harvard-educated political veteran, was promoted as a reward for his work negotiating a trade deal with the US.

All the details of the Cabinet reshuffle: Japan's Shinzo Abe shakes up Cabinet, brings in rising star

THAI GOVERNMENT ROCKED BY DEFECTIONS

The new Thai government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is facing an extremely rocky start. It was sworn in just in July and nearly instantly faced a scandal about leaving a key line out of its oath. This week, defections and departures from the ruling coalition has left the government with a narrow 2 seat majority in the 500-member Lower House. That leaves a highly unstable coalition that now needs to pass a budget. However, as Thailand Correspondent Hathai Techakitteranum notes, most observers believe the coalition can hold for now.

Analysis: Thai government unstable but will pull through

Also in Thailand: Manhunt under way on Thai resort island of Phuket after Norwegian who killed another tourist during a fight skips bail

MALAYSIA, INDONESIA SPAR OVER HAZE

Air quality continued to deteriorate in Indonesia and Malaysia today, forcing the closure of hundreds of schools in both countries and raising tensions over what was causing the haze. Malaysia raised concerns with Indonesia, offering assistance to extinguish forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra. But Indonesia stressed it was not to blame for Malaysia’s haze, noting that Malaysia too had forest fires.

What you need to know about the South-east Asia transboundary-haze situation:  

Indonesia says it's not to blame for Malaysian haze

Thousands pray for rain in Indonesia as forests go up in smoke

A report from the frontlines of the battle against haze: In Indonesia's Riau province, blazes are back as fire proves to be a hard habit to break

INDIA-CHINA SPAT STUMBLING BLOCK FOR MEGA TRADE PACT

The so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an ambitious pan-Asian trade pact had been showing promising signs of progress this year even while bad news on nearly all other fronts on trade was piling up. Now, the pact proclaimed as the world’s largest free-trade deal is facing problems of its own. A report today says the main sticking point comes from sharp differences between China and India.

The biggest trade stories today:

India-China spat delays RCEP deal covering a third of global trade

China announced a range of US goods to be exempted from 25 per cent extra tariffs put in place last year

Backlash to Chinese policies could cost Xi's Belt and Road $1.1 trillion: Report

JACK MA HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Jack Ma, China’s richest man, formally left Alibaba yesterday. His departure was no quiet office party. It was a rock concert in an 80,000-capacity stadium. To give you a sense of the place this event had in Chinese national consciousness, at one point Jack Ma appeared emotional and this prompted “Jack Ma has cried” to become a trending topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Watch the highlights of Jack Ma’s rockstar farewell here.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Another one bites the dust:United States President Donald Trump abruptly fired his national security adviser John Bolton amid disagreements with his hard-line aide over how to handle foreign policy challenges such as North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia.

Brexit:  Scotland's highest court of appeal ruled on Wednesday (Sept 11) that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks is unlawful, the lawmaker who led the challenge said.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has told investors at a Belt and Road forum that the semi-autonomous Chinese territory can rebound from months of protests, despite no sign that the unrest will cool down.

Foxconn: The former chairman of major contract manufacturer Foxconn met a prominent Taiwanese lawmaker on Wednesday (Sept 11) as he weighs a possible independent run for president. Mr Terry Gou, who lost a bid to be the Nationalist Party candidate in July, held talks with Mr Wang Jin-pyng, a Nationalist lawmaker and former long-time leader of the legislature.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

 - Jeremy