Asian Insider, Sept 18: Taiwan scrambles air force as Chinese jets buzz island, M’sia game firm’s top execs face US cybercrime charges, Qantas CEO’s pay drops 83%

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


In today’s bulletin: Taiwan scrambles air force as Chinese jets buzz island, Beijing to decide on WHO vaccine scheme, Malaysia game firm’s top execs face US cybercrime charges, Citigroup to hire 6,000 young people in Asia, Hong Kong gay couples in legal win, and more.

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


Taiwan scrambled its fighter jets on Friday as Chinese aircraft buzzed the island, including crossing the sensitive midline of the Taiwan Strait, in an escalation of tensions the same day a senior US official began meetings in Taipei. US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach is the most senior State Department official to visit Taiwan in four decades. China’s Defence Ministry announced the start of combat drills near the Taiwan Strait, denouncing what it called collusion between the Chinese-claimed island and the United States. 

Hit by increasing bilateral tensions between the two powers, investment between the US and China fell to a nine-year low in the first half of the year, according to a research report. Sino-US investment flows tumbled 16.2 per cent to US$10.9 billion (S$14.8 billion) in January to June compared with the same period in 2019, also hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. That's a far cry from half-yearly totals of nearly US$40 billion seen in 2016 and 2017, and flows are unlikely to recover this year, the report said. 

Also read: 

US pushes large arms sale to Taiwan, including jet missiles that can hit China 

Top US diplomat for East Asia calls China ‘lawless bully’ 


China faces a major test in its vaccine diplomacy, with a deadline fast approaching on whether it will officially join a World Health Organisation-backed effort to ensure everyone across the globe is inoculated against Covid-19. Friday (Sept 19) is the final day for governments to decide whether to take part in Covax, an US$18 billion (S$24 billion) initiative that aspires to give lower-income countries the same access to vaccines as wealthier nations. Beijing has said it "supports" Covax without clearly saying if it's putting any money into the project. 

But the world cannot wait for, or expect, a vaccine to stop the pandemic, senior health correspondent Salma Khalik writes. People and countries must work with the tools they have today, said many of the 16 speakers at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine's Covid-19 webinar on Thursday. Even with a successful vaccine, there is insufficient capacity in the world today to produce enough for all who need it. 

Read more: Is herd immunity an option for India now? 

More stories on travelling in times of Covid: 

Singapore and Thailand added to England's 'quarantine-free' list 

Australia to ease border limits and allow more citizens home 

Get the latest Covid-19 updates at our dedicated website


The founder and a partner of Perak-based digital game store SEA Gamer Mall have been detained in Malaysia after being accused by the US for involvement in international hacking group APT-41, Malaysia correspondent Nadirah H. Rodzi reports. The two Malaysians were alleged to be running global hacking operations for at least six years to steal identities and video game technology, plant ransomware, and spy on Hong Kong activists. 

One of Malaysia's richest men, Mr Vincent Tan, said on Friday that his conglomerate Berjaya Corp has no interest in SEA Gamer Mall, after some media reports linked Berjaya and his daughters to the digital game store. He said both his daughters were non-executive directors of the store but are no longer part of the company. 

Also read: 

China accuses Taiwan of using students for espionage 

Anonymous site ramps up 'doxxing' campaign against Hong Kong activists 


Citigroup will hire 6,000 young people in Asia over the next three years to help cushion the region from a blowout in youth unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is also offering 60,000 job training opportunities for those aged below 24 across its regional retail and institutional businesses. 

The New York-based bank and its Citi Foundation have pledged to invest US$35 million (S$48 million) to improve the employability of young people from low-income communities in Asia by 2023. Asia Pacific is home to more than half of the world's youth population, and they now account for almost 50 per cent of the region's unemployed. 

Also read: Covid-19 wrecks once-in-a-lifetime job chance for Japan's new grads 


Just hours after Japan launched its red-tape hotline for reporting excessive bureaucracy, it had to shut temporarily after being overwhelmed by complaints. "I received far more emails than I'd expected," conceded Mr Taro Kono, the new minister for administrative reform, who had set up the online system shortly after he was appointed by newly elected Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. 

Mr Suga has made cutting through with red tape a top priority for his administration, vowing to push through reforms to unclog the government’s notorious inefficiencies, Japan correspondent Walter Sim writes. It was also a key plank of the "Abenomics" economic policy of his predecessor Shinzo Abe. 

Read more: Japan's 'Suganomics' will target quick wins, not grand visions 


STORM NOUL MAKES LANDFALL IN VIETNAM, KILLS ONE: Tropical storm Noul made landfall in Vietnam on Friday, killing at least one person and triggering heavy rain in the central parts of the country. The storm hit the tourist city of Danang and veered north to Thua Thien Hue province before entering Laos and later being downgraded. One person was injured and hundreds of trees and houses were downed or damaged.  

QANTAS CEO’S PAY FALLS 83% DUE TO PANDEMIC: The total pay for Qantas Airways chief executive officer Alan Joyce fell by 83 per cent in the financial year ending June 30 because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the airline said. This pushes Mr Joyce from the ranks of Australia's highest-paid bosses. hIS total pay was A$1.7 million (S$1.68 million) in the financial year, down from A$9.9 million a year earlier. Mr Joyce was Australia's highest-paid chief executive two years ago. 

HK GAY COUPLES WIN LEGAL VICTORY OVER INHERITANCE LAW: Hong Kong's high court has ruled that same-sex couples should receive equal treatment under inheritance law, in a step forward for LGBT rights in the finance hub. But the victory came on the same day that a separate legal bid for full recognition of foreign same-sex marriages was struck down, underscoring what campaigners say is a lack of progress on equality issues. 


That’s it for today. Hope you enjoyed today’s stories, and do check back next week for more insightful reads.