Asian Insider: The Ukraine war and Asia | Escape to the metaverse

Dear ST reader,

We hope you’ve been keeping well.

In our Asian Insider newsletter this week, we look at what the Ukraine crisis means for Asia as the US and Europe consolidate their response by imposing sanctions on Russia and supplying military aid to Kyiv. Meanwhile life is cheerier in the virtual world, with China’s companies and local governments vying to roll out metaverse products under the watchful eye of regulators.

How the Ukraine crisis impacts Asia

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It’s been a week since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine and the carnage continues. The Russian invasion has not just wreaked destruction on lives and cities, it has upended the world order and forced a rethink of how nations align themselves and defend their sovereignty. 

Our ST roundtable discusses how US attention will now shift from Asia-Pacific to Europe, and whether this will boost China’s influence. Our correspondents in IndiaChina, Japan and Taiwan delve into how these countries will act in the face of these geopolitical shifts. 

Listen here for China bureau chief Tan Dawn Wei’s take on Beijing’s response to the Ukraine crisis.

Read more: 

'This is an existential issue for us' : Singapore’s foreign minister

Russia's best friend in South-east Asia

Singaporean cooks for Ukraine refugees

War casts pall over China's parliamentary sessions

US-China tug of war in Asean

A recent survey shows China is still viewed with ambivalence in South-east Asia, despite its efforts to woo these countries with vaccines, investment and aid. But more worryingly, writes our correspondent in Beijing Danson Cheong in the latest instalment of Power Play,  the survey also hints at disunity within Asean in responding to the US-China geopolitical tug of war.


Multi-cornered fights for Johor state polls

Campaigning has kicked off for the state election in Malaysia’s southern state Johor, which will see a crowded race with an average of four candidates vying for each of the 56 seats on offer. What could tip the scales on March 12 are the young first-time voters, writes Malaysia bureau chief Shannon Teoh, with some 600,000 people aged under 40 joining the electoral roll for the first time. Also worth watching are the swing seats in north-western Johor, where wards have been won by fewer than 100 votes.

For more Malaysia stories, subscribe to our newsletter.

Masters of the metaverse

Metaverse fever has hit China, writes Aw Cheng Wei, our correspondent in Beijing, with companies and local governments vying to be forerunners in a fast-growing industry where virtual idols thrive, and user’s avatars can pet fish or build digital homes. The emergence of these virtual worlds created by the likes of tech giant Baidu and smaller start-up, also begs the question: What controls will the Chinese government exert on them?

Race to green the global economy

The world must shift to a clean-energy economy within a generation and make deep emissions cuts from this decade to limit climate risks, writes climate change editor David Fogarty. Challenges abound, from the heavy reliance on fossil fuels to power the global economy, to insufficient investment in renewable energy sources like solar and wind. And while gas is less polluting than coal, its main component methane exacerbates global warming.

Read our Asian Insider features here.

Where everybody knows your tune

To call someone here is to hum a melody, writes India correspondent Rohini Mohan of Krohiawhiar village in India’s north-eastern state of Meghalaya, where every one of its over 90 inhabitants has a signature tune that serves as their name. Children pick up their tune- names and that of their siblings even before they learn to speak in Khasi, their mother tongue.

Read more dispatches from our foreign correspondents in Letters from the Bureau.

That’s it for today. Keep safe and keep reading The Straits Times.

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