Weaponising human rights against China | Myanmar faces prolonged deadlock

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

Dear ST reader,

We hope you've been keeping well.

In our Asian Insider newsletter this week, we explore what some say is the hypocrisy behind Washington's pressure on China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. We also look at the state of play in Myanmar, and if dialogue and diplomacy can still shine through.

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Is weaponising human rights against China the right move?

Some western academics say China's alleged mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province should be viewed in the context of the US's own forays into the Middle East and Central Asia to halt Islamist terrorism, writes global affairs correspondent Benjamin Kang Lim. While the Biden administration should push for upholding human rights, publicly pressuring China to do so is more a feel-good strategy that's unlikely to yield a do-good result.

As Asean preps next move, dialogue in Myanmar moves further out of reach

It's been just under three weeks since regional bloc Asean issued a five-point consensus calling for Myanmar's military government to cease violence, pursue dialogue and allow humanitarian aid into the country but the effort seems to have already stalled, writes Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee. More protesters have been killed under the regime amid clashes with armed ethnic groups, and a civil disobedience movement continues to paralyse the country. Meanwhile citizen journalists keep the news cycle spinning, despite the clampdown on media companies.

Covid Eid

Muslims around the world celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, this week. Our correspondents look at how the festivities unfold in South-east Asia amid travel bans and shutdowns to curb Covid-19 infections.

Follow all the stories from our weekly ST Asian Insider packages here.

Know your rival

Academic learning is just one aspect of understanding a country; one has to live there to fully grasp how it thinks, former diplomats tell US correspondent Charissa Yong. In the latest edition of our Power Play series, she explores how strained US-China ties might hobble American expertise on China as fewer exchange scholars visit the Asian giant, and Washington cracks down on academic espionage. Retired US diplomat Stapleton Roy says this could prove to be a strategic negative for the US.

India's tycoons draw flak during pandemic

India has the third-highest number of billionaires in the world, and questions are mounting whether these uber rich are doing enough to help their countrymen as daily Covid-19 deaths now breach 4,000 daily, report India bureau chief Nirmala Ganapathy and correspondent Debarshi Dasgupta. Local media claim some of the rich and famous fled the country on private jets ahead of travel bans. Meanwhile India's startups are stepping into the breach, says India correspondent Rohini Mohan, harnessing their tech skills, business networks and operations acumen to provide hospital beds and services like medical teleconsultation.

Low-key response to Sinopharm approval

China played down news last week that the World Health Organisation had approved its home-grown Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, even though the green light should boost its vaccine diplomacy efforts. China correspondent Elizabeth Law writes that Beijing may not be ready to approve or recognise other foreign vaccines on WHO's list, while Chinese vaccines are not widely available in the West yet.

Step aside boy bands

A clutch of unconventional grannies in South Korea is fast gaining fame, drawing legions of young fans. These actors, models and social media stars may be well into their 70s, but experts say their recent success will open up new opportunities for the greying generation, reports South Korea correspondent Chang May Choon.

That's it for today. Until next week, keep safe and keep reading!

Lim Ai Leen

Deputy Foreign Editor

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