Asian Insider: The very first edition!

Welcome to the first edition of Asian Insider, a daily newsletter that brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of overseas correspondents.

Today in Asia, the mastermind of the Bali Bombing Abu Bakar Bashir may not be released after all, economies brace themselves for the fallout from China's slowdown, and all eyes turn to a Davos meeting missing some major names.

U-turn on release of radical cleric?

It would be an understatement to say that Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s decision to release radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir early has not gone down well. The move was deemed a political play to distract from the imminent release of the former Jakarta governor jailed for blasphemy against Islam, and panned by critics at home and abroad.

Now, the president appears to be backtracking. At a hastily called press-conference late Monday,  Indonesia's Coordinating Political Legal and Security Minister Wiranto announced that the president has ordered a more in depth review of the planned release of the man once considered at the apex of terror groups in the region. Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla meanwhile stressed that the review has nothing to do with foreign criticisms of the decision.

Further reading: No guarantees radical cleric won’t return

Fallout from the China slump

With Chinese official GDP figures, it is often said that the trend it points to is often more important than the actual number - given the many ways the number can be tweaked and nudged. The actual number released - 6.6 per cent growth in 2018 if you are interested - confirmed that the Chinese economy is starting to falter. The number was the lowest in nearly three decades with analysts predicting the slump will continue at least until the second quarter.

That will likely trigger some concern in countries around the region looking over their own numbers. Last week, many reported lower than expected export figures. Attention now shifts to the sort of policies the Chinese will take to buffer the slowdown as well as whether there continues to be encouraging noises emerging from trade talks between US and China.

Analysis: Slowdown in China may get worse before tapering off

Global elite meet in Davos, with some big names missing

The annual meeting of the global elite in the Swiss ski resort of Davos kicks off today with an urgent agenda - but the list of missing names also highlights the turmoil forming the backdrop to the summit. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump are all missing from this year’s World Economic Forum, choosing to stay home to wrestle with domestic political crises.

And though the theme this year is “Globalisation 4.0: Shaping A New Architecture In The Age Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, expect the US-China trade tensions, the Chinese economy and climate change to be among the headline grabbers in what is likely to be one of the more sombre editions of the annual forum.

Who’s going, who's not:  Abe, Merkel top the bill for 'Globalisation 4.0' at World Economic Forum in Davos

All the latest: Read our coverage of the 2019 forum here

Huawei executive to be extradited

A Canadian newspaper reports today that the US plans to proceed with a formal request to extradite Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, a move likely to exacerbate tensions between US, Canada and China.

China has already responded by warning of repercussions if the US proceeds with the extradition.Ties between China and Canada took a dive when Meng was arrested in Vancouver last month, with Beijing subsequently detaining two Canadian citizens and sentencing a third to death for drug smuggling. It is not yet clear when the US will make the extradition request.

Background: What China, the US, and Canada are fighting over

Business view: Trade worries sour CEOs' mood as leaders converge at Davos

What else you need to know today:

Authorities won’t release contents of Lion Air cockpit voice recorder until the final report is ready

- Report reveals an undeclared North Korean missile headquarters even as meetings take place to plan for second Trump-Kim summit

Chinese scientist responsible for world’s first gene-edited baby has been fired by university for evading oversight and breaking guidelines

And finally, for something completely different

An excuse to use the phrase “flight club”: A flight from the Gold Coast in Australia to Singapore was diverted to Sydney on Monday after an unruly man punched another passenger. The man  reportedly began drinking heavily after the flight was delayed.

That’s it for today’s Asian Insider. Thanks for reading and see you next time.

- Jeremy