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    ST Asian Insider: 21 May 2020

    Published On: 21 May 2020

    In today’s bulletin: US mounts pressure on China, Beijing’s key political meetings commence, future of China-Hong Kong ties, India takes to telemedicine, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe suffers another knock, and more.

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    TRUMP SHARPENS ATTACK ON CHINA

    US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to slam China for “mass worldwide killing”, blaming the country for the spread of coronavirus infections worldwide, in a move certain to irk Beijing as it commenced its top political meetings.

    The President’s tweet was the latest in a series of recent moves against China and signalled a sharpening of attack as the United States heads for an election later this year.

    Piling pressure on China, the US Senate approved by unanimous consent legislation that could bar some Chinese companies from being listed on US stock exchanges. The new bill will require companies to certify that they are not under the control of a foreign government.

    The White House also issued a broad critique of China’s economic and military policies  in a report to Congress while the top US diplomat for South Asia Alice Wells accused China of instigating border clashes with India to shift the status quo. 

    China, meanwhile, complained about Washington’s plans to sell advanced torpedoes to Taiwan even as the US Air Force transport aircraft massed at Washington’s key Asian military air transportation hub, Yokota Air Base in Japan, to show potential foes and allies it was ready for action despite the coronavirus emergency.

    Read also: 

    US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh: Trump’s hint at severing ties with China set to further roil relations

    Special Report: How South-east Asia views growing US-China power play amid the Covid-19 pandemic

    WILL LI KEQIANG ANNOUNCE A GROWTH TARGET?

    Thousands of delegates arrived in Beijing for the two key political meetings of the year that will set the agenda for the rest of the coming months.

    Just ahead of the meetings, a senior official representing the advisory body to the government, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), hit back at criticism over China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. A press conference is scheduled for later tonight.

    Tomorrow, Premier Li Keqiang will present his report to the National People’s Congress, with observers watching out for growth targets for the year, economic stimulus plans and possible hikes in defence spending, among other announcements.

    More on this: 

    China Correspondent Danson Cheong: Beijing says criticism of its handling of outbreak ‘utterly unjustifiable’

    China Bureau Chief Tan Dawn Wei: What to expect from China’s most important political event this year

    BEIJING’S TIGHTENING GRIP ON HONG KONG

    A series of recent measures has observers and experts worrying about Beijing’s tightening grip over the city and its ramifications.

    These include the appointment of new chiefs for Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, the arrest of 15 activists and opposition stalwarts a few weeks ago for their involvement in last year’s unrest and the Legco drama that saw pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee gaining control of the House Committee.

    Plans by Hong Kong representatives to China’s top law-making bodies to discuss Beijing’s policy toward the Asian financial hub, during the key annual political meetings taking place in Beijing, thrust the issue in the limelight. The big question is how far and how fast Beijing wants to go.

    Read also: 

    Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang: Hong Kong of ‘peripheral interest’ to the West, say experts 

    Beijing’s hardline stance on national security reflected in arrests of Hong Kong pan-democrats

    INDIA TAKES TO TELEMEDICINE

    A new government guideline is giving a sharp boost to telemedicine in India as the country battles the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Data shows a significant increase in the number of patients taking to telemedicine because of the restricted mobility since March 25, writes India Correspondent Debarshi Dasgupta.

    Researchers estimate that the telemedicine market could grow from US$829 million (S$1.2 billion) last year to US$5.41 billion in 2025.

    JAPAN’S TOP PROSECUTOR QUITS FOR GAMBLING DURING COVID-19

    Tokyo’s top prosecutor Hiromu Kurokawa resigned on Thursday (May 21) for gambling during Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency, in another blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose support has been hit over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Kurokawa, believed to be close to the PM, admitted playing mahjong for money on two occasions during the state of emergency in the country.

    IN OTHER NEWS

    SUPER CYCLONE LEAVES TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION: Over two dozen people were killed in the coastal areas of eastern India and parts of Bangladesh as the most powerful cyclone in a decade devastated mud houses, uprooted trees and ripped out electricity poles. Rescue teams were frantically searching for survivors even as Cyclone Amphan weakened after making landfall.

    NEWBORN IN JAPAN GETS LIVER CELLS IN WORLD FIRST: Doctors in Japan have successfully transplanted liver cells derived from embryonic stem cells into a newborn baby, in a world first that could provide new treatment options for infants. The newborn was suffering from urea cycle disorder, where the liver is not capable of breaking down toxic ammonia.

    MALAYSIA-INDIA TRADE TIES: Malaysia voiced its commitment to further strengthen diplomatic and trade ties with India, after the world’s largest edible oil buyer renewed purchases of Malaysian palm oil, in a sign of improving relations between the two countries. Indian buyers contracted up to 200,000 tonnes of Malaysian crude palm oil for June and July, after a four-month gap following a diplomatic row.

    That’s it for today. Thanks for reading, stay safe and we’ll be back with you tomorrow.

    Shefali