Monday, 23 Nov 2020

Asian Insider, Nov 4: Trump or Biden?; Suu Kyi campaigns in Myanmar polls; Ant group's IPO suspension

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: The inconclusive US election results and what it means; China keeps mum on US elections while Indian media follow all twists & turns; Suu Kyi’s party faces a hard slog as elections loom in Myanmar; shock suspension of Ant group’s IPO; Quad military exercises commence, and more.

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Trump or Biden? Results remain unclear

US election results remained up in the air with US President Donald Trump declaring he had defeated Democratic challenger Joe Biden, even though results from several battleground states were still to come in.  Mr Biden, meanwhile, told his supporters he was on track to win the elections.

In an election that took place amid fears of violence with growing polarisation on several issues, Mr Trump raised much concern among election observers when he declared, during his address to some of his supporters at the White House in the early hours of Wednesday in Washington, that he would go to the Supreme Court to halt the counting of votes. He also accused the Democrats – without evidence – of “fraud on the American public”.

US Correspondent Charissa Yong writes neither candidate has the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election yet, in a very close race that will likely come down to the wire in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, which were not expected to finish counting their votes until Wednesday or even Friday. 

Vote counting often goes on for days after Election Day in the US, particularly so this year given the pandemic, which produced a surge of mail-in ballots that take longer to count, she notes. 

US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh says for either US presidential candidate, in the fight of their lives, conceding defeat is out of the question; the only factor that would trigger that would be a landslide one way or the other, and while that is theoretically possible, it is unlikely.

What is most likely then are protracted legal battles, and potentially street battles as well. The United States in 2020 is a tinderbox of grievances, he adds.

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US presidential election: China keeps mum, Indian media tracks closely

China’s media has been keeping mostly silent on the US presidential election but the Indian media has been tracking it closely. 

China Correspondent Danson Cheong says in the run-up to election day, Chinese state media have been restrained in their coverage of the presidential race, focusing mainly on the possibility of election unrest or problems with American politics. Reaction has been much the same on social media too, even though during the run-up to the elections, discussions on President Donald Trump seemed the top trending topic.

India Bureau Chief Nirmala Ganapathy writes that Indian television channels and newspapers online, like never before, are providing blanket coverage of every twist and turn in the US election. And anchors on multiple television channels, including in English, Hindi and other Indian languages, are speaking at length about the importance of swing states, even though many Indian viewers are not necessarily familiar with all the US states.

Also read 

Market ties between China, US set to deepen regardless of who wins White House

Suu Kyi’s party faces a hard slog in Myanmar polls

Myanmar, which returned to civilian rule in 2015 with democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) forming the government, goes to polls on Nov 8. 

The party is expected to win again although there are those who have been unhappy with the pace of change in the country. NLD’s 2020 election manifesto is light on specifics and with broad promises towards peace, sustainable development and a genuine federal democracy, writes Indochina Bureau Chief Tan Hui Yee. 

There will be several challenges for the party to cope with should it form the government – not least of which will be battling the growing number of coronavirus infections. For now, all attention is on the charisma and influence of the 75-year-old leader as she campaigns in the streets of Yangon, and beyond. 

Also read 

Myanmar army chief accuses government of ‘unacceptable mistakes’ ahead of election

China’s suspension of $34bn Ant IPO a cautionary tale

China’s decision to halt Ant Group’s US$34 billion (S$46.3 billion) listing has stoked concerns within the investment community about the uncertainty and pitfalls of placing bets of Chinese firms. Observers are also wondering if the shock suspension would be the beginning of a campaign by China to rein in Jack Ma’s growing fintech empire.

The decision came two days before the listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong which would have made it the world’s largest-ever stock market debut. Some observers say the move was driven by rising concerns over risks to financial stability, especially with tech firms moving into the financial space. 

Others believe that a speech given by the billionaire Jack Ma at a high-profile forum in Shanghai could have earned him China’s ire. In his speech, Ma said “systemic risk” is not the issue in China. Rather, China’s biggest risk is that it “lacks a financial ecosystem,” he remarked. 

Delve deeper 

China planning bigger crackdown on Jack Ma’s fintech empire, sources say

Jack Ma’s blunt words just cost him US$37 billion

‘Quad’ starts naval exercises in India waters

The Malabar exercise involving the navies of India, Japan, Australia and the US began their first joint exercises in the Indian Ocean since the revival of the Quad alliance. This will take place in the Bay of Bengal near the Malacca Strait, a natural choke point and later in the Arabian Sea, along some of the world’s busiest trade routes. China has had reservations about the exercise.

In other news…

US to sell MQ-9 Reaper drones to Taiwan: The United States has agreed to sell four armed MQ-9 Reaper drones to Taiwan, the State Department announced on Tuesday, in a move it said would ensure political stability and military balance in the region. The sale covers four drones, ground stations, and associated surveillance and communications equipment, but not the bombs or missiles usually associated with it. 

Hungarian minister tests positive for virus while on South-east Asia tour: Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjarto tested positive for coronavirus in Thailand, the kingdom’s health minister said today. Mr Szijjarto flew in from Cambodia where he had a meeting with Cambodian premier Hun Sen and took up agreements on civil aviation, agriculture and water management. 

Hawkish Indian television anchor arrested in Mumbai: Mumbai police today arrested Indian news channel Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, in a two-year-old suicide case in which investigations were reopened recently. The hawkish news anchor is known for his strident nightly debates and positions favouring the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In Maharashtra, the BJP is in the opposition, and Mr Goswami has frequently taken on the state’s local government and police.

Thanks for reading the Asian Insider & The Straits Times. We’ll be back with you tomorrow.  


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