Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020

Asian Insider, Sept 9: AstraZeneca pauses vaccine trial; US-China showdown over big data; China reveals Canberra’s raids on Chinese journalists


In today’s bulletin: Trials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine paused after person involved in trial falls ill; the implications of the US-China showdown over big data could last years; China highlights Canberra’s raids on Chinese journalists as relations worsen; Jack Ma’s Ant group makes the wealthy wealthier, Softbank shares dip further, and more.

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AstraZeneca Plc has halted experiments using its coronavirus vaccine after one of the individuals in the trial developed a mysterious illness, which scientists said could be a potential adverse reaction. 

AstraZeneca’s vaccine, being developed together with researchers from Oxford University, has been seen as a leading contender for a safe vaccination that could go a long way in curtailing the spread of coronavirus. 

The company said the move is simply intended to give researchers time to examine safety data while maintaining the integrity of the trials. . 

Meanwhile, nine leading US and European vaccine developers pledged to uphold the scientific standards their experimental immunisations will be held against, as they pursue their efforts to come out with their own vaccines. 

Also read: 

China’s CanSino defends coronavirus vaccine candidate after experts cast doubt


Businessmen, investors and markets are getting increasingly anxious about the long-term impact of the widening rift between the United States and China over technology, trade and other matters.

There are concerns that President Donald Trump’s moves against TikTok, Huawei Technologies and Huawei will widen, with the decoupling set to reshape the global economy for years, if not decades, to come.

The US administration’s initiative to create “clean networks” that China’s Communist Party will have no access to, is due to take effect this month. But already that initiative, involving everything from 5G networks to cloud services to undersea cables, is impacting corporate deal-making and forcing countries and firms to pick sides.

Alongside, more and more US companies in China are saying that the rift between the two leading economic giants is impacting their ability to retain staff. Now, half of those firms said they believe soured ties will last at least three years, up sharply from 30 per cent in 2019, according to an annual business sentiment survey conducted by the American Chamber Commerce in Shanghai and consultancy PWC China.

Meanwhile, other reports said the US-China rivalry will likely dominate discussions as Asean foreign ministers begin an online summit where Washington’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo will bring up Beijing’s “bullying” in the South China Sea.

Also read: 

China’s new ‘Global Initiative on Data Security’ 

Indonesia to US, China: Don’t trap us in your rivalry


China revealed today Australian raids in late June on the homes of four Chinese state media reporters, in a statement that could further knock deteriorating relations between the two trading partners. 

Beijing’s statement comes just days after Australia pulled out two Australian journalists from Beijing and Shanghai after they were questioned by China’s state security ministry, in a move that fuelled fears they could be arrested. 

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Australian officials cited a possible violation of the country’s foreign interference laws for their raids in June but had not offered a ‘reasonable explanation’.

Read also: 

Australia to embed intelligence officers within some private companies, says cyber chief


Chinese tycoon Jack Ma’s Ant Group has been creating quite a buzz with its proposed record initial public offering (IPO) that could propel technology capital raising this year past that achieved during the bubble. 

Now reports are emerging that the Ant Group is also creating a new group of super wealthy people in China while giving a boost to some older fortunes globally.

Ant is seeking to raise US$30 billion in Hong Kong and Shanghai in an October listing that could top Saudi Aramco’s record US$29 billion offering last year. This could make 55-year-old Mr Ma – a member of the Communist Party – one of the world’s 10 richest people, while also boosting the returns of several US private equity firms.

Delve deeper: 

Jack Ma’s Ant IPO fuels frenzy not seen since bubble


Shares of the SoftBank Group continued to slide further today, taking losses to about 14 per cent this week after the Japanese conglomerate made substantial bets on equity derivatives in tech stocks before a broad sector sell-off. SoftBank has stakes in as many as 25 of the world’s largest tech companies including Alphabet, Adobe Inc as well as Netflix.


MYANMAR SOLDIERS CONFESS TO ROHINGYA KILLINGS: In August 2017, the order came from his commanding officer to “shoot all you see and all you hear.” And he went ahead. Now, the soldier Private Myo Win Tun and one of his peers have confessed to their crime – of taking part in the massacre of several Rohingya Muslims and burying them in a mass grave near a cell tower and a military base. This is the first time that their testimony, as recorded by rebel militia, is surfacing. 

INDONESIA ASKS MORE TECH COMPANIES TO PAY 10% VAT: Indonesia has added 12 more companies, including social media firm Twitter and video-conferencing site Zoom, to a list of internet-based businesses that must pay a 10 per cent value-added tax on sales. In July Indonesia had already announced that Alphabet Inc’s Google Asia Pacific, Netflix and Facebook among other tech companies would be liable to value-added taxes (VAT).

FORMER MALAYSIAN PM NAJIB’S WIFE IN PAYMENT CONTROVERSY TO GUARD HER IMAGE: A former aide to the wife of former Malaysian premier Najib Razak told a court today that he received RM100,000 (S$32,800) a month from Rosmah Mansor in 2012 to pay a team of “cyber troopers” to monitor content on social media and defend her from online attacks.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. We’ll be back with you tomorrow. 


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