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What We’re Watching: Xinjiang at the Beijing Olympics, Boris in deep(er) trouble, Indonesia’s new capital

Selling Xinjiang. Xi Jinping — a man well known for both his grand vision of China’s future, and for his willingness to get large numbers of people to do things they might not otherwise do — said in 2018 that he wanted 300 million Chinese people to participate in winter sports. The Chinese government announced this week that this goal has been met in honor of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which open in China’s capital on February 4. Multinational companies are consistently impressed by the commercial opportunities created when 300 million people decide to try new things. But it’s an inconvenient truth that most of China’s most abundant snow and best ski slopes are found in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, a place where Western governments and human rights organizations have accused Beijing of imprisoning more than one million minority Uyghurs in re-education camps. In these prisons, critics say inmates have experienced “torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment.” As China’s government opens new profit opportunities in Xinjiang, multinational corporations will face pressure from multiple directions not to invest there.

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What We're Watching: Blinken goes to Southeast Asia

Blinken tours Southeast Asia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicks off on Monday his first Southeast Asian trip as America's top diplomat with stops in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Following similar tours by VP Kamala Harris and Defense chief Lloyd Austin, Blinken wants to bolster US defense cooperation with ASEAN, an economic bloc made up of Southeast Asian countries, to build a bulwark against China in the South China Sea. He will also pitch Joe Biden's vision for US-led Indo-Pacific trade as an alternative to doing more trade with China, and talk up Southeast Asia as an alternative business destination for US companies looking to abandon China. But what ASEAN really wants is tariff-free access to the US market, a non-starter for Biden because he says big trade deals with low-wage countries will hurt low-skilled American workers. Meanwhile, Southeast Asian countries are in a bind of their own: doing more business with the US as an alternative to China will create jobs, but the Chinese won't be happy about it — and nowadays they carry a lot more economic sway in the region than America does.

Indonesia's tricky balance on climate and poverty

Shinta Kamdami, CEO of Indonesian conglomerate Sintesa, says her country is in a tight spot on climate. Indonesia wants to do a lot more to curb its emissions because it still burns a lot of coal to get power, but must transition to more clean energy in sustainable a way that doesn't further hurt millions of poor Indonesians — and many Asian developing countries face the same balancing act. Kamdami spoke during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory.

Kamdami joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here.

What We’re Watching: Global scorcher, Indonesia’s COVID surge, Lebanon keeps imploding

Global heat wave: In much of the world, the past few days have been an absolute scorcher. Temperatures in the normally damp, temperate US Pacific Northwest soared to records of 115 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Further north in Canada's British Columbia, the mercury climbed to 121, causing dozens of deaths. In remote reaches of Siberia, satellites recorded a mark of 117 degrees. Yes, you read that right: 117 degrees in Siberia. Typically toastier parts of the world have suffocated under unusual heat too: temperatures broke 120 in Southern Iraq this week, just as the region is struggling with widespread power outages. Experts say that although massive heatwaves are perfectly natural, climate change makes them more likely to occur and more intense when they do. In other words: the drastic effects of climate change aren't off in the future somewhere; they are here, right now. Will this hot spell light a fresh fire under efforts to tackle climate change ahead of the next UN climate change summit in Glasgow this fall? We're sweating out that answer along with the rest of you.

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Indonesia's top terrorist convict Abu Bakar Bashir released from prison

January 09, 2021 5:00 AM

Indonesia's top terrorist convict Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of South-east Asia's terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), was released from prison early yesterday.

Official says Malaysia's Covid-19 cases could hit 8,000 daily in March if infection rate rises

January 07, 2021 10:14 PM

KUALA LUMPUR - A top official at Malaysia's Health Ministry warned on Thursday (Jan 7) that Covid-19 cases could hit 8,000 a day by the middle of March if the country's infectivity rate rises from the current level.

Indonesian agency freezes bank accounts related to outlawed hardline group FPI

January 07, 2021 3:45 PM

(THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Indonesia's anti-money laundering agency has temporarily frozen bank accounts belonging to the recently outlawed Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and its affiliated groups on suspicion of money laundering.

2 militants linked to Philippine church blast shot dead

January 07, 2021 5:00 AM

JAKARTA • Two Indonesian militants linked to a church blast in the Philippines in 2019 have been shot dead by police, the authorities said yesterday, as officers arrested scores of radicals who support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

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