A champion of Filipino food gets new life

Plus updates on China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore

Hello Aseophile! I hope summer is going well for everyone. The newsletter continues to grow week-by-week so I just want to thank y’all for the support.

If you like it, please forward to a friend so we can continue this momentum!

Note: I am going to start putting the Hong Kong updates at the end of newsletter because it is always the longest part of Aseophile and it overwhelms the other stories.

Quote of the Week: “China is doing very badly, worst year in 27 - was supposed to start buying our agricultural product now - no signs that they are doing so. That is the problem with China, they just don’t come through.”

-Donald Trump Twitter as the two sides are set to begin negotiations.


China-Cambodia military agreement

What Happened: Cambodia is planning to buy US$40 million worth of weapons from China, but the real controversy came over reports that it would give China exclusive use of a naval base in the Gulf of Thailand.

Prime Minister Hun Sen strongly denied the reports (calling it fake news). The Wall Street Journal report seems to have been leaked by American government officials.

Cambodia is probably the Southeast Asian country that is most chummy with China; but in 2019, ASEAN countries have to navigate a sensitive line of accepting Chinese investment without being seen as “giving away the nation”.

Intrigue in Singapore politics?

What Happened: For awhile now, the Singapore “election” had appeared to be a foregone conclusion. Heng Swee Keat, the current Finance Minister, had appeared all set for his coronation to be the next Prime Minister.

It was so guaranteed that there was an open secret that the government might call for a snap election to expedite the process.

On Monday, Lee Hsien Yang, the brother of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and son of the nation’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, added a bit of spice to the political scene.

He essentially rejected his father’s party (which has an iron grip on the city-state) and publicly supported the Progress Singapore Party (PSP). The question is if the Lee dynasty is strong enough to shift support to Tan Cheng Bock (leader of the PSP).

I doubt it.

Also in Singapore: A big hubbub over the government’s decision to investigate a rap video that criticised ethnic Chinese (after an incident where some ethnic Chinese dressed in brown face for an advertisement).

Taiwan election is set

What Happened: We officially have our two candidates for the next President of Taiwan and, to be honest, I have no idea how this will play out.

A few months ago, I thought the pro-Beijing side (who just nominated Han Kuo-yu) were in a position of strength. Current Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has been fine, but it would be wrong to say she has presided over some great domestic transformation.

The opposition could argue that her antagonism towards China has put Taiwan in a worse position and point to the heavy-handed Beijing squeeze over recent years.

Then Hong Kong happened, which has been a real eyebrow-raising moment for Taiwan. Some say Hong Kong is Taiwan’s future if they get too close to China.

Now I think there is renewed motivation to support whoever distances themselves from Beijing over fears of seeing Taiwan turn into Hong Kong.

China Needs New Places to Sell Its Mountain of Stuff

What Happened: China keeps producing but America stopped buying. So, China is looking elsewhere.

China, Korea and Japan are in three-way talks to lower trade barriers (which is weird because Korea and Japan are simultaneously in a bilateral trade war). Beijing has unilaterally reduced tariffs on most countries besides America and the government is trying to open itself to India and Australia.

The US market is hard to replace (just like the Chinese market is hard for Americans to replace), but it’s not impossible. If China can build trade ties with the rest of the world, they may not come back to America even when the trade war is over.

Also in China: Today the CCP said most of the muslims held under forced detention in Xinjiang have been released and found jobs. Reasonable people think it is coerced work. This is a a story to watch in the coming weeks, right now it is a bit opaque.

Vietnam detains 380 Chinese people in illegal online gambling bust

What Happened: Gambling is illegal in Vietnam (except for foreigners in some casinos), but this story highlights to gap between the law and reality in Southeast Asia (where corruption is rampant).

In this case, an underground gambling ring had built quite an infrastructure. 2,000 smartphones were confiscated along with 530 computers. The police said the gambling ring was probably was worth millions by the time they shut it down.

Some Levity

She Was Filipino Food’s Greatest Champion. Now Her Work Is Finding New Fans.

Pretty cool story about a chef who took “regular people food” and approached it like a full-blown cuisine (which it is, she was just the person championing the dishes). In doing so, she transformed the perception of Filipino food.

Long Read

Alan Dershowitz, Devil’s Advocate

I love these complicated narrative articles. What comes through is that Dershowitz is brilliant, but enjoys defending the indefensible (some may argue this is a noble cause). However, he also seems morally bankrupt so it is hard to full defend him as a lawyer.

This is a very interesting piece.

One NBA Post

NBA, China's Tencent extend partnership 5 years

This is a business deal that highlights how important the Chinese market is to the NBA. Tencent said it had 490 million people watching NBA content last year — or about 150 million more people than the entire US population. Whoaza.

That number is also triple from the statistics from four years ago, which shows the immense rate of growth.

Hong Kong update

‘Please Stop Beating Us’: Where Were Hong Kong’s Police?

This video is a devastating overview of what happened in Yuen Long. It provides a very nice timeline of the events, which is extremely useful because the videos all came at once so it was hard to tell what happened and when.

The story presented in this video shows either police corruption or gross incompetence.

Meanwhile: 44 of 49 protesters arrested in Yuen Long will be charged with rioting.

Beijing tells Hong Kong return to normality

The spectre of Beijing hangs over everything in Hong Kong. In a press conference, CCP officials said “return to law and order” is the most important priority and expressed support for the police.

As with most things in Beijing, “return to law and order” just means “return to our rule”. It’s not like Beijing is going to give Hong Kong democracy for the sake of societal normalcy.

In New Zealand, three students from the mainland verbally abused a woman from Hong Kong before shoving her to the ground.

The Joshua Wong problem:

I got in a bit of Twitter-trouble for this opinion, but it was bounced off half-a-dozen sources so I think it is fair. So here it goes:

One of the fascinating parts of this protest movement is a generational separation amongst non-white ethnic-minority Hong Kong families. A lot of parents in this demographic tell their kids to stay away because, “it is their issue”. “Their” is code for “It’s a Chinese problem”. This is met with resistance from their children who say, “this is where I grew up, this is as much my city as anybody else’s.”

(I think a lot of the parent’s logic is simply worry about their kid’s safety and less about politics.)

When Joshua Wong sends the above message, he targets the British but the words also apply to India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and many Asian countries. This is why I found it so problematic. I think it’s the same as Trump’s “send them home” racial signalling.

My mistake was that Wong was using a white guy to make the point, and I’m white. Then we must add Hong Kong’s colonial history. Sooooooo, my opinion got hijacked and random people starting calling me a colonialist. Interestingly, it was driven by one person who happened to have a lot of followers.

I probably didn’t accurately get my opinion across via Twitter (because, I mean, it’s Twitter) but it was a good experience in learning what it is like when people start twisting your words to fit their narrative.