China throws trade war haymaker

Also, Philippines has dengue crisis and Myanmar has a dam dilemma

I am not seaworthy.
Look how the fish mistake my hair for home.
I had a life, like you. I shouldn’t be riding the sea.
I am not seaworthy.
Let me be earth bound; star fixed
Mixed with sun and smacking air.
Give me the smile, the magic kiss
To trick little boy death of my hand.
I am not seaworthy. Look how the fish mistake my hair for home

-Toni Morrison. RIP.

Quote of the Week: “Huawei continues to challenge the constitutionality of the ban in federal court.”

-A Huawei spokesperson after the Trump administration banned all federal agencies from using Huawei products.


China begins trade war offensive by allowing currency to weaken

What Happened: Anyone who owns stocks got hammered this week because China allowed the value of the renminbi to fall. The US retaliated by labelling the country a currency manipulator. While the RMB passing the symbolic 7RMB to 1USD threshold doesn’t make much of a difference today, it signals Beijing may continue to allow the RMB to weaken.

In the short term, this is a shot against Trump’s tariffs, because it allows Chinese manufacturers to undercut their American pricing competitors and offset the tariffs.

The longterm risk for China is that it sees capital outflows as people try to prevent their money from becoming cheaper. It helps manufacturers but hurts consumers, who see their pocket money buy less and less.

Also of note: This chart I found from a New York economic research group.

China calls India’s move to scrap Kashmir’s special status ‘not acceptable’ and not binding

What Happened: India has racheted up tensions with Pakistan after it scrapped Kashmir’s special administration status.

Removing the special status essentially means India is annexing Kashmir, a move Islamabad calls illegal. The argument over who owns Kashmir has been a source of tension since the British created the border between Pakistan and India.

Pakistan says it is “internationally recognised disputed territory” (they are correct) and India can’t unilaterally declare it their own (also correct).

Furthermore, part of the land India is claiming is administered by China, in another territory dispute. Plus, China is a close ally with Pakistan and it has a power rivalry with India.

This is going to be a BIG story over the coming weeks.

HSBC fires CEO, leading to juicy rumours in China

What Happened: John Flint, the CEO of HSBC, a British bank, was forced out of the company after just 18 months on the job. It also seemed to have been a surprise.

The reason why this is major news in an Asian newsletter is because of HSBC’s massive amount of business in the region.

The finance world of China is also full of juicy rumours that HSBC was lending to the Chinese government to prop up the value of the currency. If that is true, HSBC is in for a gigantic controversy.

Click the tweets below to follow that rumour from someone who understands this stuff better than I do.

Dengue in Philippines

What Happened: The Philippines government has declared a national epidemic after 622 people died of dengue this year. The disease, which is extremely common in Southeast Asia, and is carried by mosquitoes, has affected 146,000 people in the country.

By declaring the disease an epidemic, the government can now divert emergency funds to try and fix the crisis.

The problem has become so persistent that Duterte’s regime is thinking about lifting a ban on Sanofi’s Dengvaxia drug — an effective dengue vaccine but one that causes serious problems to people who have never contracted the disease.

Bombs found at BTS station, other areas in Bangkok

What Happened: Explosions rocked the Bangkok skytrain system last Friday in a coordinated attack that left four people injured. The attack included six small bombs and six firebombs and seems to be timed to a meeting of foreign ministers in the city.

An unexploded bomb was discovered on Wednesday. The fact that so many explosions went off and only injured four people seems like a minor miracle.

Despite its famed beaches, relative safety and world-class food, Thailand has had a persistent problem with terrorism.

Vietnam Wildlife

What Happened: When it comes to wildlife abuse in Asia, Vietnam and China lead the pack — in part because animal parts flow through Vietnam to get to China (who has technically banned a lot of wildlife trafficking).

So what are people doing to combat this wildlife trafficking? (Which is destroying Africa.) One effort is an awareness campaign called ‘Be Their Bodhisattva’. A Bodhisattva is someone in buddhism who could achieve enlightenment but refuses so they can help the suffering.

While the campaign seems to work in terms of educating the general public, it is unclear if the people who really matter — traders, custom officials and law enforcement — have been impacted.

Aung San Suu Kyi's Myanmar dam dilemma with China

What Happened: A dam project in Myanmar is causing tensions between China and its “little brother”. While it is almost guaranteed the dam would help provide electricity to millions of people, it will also destroy the local area — who rely on the river to live.

Furthermore, the Myanmar government owns a 10 per cent stake in the dam (it’s funded via China), but won’t see any revenue for 20 years.

The dam would have been completed now but protests in 2011 have shut the project down.


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Some Levity

Have You Seen ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’? Here’s What to Read

There are certain topics that demand the occasional deep dive. For myself, they were Charles Manson, serial killers in general, Che Guevara, the rise of Mao Zedong and the life of Michael Jordan.

Of all of these, I think Manson is my favourite. I am proud that I have read most of these and have two more to queue up for 2020.

Long Read

The Assassin Next Door

The author grew up in Los Angeles during the 1970s, a time when seemingly everyone was transient, immigrants, or trying to become famous. It turns out he grew up next to James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr.

Héctor Tobar is a Guatemalan immigrant who grew to idolise MLK, so discovering he grew up next to his assassin is a cool story.

One NBA Post

Vince Carter has never stopped evolving

From Air Canada to a 42-year-old veteran helping young players grow into NBA talent, Vince Carter has had the full NBA experience. While I don’t think his pure achievements makes him a Hall of Famer, Carter’s impact on the game should. Also, it’s basketball so everybody gets in.

Hong Kong

The cycle continues. Protest, police crackdown, protest, street thugs flex, protest, Beijing has words, protest. This week saw more of the same, so I will bullet point some links to details I found interesting (with no analysis for every article).