APAC in the News (May Edition)

APAC in the News (May Edition)

The 49th G7 Summit, Hiroshima, Japan

What happened: The 49th G7 Summit took place in Hiroshima, Japan from 19 May to 21 May 2023. Leaders from the G7 countries got together to discuss and coordinate global policy and other transnational issues. The summit culminated with the G7 nations coming together with a unified approach on the war in Ukraine and China’s growing assertiveness.

What’s next: The G7 reaffirmed their commitment to countering Vladmir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine by extending an invitation to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. With regard to China, the group called for a peaceful resolution to tensions with Taiwan and stated that it wanted “constructive and stable relations” with Beijing. They also outlined key concerns over China’s militarisation in the East and South China Seas along with human rights concerns in Xinjiang and Tibet. In response to this China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the G7 of “hindering international peace, undermining regional stability and curbing other countries’ development”.

Cultural Crackdowns in China

What happened: In May stand-up comedian Li Haoshi was fined $2.1 million in China for telling a joke with regards to a Chinese military slogan. London-based Malaysian comic Nigel Ng, popularly known as Uncle Roger also had his Weibo and Bilibili account suspended over a video of him performing in the UK. The video showed him cracking a joke about China and its policy towards Taiwan. Over the years, there has been increasing scrutiny and censorship from China over their arts and creative landscape. So much so, that a letter was sent out by President Xi to the National Art Museum of China for its 60th anniversary, reminding staff to “adhere to the correct political orientation”.

What’s next: After the fine, Li Haoshi apologised for his statement and has had his Weibo account suspended. Nigel Ng reposted the video that got him banned on Chinese social media on Twitter with the caption, “For some reason this clip got a ton of views this past weekend. I wonder why”. With performances and shows being cancelled and most of them having foreign artists and speakers, this had led towards the assumption that this increasing scrutiny and emphasis on the arts is a part of eliminating foreign influence within the country. While such intrusions from the government are not new in China, the current situation has resulted in global concern and scrutiny.

ASEAN Summit Indonesia

What happened: The 42nd ASEAN Summit took place in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia from 10-11 May. The theme of this summit was “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”, with three broad thematic goals: locating ASEAN as a key center of regional and world development, making ASEAN a fast-growing, inclusive, and sustainable economic region in the long term and seeking peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region through all-round cooperation.

What’s next: The main point of discussion at the Summit was the ongoing conflict in Myanmar, Indonesian President Joko Widodo stated that Myanmar’s generals had made no progress on the five-point ASEAN peace plan. However, the group was also resolute on not giving up, the foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, stated, “A lack of progress does not mean that we should give up,”. ASEAN has always stood by its principle of not interfering with each other’s internal affairs, but the situation in Myanmar has led the group to bar Myanmar Junta leaders from attending high-level meetings. Other points of discussion at the meeting were the growing tensions in South China Sea, emerging socio-economic initiatives and Timor Leste’s full membership with ASEAN.

PwC tax scandal in Australia

What happened: In 2015, PwC Australia’s international tax chief, Peter Collins was working with the National Treasury, consulting on a proposed law designed to mitigate, and crackdown multinational corporate tax avoidance. Despite being under a confidentiality agreement, Collins leaked the information internally in PwC to help clients and grow contracts. So far, it’s believed PwC earned about $2.5 million from their actions.

What’s next: Since the scandal went public, Chief Executive Officer Tom Seymour quit after confirming that he’d been included in emails containing the confidential tax information. As of 29 May, nine partners have been ordered to take leave and the company has overhauled its governance board. PwC is currently under investigation by the Australian federal police and the government has effectively shadow banned the company from picking up any new contracts. A full review is expected to be ready by September.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates new parliament

What happened: In May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s new parliament building in New Delhi in a grand ceremony which was boycotted by a dozen opposition parties. In a speech, Modi stated that, “The new parliament isn’t just a building, it is a symbol of the aspiration of the 1.4 billion people of India,”. The main aim of the new parliament is to revamp British colonial-era architecture.

What’s next: Since the construction began, politicians, environmentalists, and civil society groups have criticised the new building over the cost and lack of consultation with many questioning why the government chose not to upgrade the old building instead. Moreover, the inauguration saw a dozen Hindu priests chanting religious hymns in a secular country resulting in considerable backlash. The Bhartiya Janta Party has defended its decisions with the inauguration saying the new building is a matter of pride for all Indians.

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