Asia Pacific News

Blinken and Austin in Asia, Toshiba EGM, Australia’s #March4Justice

Welcome to Your Week in Asia.

This week, Asia will host Joe Biden’s top diplomat and defense official, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin. On their first official international trip, the two face the challenge of assuring key allies in Tokyo and Seoul that U.S. leadership will return to the region after Donald Trump’s four years of retreat. On the way home, a landmark meeting in Alaska with China’s top diplomats will set — or reset — the tone for bilateral relations under the Biden administration.

Keep up with our reporting by following us on Twitter @NikkeiAsia.

MONDAY

Biden officials debut in Asia

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and Defense Secretary Austin arrive in Tokyo on Monday night, ahead of a full Tuesday of so-called 2+2 meetings with their Japanese counterparts. It will be the first meeting between Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, while Blinken and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi met previously in a Quad summit with Australia and India. Austin and Blinken continue on to Seoul on Wednesday to meet Defense Minister Suh Wook and recently appointed Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong.

Hot topic: Aside from bilateral security cooperation, Blinken is expected to put pressure on Seoul and Tokyo to resolve their historical differences over wartime reparations in the interest of trilateral intelligence-sharing.

Look back: How Japan and Korea’s long-running squabble over reparations for comfort women derailed Blinken’s efforts in the Obama administration.

Main event: The real newsmaker may not come until Thursday. Blinken will make a stop in Alaska with national security adviser Jake Sullivan to meet Yang Jiechi, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s foreign affairs commission, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Setting the stage: China appears to be dialing down rhetoric blaming Washington for the souring of bilateral relations. Premier Li Keqiang called last week for “the principles of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation” in the upcoming meeting.

#MeToo comes to Canberra

Two pressing social issues will command the spotlight in Australia this week — the dangers of far-right extremism and allegations of sexual harassment that have rocked the highest levels of power.

Monday marks the second anniversary of an Australian gunman’s attack on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, which left 51 dead. Although the shooter acted alone, security officials and politicians in Canberra are well aware that many in the country share his racist views. An ongoing inquiry is looking into how to address a problem that has taken up a growing share of Australia’s counterterrorism workload.

Meanwhile, protesters are expected to converge on Australia’s parliament on Monday to demand justice for women, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government scurries to control the damage from a series of sexual harassment scandals.

CCTV’s annual Consumer Day

China’s widely watched annual TV program “315 Night Show” returns on Monday to mark World Consumer Rights Day. Produced by state broadcaster CCTV, the program highlights consumer complaints that put companies — especially foreign ones — on their toes. Last year, Burger King was forced to apologize after the program accused the U.S. fast-food chain of serving expired or low-quality food.

HKEX debuts Autohome

Chinese car sales website Autohome makes its Hong Kong debut after raising $688 million, almost a third lower than originally targeted, as the tech sector sell-off roiled its shares in the New York Stock Exchange. Autohome has dropped 18% since the secondary listing opened on March 2. The shares have nudged up since the pricing on Tuesday. Despite the sell-off, Chinese companies are rushing in for secondary listings in Hong Kong to hedge against forced delisting from American exchanges amid mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing. Online search giant Baidu is raising $3 billion while short video app Bilibili is expected to open a similar-sized offering in the coming days.

TUESDAY

Huawei talks intellectual property

Embattled Huawei Technologies will release a white paper on innovation and intellectual property in Shenzhen on Tuesday. Francis Gurry, former director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, will address the media, followed by a panel discussion with Huawei’s chief legal officer and head of intellectual property. The event comes after WIPO released a report earlier this month showing China remained the largest international patent applicant in 2020, ahead of the U.S. for the third consecutive year.

Infographic: China has held a 9-1 lead over the U.S. in tech patents

WEDNESDAY

Hong Kong election reform bill

A bill that would ban opposition politicians from holding office will be introduced in Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday. The proposed law will require all public officers, including neighborhood-level district councilors, to pledge allegiance to Beijing and the local government. Those who fail to properly take new oaths of office will be ousted and barred from running in elections for five years.

Samsung AGM as leader sits in prison

Samsung Electronics shareholders will gather in Suwon on Wednesday for their annual general meeting. It is the first shareholders’ meeting since Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was arrested and given two-and-half year jail term for bribery and embezzlement in January.

Semicon China trade show

Semicon China will take place on Wednesday to Friday in Shanghai. The trade show comes soon after the National People’s Congress, in which semiconductors — the heart and soul of technologies from smartphones to artificial intelligence — remained a key priority for Beijing’s plan to become self-sufficient in high-tech equipment.

THURSDAY

Toshiba EGM

Toshiba will hold an extraordinary general meeting that two foreign investors have been clamoring for since December. Activist investor Effissimo Capital Management, Toshiba’s largest shareholder, first proposed the appointment of independent investigators to look into alleged voting irregularities in Toshiba’s annual meeting in June. Farallon Capital Management separately proposed a change to Toshiba’s articles of incorporation to require shareholder approval of the company’s investment strategy. Toshiba’s board opposes both proposals, which will be up for a vote on Thursday.

Super Nintendo World opens

Gaming giant Nintendo will finally open a highly anticipated Mario-themed park in Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan that was twice delayed by the pandemic. Super Nintendo World will be the first amusement park to feature the game maker’s iconic characters, marking the company’s efforts to broaden its business portfolio.

FRIDAY

BOJ reviews monetary policy

The Bank of Japan will release a review of its quantitative easing policy after a two-day board meeting through Friday. The review comes amid a growing consensus that the central bank’s ultraeasy policy will stay in place longer than expected following the coronavirus pandemic and its drag on economic activity. The review is expected to include proposals to make the easing program more sustainable over the long term by addressing some of the side effects and making the bank’s asset purchases, such as equities and real estate investment trusts, more flexible.

Suga decides on Tokyo lockdown

The extended state of emergency covering Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures is due to end on Sunday, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to decide and announce on Friday whether a third extension is necessary. Another extension would cut into the Japan leg of the Olympic torch relay, the de facto opening of festivities connected to the games. It would also prolong the wait for foreigners seeking Japan visas, even as special entry permits are being readied for Olympic athletes and officials.

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