I Overview

China:

  • Serious outbreak of Covid in Shanghai
  • Chinese Provinces and Cities discourage travel during May-day holidays
  • Three Chinese nationals killed in terrorist attack in Karachi

Japan:

  • PM Kishida to embark on major foreign tour
  • Japanese Government unveils Yen 6.2 trillion economic package
  • US President Biden expected to visit Japan on 22-24 May

South Korea:

  • US President Biden to visit South Korea on 20-22 May
  • Samsung Electronics profit jumps 51% in Q1
  • LG Electronics reports record quarterly earnings

Taiwan: 

  • US Congress passes Bill aimed at regaining WHO status for Taiwan
  • Taiwan faces largest Covid-19 outbreak
  • Taiwan Intelligence Chief reveals Taipei knew of China – Solomon Islands pact a year ago ​​​​​​

Hong Kong:

  • HK exports plunge 8.9% in March 2022


II Developments in China

Serious outbreak of Covid in Shanghai

The month of April 2022 saw a very serious outbreak of Covid – 19 in the megapolis of Shanghai resulting in a very hard lockdown in that city. Social media posts by some of the city’s citizenry showed that there had been difficulties in sourcing food and other essentials by residents. To give some idea of the size of the outbreak, China reported 24,791 new cases on April 15, 2022 the bulk of which were in Shanghai. The next day China reported 26,155 new cases of Covid-19 the majority in Shanghai. Given the Chinese approach to battling the pandemic, described by most as a zero-Covid policy, where measures are put into place so as to ensure that eventually not a single case of Covid is detected, the hard lockdowns which follow have significant economic costs. Shanghai has now been locked down for over three weeks and this is bound to tell on economic performance. 

Forty-five cities of China accounting for a population of 373 million had implemented either full or partial lockdowns this month. Naturally, these measures will impact economic activity negatively. 

There is every likelihood that Beijing may be locked down soon due to rising cases of Covid-19 there. 

Chinese Provinces and Cities discourage travel during May-day holidays

Given the outbreak of Covid-19 in China, most Chinese Provinces and cities have put in place very onerous conditions for travel during the 5-day long May-day holidays. Traditionally, this is a period of heavy movement within China by domestic tourists but the outbreak of Covid has led most cities to discourage travel. Tourists will have to show their 48-hour nucleic acid negative results wherever they travel. 

Three Chinese nationals killed in terrorist attack in Karachi

Three Chinese citizens were killed in a terrorist attack on a van near the Confucius Institute on the campus of Karachi University on 26 April. The three Chinese nationals were teachers at the Confucius Institute. It is believed that the attack was carried out by a woman supporter of Baloch independence. The Chinese Government condemned the attack and stated that the perpetrators will be caught and brought to justice. Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif visited the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad to convey his condolences. 

III Developments in Japan

PM Kishida to embark on major foreign tour

Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio will embark on a major foreign tour from 29 April to 6 May. He intends to visit Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and the UK. The focus of his visits to each of these countries is the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its fallout on the international system. Bilateral ties will also be strengthened with each of these nations.

Japanese Government unveils Yen 6.2 trillion economic package

The Japanese Government unveiled a Yen 6.2 trillion economic package to mitigate the impact on households and small firms of the Ukraine crisis. The package includes cash handouts for low income households, subsidies for oil wholesalers, support for struggling small and medium companies and livestock farmers. Rising food prices are a major problem for low income households who will receive 50,000 Yen per child to offset the price rise. When private sector funds are added the size of this emergency economic package rises to Yen 13.2 trillion. 

US President Biden expected to visit Japan on 22-24 May

US President Joe Biden is expected to visit Japan on 22-24 May 2022 to advance his Administration’s rock-solid commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and to its treaty alliance with Japan. The second physical Summit meeting of Quad countries is expected to take place in Tokyo at that time. This will be President Biden’s first trip to Asia since taking office in January 2021. 

IV Developments in South Korea

US President Biden to visit South Korea on 20-22 May

US President Joe Biden will visit South Korea for the first time during his Administration on 20-22 May 2022. The visit will be the first important one during the tenure of South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol who is slated to assume the Presidency of South Korea on 10 May. The visit aims at deepening the vital security relationship, enhancing economic ties and delivering practical results. President-elect Yoon has reportedly stated that he is willing to join the Quad grouping amongst Australia, India, Japan and the United States. 

Samsung Electronics profit jumps 51% in Q1

South Korea’s chip-to-consumer electronics giant Samsung Electronics announced a 51% increase in operating profit in Q1 on the back of solid chip demand for servers and high-end applications. Q1 consolidated revenue came to US $ 61.48 billion, an increase of 19%. Samsung Electronics is the largest memory chip maker in the world by sales and the second largest chip contract manufacturer after TSMC of Taiwan. 

LG Electronics reports record quarterly earnings

LG Electronics too reported its best quarterly earnings in the first quarter of this year posting 21.11 trillion won in sales and 1.88 trillion won in operating profits. These figures represent an increase of 18.5% and 6.4% respectively. These record figures have largely been driven by pent-up demand for TV sets and other home appliances. 

V Developments in Taiwan

US Congress passes Bill aimed at regaining WHO status for Taiwan

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation on 27 April calling on the State Department to submit a plan to help Taiwan regain its observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO). The Bill had passed the U.S. Senate in August last year. President Biden is expected to sign it soon into law. 

Taiwan faces largest Covid-19 outbreak

Covid cases in Taiwan too are climbing with the island nation announcing its largest single day increase of 11,353 new cases on 28 April. Most of Taiwan’s Covid-19 deaths amounting to 858 came in the summer of 2021. However, the current outbreak is very serious in terms of sheer numbers of cases. Taiwan has maintained strict border controls and mask wearing is mandatory and practiced on a large scale in Taiwan. 

Taiwan Intelligence Chief reveals Taipei knew of China – Solomon Islands pact a year ago 

Taiwan National Security Bureau Director Chen Ming-tung revealed in Taiwan’s Parliament on 28 April that his agency was aware of the contours of the China – Solomon Island pact almost a year ago. What they had learned then, has since come to transpire in practice almost to the T. 

VI Developments in Hong Kong

HK exports plunge 8.9% in March 2022

HK exports reduced by 8.9% in March 2022 as compared to the year before as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the flow of goods over the Mainland China border. HK’s exports totaled just US $ 47.51 billion. This is the first monthly decline in exports since October 2020. 

 

The previous issues of East Asia Digest are available here: LINK

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(The views expressed are personal)
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About the Author

Ambassador Gautam Bambawale

Former Ambassador of India to Bhutan,
China and High Commissioner to Pakistan and Distinguished Visiting Fellow- AC

Ambassador (Retd) Gautam Bambawale was a member of the Indian Foreign Service from 1984 to 2018. He was India’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Pakistan and China.

Bambawale was stationed in Washington DC in 2004-07 during the Indo-US nuclear deal which transformed ties between the two countries. He has been India’s first Consul General in Guangzhou (China) 2007-09. He was Director of the Indian Cultural Centre, Berlin 1994-98.

Ambassador Bambawale worked in the Prime Minister’s Office 2002-04. At the Ministry of External Affairs he was Joint Secretary for East Asia from 2009-2014. Bambawale has dealt with China for 15 years of his 34 year diplomatic career. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and German.

Ambassador Bambawale is currently Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Symbiosis International University, Pune and teaches a course on Diplomacy and International Governance at the Symbiosis School of International Studies. He has an M.Phil. in Economics from the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.