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Your Week in Asia

Kamala Harris in Asia, Qantas annual results, and Paralympics begin

Your weekly lineup of Asia's biggest business and political events

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris departs for Southeast Asia, her first trip to the region as vice president, to meet with government, private sector and civil society leaders, on Aug. 20.   © Reuters

Welcome to Your Week in Asia.

The Biden administration's overtures to Southeast Asia continue this week as Vice President Kamala Harris, its highest ranking envoy so far, visits Singapore and Vietnam. Last month, defense secretary Lloyd Austin ended his three-country tour of the region -- renewing the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines, a key base for countering China in contested waters.

Three big Chinese makers of electric vehicles will post earnings on Friday. And the Bank of Korea may raise its benchmark rate on Thursday, going against the regional trend in order to curb inflation.

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


Kamala courts Southeast Asia

In Singapore, Vice President Harris will meet on Monday with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and U.S. sailors aboard a warship currently docked at Changi Naval Base, followed by a policy speech on Tuesday.

China and human rights will be unavoidable topics at Wednesday and Thursday meetings in Vietnam, a one-party state that jails dissidents and censors the media. Harris will open a regional office in Hanoi for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and meet civil society representatives.

Deliverables: Harris will meet business leaders in Singapore to seek cooperation on supply chain resilience, and the technology sector, including possibly making progress on a digital trade agreement or framework.

Subtle threat: Snubbing Indonesia and Thailand signals Biden's priorities in the ASEAN region.

Semicon Southeast Asia

Major economies will look to Southeast Asia to ease the chip supply backlog on Monday, when the semiconductor industry gathers for a five-day virtual fair. Chief executives of U.S. chipmaker Globalfoundries and toolmaker Lam Research will deliver keynote speeches.

Why it matters: China, Germany, Japan and the U.S. are eager to "onshore" chip production or diversify their supply chains as semiconductors become a key component of national security.

Taiwan rolls out domestic vaccine

Speaking of onshoring critical products, Taiwan will begin inoculations with its homegrown COVID vaccine on Monday. The self-governing island has struggled to secure sufficient vaccine supplies, acquiring only AstraZeneca and Moderna doses. Taiwan granted emergency use authorization to Medigen Vaccine Biologics' COVID vaccine last month.

Li Bo joins IMF

Beijing will send its No. 2 central banker to Washington to join the International Monetary Fund, the world's lender of last resort. Li Bo, a Harvard- and Stanford-trained lawyer and economist, takes over as deputy managing director from Zhang Tao as China fields criticism of its debt-making development aid programs.

Look back on our coverage of China's Belt and Road projects across Asia.

Beijing shares plans with Hong Kong

A group of Beijing officials in charge of Hong Kong policy is making a tour to the territory to brief the local government and legislators on China's latest five-year economic plan, a move rarely seen before. Local media have reported that Huang Liuquan, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, will be leading the delegation.


Tokyo Paralympics open

The shadow of the Olympics hangs over the Paralympic Games when they begin in Japan on Tuesday night. The Olympics in July and August left a legacy of more than 500 COVID cases among games personnel. The wider infection rate in Japan has also broken daily records, including the country's first case of the lambda variant.

Japanese officials have come under fire for failing to report the lambda infection until after the Olympics.

Over 4,400 Paralympians will arrive in Tokyo in batches, just a third the number of Olympic athletes. The stands will remain mostly empty, but organizers are proceeding with plans to bus in around 140,000 unvaccinated schoolchildren to watch the Games.

Follow our blog for daily updates on the Paralympics.


Xiaomi's not-so-little dreams

Xiaomi will seek to prolong a winning streak when it posts results from the June quarter, during which it overtook Huawei as the world's second biggest smartphone maker and unveiled a wide range of new products. The Chinese company has set its sights on surpassing Samsung Electronics in three years to become the smartphone industry's No. 1.

Kuaishou posts half-year results

The mood will be less buoyant for Chinese short video app operator Kuaishou Technology when it reports first-half earnings. In the past month, Beijing has intensified its scrutiny of content production platforms, with state-owned media accusing video platforms of negative influence on minors. Kuaishou also shut down its underperforming U.S. video app Zynn last week.


A bad year for Qantas

Full-year earnings from Qantas Airways on Thursday will be a bellwether of the economic impact wrought by Australia's strict COVID border closures. Although the flag carrier has not changed its most recent forecast of up to $450 million Australian dollars ($320 million) EBITDA, Qantas announced the layoff of 2,500 employees this month as lockdowns hit its domestic business and mandated staff-wide vaccinations.

Election tests in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities will announce the results of their screening of people seeking seats on the city's 1,500-member Election Committee, a body set to take on a much more prominent role under the overhaul of Hong Kong's political system pushed through earlier this year by Beijing. In addition to choosing the city's chief executive, the expanded body will also vet all legislative candidates and choose 40 of its members to fill seats in the 90-member legislature.

For the small fraction of committee seats being contested by multiple candidates, those who pass the government's new patriotism tests will proceed to an election on Sept. 19. Chief Secretary John Lee has said that vetting will be "based on various factors, including [the hopefuls'] words, deeds and articles written by them."


New roads for Chinese EVs

China's leading electric vehicle maker BYD is expected to report strong first-half earnings from growing sales since the beginning of the year. Earlier this month, the company started to deliver its first batch of passenger EVs to Norway, its first overseas market.

Earnings are also due Friday from Great Wall Motor, China's largest SUV and pickup truck manufacturer. The company earlier this month purchased a factory in Brazil from German automaker Mercedes Benz, marking further expansion in South America.

The day before, Xpeng Motors will post first-half results as it contends with Tesla and domestic startups like Nio and Li Auto in the world's largest car market. The Guangzhou-based company said it will double the capacity of its Zhaoqing manufacturing site to 200,000 cars a year.


Singapore eschews COVID zero tolerance

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will speak on Sunday at the National Day Rally, traditionally seen as Singapore's most important political address of the year. Singapore is speeding toward vaccinating 80% of its population by September. Lee's speech may provide more insight on the government's plans to keep economic reopening on track by treating COVID as an endemic disease instead of having a zero tolerance approach.

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