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Your Week in Asia

Yoon in Tokyo, Baidu launches AI chatbot, Japan eases mask rules

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

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will visit Japan next week.   © AP

Welcome to Your Week in Asia.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will travel to Tokyo to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. It will be the first visit to Japan by a South Korean president since Yoon's predecessor, Moon Jae-in, went to Osaka as part of a G-20 summit in 2019 and the first bilateral visit since 2011.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is also due to hold talks with Kishida later this week, before the latter heads to India for a visit on Sunday.

China's National People's Congress will conclude on Monday as President Xi Jinping officially starts an unprecedented third term.

On Thursday, Chinese search engine giant Baidu is expected to launch Ernie Bot, the company's answer to AI-powered chat app ChatGPT.

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China's new premier meets media

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is expected to meet the press after the closing of the National People's Congress. Appointed over the weekend along with other top officials, Li will share his view on implementing social-economic policies amid growth slowdown.

AUKUS announcement in San Diego

U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will gather in San Diego to announce the details of a submarine deal agreed to in 2021. Supplying Australia with nuclear-powered submarines forms the core of the AUKUS pact, and the three partners have been conducting an 18-month consultation to determine how to proceed. The announcement, symbolically, is expected to be made aboard a submarine.

U.S. and South Korea joint military exercises

The U.S. and South Korean militaries will hold their first spring field exercises in five years as the allies bolster their readiness for a crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The Freedom Shield exercises will be held for 11 consecutive days. That will make them the longest uninterrupted exercises between the two allies, according to South Korean media.

Japan eases mask guidelines

Japan will relax its COVID-19 guidelines regarding mask-wearing in schools and aboard public transportation. It has been three years since Japan first declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 to impose curfew restrictions. Even after the emergency measures were lifted, the policy of wearing masks when seeing people has been a social rule in Japan, but for the first time since the pandemic outbreak, masks will be left to individual judgment.


Earnings: Pegatron


Samsung Electronics AGM

Samsung Electronics hosts its annual general shareholders meeting. This is the company's first AGM since Lee Jae-yong was promoted to chairman in October. Samsung is struggling to cope with low demand for semiconductors and smartphones in the global market as the economic downturn deepened due to the war in Ukraine and high inflation.

Japan 'shunto' wage negotiation results

The government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida holds a tripartite meeting with representatives of businesses and labor unions to coincide with the announcement by large corporations of pay raises for the year starting April. The results may fall short of union demands of a 5% pay raise, including a 3% increase in base wages, but Kishida wants to use the meeting to encourage both the unions and the employers to work together toward a positive cycle between higher wages and domestic demand-led growth.

China's Consumer Rights Day

China will mark the World Consumer Rights Day with the "315 Gala," an annual live TV broadcast that exposes defective products and services based on undercover investigations. In the past, foreign brands including Volkswagen and Muji were put in the line of fire, sending executives scrambling for damage control.

China releases data on industrial production, retail sales and jobless rates

Earnings: Foxconn, Prudential


Yoon visits Japan

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol makes a two-day visit to Japan for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Yoon is the first South Korean leader coming to the neighboring country in four years. Yoon's trip comes after South Korea announced a plan last week to settle the wartime labor issue with Japan, which has been the biggest stumbling block in bilateral relations. The two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including the bilateral security cooperation.

Baidu announces AI chatbot service

Baidu is set to reveal its Ernie Bot, the Chinese search giant's domestic answer to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, the conversational chatbot that has taken the tech world by storm. Baidu's founder Robin Li is expected to showcase the bot at a presser, though currently no one knows exactly what it can do. Ernie Bot is based on Baidu's large language model Ernie, launched in 2019. Some industrial experts have expected Ernie Bot to lag far behind ChatGPT.

China publishes February house prices index

Earnings: Xpeng

GDP: New Zealand

Monetary policy: Indonesia


Scholz visits Japan

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Japan and attend an intergovernmental meeting on Saturday. Leaders and ministers from both countries are expected to discuss topics like the situations in Ukraine and East Asia. Germany's visit comes ahead of the Group of Seven summit to be held in Hiroshima in May and as the European nation increases engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

Kishida visits India

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit India on Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As chair of this year's G-7 summit in May, Kishida will discuss with Modi, who is chairing this year's G-20 summit, various issues including the Ukraine war. Both countries are part of the Quad grouping along with the U.S. and Australia.

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