Asian Insider, Aug 3: Microsoft-TikTok deal; China's Beidou to rival US' GPS; Dickson Yeo

Hi all,

In today’s bulletin: Will the Microsoft-TikTok deal go through?; several top Indian political leaders infected with coronavirus; China’s new Beidou system to rival US’ GPS; spying in the time of social networking; former Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s future, and more.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella won six weeks from President Donald Trump to settle the acquisition of the US operations of popular short-video app TikTok. And the tech giant has said it hopes to complete the buyout by Sept 15. 

President Trump’s decision is an about-turn and, should it go through, could well be a blockbuster social media deal that could further inflame US-China relations which hit a new nadir in July.

TikTok is one of the world’s most popular apps which has been downloaded more than two billion times globally and more than 165 million times in the US. It is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which confirmed on Monday that it has been exploring all possibilities to resolve its confrontation with US authorities. 

Officials and regulators in the US have been worried about protection of data of US users of TikTok, as well as ByteDance’s potential connection to the Chinese government. 

TikTok, which recently hired Walt Disney veteran Kevin Mayer as CEO, has almost 1,000 employees in the US this year and has said it will hire another 10,000.

For Nadella, the deal will offer an opportunity to enter the social media space dominated by giants such as Facebook and Snap. Overall, the deal will also signal the growing clout of social media apps. 

Read also: 

TikTok ban? Creators and fans are big mad


India’s top officials were coming down with coronavirus with the surge in pandemic cases  breaching the 50,000 new cases mark for the fifth day. 

On Sunday, federal home minister Amit Shah, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closest aides, as well as the chief minister of the southern state of Karnataka B.S. Yediyurappa, tested positive. 

Several senior officials have by now contracted the disease. The country’s total tally – at over 1.8 million cases – is now the third highest in the world after the United States and Brazil. 

Elsewhere, in Australia, the state of Victoria was forced to impose further radical measures for the next six weeks to contain the spread of the virus. These included an 8 pm to 5 am curfew in capital Melbourne. The rising number of cases in the city in fact prompted New Zealand to delay plans for a trans-Tasman “travel bubble” between the two countries.

Read also:

Riau Islands governor tests positive for Covid-19 after being sworn in by Indonesian President Jokowi

Proponent of Abenomics blasts Japan’s tourism campaign as pandemic rages on


China’s rapid strides in its quest to become a space power reached a milestone with the commissioning of its Beidou navigation system to rival United States’ Global Positioning System, on Friday. 

The new system will also have substantial strategic and economic implications, experts say.

For one, it boosts the country’s precision military strike capabilities and its global clout by offering countries and companies an alternative to the US-controlled GPS. And there’s more. China Correspondent Danson Cheong has a report (Premium).

Read also: 

China, US, UAE take positions in a trio of Mars missions in the starting blocks


Thirty-nine-year-old Dickson Yeo, the Singaporean who got caught spying for China in the US, relied heavily on Linkedin. 

He described LinkedIn’s algorithm as relentless, and he checked it almost every day to review suggested potential contacts. Yeo told US law enforcement officers it felt almost like an addiction.

The social networking platform was the site through which Yeo cultivated Americans to pass over non-public information to China.  The case has drawn global attention and raised concern on ongoing efforts to tap social networking sites for possible agents and information. Don’t miss our report on Spying in the time of Social Networking (Premium).

Read more on The Spy who got caught in the August issue of ST Asian Insider.


Although former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was found guilty in the controversial 1MDB case, and sentenced to 12 years in jail, he is out on bail and has filed an appeal. Till this is resolved, he remains a free man, and a political leader to watch, his supporters would say, with the appeal process expected to take up to a year. There are those who believe that he could return to power if there is a change in the government that puts Umno at the helm. Read Malaysia Correspondent Ram Anand’s special report.


TRAVELLERS TO SINGAPORE TO WEAR ELECTRONIC TRACKING DEVICES: All travellers entering Singapore who are serving their stay-home notice (SHN) outside of dedicated facilities will soon have to wear an electronic monitoring device. From Aug 10, 11.59pm, such travellers will have to wear the device throughout the 14-day stay-home period. They include citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders, work pass holders and their dependents. Children aged 12 and below are exempted.

SRI LANKA’S RAJAPAKSAS HOPE TO TIGHTEN GRIP: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hopes to tighten his hold on the nation’s fractious politics in an election on Wednesday that could elevate his brother and allow the two to change the constitution if they prevail. Rajapaksa, who claims credit for controlling the spread of the new coronavirus in the island nation, hopes to install his elder brother and former president – current caretaker Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – in the post formally with an outright election victory.

MSIA’S EX-PM BADAWI ALIVE AND WELL: Malaysia’s former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is still alive and well, according to officials managing his gallery. Their remarks followed allegations on social media that the 80-year-old had passed away. “He is still in good health and surrounded by his loving family. The news being spread is false,” said the management. 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. We’ll be back with you tomorrow. 


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