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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 15, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
November 15, 2013

People wait to be airlifted to Manila as Ospreys from the U.S. Navy Ship (USNS) Charles Drew taxi on the tarmac in the background, at Tacloban airport on November 14, 2013 (Wolfgang Rattay/Courtesy Reuters). People wait to be airlifted to Manila as Ospreys from the U.S. Navy Ship (USNS) Charles Drew taxi on the tarmac in the background, at Tacloban airport on November 14, 2013 (Wolfgang Rattay/Courtesy Reuters).

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. China announces sweeping reforms. A wide range of reforms were announced following China’s third plenum of the Eighteenth Party Congress, with many commentators surprised by the scope of  President Xi Jinping’s reform campaign. Though they are too expansive to go into detail here, issues that were tackled included: relaxation of the one-child policy, abolishment of the re-education through labor system, state-owned enterprise reform, interest rate and currency regime liberalization, and establishment of an economic reform working group and a new State Security Council.

2. Typhoon kills thousands in the Philippines. The Philippine government’s official web site reported 3,631 confirmed casualties from Typhoon Haiyan on Thursday, though the United Nations has raised the death toll to 4,460. The main casualties were residents of the city of Tacloban in central Philippines, where many complained of a lack of logistics support, manpower, and supplies. There have also been widespread accounts of looting.

3. China increases aid to devastated Philippines. China announced on Thursday that it is increasing its humanitarian assistance to the Philippines to $1.6 million after it was criticized for only offering $100,000—the new amount is still less than that ($2.7 million) donated by Swedish furniture company Ikea. Many believe that the small donation was a political statement related to the two countries’ territorial disputes in the South China Sea. By contrast, the United States is sending $20 million, Japan is providing $10 million in aid, and Indonesia is giving $2 million. The United States and Japan are also sending troops, naval vessels, and aircraft to aid the in the cleanup and assistance efforts.

4. Court order throws off Maldivian elections. A third attempt at presidential elections was derailed by a court order this week, pushing elections back to November 16. The two leading candidates for the Maldivian presidency, Mohamed Nasheed and Abdulla Yameen, will face off in a runoff election. Mr. Nasheed is expected to win, and his supporters believe the courts, which are loyal to Mr. Yameen’s half-brother (who ruled the Maldives for thirty years), are stalling. The opposition was also upset that the sitting president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, did not leave office when his term expired; instead, he plans to wait until the runoff election.

5. Caroline Kennedy takes up post in Tokyo. The new U.S. ambassador to Japan arrived in Tokyo on Friday—she is the first woman to serve in the post. Her appointment was widely acclaimed in Japan, as she has the ear of President Obama and comes from a political family familiar to many.

Bonus: Batman bin Suparman jailed in Singapore. A young man with the curious name Batman bin Suparman has been jailed on drugs and theft charges in Singapore. Suparman is a not-unheard-of surname in Indonesia; the prefix Su- is often found at the beginning of surnames in Java. Batman, however, is not an Indonesian name at all—it seems the man’s parents simply had an interesting sense of humor.

Correction: a previous version of this post stated that China had donated $1.6 billion in aid, while Ikea provided $2.7 billion. The correct amounts are $1.6 million and $2.7 million, respectively.

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