The View From Asia: Trump-Xi Deal Is Just a Temporary Truce

The View From Asia: Trump-Xi Deal Is Just a Temporary Truce

This story originally appeared on TheStreet.com.

It was over Argentinian steak that Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart President Donald Trump hashed out a trade truce in Buenos Aires over the weekend. But it is Chinese factory owners who will be most relieved.

Xi and Trump agreed for a ceasefire in their increasingly fraught war, meaning U.S. tariffs will not raise from 10% to 25% on Jan. 1, as planned, with further talks to hash out future trade to come.

Here in Asia, we are well aware that this is only a temporary truce. Hostilities have only been suspended for 90 days. Trump continues to play both roles in the good cop/bad cop routine with Xi, sweet talking Xi in person. That kind of “face” goes down very well in China, where both the government and the people at large are desperate for recognition on the world stage.

No doubt, the agreement has eased immediate fears, which were undoubtedly unsettling investors in Asia. Emerging markets in particular have been paying a heavy price, more so as investors try to reduce risk than because of any direct effects from the trade war.

I’m writing this from Jakarta, and the Indonesian rupiah has been shaken like a palm-oil plant in a typhoon by potential disruptions to economic growth in the region, as well as U.S. interest rates rising. Earlier this year, the rupiah sank to levels last seen during the Asian financial crisis 20 years ago.

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Second Set of Gray-Swan Shocks To Watch in 2018

Second Set of Gray-Swan Shocks To Watch in 2018

In my previous piece, I examined five gray swans that are already in view, but could fly in to roost in the year ahead. That’s the first half of the list of 10 ugly goslings that the Japanese investment bank Nomura sees as potential surprises in 2018.

Black swans are completely unexpected, and therefore can’t be predicted. Gray swans are a little different, neither hidden nor invisible, just largely ignored.

The investment bank has sought to identify situations that are a little out of the ordinary. We know that Donald Trump will be unpredictable — what he does is a known unknown. These birds fall into the camp of the unknown unknowns.

Here’s how cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, house-price declines, war in the Middle East, oil prices and central banks may shock us in 2018.

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5 Gray Swan Shocks On the Horizon In 2018

5 Gray Swan Shocks On the Horizon In 2018

The Japanese investment bank Nomura (NMR) has 10 “gray swans” to watch out for in 2018. Unlike their cousins the black swans, which simply pop out of nowhere and therefore can’t be predicted, gray swans aren’t hidden or invisible, just largely ignored. At our peril, it seems.

They are topics that aren’t widely discussed, the bank says — not the question of what to do over North Korea, or whether nationalists will triumph in the Italian elections.

I’ll tackle the first five in this story and revisit the gray-swan family by addressing the other five in a second piece.

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Forgers beware: math cracks fakes


Astronomers will gaze with greater clarity at the stars, thanks to CUHK professor Raymond Chan Hon-fu – and art forgers should be careful.


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An algorithm developed by Professor Chan is the fastest way of solving Toeplitz systems, a form complex linear equations. By breaking down image and signal processing into mathematical terms, he has been able to design computer algorithms that can dramatically increase the image quality of telescopes or the verification of van Gogh paintings. Continue reading

Exploring the Surf in Sri Lanka

 Surfing at Arugam Bay, on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Credit: Alex Frew McMillan

Surfing at Arugam Bay, on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Credit: Alex Frew McMillan


ARUGAM BAY, Sri Lanka (The New York Times) — I blame Bethany Hamilton. Repeat viewings of “Soul Surfer,” the 2011 movie about the young surfer in Hawaii who lost an arm to a tiger shark only to return to competition, have left my two young children fearless in the ocean and enthralled with the sport.

So, with air miles to spare and vacation time to burn, my wife, two offspring and I made for Sri Lanka.

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Little Room for Embellishment in Densely Packed Hong Kong

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Even Hong Kong’s luxury apartment complexes are relentlessly uniform, though often more colorful than public housing. – Credit: Michael Wolf/Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York


HONG KONG (The New York Times) — Hong Kong is a famously efficient city. Residents pride themselves on the flawless operation of the subway system and the airport. For 21 years in a row, the Heritage Foundation has ranked Hong Kong as the world’s freest economy.

But free markets come at a cost. Easy access to capital, years of record-low interest rates and an acute shortage of supply have made Hong Kong the most expensive place in the world to buy a home. Continue reading

Saving a Thirsty City: How a computer scientist brought “sweet water” to a Chinese metropolis

Prof. Jimmy Lee, Department of Computer Science & Engineering

Prof. Jimmy Lee, Department of Computer Science & Engineering


When one Chinese coastal city was looking for pure, fresh “sweet water,” they turned to Prof. Jimmy Lee. Professor Lee has devoted his time to solving complex scheduling problems by developing the most efficient solution to the difficult task of when and how much river water to draw. Continue reading

Making a Building’s Water System Into a Hydroelectric Plant

Daryl Ng in the water meter room of a Kowloon shopping mall, where a hydrogeneration system is being tested.

Daryl Ng in the water meter room of a Kowloon shopping mall, where a hydrogeneration system is being tested.


HONG KONG (The New York Times) – Daryl Ng was taking a long shower, as he does every morning. And his wife, as she does every morning, scolded him for needlessly using so much water.

“How can I justify the amount of time I’m taking?” Mr. Ng recalled thinking to himself. And while looking at the water running down the drain, he got an idea. Continue reading

Roaming the African, Er, Philippine Plains

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Some of the 35 Grévy’s zebras at Calauit Safari Park in the Philippines. – Credit: Alex Frew McMillan


CALAUIT, PHILIPPINES (The International New York Times) — The scene is familiar to anyone who has been on safari in eastern or southern Africa. Giraffes amble from tall tree to tall tree, nibbling away at tiny leaves. Zebras graze the short grass, their heads bent low. There are deer in the distance, and a hawk whirls overhead.

Only this is Southeast Asia, not Africa.

Calauit Safari Park is one of the oddest and least-known attractions of the Philippines, a haven for African wildlife that has operated for close to 40 years. Continue reading