From Shein and Temu at it again to a hidden holiday surprise – Here are today's Headlines

In the landscape of Chinese e-commerce, online retail giants Shein and Temu have been turning heads.

From Shein and Temu at it again to a hidden holiday surprise – Here are today's Headlines
People shop at the Shein Holiday pop-up shop inside of Times Squares Forever 21 in New York City, U.S., November 10, 2023.REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

The backstory: In the landscape of Chinese e-commerce, online retail giants Shein and Temu have been turning heads. Shein, making its debut in the US market in 2017, swiftly drew attention for its budget-friendly and trendy fashion. On the other hand, Temu, making waves in the US since last year, quickly climbed the ranks on Apple's US App Store. Temu's US parent company, WhaleCo, is owned by China-based PDD, the same entity behind the popular Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo. Like Shein, Temu caters to budget-conscious shoppers looking for on-trend fashion.

The development: Last Wednesday, Temu’s parent WhaleCo filed a lawsuit against Shein in the US, saying that it used aggressive tactics to stifle competition. The allegations included "mafia-style intimidation" against Temu and its suppliers. The filing also suggests that Shein stepped up its intimidation tactics, especially leading up to Temu's Super Bowl LVIII advertising campaign coming in February 2024. Click the link here for more.

China-Saudi park deal

Saudi Arabia ocean park
People watch fireworks and a light show, as Saudi Arabia celebrates winning its bid to host the World Expo 2030, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 28, 2023. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

The backstory: China depends heavily on Saudi Arabia for oil – it provided about 18% of China’s oil imports at US$65 billion in 2022, making up 83% of what Saudi Arabia sends to the nation overall. Saudi Arabia is also a big deal for China in Arab trade, especially in areas like security and tech, contributing to around a quarter of its overall trade in the region.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia kicked off Vision 2030, its plan to become a top 15 global economy by 2030. The kingdom is focusing on expanding things like health care, infrastructure and tourism. Saudi Arabia also launched its Tourism Development Fund (TDF) in 2020 with an initial investment of US$4 billion, aiming to attract 100 million visitors and make tourism a big part of the kingdom’s economy by 2030.

The development: Haichang Ocean Park, which runs six parks in mainland China, is now teaming up with Saudi Arabia's TDF. It's a big deal for Haichang's global expansion plan to build an international brand and create a global “leisure and entertainment platform featuring marine culture.” Click the link here for more.

Japan hosts ASEAN summit

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and leaders from ASEAN nations attend the opening session of the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit Meeting at the Hotel Okura Tokyo in Tokyo on December 17, 2023. KAZUHIRO NOGI/Pool via REUTERS

The backstory: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc is made up of 10 member states – Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. This bloc is building ties with other countries in Southeast Asia and beyond. One major relationship ASEAN has been building is with Japan, which has strong Western ties. Japan didn’t always have a great relationship with many of the ASEAN countries, though, mostly due to its role in WWII. It invaded Myanmar (called Burma at the time), the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in the 1940s. But since 1973, Japan and ASEAN have been on good terms,  starting with trade talks over Japanese synthetic rubber. Over the past few decades, Japan has been investing in ASEAN economies, helping the developing markets in the bloc grow, and allowing their relationship to become friendlier with time. 

The development: Japan hosted a summit with ASEAN leaders in Tokyo over the weekend, where they cooperated on a few major issues. This summit marked 50 years of ties between Japan and ASEAN. By the end of the conference, they agreed on more cooperation on maritime security, stronger supply chains, stepping up sustainable energy and better communication. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

Group singing points to health benefits

Even if you don’t have a lot of musical talent, you probably find yourself singing along to songs on the radio while driving with friends or at concerts with everyone else in the audience. It turns out that singing along with other people might actually have health benefits. This is good news as we head through the holiday season – there’s no way to get out of singing along to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” tbh.

There’s a pretty clear through-line when it comes to how singing together is good for social health. Since prehistoric times, humans have come together to sing, a practice that has helped us build bonds and grow communities. Singing together also releases endorphins, so it’s also a mental health booster. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...

📰Israel/Palestine update:  News broke recently that three Israeli hostages were mistakenly killed in Gaza by Israeli troops – they were reportedly shirtless, waving a white flag and called for help in Hebrew when they were shot and killed. This has spurred a new wave of Israelis and other countries calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. On Saturday, Israeli PM Netanyahu hinted during a press conference that Israel might be willing to restart negotiations with Hamas to stop fighting and return more captives on both sides. As food and other shortages worsen in Gaza, UN aid trucks entered the strip through the newly opened Kerem Shalom crossing for the first time since the fighting began, but hungry people boarded the trucks and took supplies before they could be distributed.

📩Chile votes on the constitution: A few years ago, Chile experienced a surge of protests as the public demanded that the government draft a new constitution, with the one in place dating back to Chile's days of dictatorship. The government drafted a new one seen as progressive, but the people voted against adopting it. Now, there's a second new version that went to vote on Sunday – and critics are concerned that its conservative contents could limit some people's rights (specifically women).

🛶Devastating migrant shipwreck: Every year, thousands of people try to flee conflict and other problems in Libya by taking a dangerous journey in overcrowded, often unsafe, boats across the Mediterranean to Europe. The UN says that the central Mediterranean is "one of the world's most dangerous migration routes." One of these migrant boats crashed off the coast of Libya over the weekend, killing around 61 people.

📰Russia and Ukraine step things up: With rumors swirling about a deadlock in the Russia-Ukraine War, both countries have been boosting attacks on one another. Over the weekend, Russia and Ukraine staged a series of drone attacks on each other. At one point, Ukraine reportedly targeted a Russian military airport, and a Ukrainian citizen was also killed as a result of a drone attack near Odesa.

💬China and North Korea talks: China's foreign vice-minister Sun Weidong met his North Korean counterpart Pak Myong-ho in Beijing on Friday, with the two countries agreeing to strengthen "strategic communication and coordination," according to China's foreign ministry. On the North Korean side, the country's state media said they discussed boosting "strategic cooperation between the two countries in the future."

💣North Korea fires missiles: South Korea said that North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday that was aimed at the Sea of Japan. The country also confirmed that Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have "closely shared information regarding North Korea's ballistic missile." This comes after the US warned North Korea that any nuclear attack on either South Korea or the US would bring an end to its entire regime.

🚢Companies stop Red Sea shipping: The Yemen-based Houthi militant group is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to attacking Western and Israel-linked ships traveling on the Red Sea. The US military just reported that one of its ships shot down 14 attack drones headed its way from Yemen. Now, it looks like many countries are telling shipping companies to avoid the Red Sea region or put those operations on pause until this threat goes away.

💐SenseTime founder has died: On Saturday, Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) firm SenseTime announced that its founder, Tang Xiaoou, passed away suddenly due to an untreatable illness. The renowned computer scientist was in his 50s, an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

✈️Missing boy returns home: A British boy named Alex Batty went missing while on vacation with his mother (who didn't have legal guardianship over him) in Spain six years ago. Usually, these stories don't end well, but Alex was just found in France at age 17. It's not clear exactly what's been going on, but he seems to have been living in a "spiritual community" there for a couple of years, and his mother is believed to now be in Finland. Batty has now landed safely back in the UK to be reunited with the rest of his family.

😷Hong Kong flu season: Health authorities are telling high-risk groups in Hong Kong that they might want to go ahead and get the flu vaccine sooner rather than later, as the city can expect influenza season to hit starting next month. Centre for Health Protection controller Dr. Edwin Tsui Lok-kin said this will likely happen with more people traveling overseas for the holidays.

💻Google makes privacy moves: When you allow Google to access your location data for its apps and services, it stores that data within the Google Cloud – which makes it accessible to law enforcement and makes surveillance easier. Now, Google is shifting this model and will soon start letting users store their data on their own devices rather than in the cloud if they want.

📈HKEX gets a new CEO: The Hong Kong stock exchange named its newest and first female CEO, Bonnie Chan, on Friday. She'll be replacing former JP Morgan banker Nicolas Aguzin from May of 2024. Chan has a big role ahead to improve the exchange's performance in the wake of China's economic slowdown and regulatory uncertainties.

💉Inhalable COVID vaccine?: What if you didn't have to get a needle jab to be successfully vaccinated against major diseases like COVID? Researchers at the Institute of Process Engineering (IPE) have been working on a "nano-micro composite" vaccination process with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Basically, this would build the vaccine within "nano-micro composite multilevel structures," so it could become an inhalable powder. According to a study published last week in Nature, this method has been shown to work in blocking certain virus infections and transmissions among animals.

🦉Merry Owlmas: A family in the US got an early Christmas surprise when they found a baby owl living in their Christmas tree. Every year, the White family brings home a living Christmas tree for the holidays, and the baby owl blended into the branches so well that they didn't discover it for four days. The Whites weren't actually at home when the bird was found in the house by Bobby Hayes, who owns Magic Carpet Cleaning. Hayes safely released the owl into the backyard, so it was a happy ending for all.

Source: Michele White via AP
Source: Michele White via AP

Quiz Time!

What city hosted the most recent ASEAN summit over the weekend?

  • Bangkok
  • Tokyo
  • Milan
  • Manila

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz and Christine Dulion