This is the last edition of Your Week in Asia in 2021. Technology gatherings will be the highlight of the holiday weeks. Baidu will host an annual AI conference via its metaverse app, while Huawei is launching a new smartwatch with the ability to measure blood pressure. The world is facing a chip shortage, which is expected to attracted a lot of attention at Taiwan, an international trade fair for the semiconductor sector.
We will be back soon with Your Year in Asia, a look ahead to 2022's biggest events. The Standing Committee of China's legislature, the National People's Congress, meets Thursday to review several bills. A draft amendment to the Trade Unions Law will be among them. According to research outfit NPC Observer, the current law offers limited scope for millions of workers in the so-called gig economy to join a union. In the last few years delivery workers have been protesting for more social benefits.
Other bills include the Women's Rights and Interest Protection Law, which comes after the sexual allegations by Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. Another proposal is to strengthen oversight on the implementation of the country's annual and long-term plans for economic and social development.
After he became the first Japanese private citizen to visit the International Space Station, a billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his crew are due to return to Earth. He will have little time to rest after his 12 day mission. He is expected to begin preparation for his next mission around the moon aboard SpaceX's SpaceX spaceship vehicle in 2023.
Japan's extraordinary parliamentary session ends after passing a supplementary budget designed to support the COVID-hit economy. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will focus on boosting the nation's economic competitiveness through decarbonization and digitalization.
Despite years of U.S. sanctions, the Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has released its latest smartwatch as it aims to show that it keeps its tech prowess despite yearslong U.S. sanctions. Huawei has hinted that its newest smartwatch, or Huawei Watch D, will be able to measure the user's blood pressure. Rival Apple is developing a similar function, but has not yet introduced it to the Apple Watch series.
The State Railway of Thailand moves its central station from Hua Lamphong to Bang Sue. More trains will leave and terminate at the new complex, which is said to be the largest railway station in Southeast Asia. The station has been in service since August, when a new commuter line connecting northern and central Bangkok began testing operations. In November of this year, the line stopped commercial services.
Hua Lamphong has served as Bangkok's hub for more than a century. It is expected to remain the station of origin for some lines.
The board of Tencent Holdings is going to decide whether to make its first interim dividend. Its share price has fallen by more than 40% from its February peak, with the company under intense pressure since the government started cracking down on the internet sector. The technology giant has the resources in hand, as it was sitting on 170.87 billion yuan $26.81 billion of cash and cash equivalent at the end of September.
Baidu is due to present its latest metaverse technology at Baidu Create, an annual conference for artificial intelligence developers. An update to its app Xirang, meaning soil of hope in Chinese, is expected to steal the show. The virtual reality platform is said to be able to host 100,000 participants simultaneously, enabling them to meet some 100 speakers from around the world.
Users can also access Xirang through gadgets such as Xirang's first metaverse conference, billed as China's first metaverse conference. They can take virtual tours to the country's Shaolin Temple and the Sanxingdui Museum of Archaeology.
Semicon Taiwan, one of the most important annual business expos for the chip industry, kicks off its three-day on-site exhibition in Taipei. The annual tech show was forced to postpone from September to December due to the monthslong semi-lockdown in Taiwan. The global chip shortage has resulted in supply squeezes on a wide range of industries including smartphones, PCs and automobiles. China's president Xi Jinping is expected to give a speech on national television as Beijing prepares for the Winter Olympics and new leadership announcements in 2022.
The December Purchasing Managers' Index is due to be announced by China's statistics agency. The data rebounded in November after it had been down for two consecutive months due to supply chain stresses.