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The Daily Brief for Thursday, 5 January 2017

With heavily sanctioned North Korea marching undeterred toward possession of nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), calls for serious consideration of military intervention are gaining rare prominence, writes John Power for Asia Times. Usually relegated to the fringes of debate, the specter of military action by the United States has grown since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced in his New Year’s address that the regime was in the “final stages” of testing an ICBM. As a great military power, Kim said, North Korea was now untouchable to “even the strongest enemy.”

Bangalore, India’s IT capital, has long held a reputation of being the South Asian nation’s Silicon Valley, but the groping of a woman as she was heading home from New Year’s Eve celebrations and the mass molestation earlier in the night hit headlines. Women in both cases did not file a report with police, bringing to light the plight of thousands of women in India who do not report what they suffer out of fear of humiliation and retaliation. Anusha Venkat reports on why these women do not go to authorities as studies show over 90% of cases go unreported.

As the January 20 inauguration fast approaches plenty has been written about the pros and cons of the next administration in the United States. In the second of a three-part series looking at the possible direction of the US economy under president-elect Donald Trump, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics tells Orla O’Sullivan for Asia Times that there are grounds both for optimism and pessimism with regard to whether or not productivity can be boosted.

After “the Force” went missing on its Japanese debut, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story got shown who’s boss of the Korean box office by the crime drama Master in the opening week of 2017, writes Russell Edwards for Asia Times. In its second week out, Cho Ui-seok’s Master controlled 44% of the market and added just over US$10 million to reach a cumulative gross of US$37.6 million. In contrast, Rogue One has grossed a mere US$6.1 million since its Korean premiere on December 28. Adding melodic insult to intergalactic injury, Sing (total gross US$8.4 million) and La La Land (total gross US$17.8 million) have both outperformed the George Lucas franchise.

Dust really can turn into gold, especially in northern China, reports Benny Kung. As heavy smog blankets the region for a seventh day, even trains can’t escape the scourge of pollution. High-speed trains running through the region reveal just how serious air pollution is, with pictures of the usually white carriages covered in pollutants posted on Chinese websites. In our photo slideshow, we can watch how a “smoggy gold” train is cleaned.

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China Digest for Thursday, 5 January 2017

Premier Li Keqiang announces reforms to spur business competition

Premier Li Keqiang announced measures on Wednesday to simplify business operations and generate more competition, Shanghai Securities News reported Wednesday night. The reforms allow companies from different parts of China to enter local markets and remove subsidies in certain industries. Approval permits were removed in 53 sectors, including cotton processing and private school advertising.

China bike-share startup raises $215 million in new funding round

The bike-share company Mobike raised US$215 million on Wednesday in a series D funding round with Tencent Holdings and Warburg Pincus LLC, Caixin reported Wednesday evening. Mobike, which is now valued at more than US$1 billion, operates in nine cities in China, moved into Singapore in December and may have plans to expand into North America and Europe.

Survey shows 7.8% of households at highest risk of mortgage default

A total of 7.8% households in China with mortgage loans fall into the category of highest risk of default, with a decrease in income the biggest factor, The Paper reported Wednesday, citing a China Household Finance Survey. China’s home mortgages stood at 16.8 trillion yuan (US$2.53 trillion) as of June last year, up almost 2.5 fold from 6.8 trillion yuan in June 2011, the report shows.

Fidelity subsidiary wins first approval to invest in China for domestic clients

Fidelity International’s Shanghai subsidiary has become the first non-Chinese asset manager to win approval from the Asset Management Association of China to invest in local stock markets for domestic clients, Caixin reported on Wednesday evening. Fidelity is one of 10 foreign private fund managers in China under a so-called Qualified Domestic Limited Partnership, but until now all were restricted to investing overseas with funds raised in the country.

China pushes agricultural reforms, new technology

The Ministry of Agriculture will run nationwide events to promote land reclamation, use of new farming technology and other reforms from this month, reported Shanghai Securities Journal on Wednesday.

China Railway braces for ownership reform in 2017

China Railway Corporation will undergo mixed-ownership reform in 2017, introducing private capital to the state-owned industry, Shanghai Securities News reported on Wednesday, citing people close to the National Development and Reform Commission. Pilot schemes will target railway design, provincial branch routes and specific railway projects but not trunk routes.

Jingdong Finance to handle mobile-phone transactions for Unionpay

Jingdong Finance will handle collection of payments by mobile phone for interbank network and credit-card provider Unionpay, Caixin reported Wednesday citing an agreement between the two companies. Jingdong Finance — a subsidiary of JD.com, one of China’s e-commerce giants — is in further talks with Unionpay to collaborate in other types of financing, big data management and risk control.

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