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The Daily Brief for Wednesday, 8 February 2017

In his bid to rebuild American infrastructure after decades of neglect, Donald Trump may discover he needs Japanese and even Chinese help, writes Doug Tsuruoka. The US president has pledged to pour US$1 trillion into rail upgrades, roads, bridges, power grids, pipelines, ports and airports. However, the cutting-edge technology and expertise required no longer resides in the US. By contrast, China and Japan have sunk billions into state-of-the-art infrastructure and are now among the leading exporters of advanced transport, port and infrastructure technology.

A panic over nothing: that’s what Asia Times’
Business and Finance Editor Steve Wang has to say about China’s foreign exchange reserves dipping below US$3 trillion for the first time in six years. The US$3 trillion has only psychological significance, he writes. In reality, China still has the world’s largest exchange reserves despite recent declines, and continues to enjoy massive trade surpluses on a monthly basis.

Capital is fleeing Thailand. As Asia Times’ Southeast Asia editor Shawn W. Crispin reports, Bank of Thailand figures show rising outflows that threaten to limit the effectiveness of the military government’s fiscal push. The junta has been pumping money into trains, roads and other mega projects, but Thai companies and individuals are increasingly sending their funds overseas, signalling to some analysts a lack of local confidence in the country’s economic direction under Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s rule.

Saber-rattling from Donald Trump and his administration about the existential threat posed by Iran is pointless, writes Asia Times’ roving reporter, Pepe Escobar. With America seemingly bent on disrupting Eurasian integration via prying Russia from China in a new Kissinger-inspired power play, any attempt to antagonize Iran will simply alienate Moscow and Beijing both. And it will do nothing to aid Trump in his putative war against Islamist terror.

Kenny Hodgart

Kenny Hodgart is an editor for Asia Times.

Posted inBeijingChinaTianjin

China Digest for Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Subsidies on green vehicles axed by 2020

All subsidies on electric vehicles will be cancelled by 2020, Xinhua state news agency reported on Tuesday evening citing a notice jointly issued by the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Development and Reform Commission. The current subsidy is 66,000 yuan (US$9,600) on green vehicles, which is already a 20% decrease from 2016, the report added.

Most listed companies beat 2016 revenue forecasts

Sina Finance, citing Wind Information data, reported that 70% of the 2,800 listed companies exceeded their 2016 revenue forecasts. But 26 of them missed their forecasts, losing a combined total of 90 billion yuan last year, mostly in industries such as steel, gas and shipbuilding.

2016 profits decline almost 13% on average at trust companies

Caixin reported that 60 trust companies made an average net profit of 971 million yuan last year. Citing 2016 annual reports, Caixin said this was a 12.58% drop compared to 2015, mainly due to a stock market downturn and significant decline in business income, the report added.

Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei among first to set up special ecological zones

A new policy aims to rigorously protect areas with special and important ecological value, Xinhua reported on Tuesday, citing State Council documents. Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province plus areas along the Changjiang Economic Belt should designate key sites within a red line by the end of 2017. The rest of the country will implement the system by 2018, with a basic protection system in place by 2020.

Waste imports, drugs and guns targeted in smuggling crackdown

The General Administration of Customs will target five sectors in a smuggling crackdown this year, Xinhua said. They are waste imports, agricultural products, drugs and guns, energy resources, and goods that should be taxed.