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The Daily Brief for Friday, 17 February 2017

Vietnam and TPP: When US President Donald Trump last month pulled America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade pact, the potential losses to Hanoi were significant. However, writes Ha Nguyen, Vietnamese businesses are now looking towards the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, scheduled to come into effect in 2018, to expand their markets and the deal should serve as a model for Europe’s future economic engagement with other ASEAN nations.

ISIS in Libya: Today is the sixth anniversary of an uprising that was meant to usher in a new era of freedom for Libya yet the country has descended into uncontrollable chaos. Sami Moubayed reports that in the six years since Nato famously stepped in to protect civilians after a popular revolution toppled the regime of Gaddafi, shortages and hyperinflation are the norm and ISIS is thriving in the misery of a broken nation.

Samsung Group arrest: The vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Lee Jae-yong, has been arrested over his alleged role in a Samsung corruption scandal that led parliament to impeach South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Reuters reports that the 48-year-old was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Centre late on Thursday evening, dealing a fresh blow to the world’s biggest maker of smartphones.

Taiwan and Trump: The American President’s decision to question the “one China” policy and then back down has led several international commentators to say he lost his first fight with China’s communist leader. Xuan Loc Doan writes that Trump is now being referred to as “a paper tiger” – a term once used by Mao Zedong to describe America – and says his Taiwan about-face is likely to undermine his administration’s efforts to push Beijing to adopt policies that are more beneficial to US interests.

Posted inBeijingChinaTianjin

China Digest for Friday, 17 February 2017

January prices show cooling property market in 16 cities

Housing prices in 16 out of 30 cities have either dropped or flattened in January, China Economy Net reported on Thursday, citing a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences survey. Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei region saw a rise of 3.13%, while the Changjiang Delta showed a 1.46% compared to last month, but the price increase was at a slower rate after a peak in September last year, the report added.

Wuliangye baijiu tops US$131 for first time since 2012

Retail prices for Wuliangye baijiu (52% alcohol) had risen to 899 yuan (US$131) per bottle and a premium bottle now costs 919 yuan, the Beijing News reported Thursday. The increase, which took effect on February 14, is the first time it broke the 900 yuan mark since the central government tightened spending of public money in 2012. People prefer premium baijiu for special occasions such as Lunar New Year, the report said.

Carriage efficiency set to improve on high-speed trains

Configuration of high-speed trains will become flexible, which means they can either haul two to 16 carriages instead of eight or 16, Caixin reported on Thursday. At present, carriages cannot be separated, increasing maintenance costs and rigidity in planning for traffic loads. The move could reduce the number of empty cars by more than 50%, increasing profitability and efficiency, the report added.

Overseas investments in real estate sinks by nearly 85%

The country’s foreign investments have decreased an average of 35.7% to 53.27 billion yuan in January, the 21st Business Herald said on Friday, citing Commerce Ministry data. Previous hot areas have seen a steep decline with real estate down by 84.3%, and culture, sports and the entertainment industry plummeting by to 93.3% from a year earlier.

Tianjin shuts gate on new serviced apartment project applications

New applications for serviced apartment construction projects will be rejected, while those already approved can still go ahead, said the Tianjin Bureau of Land and Housing Administration and two other municipal institutions. The Tianjin Daily report on Thursday cited a Ministry of Housing document issued on January 1, saying serviced apartments will no longer be recognized as part of urban land use.