Posted inChina, Hong Kong, Iraq, Japan, Middle East, North Korea, Northeast Asia, Syria

The Daily Brief for Monday, 20 March 2017

Caliphate’s last days: Senior intelligence sources in Iraq say Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State, has been in neighboring Syria since March 11, writes Sami Moubayed. Al-Baghdadi has been living in Mosul since 2014 but left to escape the Iraqi Army’s current offensive and is now about to move to al-Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS, as his troops prepare for a caliphate-defining fight against a coalition of US troops, Kurdish militias and the Syrian Army.

Korean chemical fears: Although nuclear tensions are escalating on the Korean peninsula, the US military could, if called upon, nullify North Korea’s missile bases and nuclear facilities. However, reports Bertil Lintner, North Korea’s chemical and biological weapons facilities are known to be hidden underground and Pyongyang’s use of the lethal VX nerve agent in a transnational assassination sends out a chilling warning.

Fukushima court ruling: Japan’s atomic power establishment is in shock following the court ruling on Friday that found the state and the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant liable for failing to take preventive measures against the crippling tsunami. Shaun Burnie writes that the ruling has wide-ranging implications for Japan’s entire nuclear power industry and the efforts to restart reactors throughout the country.

Asian Film Awards: Asia Times speaks with Roger Garcia, executive director of the Asian Film Awards Academy on the eve of the 11th award ceremony. Poo Yee Kai talks with Garcia to hear his thoughts on the state of Asian cinema, how the region’s filmmakers are evolving and on the Asian Film Awards themselves, that will be handed out at a ceremony in Hong Kong tomorrow night.

Posted inChina, World

China Digest for Monday, 20 March 2017

China must not stop innovating: Zhang Gaoli

Zhang Gaoli, the highest ranking Vice Premier, said the country needs to continuously innovate and improve on “hi-tech manufacturing,” Sina Finance reported on Sunday. Zhang, also a member of the Politburo standing committee, said only Huawei was in the world’s top 100 brands even though China has 220 industrial products with high output. Zhang talked about other goals such as cutting coal output by 150 million metric tons this year, managing real estate bubbles, assessing internet financing risks as well as tackling bad debts. China also contributed more than 30% to global economic growth globally in 2016, Zhang said.

Non-local residents in Baoding city can only own one home

Baoding municipal government issued a notice on Saturday that non-local residents can only own one property in key districts, Sina Finance reported. The city in the northeastern province of Hebei said locals who already own three or more properties in key districts such as Lianchi cannot purchase more, it said. The move is to stabilise the property market, in line with national guidelines, the report added.

Politicians must bite the bullet on reforms: ex-finance minister

Former finance minister Lou Jiwei said politicians should not “waste the time” and must “bite the bullet” in structural and financial regulatory reforms, Caixin reported on Sunday. Lou, head of the National Social Insurance Fund, said monetary policies after the financial crisis had bought time for governments and gave the illusion of economic stability. He was speaking at a China Development Forum that began on Saturday and ends on Monday.

CSRC steps up crackdown on financial institutions

Authorities will escalate supervision over financial institutions by cracking down on transactions that “interfere with development and reform, pose threat to market stability and generate systemic risk,” Yicai reported Sunday evening citing Deng Ge, a spokesman from the China Securities Regulatory Commission. The move is seen as a tightening of controls on market supervision, the report added.

Coal electrification firms may book losses in 2017

The country’s coal electrification businesses might see a round loss this year, Caixin said on Saturday, citing Yang Kun, Executive Vice Director of the China Electricity Council. Five state-owned coal electrification enterprises had steep profit declines in 2016, down 68.6% compared to 2015, according to Caixin. Rising fuel costs and lower electricity prices in 2017 might lead to losses in 2017, the report added.

Environment ministry to explore green bonds: Chen Jining

The Ministry of Environmental Protection will explore the feasibility of green-themed bonds, credit and insurance, Caixin reported on Sunday. Environment Minister Chen Jining said the move was aimed at supporting the establishment of green development bonds as well as direct resources into the environmental sector.

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