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The Daily Brief for Thursday, 20 July 2017

Saudi’s leadership coup: What was an open secret in the Arab world is now out in the open… last month’s House of Saud ascension for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was in fact a leadership coup. Pepe Escobar writes that the coup displaced CIA favorite Mohammad bin Nayef and puts into power a risk-taking “gambler” that some consider to be the most dangerous man in the Middle East.

China-India, border answers? In recent days, New Delhi and Beijing have made some attempts to play down the disputed border tensions that have been simmering near the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. However, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, it is difficult to see any significant longer-term shift in what have recently become consistently adversarial India-China relations and, with rising nationalism on both sides, it’s important that a face-saving formula is found.

Myanmar’s Pyongyang links? Despite official assurances to the contrary, security sources say Myanmar has maintained secretive strategic ties with Pyongyang. Bertil Lintner reports that it is not certain how much Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government actually knows about the autonomous military’s often furtive activities but the US will reimpose damaging sanctions if Myanmar’s does have proven armament links with North Korea.

Asia-America, pragmatism rules: Donald Trump is engaging with Southeast Asia on new terms and it’s a gambit that so far appears to mirror China’s ‘no strings’ approach to assistance and diplomacy, writes David Hutt. The change reflects the pragmatic efforts of Trump’s Asia team to find diplomatic answers to strengthen America’s relationships in a region where nations increasingly lean towards China for economic sustenance and investments.

NK ferry halted: A North Korean ferry that recently began weekly sailings to Russia’s Vladivostok has ran into sanctions-related customs problems. Inga Denezh reports that strict UN sanctions on Pyongyang, because of its nuclear and missile program, have caused the Man Gyong Bong ferry to be declined authorization to depart from Vladivostok for North Korea’s Rajin port.

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China Digest for Thursday, 20 July 2017

National boost for ‘Made in China 2025’

The country will establish national-level demonstration areas for the “Made in China 2025” strategy that was designed to spur the development of smart, green and service-oriented manufacturing by furthering internet integration, the Economic Information Daily reported. Premier Li Keqiang said at the State Council executive meeting on Wednesday that foreign and domestic funded enterprises would be treated equally.

R&F Properties to buy Wanda’s hotels

Guangzhou based developer R&F Properties will buy 77 hotels for 19.9 billion yuan (US$2.95 billion) from Chinese property giant Dalian Wanda Group as part of the US$9.3 billion real estate deal announced a week ago, the Paper reported. Meanwhile, Wanda will now sell 91% of its 13 cultural projects to Tianjin based developer Sunac for 43.84 billion yuan, which was previously valued at 29.58 billion yuan.

Hefei bookshop finds niche in sharing economy

A bookshop in Hefei city, Anhui province is finding success in the super-hot sharing economy, by offering shared books, Caixin reported. Readers pay only 99 yuan as a deposit to take the book home. The bookshop has also set up a “Reading Scholarship” — readers are rewarded 1 yuan for reading one book and returning it on time, and reading 12 books in three months can earn an 8% refund of the deposit.

E-commerce killing traditional retail enterprises

Ren Ren Le, a supermarket chain based in Shenzhen, said in a statement that it will close down four stores, culminating in a loss of 70 million yuan, Caixin reported. Smashed by burgeoning e-commerce and increasing costs, the traditional retail enterprise said in its semi-annual report its net profit/loss is estimated in the range of 160 million to 120 million yuan.

Service sector drives economic growth

The number of workers in the service sector has increased 5.6% year on year, compared to a 4.9% increase in the secondary sector, Caixin reported, citing the National Bureau of Statistics. The service sector contributed 54.1% and 59.1% to gross domestic product and domestic economic growth in the first six months of this year respectively.

NDRC opens 44 projects for private investment

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has released 44 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects involving 28 provinces. The projects range from building a ring road in Hebei province to parking lots in Beijing. Yan Pengcheng, an NDRC spokesman, said 3,205 PPP projects worth 4.6 trillion yuan have successfully attracted private investment since 2016, the Economic Information Daily reported.

‘World Factory’ seeks better connectivity with major cities

Dongguan, a city in Guangdong province famous for manufacturing and known as “World Factory,” plans to strengthen its connectivity with Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Around 48.3 billion yuan will be invested to build three MTR lines linked to Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Also, a 86-kilometer-long urban rapid rail system from the city centre to downtown Shenzhen is expected to start construction in 2020, Yicai reported.

Shanghai utilizes negative list management

The Shanghai pilot free trade zone will continue using the negative list management approach to open up more sectors and further relax restrictions on foreign businesses, Yicai reported. Following the decisions of the Shanghai Standing Committee of the China People’s Political Consultative Conference, 11 pilot free trade zones, including Guangdong, Tianjin and Fujian, have implemented the revised foreign investment catalogue, which includes the negative list as well as sectors and industries that the government wants foreign firms to invest in.

CBRC disqualifies 109 senior banking execs in 2017

The China Banking Regulatory Commission has disapproved appointments for 109 senior executives at banks and financial institutions over the past year, according to the 21st Century Business Herald. Half of the executives didn’t pass the qualification exam, which requires familiarity with regulations and business operations.

First six months sees fewer good air days

The Ministry of Environmental Protection announced that 338 cities recorded good or excellent air quality on 74.1% of days in the first six months of 2017, a 2.6 percentage point year-on-year decrease, the Economic Information Daily reported. The density of hazardous fine particle matter PM2.5 remained unchanged from a year ago in this period.

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