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The Daily Brief for Friday, 21 July 2017

Sanctions? What sanctions? North Korea’s economy grew at its fastest pace in 17 years in 2016, despite the isolated country facing international sanctions aimed at curbing its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Christine Kim reports that Pyongyang does not publish economic data but South Korea’s central bank figures say gross domestic product in the North last year rose 3.9% from the previous year and this expansion, driven by mining and energy, marked the biggest rise since 1999.

Russia’s eastern boom: The Russian Far East is experiencing a boom and has attracted more than US$36 billion in direct investment, with more than 95% of this coming from the private sector, writes Alexander Ohkrimenko. Vladivostok will soon host this vast area’s third annual Eastern Economic Forum and Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East, Alexander Galushka, explains what is attracting business, investment and tourism — from Asia-Pacific and beyond — to the region.

Indian caste reforms? Ram Nath Kovind’s landslide Presidential victory comes at a time when attacks on low caste “dalits” in India are on the rise and although the office of president is largely ceremonial, there are hopes he can spur social reforms. E Jaya Kumar writes that President-elect Kovind thanked his voters by saying he would represent all hardworking people and humbly recalled a childhood spent in a leaky mud hut in Uttar Pradesh.

Duterte’s rule unchecked: The Philippine leader has asked his government to extend martial law until the end of 2017, a move that will give priority to security over civil liberties and further consolidate his strongman rule. George Amurao writes that despite Duterte’s critics saying the Marawi ISIS crisis has wound down from its chaotic height and contend the tough-talking leader is playing on popular fears, his request is expected to pass through Congress in the coming days.

Vietnam’s billion-dollar hole: It’s unclear where Hanoi will find the US$480 billion it needs to finance on-going infrastructure projects and sustain near-term fast growth, writes David Hutt. Vietnam has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates in Southeast Asia, averaging nearly 7% in recent years, but rising GDP has not translated to improved state finances and it seems these sort of budgetary issues are not ones that the Communist Party’s financial planners are well-equipped to deal with.

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China Digest for Friday, 21 July 2017

China eyes global status on AI development

China aims to see its artificial intelligence (AI) industry reach the same level as global leading powers by 2020 and surpass its rivals by 2030, the Economic Information Daily reported, citing the national plan issued by the State Council. AI would drive domestic industrial upgrades and economic transformation by 2025, it added.

CBRC relaxes qualification for debt issuing

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) has relaxed rules for Chinese commercial banks on issuing debts to complement capital, Caixin reported. Among the requirements of debt issuance eliminated: that banks have no violations of law or regulations as well as any major case record due to internal management omissions, within the last three years.

Rules tightened on insurance firm capital injections

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission has released the second draft of regulations on insurance company equity on Thursday, Caixin reported. In the new version, the CIRC can take any measures if it discovers that insurance companies or their shareholders have used their premiums for capital injection, or commit false capital injection by using fake documents.

House renting plan kicks off in 12 pilot cities

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) said in a joint statement with eight other state departments that it would accelerate development in the house renting market in cities with large population flow, the Shanghai Securities Daily reported. The MOHURD picked 12 cities as pilot zones, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, to encourage state-owned enterprises to turn into house-leasing oriented companies.

Three SOEs rank in Fortune 500 top ten

The State Grid, Sinopec Group and China National Petroleum ranked among the top three Chinese companies on the Fortune Global 500 list, an annual ranking of the world’s largest corporations by revenue, Sina Finance reported. The three state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were listed as the second, third and fourth largest corporations respectively on the list.

Alibaba and Tencent break US$300 billion value

The market value of Alibaba and Tencent, the two big Internet companies in China, have both exceeded US$300 billion during the past week, the Paper reported. Tencent, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, broke the key line of HK$300 per share on Thursday. While Alibaba, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, broke its own record of US$150 per share.

Record jump in Shenzhen’s Class A office projects

Five Class A office building projects totalling 574.4 thousand square meters of property entered the Shenzhen market in the first six months this year, pushing up the city’s property record to 4.01 million square meters, Yicai reported, citing research by DTZ real estate services. Class A official buildings will reach 70 thousand square meters in Qianhai District in 2017, while 910 thousand and 1.26 million square meter increases are projected for 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Ant Finance adds 11 funds to new platform

Ant Finance, the fintech arm of the Alibaba Group, introduced 11 more fund companies to use its newly developed feature called “Fortune Accounts,” on Thursday. The fund companies, including China Asset Management and Hua’an Fund Management, can sell their own investment products on its wealth-management app, Ant Fortune. The combined assets on the platform, which included 7 fund companies previously, are expected to constitute half of China’s fund industry, the Paper reported.

Zhejiang province ‘richest’ in disposable income

The average per capita disposable income of national urban residents hit 33,616 yuan (US$4,975) in 2016, a 39.3% jump compared to 2012, Yicai reported. All cities in east China’s Zhejiang Province exceeded the average figure, reaching 47,237 yuan as the richest among coastline provinces.

Former CSRC head suspected of bribery

Yao Gang, former deputy chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, is suspected of abusing his authority and accepting bribes. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has registered the complaint and launched an investigation, Caixin reported. Yao has been deprived of his Communist Party membership and dismissed from his post.