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The Daily Brief for Monday, 31 July 2017

Trump’s Iran contradiction: Russian military technology is reaching Tehran more freely than ever and with China viewing Iran as the regional hub in its Belt and Road Initiative, Tehran is doing a good enough job to resist Donald Trump’s attempts to isolate it. M.K. Bhadrakumar writes that there are also big contradictions in the Trump administration’s approach to Iran, because it is legislating sanctions while also certifying that Iran’s compliance with the important 15 July 2015 nuclear deal is satisfactory.

Tracks to Thailand: Despite the various Southeast Asian schemes underway to upgrade decrepit railways to high-speed routes, few are designed with a vision towards improving regional connectivity. Peter Janssen reports that some observers blame Thailand for failing to ensure that domestic railway projects in the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam region don’t all follow the same Thai-centric pattern.

Reprieve for Abe: The Japanese premier had a dismal week last week but it paled in comparison with the disarray in opposition ranks, writes William Pesek. Opposition leader Renho Murata, often touted as a future prime minister and one of the only women in Japanese history to run a major party, resigned to take responsibility for her party’s defeat in recent local elections and in doing so significantly shortened the odds on Abe living to fight on.

Still America first? The “free trade” wing of the Republican Party has taken the United States into a trade war that it can only lose, argues David Goldman. New sanctions against Russia passed by the House and Senate last week have forced Europe into a de facto alliance with Russia against the United States, and by extension with China as well.

What Western values? Nowadays, the West can be described as decadent because it is increasingly reluctant to allow its own vision of civil liberties and human rights shape its foreign policies owing to the potential commercial costs, writes Chris Patten. Such foreign-policy decadence threatens to undermine the EU’s claim to more than just a glorified customs union and the lessons from the 1920s and 1930s should show us all that such decadence can only make the world an increasingly dangerous and unstable place.

Asia Times app: The Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that will deliver the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. Asia Times Staff report that the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.

Posted inBeijingChinaShanghaiWorld

China Digest for Monday, 31 July 2017

China opens doors to foreign investment

China will roll out a work permit system for foreigners working in China, widen access for foreign talent and create a better business environment by opening up more sectors for direct foreign investment, the Securities Daily reported, citing Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council. China will also improve its legal system in relation to foreign investment while intellectual property rights will be better protected, Li said.

US$61 billion in National Social Security Fund

As of the end of June, Beijing, Shanghai, Henan, Hubei, Guangxi, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Anhui have signed contracts with the National Social Security Fund, commissioning a total of 410 billion yuan (US$ 61 billion), the Securities Daily reported. Of that total, 172.15 billion yuan have already been transferred for investment, while the remaining funds will be in place accordingly for each contract, the report added.

Nation’s steel industry enjoys bigger sales margins

Sales margins in China’s steel sector reached 3.04% in the first half of 2017, significantly higher than the 0.97% figure in the first half of 2016, Caixin reported, citing data released by the China Iron and Steel Association. The growth is “a reflection of market demand” as steel production in the rest of the world has also grown significantly, it said.

CSRC to tighten controls on suspensions

The China Securities Regulatory Commission will impose stricter supervision on licensing suspensions of listed companies, Sina Finance reported, quoting Chang Depeng, a CSRC spokesperson. The move is intended to tackle serious damage to investors due to long-term suspensions of listed companies, the report added.

Xi backs push toward ‘world class’ military

President Xi Jinping attended Sunday’s military parade celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at the Zhurihe training base in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the National Business Daily reported. Xi delivered a keynote speech at the parade stressing the need for a “world-class” military. Many of the weapons on show had never been seen by the public before, it added.

New regulations on charity fundraising

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said that resorting to financing help via the internet couldn’t be treated as charity fundraising or donations, unless providers confirmed the authenticity of information, the Paper reported. Two sets of regulations on charity fundraising and donations via the internet will take effect on Tuesday, urging that personal financing limits should be implemented for various fundraising platforms.

Residency incentive for renters in Wuxi

East China’s Wuxi said citizens who rent homes within certain limits can get local hukou, or registered permanent residence, the Paper reported. Citizens should pay for social insurance and hold at least five years temporary residency in Wuxi before making an application, it added. Second tier cities are stepping up to promote local registered permanent residency, including central China’s Zhengzhou, east China’s Yangzhou and Jinan.

Hebei to shut fossil fuel power plants

Hebei Province will close 34 fossil-fuel power plant units that generated 684 thousand kilowatts by the end of October, the Paper reported. Hebei is planning to upgrade to thermal power plants in an effort to improve local air quality, which has suffered many smoggy days and is reportedly much worse than Beijing’s air quality.