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The Daily Brief for Thursday, 3 August 2017

Path to power: Seiko Noda, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pick for internal affairs minister, bears watching, William Pesek writes. A trailblazer her entire career, she could provide the impetus for policy changes that finally allow Japan to tap its female talent. The 56-year-old lawmaker from Gifu Prefecture challenged Abe for the Liberal Democratic Party leadership in 2015 and might do so again in 2018, putting herself on a path to become Japan’s first female prime minister.

Sino-Indian border row: The Chinese Foreign Ministry has released a position paper laying out the “facts” in relation to the six-week-old standoff with India in the Sikkim region, MK Bhadrakumar writes. What could be the motivation in bringing out such a document? First and foremost, China hopes to influence international opinion – and embarrass India. While New Delhi has remained silent, Beijing has put itself on the front foot, throwing down the gauntlet over India’s ties with Bhutan and leaving the Indian side guessing as to the state of play in the China-Bhutan dialogue.

Persona non grata: Germany announced it would expel Vietnam’s ambassador and intelligence chief from the country after a Vietnamese asylum-seeker was allegedly kidnapped by Vietnam’s secret service on the streets of Berlin, David Hutt writes. Trinh Xuan Thanh fled his country last year after allegedly causing a state-owned petroleum firm to lose almost US$150 million. Earlier this week, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security told local state-media that Thanh had voluntarily returned to Hanoi and turned himself in to the police. This was later contested by the German government, which asserted that he was abducted in Berlin and then forcibly taken back to Hanoi.

That sinking feeling: Southeast Asian seafood consumption is about double the global average, but falling catches, unsustainable aquaculture and poor governance have imperiled the crucial industry, Alan Boyd writes. Escalating tensions over fishing rights in the South China Sea – Indonesia’s navy fired shots at a Vietnamese fishing vessel in late July – may be a harbinger of stormy seas ahead as more trawlers cast their nets in contested waters.

“China threat” theory: The mainland’s growing economic, geopolitical and military strength has many Americans, particularly those in the neoconservative and liberal camps, worried, and for good reason. Thanks to missile technology, a war with China could be fought on US, Australian and UK soil as well as China’s. Risking a nuclear holocaust just to “keep China in its place” or maintain Anglo-American dominance is beyond reason, asserts Ken Moak.

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.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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China Digest for Thursday, 3 August 2017

China Unicom joins e-commerce partnership

China Unicom, one of three state-owned telecommunication giants, will work with its potential mixed ownership reform partners, Tencent and Alibaba, to set up an e-commerce cooperation center in Shenzhen and Hangzhou, Caijing reported. The two centers have already started to recruit. The mixed ownership scheme for China Unicom is expected to be settled in mid-August.

Cross border e-commerce booming

The volume of cross border e-commerce transactions totalled 1.2 trillion yuan in 2016, a 33.3% year on year increase, the Economic Information Daily reported, citing data from the China e-Business Research Center. China’s express delivery business has ranked top of the world since 2014, while its volume hit 31.38 billion in 2016, compared to 5.7 billion in 2012, it added.

US$259 billion bond quota for 2017

Insiders say 1.74 trillion yuan (US$259 billion) in Chinese municipal bonds are expected to be issued this year, including projects similar to US debt securities to finance capital for public services, the National Business Daily reported. Bond projects issued by local governments in 2017 stand at 800 billion yuan, while a 940 billion yuan quota was left from 2016.

Cities see slump in July home deals

Home deals in 29 major cities decreased 26% year on year in July, the Economic Information Daily reported, citing data from the China Index Academy. First tier cities decreased 46.02% year on year, with Beijing and Guangzhou dropping over 50% to lead the slump.

LeEco pays off US$7.44 million in loans

LeEco has paid 50 million yuan (US$7.44 million) in loans to the China Construction Bank and is actively negotiating with the bank on the remaining 200 million yuan debt to resolve the situation, Caixin reported. The move comes after a Beijing court approved the China Construction Bank’s application to freeze 250 million yuan in assets of former LeEco chairman Jia Yueting on Wednesday.

MasterCard to launch two-dimensional code payment

MasterCard will start a two-dimensional code payment pilot in Hong Kong in 2018, expanding to Thailand and Indonesia by the end of this year, Caixin reported. As the Alipay and WeChat-led two-dimensional code payment system has incompatible standards, MasterCard’s prospects are believed to have more potential, said the report.

Hong Kong the next Asian gaming center?

Hong Kong shows promise in becoming the future Asian gaming center, Caixin reported, citing a PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Though mainland China is more advanced in cultivating IT professionals and developing gaming design, Hong Kong can still make use of its advantages, including holding professional and international competitions and events, the report said.

Wanda Group adds health industry branch

Chinese property developer Dalian Wanda Group has added a new health industry branch to its four existing industrial branches (business, culture, network and finance), and shifted all business management functions of the culture group to the newly established health group, the Paper reported. The move follows an announcement in late July that the group agreed to sell its cultural and tourism projects and hotel assets, the report said.

China expands oversight of overseas investing

Proper financial management must stem from a thorough pre-investment decision-making process, followed by a post-investment performance evaluation process for all state-owned enterprises looking to invest overseas, Caixin reported, citing an announcement from China’s Ministry of Finance. The move is meant to lessen financial risks and improve the efficiency of overseas investments, the report said.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.