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The Daily Brief for Monday, 14 August 2017

Fire and fury: The “Black Swan” scenario, triggered by a pre-emptive US attack on North Korea resulting in growth shocks, devastated supply chains, sharp currency gyrations and skyrocketing US debt that alters the trajectory of global living standards, is one of two possible outcomes of the rhetorical arms race between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, William Pesek writes. The second, and most likely, eventuality is a proxy war on the economic front between Trump’s “America First” policy and a Chinese president calling Washington’s bluff. However, the threat of the Black Swan scenario is looming larger as salvos of jingoistic rhetoric fly over Guam.

China loses steam: Industrial output, investment, retail sales and trade all grew less than expected last month, after the world’s second-largest economy put in a surprisingly strong showing in the first half, adding fuel to a global recovery, Elias Glenn and Ryan Woo write. Lending costs rose and the gravity-defying property market cooled, though activity levels generally remained solid, propped up by a year-long construction spree. Economists do not expect a hard landing, with the government keen to ensure stability ahead of a once-in-five-years Communist Party leadership reshuffle in the autumn.

Semblance of normality: First launched back in 1954, the Damascus International Fair was always a much-celebrated annual event that attracted businessmen and investors from across the Arab world and beyond, Sami Moubayed writes. The fair was forever cemented into the collective psyche of the Damascenes, a nostalgic reminder of the “golden years” of Syrian democracy and the economic boom of the 1950s. Twenty-one countries will participate in this year’s event, which after a six-year absence is due to kick off in the war-torn country’s capital on August 17. While China and Russia will send prominent commercial delegations to the showcase investment event, the US, France and Great Britain will all be notable no-shows.

Japan takes off: The world’s third-largest economy grew in the second quarter at the fastest pace in more than two years as consumer spending and capital expenditure both rose at the fastest in more than three years, highlighting stronger domestic demand, Stanley White and Leika Kihara write. The country’s gross domestic product expanded an annualized 4.0% in April-June, government data showed, more than the median estimate for 2.5% annualised growth and the biggest increase since January-March 2015.

Border clash averted: A military standoff between Cambodia and Laos appears to have been defused, David Hutt writes. Lao and Cambodian troops have since February confronted one another at key crossings and military outposts that dot the two nations’ 224-kilometer border in what was viewed as a mild escalation of a longtime territorial dispute. On Friday, however, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ratcheted up tensions when he issued a stern warning to the Lao government, accusing it of occupying parts of Cambodian territory and threatening military action. On Saturday morning, amid escalating tensions, Hun Sen met Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, who agreed to withdraw his troops. While a military clash has been averted, the political and economic drivers behind the dispute have not been resolved.

Asia Times app: 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 inBeijingChengduChinaGuangzhouShanghai

China Digest for Monday, 14 August 2017

Beijing banks raise mortgage rates

Several banks in Beijing have adjusted the mortgage rate for first-time home buyers by 15% above the benchmark mortgage rate, while major state-owned banks in Guangzhou raised the rate by 5 percentage points, Sina Finance reported. Also, mortgage rates for a second home increased by 15% above the benchmark rate in Guangzhou. The Shanghai Municipal Commission of Construction and Administration said it would put forward rules on changing unsold commercial homes into homes for residential leasing.

Chengdu invests US$90 million in Smartisan

The investment arm of the Chengdu government has invested 600 million yuan (US$90 million) into smartphone maker Smartisan, according to a report by Caixin. Half of the injection will come in equity financing, the other via debt financing, the report said. The company told Caixin that it raised another 300-400 million yuan in private investments, although the income sources were not revealed, according to the report.

Central bank increases oversight on currency market

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said on Friday that banks with more than 5 billion yuan (US$750 million) in market capitalization will have to include their interbank deposits into the so-called MacroPrudential Assessment (MPA) starting from 2018, according to the Shanghai Securities Journal. The MPA is PBOC’s framework for assessing banks’ capital adequacy ratios, liquidity and risk, among other things.

Users of Yu’ebao to see US$15,000 upper limit

Tianhong Asset Management Co Ltd, one of China’s largest fund companies, said it would lower the upper limit on personal accounts using Yu’ebao, a popular online money market fund under Alipay, to 100 thousand yuan (US$15,012), Xinhua Finance reported. Tianhong Fund, which manages Yu’ebao’s assets, has lowered the upper limit twice within four months. The regulation won’t affect existing users, the report added.

JD.com says wifi user’s details are secure

Internet company JD.com said on Saturday night consumers’ wifi details, including their passwords, are “securely transmitted” through the HTTPS protocol, the Paper reported. The company has come under fire recently after internet users revealed “proof” that its devices were uploading consumers’ wifi details to the company’s network, the report said.

New licence plates for hybrid and electric vehicles

A new set of licence plates will be put forward for hybrid and electric vehicles in ten major cities starting in November, the National Business Daily reported. The newly launched licence will be coordinated with the car tax system, insurance, penalties and charges to help benefit vehicles of clean energy. Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuxi, Jinan and Shenzhen have already put the new licence into use in pilot zones, while expansion to remaining cities is set for 2018.

China’s ACG sector not quite red-hot

While investment in China’s Anime, Comics and Games (ACG) sector is heating up, the over-the-counter (OTC) NEEQ, better known as New Third Board exchange, has experienced a more mixed picture. Winsing Animation leads the list of OTC stocks that did well with a 74% increase in net profit year on year, but other companies such as Dancing CG Studio saw losses of more than 3 million yuan (US$450,000) last year, according to the Securities Times.

Beijing subway to accept smartphone payments

The Beijing Subway said it would open all lines to smartphone payments on Monday, Sina Finance reported. Citizens will be able to use 160 types of smartphones which support near field communications (NFC) — a magnetic communication between devices by touching together — to pay for a metro ticket. The IPhone is not included in the service due to incompatibility with the public transportation sector.

Next-gen Maglev train completes test run in Shanghai

The newest generation of middle-to-low-speed magnetically levitated train has successfully completed a test run of 120 kilometers per hour in Shanghai, the Paper reported. The advanced Maglev train, which produces little noise and has better climbing ability and energy efficiency, is expected to begin construction within one year, according to the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation Group.