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The Daily Brief for Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Look away, Dixieland: If US President Donald Trump thought he could divert attention from the appalling events in Virginia by slapping China, he was mistaken, William Pesek writes. Much like his conspicuously slow disavowal of racist protesters who terrorized the city, Trump’s decision to direct Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to probe America’s deficit with China is too little, too late. While it does make for great optics for the reality-TV president, China has changed so much since the 2001 window through which Trump is peering that the economic merits of such a move are questionable.

Cast into disarray: Pakistan celebrated its 70th Independence Day amid rising political polarization as ruling and opposition political parties joust over the supremacy of parliament and proposed plans to curb the powers of the influential military and judiciary, FM Shakil writes. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, or PML(N), has been cast into disarray since the Supreme Court disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif on asset concealment charges, setting the country’s rival parties on a collision course. Will the military eventually step in?

Eye on China: Heralding deeper and stronger bilateral cooperation in the South China Sea, the United States is sending an aircraft carrier to Vietnam next year, the first such US visit since the end of the Vietnam War over four decades ago. Helen Clark writes. Hanoi’s willingness to host an American naval vessel signals a possible shift in the strategic balance in the South China Sea. Vietnam is striving to diversify its defense relations with an eye on China’s island-building and militarization of nearby sea features. In recent months, Vietnam has deepened its defense cooperation with India and Japan, both strong US regional allies.

Cybersecurity violations probe: WeChat, Weibo and search engine Baidu, China’s top social-media marketing platforms, are being investigated by the Cyberspace Administration of China for allegedly spreading content related to “terrorism, fake rumors and pornography,” which may have violated the country’s cybersecurity law, Yiling Pan writes. Setting off the investigation were reports and complaints by Chinese online users who claim there was illegal content circulating on the sites.

Top pimp sentenced: After a three-year trial, the man known as the king of China’s sex industry has been sentenced to life in prison for bribery and running the “Dongguan sauna,” a notorious prostitution operation, Ben Kwok writes. In addition to his life term, Liang Yaohui, a former member of the National People’s Congress who once made the rich people’s list, will have all of his properties seized.

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.

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China Digest for Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Guangzhou to step-up land supply for housing

Guangzhou hopes to supply 3,200 hectares of residential land between 2017 and 2021, of which a quarter will be allocated for rental use, Caixin reported, citing an official plan released by the Guangzhou City Land Resources and Planning Committee. Analysts believe that government-provided rental land operated by state-owned enterprises could become the new model for the industry and might be expanded throughout the country, the report said.

Real estate sales see steady decline in Beijing

Beijing’s real estate sales have sagged 40.9% year on year, from January to July, China News reported, citing data from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics. It is the sixth consecutive month that the number has seen a decline. The data likely reflects that Beijing’s control policies have taken effect, the report said.

Executive shake-up at troubled LeEco

Chinese tech company LeEco appointed 11 new executives on Tuesday in a major company shake-up, the Paper reported, citing an official announcement. The exchange of blood follows the aftermath of Luang Jun’s promotion to CEO in May this year, when a series of rapid changes began within the company, the report said.

Gao Jisheng nets majority stake in Southampton FC

Gao Jisheng, chairman and founder of China’s Lander Sports, has successfully acquired an 80% stake in the Southampton soccer club, Sina Finance reported. Gao paid 210 million pounds (US$272 million) for the Premier League squad, and has passed relevant requirements for potential ownership, the report added.

Business as usual for QR code payments: SAFE

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said it has not suspended overseas QR code payments, the Economic Information Daily reported. Recent media reports suggested that SAFE closed such services for foreign exchanges in all payment institutions. In fact, SAFE said it will to continue to uphold cross border e-commerce services to improve the financial sector and prevent potential risks.

NDRC backs special bond issues

China will encourage qualified corporations to issue special bonds for market-oriented debt-to-equity swaps to further the development of the nation’s home leasing business, Yicai reported, citing an official announcement from the National Development and Reform Commission. It will also work to actively prevent risks and improve the efficiency of its service, the announcement added.

Solid growth in foreign-funded enterprises

The number of newly established foreign-funded enterprises hit 17,703 in the first seven months of the year, a 12% year-on-year increase, the Economic Information Daily reported. These enterprises utilized a total foreign investment of 485.42 billion yuan (US$72.62 billion), a 1.2% yearly decrease. The high-tech manufacturing industry saw 37.39 billion yuan in foreign investment, an 8.3% yearly jump that marks continuous growth.

Chinese firms tally US$57.2 billion in FDI

Chinese companies have invested US$57.2 billion in foreign direct investment into 4,411 overseas companies in 148 countries in the first seven months of the year, the Economic Information Daily reported. Chinese investors have also raised US$7.65 billion in 50 countries along the Belt and Road development strategy, taking 13.4% of China’s total FDI.

Clean energy vehicle sales power up

Sales volume of hybrid and electric vehicles hit 56,000 in July, a startling 55.2% year-on-year increase, the China News reported. Sales volume of electric cars amounted to 45,000, a 70.2% yearly jump, capturing more than 80% of the clean energy vehicle market. Sales volumes of hybrid and electric vehicles reached 251,000 in the first seven months this year, a 21.5% year-on-year increase.