Posted inBeijing, China, Japan, North Korea, Northeast Asia, Shanghai, South Asia

The Daily Brief for Thursday, 17 August 2017

An uncertain trajectory: What will North Korea do next? Pyongyang claims it has developed intercontinental missiles capable of hitting US targets, Christine Kim and David Brunnstrom write. Now it faces the challenge of perfecting a nuclear device small and light enough to fit on the missile without affecting its range. However, weapons experts say that to do that it needs to carry out at least one more nuclear test and more tests of long-range missiles. North Korea’s two tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile last month likely carried a payload lighter than any nuclear warhead it is currently able to produce. One way to have a lighter warhead would be to concentrate on developing a hydrogen bomb. Pyongyang’s claims to have tested one, but this has not been proven.

A game changer: What if Pyongyang uses advanced 3D printing technology to mass-produce rocket and nuclear-bomb parts? Doug Tsuruoka asks.
Terror groups and rogue states reportedly aim to tap the technology, and it may have already fallen into the wrong hands. The technology, which rapidly creates physical objects from three-dimensional digital models, is a game changer for North Koreans and others who want to reverse-engineer and make weapons of mass destruction in quantity. Analysts say signs are that North Korea is trying to acquire 3D printers for this purpose, or may have already.

Tightening the noose: Days after Manila and Beijing signaled a new modus vivendi in the South China Sea driven by joint energy development proposals, bilateral relations are once again under strain over Chinese vessels massing near a strategically sensitive Philippine-occupied island, Richard Javad Hyderian writes. Recent reports suggest China is tightening the noose around the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by deploying several naval and coast guard ships provocatively close to the feature in the disputed Spratly Islands. Despite a new negotiation track being opened for a “Code of Conduct” in the maritime area at the Asean summit, critics question whether President Rodrigo Duterte’s soft-pedaling on the issue is an effective strategy.

Big stage dreams: A partnership between composer and musical theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and one of China’s largest media and cultural conglomerates to develop the country’s musical theatre industry could see it outgrow Broadway in coming years, Richard Cook writes. The partnership will work to develop the industry by creating Chinese versions of Webber’s well-known stage productions. It will also offer training to help develop China’s dancing and acting talent, kicking off with a Chinese produced version of the Webber work, Tell Me On A Sunday. The show will tour China in 2018 with a modified Chinese-language and Chinese-produced version and a story that has the protagonist as a modern Chinese girl leaving Shanghai.

Yen for change? China’s Alibaba hopes that Alipay, its mobile payment platform, will become as popular among traditionally cash-oriented Japanese consumers as it has in China, Zara Hoffman writes. Ant Financial, the operator of Alipay, is planning to bring the platform to Japan under a new brand that will be connectable to Japanese bank accounts. The move says a lot about where Ant Financial hopes to take Alipay in the future. In particular, it appears that Ant wants Alipay to become a staple payment method outside of China, and it illustrates the transformation of Alibaba from a primarily Chinese company into an increasingly internationally focused firm.

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 inBeijing, China, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Japan, Northeast Asia, Shanghai, World

China Digest for Thursday, 17 August 2017

China Unicom brings in private investors

China’s top technology companies, including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, leading e-commerce group, ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing and others will invest 78 billion yuan (US$11.65 billion) in state-owned China Unicom, as Beijing seeks to bring in private capital to state-owned enterprises, Caixin reported. Ten private companies and four other state investors will buy 35.19% of the company’s shares, while China Unicom’s holdings will decrease to 36.67%, the report said.

Didi Chuxing in investment talks with Uber

Chinese ride-sharing company, Didi Chuxing, is said to be interested in a US$12 billion investment in Uber, Yicai reported. Other potential investors include US equity firms Dragoneer Investment Group and General Atlantic, as well as Japan’s SoftBank Group. Chinese internet giant Tencent has also shown interest in the deal, the report added.

Tencent exec wades into personal data dispute

WeChat, China’s leading messaging app, will not read, store or analyze personal chat records, Yicai reported, quoting Tencent vice president Ding Ke in an interview. The response follows a dispute with Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone maker, over the right to collect user data from Tencent’s popular app WeChat, which is installed on Huawei phones, the report added.

Smartphone games drive Tencent revenue

Hong Kong listed Tencent Holdings Ltd, China’s biggest gaming and social media firm, reached 106.17 billion yuan (US$156.7 billion) in mid-year revenue, a staggering 57% year-on-year jump, the Shanghai Securities Journal reported. Its net profit stood at 30.86 billion yuan (US$4.55 billion), a 43% yearly increase, mainly driven by higher income from smartphone games, payments and online advertising.

Court rules herbal tea brands share red can design

The Supreme Court issued a final judgment that two Chinese herbal tea brands, Wong Lo Kat tea and Jiaduobao, have contributed to the popular red aluminum can package, Sina Finance reported. State-owned Guangzhou Yangcheng Pharmaceutical, which owns the Wong Lo Kat trademark, and the Guangdong Jiaduobao Drink & Food company will now share the property rights of the packaging design, following a five-year legal dispute.

Shanghai housing loans hit new low in July

New personal housing loans in Shanghai dropped 2.1% year on year to 10.684 billion yuan in July, the Paper reported, citing data released by the People’s Bank of China. The amount has dropped for the eighth consecutive month and has hit a new low, as local governments tighten housing controls, the report added.

Office building supply surpasses demand in Beijing CBD

The vacancy rate of office buildings in the Beijing Central Business District (CBD) hit 6.8% in the past six quarters, mainly due to the China World Trade Center Tower III entering the market, Sina Finance reported. The vacancy rate is expected to peak between 2018 and 2019 since the CBD will embrace several new Grade A office buildings by then.

State Council promotes foreign investment

China’s State Council called for reducing restrictions on foreign capital access and encouraged foreign investors to expand their investment in China, the Paper reported. Practical measures include developing taxation support policies, facilitating the entry and exit of talent, optimizing the business environment and others, the report said.

Japan biggest market for China’s rare-earth metals

Rare-earth metal exports from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region reached 5,029.9 tons in the first half of 2017, a 30% year-on-year increase, while around 50% of the total amount entered the Japanese market, Sina Finance reported. Meanwhile, the average export price per ton slipped to 26.000 yuan, a sharp 44.2% yearly decrease.

Clean energy to secure main share by 2030

Natural gas and non-fossil fuels are expected to be the main sources of energy by 2030, Sina Finance reported, citing the 2050 World and Chinese Energy Outlook report. Renewables, such as wind and solar energy, are expected to grow at a steady pace to eventually replace fossil fuels, the report added.