Posted inAT Finance, China, Japan, Middle East, North Korea, Northeast Asia, Russia, Singapore, Syria, Thailand, World

The Daily Brief for Wednesday, 23 August 2017

US increases pressure: Washington on Tuesday imposed new North Korea-related sanctions, targeting Chinese and Russian firms and individuals for supporting Pyongyang’s weapons programs, but stopped short of an anticipated focus on Chinese banks, David Brunnstrom and Doina Chiacu write. The US Treasury designated six Chinese-owned entities, one Russian, one North Korean and two based in Singapore. The sanctions also targeted six individuals — four Russians, one Chinese and one North Korean. China reacted with irritation, saying Washington should “immediately correct its mistake” of imposing unilateral sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals to avoid damaging bilateral cooperation.

Just say no: A recent spike in suspected extrajudicial killings in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s populist anti-drug campaign has sparked a potentially potent backlash, Jason Castaneda writes. Recent weeks have seen a troubling spike in the number of suspected extrajudicial killings in his increasingly reckless drive against illegal drugs. Within a span of days, as many as 91 suspected drug users were killed in Metro Manila and the neighboring Bulacan region. However, a growing number of Duterte’s supporters have expressed their disgust and dismay on social media, while even his most loyal supporters in the legislature have called for a thorough investigation, with some openly condemning the latest spate of killings.

Syrian fighters defecting: Ahrar al-Sham, once hailed as one of the more moderate — and potent — military groups on the Syrian battlefield, is disintegrating rapidly and there is nothing its Turkish backers can do to save it,
Sami Moubayed
writes. Ahrar al-Sham once boasted nearly 20,000 fighters and played an instrumental role in every single rebel victory against government troops during the years 2013-2015. Turning a blind eye to one of its founder’s ties to al-Qaeda and its desire to set up an Islamic state, many in the West pinned high hopes on it, seeing it as a potential player in the future of Syria, especially after its troops joined in the fight against ISIS and agreed to support a political endgame to the Syrian conflict. However, over the past 10 days, massive defections have been recorded from Ahrar al-Sham. Hundreds are fleeing Ahrar camps and joining Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a rebel coalition headed by Ahrar’s former ally, Jabhat al-Nusra.

Ex-PM behind bars? A Supreme Court verdict due on August 25 could see former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra going to jail for ten years for alleged “negligence” in her management of a loss-making rice price support scheme before the military toppled her elected government in a May 2014 coup, Richard S Ehrlich writes. A ruling, either way, could determine Thailand’s future stability under a junta trying to justify its legitimacy and maintain the peace between her supporters and opponents. The National Anti-Corruption Commission charged Yingluck with allegedly failing to stop massive financial losses after her government paid farmers — her key constituents — much more than international market prices for 20 million tons of rice to boost their living standards. The 50-year-old says she is innocent.

Navy career sinks: The commander of the US Seventh Fleet was reportedly relieved of his command on Wednesday, Reuters reports. Vice-Admiral Joseph Aucoin’s Japan-based fleet has suffered four recent collisions in Asia and the deaths of a number of sailors. In the latest incident, on Monday, the USS John S McCain and the tanker Alnic MC collided near Singapore, tearing a hole in the warship’s side and flooding compartments that included a crew sleeping area. An international operation to locate ten sailors reported missing continues.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, 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, Shanghai

China Digest for Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Baidu and CITIC to launch first independent direct bank

The China Regulatory Banking Commission has approved the establishment of Baixin Bank, a joint investment of China CITIC Bank and Internet giant Baidu that will offer direct banking services, the Paper reported. It initiates the first independent direct bank in China, which will offer services remotely via online and telephone banking with no branch networks.

New financing guarantee service rules disclosed

New regulations for financing guarantee companies to be implemented October 1 include the provision that these firms must have at least 20 million yuan in registered capital, the Paper reported. Also, outstanding liabilities guaranteed by a company should not exceed 10 times its net assets, the reported added. The State Council said it would boost financing guarantee services for small and micro businesses and the rural sector in the meantime.

Baidu selling food delivery service for $US500 million

The Shanghai-based food-ordering platform will take over Baidu’s food and beverage delivery service,, in a deal valued at around US$500 million, Caijing reported. Baidu will assume 5% of and is expected to run independently for another year after the transaction, a Yicai report added.

China’s Great Wall automaker eyes bid for Jeep

Great Wall Motors, a Chinese automobile manufacturer, is looking at buying Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)’s Jeep unit, Caixin has reported. Adam Jonas, analyst from Morgan Stanley, estimates that the Jeep unit is worth US$33.5 billion, while the entire FCA is valued at US$32 billion. Insiders are unsure if the Chinese specialty SUV maker has the ability to handle the acquisition, as its total revenue for the first half of 2017 was 41.3 billion yuan, with a net profit of 2.5 billion yuan.

Real estate giant acquires 5% of Evergrande

Chinese Estate Holdings, one of Hong Kong’s major real estate developers, disclosed in its semi-annual report this week that it has bought 5% of Evergrande Group on the open market between April and July, an expenditure of HK$8.1 billion (about 7 billion yuan) . The company said it will consider offering dividends to its shareholders if share prices reach a satisfactory level, Caixin reported. Shares in Evergrande soared to a record high last month.

Two SOEs to merge with China Poly Group

Two state-owned enterprises, Sinolight corporation and China National Arts & Crafts Group, will be integrated into China Poly Group and become its wholly owned subsidiaries, the Economic Information Daily reported. The number of SOEs under the direct supervision of State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council will decrease to 99 after the integration, the report said.

NDRC approves 22 more infrastructure projects

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has given its approval to 22 fixed-asset investment programs in July, for a total of 165.5 billion yuan, the Economic Information Daily reported. The programs are mainly in the area of energy, water conservancy, transportation and high technology. By the end of June, infrastructure projects have attracted 9.9 trillion yuan in investment and 659 of them have started construction.

China Railway to buy 500 next-gen ‘Fuxing Hao’ trains

China Railway plans to purchase 500 new generation 350 km/h high-speed “Fuxing Hao” trains from the China Railway Rolling Stock Corp (CRRC), the Paper reported. Details of the purchasing contract haven’t been disclosed yet, the reported added. Construction of the “Fuxing Hao” train took three years and involved 20 companies.

Shenzhen and Guangzhou lead trade values

Total import and export values stood at 13.14 trillion yuan (US$1.97 trillion) in the first half of 2017, a 19.6% year-on-year increase and the fastest half year growth since 2011, Sina Finance reported, citing data from the General Administration of Customs. Import and export values in Shenzhen and Guangzhou amounted to one trillion yuan, around one seventh of the total national value.

Beijing expands ‘no-go’ area for diesel trucks

Diesel trucks with Beijing licences are banned from using the fifth ring road from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., while trucks without local licences are forbidden to enter the sixth ring road between 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., according to newly released regulations, Caixin reported. The move is aimed at improving the city’s air quality and to achieve the target of reducing the annual average concentration of PM2.5 atmospheric particulate matter to 60 mg per cubic meter.