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The Daily Brief for Monday, 28 August 2017

Insurgency gains momentum: In an exclusive interview with Asia Times, Myanmar’s Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) said its August 25 surprise attacks on police and army posts were staged in “self-defense” and would continue until the rights of the Rohingya Muslim minority group are restored, Mike Winchester writes. A militant official who identified himself simply as “Abdullah” said the campaign of Myanmar military suppression and the rebel counter-punch has now pushed the majority Muslim northern region of Rakhine state into a state of “open war.” Involving what one Myanmar military count estimated at around 1,000 insurgents, the coordinated wave of attacks marked a dramatic improvement in ARSA’s tactical capabilities when compared with its first attacks on October 9 last year.

South China Sea: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is playing down reports that China has occupied another contested land feature, Sandy Cay, close to the Philippine-occupied island of Thitu, but his defense establishment is calling for a tougher stance, Richard Javad Heydarian writes. Security analysts see China’s build-up on the nearby contested Scarborough Shoal as the third vertex of a triangle of emerging Chinese military bases that aims to establish control of the strategic waterway. The influential Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a key architect of the Philippines’ landmark arbitration award against China last year at The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, has described China’s latest move as nothing short of an “invasion of Philippine territory.”

ISIS losing ground: Iraqi forces have retaken almost all of Tal Afar, Islamic State’s stronghold in the country’s northwest, Thaier Al-Sudani and Kawa Omar write.
After just eight days of fighting, all 29 neighborhoods in Tal Afar city had been taken back from the militant group, the military said on Sunday. However, fighting was ongoing in al-‘Ayadiya, a small area 11 km northwest of the city, where militants who fled the district’s city center were hiding out, a spokesman explained, adding that troops were waiting to retake the area before declaring complete victory in the offensive.

US Navy mishaps: The collision of the USS John S McCain with a cargo ship near Singapore last week and a similar event involving another 7th Fleet destroyer near Japan two months earlier were more than just unfortunate accidents, Grant Newsham writes. Rather, they highlight more fundamental problems facing today’s increasingly stretched US Navy as it struggles to cope with emerging operational challenges.The US Navy has shrunk from nearly 600 ships to around 275 vessels over the last 30 years, but its Asia-Pacific operations have increased markedly to meet threats posed by an aggressive China and a blustering North Korea.

‘Peaceful pressure campaign’: North Korea’s firing of three ballistic missiles last week was a provocative act, the US Secretary of State said on Sunday, but he assured that the United States will continue to seek a peaceful resolution, Reuters reports. “We do view it as a provocative act against the United States and our allies,” Rex Tillerson said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. “We’re going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign as I have described it, working with allies, working with China as well to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table.”

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.

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China Digest for Monday, 28 August 2017

Restrictions eased on foreign access

China will relax restrictions on foreign access of new energy vehicles, international maritime transport and 12 other key areas, the Securities Daily reported, citing information released in a State Council policy briefing. The next step will be relaxing foreign capital restrictions on banking, securities and insurance, the report added.

Li Keqiang touts manufacturing upgrades

China will implement a new innovation-driven development strategy and promote the upgrade of its manufacturing industry, Yicai reported, citing Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council, in an industry meeting. The strategy includes eliminating backward production capacity, developing high-end producer services and accelerating the training of various professional and technical personnel.

Stock exchanges must be strong regulators: Liu Shiyu

Stock exchanges should act not simply as trading platforms, but also as market organizers, operators and self-regulators, the Securities Daily reported, quoting China Securities Regulatory Commission Chairman Liu Shiyu. China’s capital market, especially equity financing, has made great progress, but the entire financing system still “has great room for improvement,” he said.

Beijing to build ‘green’ car-sharing network

Beijing launched its first car-sharing demonstration zone on Sunday in Shijingshan District, with 200 vehicles to share. The number will increase to 600 by the end of this year, the Paper reported. In the next three years, Shijingshan District will gradually build a car-sharing operating network surrounding the idea of environmental protection and energy conservation, the report added.

Haidilao at centre of kitchen sanitation scandal

Popular hotpot chain Haidilao will have its outlets in Beijing inspected by the city’s food safety authorities after an undercover media sting revealed rats infesting a kitchen and a dishwasher caked with oily food residue, Caixin reported. The city will also begin a two-week long citywide restaurant check on hygiene and sanitation, targeting both the chain’s outlets and food suppliers, it said.

Macao suspends package tours till August 30

The China National Tourism Administration has suspended package tours to Macao until August 30 following extensive damage to the region from typhoon Hato, Caixin reported. The 13th typhoon this year, Hato killed nine people and injured 153 in Macao as the city issued its first signal 10 typhoon warning since returning to China in 1999. Four out of 64 major hotels in Macao were still without water or electricity as of Saturday afternoon.

US$4.5 billion AI hub sets off in SE China

E-commerce giant JD.com has struck a deal with China’s southeast Dongguan government to build an artificial intelligence (AI) hub in Fenggang county over the coming four to six years, Sina Finance reported. JD.com would invest 30 billion yuan (US$4.51 billion) to boost e-commerce business, AI manufacturing, cloud computing and big data. The 540,000-square-meter hub is expected to see an annual output value of 40-billion-yuan, contributing an estimated 3-billion-yuan in tax yearly.

Hainan sees first crude oil imports from the US

South China’s Hainan port has imported 24,830 thousand tons of crude oil from America, Sina Finance reported. It was the first shipment to Hainan after the US ended a 40-year ban on exporting crude oil to China at the end of 2015. The deal enriched varieties of crude oil imports to Hainan, which normally relies on Africa, the Middle East and Russia.

Private equity amounts to US$1.5 trillion

At least 20,110 private equity agencies have registered with the Asset Management Association of China, managing 58,734 PE funds worth approximately 9.95 trillion yuan, the Economic Information Daily reported. The number of registered venture investment funds totalled 3,299, with a value of 462.7 billion yuan, a 53.9% and 26.8% increase compared to the end of 2016.