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The Daily Brief for Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Trump’s Great Game: Since the US president announced last week a new plan for Afghanistan that involves a greater role for India in the war-torn country and accused Pakistan of providing “terrorist havens,” Islamabad has been struggling to construct an effective strategy in response, FM Shakil writes. While rejecting accusations that it harbors terrorists, Islamabad knows two things: that it cannot fully abandon support for militant groups because they provide a bulwark against India and that its economy still depends significantly on the US. Analysts predict that Washington’s policy of isolating Pakistan could push it closer to Russia, China, Turkey and Iran, dooming to failure US efforts to help the Afghan government bring stability and peace to the region.

Arms transfer intrigue: It is unclear whether India has quietly delivered its sophisticated BrahMos supersonic missile system to Vietnam, a sensitive procurement that would tilt the power dynamics and spike tensions in the South China Sea, where Hanoi is jousting with Beijing over contested maritime areas and rights to mineral resources, Helen Clark writes. Soon after Vietnam’s state-controlled media reported the sale, India issued a clarification saying no such agreement had been reached. Hanoi issued a broad statement on improving bilateral defense ties with India via their comprehensive strategic partnership, but didn’t refer specifically to the missile sale. Adding to the intrigue, Vietnamese media reported that Hanoi had not only purchased but already taken delivery of the 6,000-pound supersonic weapons.

Top piracy hotspot: The Sibutu Passage between Malaysia and the Philippines, used by more than 13,000 ships a year, has emerged as Asia’s most dangerous waterway in the past six months as Islamic terror groups target seaborne trade, Alan Boyd writes. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have started joint patrols against pirates terrorizing shipping in the deepwater passage, but limited resources and legal obstacles are already rocking the boat. Bounties offered for cargo and crew abductions by splinter groups of the Philippine terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf, based on the southern Jolo and Basilan islands, have made armed gangs more brazen.

‘Pro-Hitler’ comment clarification: After drawing criticism from the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in the US, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday retracted a remark to lawmakers of his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that could be interpreted as a defense of Adolf Hitler’s motive for genocide, Asia Times and Reuters report. Aso, who is also the finance minister, said he had wanted to stress the importance of delivering results, but not defend Hitler. “It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that.” The incident followed a June apology by Japan’s central bank over a board member’s praise for Hitler’s economic policies.

Death ‘curse effect’: A Hong Kong apartment, situated opposite the scene of a bizarre multiple homicide nearly two decades ago, has sold for 25% less than the average in the rising market, Ben Kwok writes. Strong superstitions surrounding death mean property values in Hong Kong can drop significantly in the event of a tragedy, creating opportunities for bargain hunters. A buyer snapped up the 517-square-foot home in Kowloon Bay for HK$4.63 million (US$591,646), which agents said was the lowest price for a two-bedroom unit this year.

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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Posted inBeijingChinaChongqingShanghai

China Digest for Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Shenzhen seeks advice on new housing regulations

Shenzhen issued new housing regulation drafts in order to support standardized development of its leasing market, the 21st Century Business Herald reported. The drafts are now seeking further advice from the public, groups and various departments. As a first-tier city with constant shortages of land resources and the largest leasing market size throughout China, Shenzhen has shown “great determination in increasing its rental housing supplies,” the report said.

China moves to regulate ICO tokens amid concerns

The cumulative financing scale of China’s domestic Initial Coin Offering (ICO) has reached 2.616 billion yuan in the first half of this year, Yicai reported, citing an official report. The rapid development of this new type of internet financing model has aroused concerns from China’s top regulator. The China Securities Regulatory Commission has recently started seeking opinions on regulating ICO projects, especially those with the potential of scams and frauds, Yicai reported, quoting a top executive in China’s blockchain technology business.

Funds post more than US34 billion combined profits

A total of 5,769 publicly offered funds posted a combined profit of 225.19 billion yuan (US$34.13 billion) for the first half this year, a sharp increase from a loss of 232.69 billion yuan in the same period last year, China Securities Journal reported, citing figures from Chinese brokerage TX Consulting Investments. The bump in profits has been led by currency funds, of which the 596 funds posted 79.41 billion yuan in profits for the first six months this year, the report said.

China’s advanced 5G network set for adoption in 2020

China’s three main telecommunications companies are proceeding smoothly with a 5G pilot in major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, the state-owned Economic Information Daily reported, citing unspecified sources close to the telcos and the communications ministry. From the later half of this year, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom will start the 5G pilot in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Nanjing, Suzhou and Ningbo, the report said. Around 10 cities from provinces such as Jiangxi, Hainan, Shanxi, Shandong, Hebei will also be selected for the pilot.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.