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The Daily Brief for Monday, 25 September 2017

Kurdish independence vote: There is no precedent in diplomatic history for the whole world closing ranks against the aspirations of a small people, let alone one that has governed itself admirably amidst regional chaos for the past generation, David P Goldman writes. However, on Thursday, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to warn of the “potentially destabilizing effects” of today’s independence referendum by Iraq’s eight million Kurds. Then on Saturday Turkey’s parliament renewed a mandate for the Turkish army to invade Syria and Iraq, and Ankara’s defense minister warned that the vote could collapse a “structure built on sensitive and fragile balances.” Supporting that view, the White House has warned that “the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat [the Islamic State] and stabilize the liberated areas.”

Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis: Neighboring Bangladesh’s Awami League government views the fleeing Muslim minority group as a national security risk due to the long history of militant activity along its border, Bertil Lintner writes. After a series of attacks carried out on August 25 by the shadowy Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and a fierce Myanmar army response that has forced a flood of over 400,000 refugees into Bangladesh, analysts are wondering whether Myanmar’s unfolding Rakhine state conflict will morph into a full-fledged insurgency akin to those long waged in the country’s northern and northeastern regions. The answer to that question will rely largely on who’s in power in Bangladesh after elections due to be held sometime next year and the level of outside support local Rohingya militants can muster from foreign allies to sustain and escalate their shadowy hit-and-run campaign.

Indonesia’s Rohingya dilemma: President Joko Widodo is under political pressure to react more forcefully to the spiraling humanitarian refugee crisis blamed on the brutal ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Muslim minority group, John McBeth writes. Stirred up by hardline Islamic groups who have always had an eye for issues that attract mainstream Muslim support, the controversy is something that can’t be ignored by a populist president looking to win a second term in 2019. But with Malaysia — already home to 60,000 Rohingya — reluctant to join in, and the rest of the Asean states sitting on their hands, Widodo has found it difficult to confront a problem that threatens to create an enclave of Palestine-like outcasts and spark wider Muslim-Buddhist tensions in the region.

North Korea sanctions: US President Donald Trump’s executive order last week authorizing the Treasury Department to target just about anyone, anywhere doing business with Pyongyang is a welcome improvement on the sieve-like sanctions against North Korea and near non-existent effort against the many countries that do business with the Kim Jong-un regime,
Grant Newsham
writes. The US government now has all the legal tools it needs to impose real sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom – and its aiders and abettors – and appears ready to use them. China, North Korea’s principal backer, needs to worry about forceful “secondary” sanctions in addition to penalties threatened under the Section 301 inquiry into improper Chinese trade practices recently authorized by Trump.

Serving HK’s maids: The underpaid expats have found their purchasing power shrinking due to inflation, but some businessmen have been able to make a fortune by serving their basic needs – sending money to their homeland, calling home and buying necessary goods, Ben Kwok writes. TNG Wallet, a Hong Kong-based mobile payment company, said more than 100,000 domestic workers – one in three – used the company’s services to wire money to their home countries. TNG reportedly wired some HK$400 million to the Philippines and Indonesia last month – so, it is definitely a lucrative business. Now, the first company focused on the activities of Filipino and Indonesian maids is set to be listed in Hong Kong. Mobile phone-card reseller Hong Kong Asia Holdings plans to debut on the city’s mainboard, thanks to the lucrative business it has with foreign maids working in Hong Kong.

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, 25 September 2017

Cost-performance of electric cars will dominate by 2025

The cost-performance ratio of electric cars will outperform fuel cars by 2025 at the latest, Caixin reported, citing Chen Qingtai, Chairman of China EV 100, at a forum on Sunday.

Regulators issue warnings to 47 New Third Board firms

At least 47 publicly traded companies listed on the New Third Board received cautions from the regulator for not releasing semi-annual reports on time without proper reasons last week, a severe breach of information disclosure rules, Yicai.com reported.

Property curbs in China signal desire to stabilize market

The two-day property curb crackdown that occurred in eight Chinese cities on Friday and Saturday was designed to stabilize the market, analysts told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday.

Positive outcomes expected for 937 publicly listed firms

As of Sunday, 1,225 publicly listed firms have released their performance notices for the first three quarters, with 75% of them, some 937 companies, reporting positive outcomes, according to Wind Terminal and reported by China Securities Journal.

Financial environment credited for SOE improvement

The current financial environment is the main factor for the improvement of the operating efficiency of China’s state-owned enterprises over the past year, Wang Tao, Chief China Economist of UBS, said in an interview with Yicai.com.

China and Russia agree to expand energy cooperation

Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli and Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Arkady Dvorkovich formally agreed to expand energy cooperation between the two nations at the 14th annual China-Russia Energy Cooperation Committee summit, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.