China’s Jack Ma: The mercurial 53-year-old founder of China’s Alibaba Group spent nearly 20 years somersaulting his way through the technology shifts that transformed the company into one of the world’s biggest enterprises, Doug Tsuruoka writes. But as such changes continue to shake China and the rest of the world, stirring larger political and economic questions, speculation is growing about Ma’s future. Has he become too powerful in China? Will his wings be clipped? How close is he to President Xi Jinping? Is he harnessing technology to destroy China’s old economy? What is Ma trying to achieve in Washington, and what are his real goals in life and business?

Asian manufacturing output: Factories cranked up activity in September as a synchronized upswing in growth globally pointed to solid consumption of manufactured goods heading into the lucrative end-of-year shopping season, Shri Navaratnam writes. However, pockets of weakness in regional economies are likely to keep Asian central banks slanted towards more accommodative monetary policy, even as their Western counterparts move to scale back stimulus. China’s central bank on Saturday cut the amount of cash that some banks must hold as reserves for the first time since February 2016 in a bid to encourage more lending to struggling smaller firms and energize its lackluster private sector.

Asean’s cybersecurity challenge: Long accused of complacency over the economic toll of cyber breaches, Southeast Asian governments are starting to make all the right noises on enhanced safeguards – but there are still few signs that the vulnerable business sector is getting the message, Alan Boyd writes. The Southeast Asian bloc’s 10 members last month agreed on the need for increased regional dialogue, more effective regulatory systems and improved resources. It is one of several priority pillars for market integration under the Asean Economic Community and a blueprint for securing information infrastructure by 2025. Financial and electronic customs payments systems are getting the most attention. Cyber watchdogs say that many of these systems have little or no defense against criminal actions, information theft by foreign governments and a host of other online intrusions.

China’s cyber-warfare expansion: Beijing views cybersecurity and national security as equals, and a war between China and the US, if it ever occurs, will witness many cyberspace duels, Zi Yang writes. Chinese mastery in cyber-warfare was without a doubt on General Joseph Dunford’s mind when as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff he named China as the greatest future threat to US security at a congressional hearing last week. The general’s fears are well-founded. Serious cases of hacking in recent years have demonstrated China’s growing cyber-warfare capability. In the past few months, China announced grand plans to expand its dominance massively in the cyber realm. To address a shortage of cyber experts, the Central Cyberspace Affairs Leading Group and the Chinese Education Ministry issued a joint decree in August formalizing a set of rules on establishing first-rate cybersecurity schools.

Pakistan’s Russia shift: As US President Donald Trump, sailing under the flag of populist nationalism, throws internationalism to the wind, a post-American world order seems to be in the offing, Ume Farwa writes. American partnerships and alliances around the world are changing and no more so than in Pakistan whose ties with Russia are experiencing a new cordiality. High-level visits between both countries are making the news, and on September 25, elite Russian and Pakistani military commandos began two-week-long joint counterterrorism exercises. After tracing the history of their bilateral ties, it’s evident that the reluctant romance of Islamabad and Moscow usually begins when Pakistan-US ties are frayed, and ends when those ties are mended.

Catalonia independence referendum: Fascist Franco may be long dead, but Spain is still encumbered with his dictatorial corpse, Pepe Escobar writes. A new paradigm has been coined right inside the lofty European Union, self-described home/patronizing dispenser of human rights to lesser regions across the planet: “In the name of democracy, refrain from voting, or else.” Call it democracy nano-Franco style. Nano-Franco is Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose heroic shock troops were redeployed from a serious nationwide terrorist alert to hammer with batons and fire rubber bullets not against jihadis but … voters. At least six schools became the terrain of what was correctly called The Battle of Barcelona.

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.