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The Daily Brief for Monday, 16 October 2017

Russian arms transfers: Moscow’s sale of a better defense system to the Saudis than to its “ally” Iran is consistent with the pattern of its attempts to influence outcomes in the region, David P Goldman writes. Iran, habitually characterized as Russia’s “ally” in Western media, was permitted to purchase a much older and inferior Russian system, the S-300. But Saudi Arabia, as well as Russia’s Cold War adversary Turkey, will buy the far more advanced S-400, which is considered a “game-changer” and is highly effective against the sort of cruise and ballistic missiles that Iran will be able to field over the next several years. Russia does not have the wherewithal to replace the United States as a regional hegemon, but it does have considerable means to affect the balance of power through carefully calibrated weapons sales to the opposing Persian Gulf powers.
READ THE STORY HERE

Iran nuclear deal: While everyone was focused on what US President Donald Trump had to say on Friday regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, what got overlooked is that he also unveiled a brave new Iran strategy for the post-Islamic State era, MK Bhadrakumar writes. Trump’s Iran strategy is a dream project for Saudi Arabia and the UAE – and for Israel. It may seem like a relaunch of the old enterprise to contain Iran, built around an alliance system involving the US and its regional allies. But the circumstances today are different. The US and its allies stare at defeat in the Syrian conflict and are circling their wagons to stave off an ignominious rout with long-term consequences. Faced with Iran’s surge, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are willing to proclaim a convergence of interests with Israel.
READ THE STORY HERE

China invasion threat: US think-tank researcher Ian Easton argues in his new book that China has never abandoned its plans for attacking Taiwan, should it feel this necessary to achieving eventual “reunification” with the mainland, Richard A Bitzinger writes. Easton was able to acquire and translate leaked Chinese classified papers and piece together Beijing’s plans for an invasion. China, he argues in The Chinese Invasion Threat, would likely begin with a naval and air blockade of Taiwan, followed up by missile strikes on key island infrastructures, including airfields, ports, command and control centers, etc. A new wrinkle on the 1990s-era invasion scenario entails the use nontraditional attacks, such cyber-strikes and electronic warfare designed to take out Taiwan’s computer, early-warning, and communications networks, as well as psychological warfare conducted against the Taiwanese people.
READ THE STORY HERE

Southeast Asia security: Antiterror officials say 671 Indonesians joined Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, with an unknown number set to return home with extreme ideas and tactics, John McBeth writes. With the IS stronghold of Raqqa on the brink of falling, counterterrorism officials are still in the dark over how many, if any, Indonesian fighters have survived the caliphate’s collapse and are headed back to light a fire under a percolating terrorist movement at home. About 100 IS fighters have surrendered over the past few days, leaving an estimated 300-400 still holding out in the battered town, many of them foreigners who are likely to fight to the death rather than face justice for war crimes. In the most detailed breakdown yet, Indonesia’s Detachment 88 anti-terrorist unit noted recently that 97 of the 671 Indonesians who are documented to have gone to Syria and Iraq since 2014 have so far died in the conflict.
READ THE STORY HERE

Working for vampires? A Hong Kong-listed company has made headlines for paying its staff to give blood, not for the Red Cross but for its own medical research,
Ben Kwok writes. In a circular, China Regenerative Medicine International called on its more than 500 staff in Greater China, including those who work at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, for voluntary blood donations to facilitate scientific tests for its cell-storage business. In return, donors will get a HK$200 (US$25.60) nutritional subsidy and a day off, possibly as compensation for the slightly painful exercise. There will be further announcements of future donation opportunities later. The company insists it is not a “commercial deal” because even the Red Cross offers little gifts to its donors to show its appreciation.
READ THE STORY HERE

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, 16 October 2017

PBOC’s Zhou says China will maintain proactive fiscal policy

Zhou Xiaochuan, President of the People’s Bank of China, said that the nation will continue to implement a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy, and continue to fight shadow banking, the real estate bubble and other risks, China Securities Journal reported.

Thai property market lures Chinese buyers

For land investments in Southeast Asia, most Chinese buyers are attracted to the red-hot property market in Thailand, the 21st Century Business Herald reported. According to data released by real estate agents, in the third quarter of this year, Thailand accounted for 70% of total real estate inquiries among Southeast Asian countries.

China’s Engel’s coefficient nears UN well-off line

China’s “Engel’s coefficient” reached 30.1% in 2016, a decrease of 2.1% from 2012, which is considered close to the well-off line of 20% to 30% set by the United Nations, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Yicai.com reported.

New batch of SOE reform may focus on energy sector

The third batch of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to undergo mixed ownership reform is under study and will be released soon, said Xiao Yaqing, head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the Securities Daily reported.