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The Daily Brief for Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Syrian conflict endgame: Three cities – Deir ez-Zour, al-Raqqa, and Idlib – will define how the country shapes up post-Islamic State, Sami Moubayed writes. Contrary to what many presume, very little fighting is now taking place on the streets of Syria, as key players edge towards under-the-table agreements. Over the weekend, Moscow hosted Sipan Hamo, commander of the powerful all-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, the last standing US-backed militia on the Syrian battlefield. It was the most senior visit by a Kurdish military official to Moscow since the Russian army joined the Syrian War in 2015. Hamo met with officials to discuss the future of Deir ez-Zour and al-Raqqa, two cities along the Euphrates River which – at time of writing – appear to be in their final hours of control by Islamic State.
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China Down Under: In Australia, Beijing’s power is exercised through a complex mix of influence-peddling, political donations, infrastructure development, agricultural purchases, media influence (both in Mandarin and English), oversight of Chinese students and plain espionage, Helen Clark writes. China is increasingly important to the Australian economy, but the terms of exchange are under growing scrutiny, including the largely misunderstood notion of China’s exercise of so-called “soft power.” As China’s influence grows, there is little that resembles traditional concepts of soft power, or overtures that entice others to voluntarily adopt a common viewpoint. That was witnessed in Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s warning this week to Chinese students enrolled at Australian universities to respect others’ freedom of speech after a series of incidents pitting students versus professors on touchy territorial issues related to China.
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Southeast Asia e-commerce: Industry titans Alibaba and Amazon are launching new ventures and acquisitions in a region projected to be the next high-growth frontier for online retailers, Nile Bowie writes. US-based Amazon and Chinese-run Alibaba, both formidable in their home markets with an estimated 60% and 80% share of online shopping respectively, are now vying for market supremacy in a region of over 600 million consumers. Though small with a population of just 5.7 million, Singapore is seen by global e-commerce firms as a testing ground for the viability of their operations in wider Southeast Asia, a springboard where services can be established and honed in preparation for entry into larger neighboring markets. A 2016 Google study predicted Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market would grow from US$5.5 billion in 2015 to US$87.8 billion by 2025, fueled by a rapidly expanding middle class and surging internet use.
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Beijing eyes Pyongyang: The stage for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has been carefully set, Xuan Loc Doan writes. Yet while China’s authoritarian leaders have the power to dictate that nothing and nobody at home will distract them during their week-long deliberations, they cannot control events beyond their borders. A country that could spoil China’s moment – and indeed President Xi Jinping’s party – is North Korea. Judging by recent precedent, Beijing has every reason to be nervous. Pyongyang has launched several missiles and conducted a huge nuclear test this year. And often, these occurred in the run-up to or during a national or international event important to China. Beijing, it can be assumed, is using all its leverage to make sure the country will not cause any distraction or interruption around the five-yearly congress.
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India security panic: Asia Times has learned that Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju lost his phone for a number of hours on October 7 while attending a concert in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, a state that has been riven by insurgency for almost three decades, Majid Hyderi writes. The minister uses his smartphone to access social media as well as email. Other “sensitive information” stored on it includes contact details for key party colleagues from the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party, and for top security officials. Luckily for Rijiju, a party colleague happened to pick up his phone after he had left the venue. Rijiju was in Kashmir to review the security situation.
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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

Posted inChina

China Digest for Tuesday, 17 October 2017

State Council to launch third national land survey

The Chinese government announced on Monday that the State Council has decided to carry out the country’s third national land survey starting from the fourth quarter of 2017, the China Securities Journal reported.

JD.com joins hands with China Sinopec to expand offline sales

JD.com and China Sinopec have signed an extensive cooperation agreement to further expand both parties’ offline sales, Yicai.com reported. According to the agreement, JD.com will settle in Sinopec’s 25,000 convenience stores throughout China.

Xuzhou marks ecological transformation from a coal city

Xuzhou, a hundred-year-old coal city in Jiangxu province, has transformed itself into the national model for environmental protection, with advances in national forest and ecological garden status via industrial transition, Yicai.com reported.

Wind power subsidies to halt in 3 to 5 years

China’s wind power industry will be independent from government subsidies in three to five years, said Liang Zhipeng, deputy director of the New and Renewable Energy Bureau at the National Energy Bureau, Caixin reported.