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The Daily Brief for Monday, 23 October 2017

China and Japan: Asia’s nostalgia for strongmen is on graphic display as the region’s two biggest economies give their toughest leaders in generations even more power, William Pesek writes. Japan’s Shinzo Abe yesterday won a resounding popular mandate, moving him closer to fulfilling his dream of becoming the nation’s longest-serving prime minister. Chinese President Xi Jinping just got the formal go-ahead to solidify his place as the mightiest chief since at least Deng Xiaoping – perhaps even Mao Zedong. This should be good news for Asia’s outlook. After all, both Abe and Xi now have carte blanche to upend vested interests, get the state out of the economy and, to differing degrees, recalibrate growth engines away from exports to services. But this is not necessarily the case when you examine how both Abe and Xi have exercised power these last five years and their immediate priorities. The truth is, Asia’s current batch of strongmen haven’t proved to be very strong when it comes to economic retooling.
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Tokyo defense planning: Despite murmurings of a nuclear-armed Japan nobody quite believes it will happen, Grant Newsham writes. A longstanding tenet for Japan watchers is that Japan is allergic to having nuclear weapons, owing to having been bombed with them twice – in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, on closer examination, Japan’s nuclear allergy might be psychosomatic. Japan’s aversion to nuclear weapons perhaps has less to do with the weapons themselves, and more to do with the catastrophe Japan endured during World War II. Japan suffered around 3 million military and civilian deaths during the war. Adjust for population size and this would be as if the US suffered around 6 million dead – versus the 300,000 military personnel killed and near zero civilian casualties. It’s easy to forget all this – and it does put Japanese attitudes toward defense (not just nuclear weapons) into a certain perspective. One fairly asks what would be American attitudes toward defense if the US experienced something similar?
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Korean Peninsula crisis: There’s currently an easing in the escalation between the US and North Korea, coinciding with the latter’s anniversary celebrations of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Andrew Brennan writes. This is a perfect time to revisit the potential conflict zone, take a breath, and reflect on America’s fascination with and manifestation of this bogeyman. The US has been fixated on North Korea ever since the latter entered the Soviet sphere of influence. The policy of containing communism and the domino theory designated North Korea’s existence as an affront to US capitalist democracy. Since then the US corporate media has portrayed North Korea as a threatening bogeyman to the United States. This has culminated in great hysteria over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal, inflating the minuscule number of warheads it possesses and certifying a delivery system that is unlikely to be able to initiate a pre-emptive strike. Objectively, North Korea has sought a nuclear deterrent against a nuclear superpower that has repeatedly threatened nuclear and conventional attacks, even prior to Trump.
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Trump’s China visit: It has been widely reported that the White House has been busy preparing a comprehensive strategy for the US president’s trip in November, George Koo writes. Advocates of a confrontational approach come from the Steve Bannon school of international thinking who see the former Trump adviser as a 21st-century Paul Revere warning America of the coming economic war with China. But any student of Econ 101 knows that the notion of an economic war between the US and China is preposterous. Much of the militant right-winger’s arguments rest on the charge that China has gained unfair possession of corporate America’s intellectual property. It’s true that, in the 1980s and 1990s, China’s economy was tiny compared with America’s and the quality of its technology was far behind. Therefore, as a matter of national policy, China insisted that, in certain critical industries, foreign companies wishing to invest in China had to form joint ventures, with foreign ownership not exceeding 50%. However, it is not fair to accuse China of coercing foreign companies into handing over their know-how and trade secrets.
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Syria ‘mission accomplished’: A fresh round of talks in Astana and a Russian-hosted opposition mini-conference next month indicate that the Kremlin has a free hand in molding the shape of things to come, Sami Moubayed writes. By the end of this year, Syria will be free of Islamic State, apart from small pockets that will disappear with time. This month alone, major progress has been achieved, as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces overran al-Raqqa, the former capital of the Islamic State, and it is only a matter of time before troops retake the last standing ISIS stronghold of Albukamal, on the Syrian-Iraqi border. On that day, Russian President Vladimir Putin will have achieved what he set out to with his Syria intervention back in September 2015: to rid the country of armed jihadist groups, while empowering his allies in Damascus. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently said that with the demise of ISIS, his country’s military operation in Syria “is about to be completed.” In other words, it’s time for a serious political process, one that either complements the ongoing but stalled UN-backed Geneva talks, or replaces them altogether.
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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

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Posted inChina

China Digest for Monday, 23 October 2017

Four new organizations to set up after Party congress

Four new organizations will be set up after the 19th Communist Party Congress, covering the areas of law-based governance, ecology protection, veteran management and Party disciplinary inspection, Renmin.com reported.

Ministry official says rise in home prices effectively curbed

The housing market in China is steady and healthy on the whole, said Wang Menghui, head of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Yicai.com reported.

Seven railway bureaus kick off corporate reform

Seven out of 18 railway bureaus under the administration of China Railway Corporation, the national railway operator, have begun the process of reform toward restructuring to a company system, The Paper reported.

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.