Posted inAfghanistan, AT Finance, China, India, Middle East, Myanmar, Pakistan, Shanghai, South Asia, Vietnam, World

The Daily Brief for Tuesday, 24 October 2017

China party congress: In the final days of speculation as to who will be elevated to the country’s top echelon of power, the decisions have already been revealed – or so it appears, Christopher Scott writes. A leaked list of who will be appointed to China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), shows inclusive selections, defying widespread expectations that appointments would further consolidate President Xi Jinping’s power. Wang Yang, a reformer well liked in overseas circles and a vice premier in China’s State Council, as well as Han Zheng, the party secretary of Shanghai, will both ascend to the PSC, according to sources. The same sources said Wang will likely be named executive vice premier. The choices are representatives of China’s two main political factions, which observers sometimes refer to as the Youth League faction (Wang) and the Shanghai faction (Han).

South Asia diplomacy: It stretches credulity that Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishments were in the dark about the US-Canadian couple held hostage (apparently by Islamist militants) for five long years before being freed on October 11 by the Pakistani military, ostensibly acting on a tip-off from US intelligence, MK Bhadrakumar writes. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has, perhaps inadvertently, put a big hole through the Pakistani version of events by disclosing that the hostages were kept all along in Pakistan rather than Afghanistan. At the very least, there is much more to the rescue act by the Pakistani military than meets the eye. Political machinations are afoot in the episode, which is obvious from the fact that US President Donald Trump himself lauded the Pakistani military. However, the Americans, typically, are not pressing the point or asking uncomfortable questions and instead prefer to move on.

China constitutional amendment: The ruling Communist Party enshrined President Xi Jinping’s political thought into its constitution on Tuesday, putting him in the same company as Mao Zedong, and cementing his power ahead of a new top leadership reshuffle, Michael Martina writes. The party unanimously passed an amendment to include “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” as one of its guiding principles at the end of its week-long congress. The party is expected to announce its new Standing Committee, the apex of power in China, on Wednesday. The current committee is made up of seven people. Also included in the amended constitution was the party’s “absolute” leadership over the military, that the fight against corruption will continue, Xi’s “Belt and Road” development initiative, supply-side reforms, and giving play to the “decisive role” of market forces in resource allocation.

Vietnam currency re-denomination: The Southeast Asian country has the distinction of having the world’s biggest banknote, James Clark writes. Nowhere else in the world can you get a note for half a million of something. At the time of writing, 1 US dollar was equal to 22,728 dong. It takes US$44 to become a dong millionaire. Countries never start off with high denominations, and Vietnam is no different. The dong experienced rapid inflation during the 1980s. In 1986 the rate was 1USD/23VND, by 1987 it was 78VND, 630VND in 1988, and 4,500VND in 1989. Most countries that have had their currency inflate into high denominations eventually re-denominate. A contemporary model for Vietnam is Belarus. In 2016 the Belarusian ruble was re-denominated by taking four zeros off the currency. Before re-denomination, US$1 was about 20,000 rubles, making it comparable to the current dong. What was 10,000 BYR is now 1 BYN, so 1 USD is about 2 BYR.

Pressure on Myanmar: The United States is taking steps and considering a range of further actions over the Southeast Asian country’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority, including targeted sanctions under its Global Magnitsky law, Asia Times and Reuters report. “We express our gravest concern with recent events in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured,” the US State Department said in a statement. “It is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.” More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar since late August when Rohingya insurgent attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape.

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 inBeijing, China, World

China Digest for Tuesday, 24 October 2017

New national development fund to promote green finance

The Finance Ministry is working on a scheme to set up a national development fund for green finance, said Yang Weimin, deputy director of the Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, Xinhua news agency reported.

Global brands prepare for Double Eleven shopping day

International brands have shipped their popular products to warehouses in the China Bonded Area to prepare for the upcoming Double Eleven Shopping Festival, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

China can be a high-income country by 2023: economist

China will escape the middle-income trap and become one of the high-income countries recognized by the World Bank by 2023, said Xu Hongcai, an economist from the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

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