Posted inAT Finance, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Middle East, Northeast Asia, Philippines, South Asia, South Korea, Vietnam, World

The Daily Brief for Thursday, 9 November 2017

Vietnam Apec summit: The Southeast Asian country is arguably more on the frontlines of four of the biggest risks facing Asia – China’s growing assertiveness, America’s inward turn, the prevalence of boom-and-bust cycles, and governments prioritizing the quantity of economic growth over quality – than any of its peers, William Pesek writes. As Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders tackle these challenges on November 10 and 11, they should be looking through the lens of a host country that is grappling with a lopsided and uncertain global environment – one that’s complicating its quest for middle-income nationhood. On the surface, all’s grand. Vietnam is seen meeting its 6.7% gross domestic product growth this year. Odds are that it will remain one of Asia’s star performers as new factories open and foreign-direct investment surges its way. Behind the headlines, though, is a financial system that seems to crash every five years or so and a rigid political system that has been slow to raise its microeconomic game to match the macro story.

Malaysian sectarian friction: Last month, the Southeast Asian country’s constitutional monarchs issued a rare statement expressing their collective concern over rising ethno-religious polarization, Nile Bowie writes. A string of religious controversies, which the sultans branded as “excessive actions,” have called the country’s traditionally moderate brand of Islam into question. Monarchical activism, dormant since being sidelined politically in the early 1990s, is rising again to push back against religious institutions that have steadily expanded their jurisdiction in favor of a narrow interpretation of Islam and Muslim identity. Support for a more politicized, conservative brand of Islam has grown in recent years under Prime Minister Najib Razak, especially following the 2013 general election in which the ruling United Malays National Organization’s delivered its worst-ever performance by failing to win the popular vote.

Philippines political culture: Powerful families have been a feature of politics in the Southeast Asian country for a long time, Michael Yusingco writes. At least 75% of the legislators in the country’s congress belong to political dynasties. For some political scientists, dynasties are not necessarily anathema to democracy. They say the entrenchment of strong political families is a byproduct of the people’s right to vote and the right to run for public office. However, for the Philippines, the domination of dynastic families in the country’s political system has become a serious threat to the very possibility of maintaining genuine political democracy. According to a ground-breaking study on political dynasties by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center in 2012, lower standards of living, lower human development, and higher levels of deprivation and inequality persist in districts governed by local leaders who are members of a political dynasty.

Philippines judiciary fears: As President Rodrigo Duterte applies pressure on Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign rather than face an impeachment trial, polls suggest that the top judge’s forced ouster could be a political breaking point, George Amurao writes. Many view the top court as the last law-based check and balance on Duterte’s controversial rule amid growing official pressure on the media, independent agencies and the political opposition. Pro-Duterte lawyer Lorenzo Gadon filed an impeachment case with the House of Representatives against Sereno in September for alleged violation of the Philippine Constitution, corruption and other high crimes, including betrayal of the public trust. The charges are based in part on Sereno’s alleged failure to report US$754,000 earned as a private lawyer representing the state in the Philippine International Air Terminals Company case in neither her officially mandated assets and liabilities and net worth statement nor to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Southeast Asia health: Fake pharmaceuticals are continuing to flood into clinics and hospitals across the region despite crackdowns by global counterfeiting hubs China and India, with suppliers simply crossing the border to less-regulated Mekong countries, Alan Boyd writes. The issue comes to light as global leaders descend on Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade promotion summit that starts in the city of Da Nang on November 10. How much difference enforcement measures will make is uncertain, as operations detect only a fraction of the estimated US$75 billion of illegal and fake drugs sold annually, which cost legitimate firms up to US$200 billion in lost business. One reason is the proliferation of online websites, usually unregulated, which sell directly to customers. In mid-September, policing agencies led by Interpol pulled down 3,584 websites and 3,000 online adverts for illicit pharmaceuticals in 123 countries as part of the annual Operation Pangea crackdown on fakes.

Teed off golfers: More than 300 unhappy linksmen in Hong Kong are seeking further compensation from China Travel International Investment, which abruptly closed its Shenzhen golf course last weekend, Ben Kwok writes. The golfers – mostly Hong Kong locals but also Koreans, Malaysians and other Asians – are seeking advice from local legislators to protect their rights against China’s largest travel agency. The row involves the CTS Tycoon (Shenzhen) Golf Club, which issued a notice to all members on November 1 that it would close all facilities on Monday – because it was asked to shut by Shenzen’s Bao’an District Government to be part of a zone protecting the source of drinking water in Tiegang reservoir. The company first received a notice ordering it to close in January 2015 but said it had tried to meet the government’s requirements. The closure was part of nationwide measures launched in 2004 to reduce the number of golf courses around the country.

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 Thursday, 9 November 2017

China’s financial sector welcomes a super regulator

China has set up a Financial Stability and Development Committee under the State Council and appointed Ma Kai, one of the four Vice Premiers of China, as the director, according to Xinhua news agency.

Ford, China’s Zotye Auto plan JV to build electric vehicles

Ford has announced a joint venture with Chinese firm Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. to build electric passenger vehicles in China under a new brand, Caixin reported on Wednesday.

Central bank adjusts car loans to boost green industry

Beginning January 1, 2018, the maximum proportion of loans for the purchase of self-use traditional powered vehicles will be set at 80%, reported, citing a notice jointly issued by the People’s Bank of China and the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

Alibaba Cloud and China Unicom launch first public cloud in Zhejiang

Wo Cloud, the first public cloud platform co-founded by Alibaba Cloud, and China Unicom, one of the largest state-owned telecommunications operators, was officially launched in Zhejiang province on Thursday, Caixin reported.