The Daily Brief

Thursday, October 19, 2017


China’s debt woes: Headlines from the 19th National Congress unfolding in Beijing this week focus on Xi Jinping’s vision for a “new era” in the next five years of his presidency, William Pesek writes. What’s really happening, though, is an elaborate campaign to hide the financial risks that face the country. President Xi’s big talk of giving market forces a “decisive role” is belied by his intensifying war on the global media, the internet and mainland gateways to information flows. Xi’s efforts to use the internet and big data to control the domestic narrative make China less transparent, effectively turning Asia’s biggest economy into more of a Black Box. It means that when China’s debt reckoning arrives, it may come out of nowhere for investors and governments alike. Beijing also faces runaway local-government debt – which in recent years topped Germany’s annual gross domestic product – and a shadow banking system that generated tens of trillions of dollars of credit since the 2008 global crisis. READ THE STORY HERE


Myanmar refugee repatriation: Despite the continued exodus to Bangladesh, the embattled and increasingly maligned Aung San Suu Kyi, the Southeast Asian country’s de facto leader, announced plans on October 12 for a comprehensive resettlement of some of the Rohingya who have fled the conflict in Rakhine state, David Scott Mathieson writes. Suu Kyi, who has established a humanitarian assistance, resettlement and development body to address the crisis, outlined three priorities: repatriation of those who have crossed over to Bangladesh and the effective provision of humanitarian assistance; resettlement and rehabilitation; and economic development for Rakhine state that leads to durable peace. However, the announcement doesn’t once mention the security forces who have driven out over half a million people in one of the swiftest forced population transfers in recent history. READ THE STORY HERE


Indonesian race politics: Newly inaugurated Jakarta Governor Anies Baswaden has started off on the wrong foot by reigniting the religious and ethnic controversy that paved the way for his victory over Basuki “Ahok” Purnama, his ethnic Chinese-Indonesian predecessor currently serving jail time for alleged blasphemy, John McBeth writes. In a speech after he was sworn in, the former education minister triggered a storm in the press and on social media by declaring it was time for pribumi (indigenous Indonesians) “to be the hosts in our own land.” With his supporters unfurling a banner reading “The success of Anies-Sandi [running mate Sandiaga Uno] is a Symbol of the Rise of the Muslim Pribumi,” Baswaden, 48, who is of mixed Arabic blood, went on: “We worked hard to get rid of colonization and we must enjoy our freedom.” Critics say the overall implication of his statement was that anyone who isn’t pribumi cannot call themselves Indonesian – this in a country whose national motto is “Unity in Diversity.” READ THE STORY HERE


Kim Jong-nam murder: The trial of two women charged with assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother has raised as many questions as proceedings have so far answered about a bizarre crime few independent observers doubt Pyongyang ordered and executed, Nile Bowie writes. Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong, 28, are charged with murdering Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February by smearing his face with a highly toxic VX nerve agent. Four suspects on the lam mentioned in the prosecution’s charge sheet are presumed to be North Koreans who have fled the country. A Malaysian government chemist has testified he found around 1.4 times the lethal dosage of VX nerve agent on the victim’s body and detected the substance on the clothes both women wore on the day of the attack. The suspects claim they thought they were participating in a reality TV show when they approached the victim. READ THE STORY HERE


US defense planning: It was a really good bet in the 1980s and a pretty good bet in the 1990s, but is stealth – a means of making an aircraft significantly less visible to radar – the way to go in the 2020s? Stealth has two primary uses in fighter aircraft. It allows aircraft to get around air defense radars and enemy fighters because the radars can’t see the stealth aircraft, Stephen Bryen writes. And it makes it easier for a stealth aircraft to detect and kill a non-stealth aircraft because it can strike before the other one knows it is even “there.” If the US goes ahead and buys the full, planned fleet of F-35s, the program will be the costliest in modern aviation history, with a lifespan cost of around US$1.5 trillion and counting. Stealth design information is a collection of closely guarded secrets, but even with special measures in place, it is becoming apparent that much of that guarded information has been leaked. 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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