The DailyBrief

Thursday December 15, 2016

The United States has not renewed a major aid package to the Philippines because of “significant concerns” about the rule of law under President Rodrigo Duterte, the US embassy said on Thursday. “This decision reflects the Board’s significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines,” embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina said in a statement emailed to Agence France-Presse after the country was not selected for a new Millennium Challenge Corporation grant. The previous five-year grant, which was worth US$433.9 million, expired in May this year.

Asian shares and currencies struggled on Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised rates for the first time in a year and hinted at the risk of a faster pace of tightening than investors were positioned for, Reuters reports. Yields on short-term US debt surged to the highest since 2009, sending the dollar to peaks not seen in almost 14 years. The Fed’s rate rise of 25 basis points to 0.5%-0.75% was well flagged, but investors were spooked when the “dot plots” of members’ projections showed a median of three hikes next year, up from two previously. Hong Kong also joined the party raising its base rate by 25 basis points to 1 percentage point.

More diplomatic rumblings emerge as China’s ambassador in the United States fires a veiled warning to US president-elect Donald Trump, Reuters reports. Ambassador Cui Tiankai on Wednesday said that China would never bargain with Washington over issues involving its national sovereignty or territorial integrity. Speaking to executives of top US companies, he said Beijing and Washington needed to work to strengthen their relationship. “The political foundation of China-US relations should not be undermined. It should be preserved,” Cui said.

China is throwing its weight behind sport as an engine of economic growth and elusive soft power, and with a market tipped to reach US$724 billion market by 2025, mixed martial arts is a prime target, writes Matt Eaton. Battle lines have been drawn as domestic, regional and American players are preparing for an MMA showdown to grab the biggest slice of market share in a fast-growing sport that appeals to men and women. Pedro Chan chats to two warriors from Tianjin in China with great ambitions to conquer the cage and claim more than one belt.

The executions of Nie Shubin and Jia Jinglong occurred more than 20 years apart, yet the Chinese authorities have used the plight of both men to send starkly different messages on the death penalty, writes William Nee from Amnesty International. Nie, who was executed in 1995 for rape and murder, received a rare posthumous exoneration earlier this month. Officials made much of how this wrongful execution had been corrected and that lessons had been learnt. This may seem like an advance for justice, but the authorities did not look kindly on another campaign this past month to spare the life of Jia. A frantic last-ditch effort on Chinese social media came to nothing. Jia, who killed a local village official, was executed on November 15.