The DailyBrief

Friday February 3, 2017

Happy Birthday, everyone! For those in China, every person’s birthday falls on the seventh day of the Lunar New Year and in Vietnam it is even more special. The Communist Party of Vietnam celebrates its 87th founding anniversary on February 3. While there is no challenge to the party’s firm grip, internal divisions, governance issues and economic pressures are testing its claim of upholding an equitable and just socialist republic, writes David Hutt. Today, the regime is acutely aware its legitimacy depends on delivering an expanding economy, political stability and clean governance.

American mining giant Freeport McMoRan has challenged Indonesia’s mandated divestment and export bans, placing the fate of its Grasberg mine in the balance, writes John McBeth, who also discovers that local firms face the same problems their foreign counterparts have – setting up high-cost smelters for low returns. Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said it repeatedly at a recent briefing: “What we are trying to do is add value to our minerals for the benefit of the people of Indonesia. The goal of the government is to process all our natural resources.”

People globally should not be surprised at the shifting tide of American policy, but some are at the swiftness of US President Donald Trump’s actions in signing so many executive orders. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s combative remarks during his confirmation hearing that the United States would deny China access to its man-made island bases in the South China Sea caused a predictable furor, writes Grant Newsham. Few people seriously think the US is going to blockade the islands, but Tillerson’s comments and subsequent Trump administration statements suggest an abrupt change in longstanding US policy towards China.

On a another policy shift, Trump’s executive order barring US entry of migrants from seven mostly Muslim nations has generated plenty of criticism as well as voices of support. Our Spengler column explains why Mideast nations support the ban, while Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit Trump’s business advisory group under mounting pressure from activists and users over it.