The DailyBrief

Wednesday February 8, 2017

In his bid to rebuild American infrastructure after decades of neglect, Donald Trump may discover he needs Japanese and even Chinese help, writes Doug Tsuruoka. The US president has pledged to pour US$1 trillion into rail upgrades, roads, bridges, power grids, pipelines, ports and airports. However, the cutting-edge technology and expertise required no longer resides in the US. By contrast, China and Japan have sunk billions into state-of-the-art infrastructure and are now among the leading exporters of advanced transport, port and infrastructure technology.

A panic over nothing: that’s what Asia Times’ Business and Finance Editor Steve Wang has to say about China’s foreign exchange reserves dipping below US$3 trillion for the first time in six years. The US$3 trillion has only psychological significance, he writes. In reality, China still has the world’s largest exchange reserves despite recent declines, and continues to enjoy massive trade surpluses on a monthly basis.

Capital is fleeing Thailand. As Asia Times’ Southeast Asia editor Shawn W. Crispin reports, Bank of Thailand figures show rising outflows that threaten to limit the effectiveness of the military government’s fiscal push. The junta has been pumping money into trains, roads and other mega projects, but Thai companies and individuals are increasingly sending their funds overseas, signalling to some analysts a lack of local confidence in the country’s economic direction under Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s rule.

Saber-rattling from Donald Trump and his administration about the existential threat posed by Iran is pointless, writes Asia Times’ roving reporter, Pepe Escobar. With America seemingly bent on disrupting Eurasian integration via prying Russia from China in a new Kissinger-inspired power play, any attempt to antagonize Iran will simply alienate Moscow and Beijing both. And it will do nothing to aid Trump in his putative war against Islamist terror.