The DailyBrief

Monday August 14, 2017

Fire and fury: The “Black Swan” scenario, triggered by a pre-emptive US attack on North Korea resulting in growth shocks, devastated supply chains, sharp currency gyrations and skyrocketing US debt that alters the trajectory of global living standards, is one of two possible outcomes of the rhetorical arms race between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, William Pesek writes. The second, and most likely, eventuality is a proxy war on the economic front between Trump’s “America First” policy and a Chinese president calling Washington’s bluff. However, the threat of the Black Swan scenario is looming larger as salvos of jingoistic rhetoric fly over Guam.

China loses steam: Industrial output, investment, retail sales and trade all grew less than expected last month, after the world’s second-largest economy put in a surprisingly strong showing in the first half, adding fuel to a global recovery, Elias Glenn and Ryan Woo write. Lending costs rose and the gravity-defying property market cooled, though activity levels generally remained solid, propped up by a year-long construction spree. Economists do not expect a hard landing, with the government keen to ensure stability ahead of a once-in-five-years Communist Party leadership reshuffle in the autumn.

Semblance of normality: First launched back in 1954, the Damascus International Fair was always a much-celebrated annual event that attracted businessmen and investors from across the Arab world and beyond, Sami Moubayed writes. The fair was forever cemented into the collective psyche of the Damascenes, a nostalgic reminder of the “golden years” of Syrian democracy and the economic boom of the 1950s. Twenty-one countries will participate in this year’s event, which after a six-year absence is due to kick off in the war-torn country’s capital on August 17. While China and Russia will send prominent commercial delegations to the showcase investment event, the US, France and Great Britain will all be notable no-shows.

Japan takes off: The world’s third-largest economy grew in the second quarter at the fastest pace in more than two years as consumer spending and capital expenditure both rose at the fastest in more than three years, highlighting stronger domestic demand, Stanley White and Leika Kihara write. The country’s gross domestic product expanded an annualized 4.0% in April-June, government data showed, more than the median estimate for 2.5% annualised growth and the biggest increase since January-March 2015.

Border clash averted: A military standoff between Cambodia and Laos appears to have been defused, David Hutt writes. Lao and Cambodian troops have since February confronted one another at key crossings and military outposts that dot the two nations’ 224-kilometer border in what was viewed as a mild escalation of a longtime territorial dispute. On Friday, however, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ratcheted up tensions when he issued a stern warning to the Lao government, accusing it of occupying parts of Cambodian territory and threatening military action. On Saturday morning, amid escalating tensions, Hun Sen met Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, who agreed to withdraw his troops. While a military clash has been averted, the political and economic drivers behind the dispute have not been resolved.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that will deliver the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. Asia Times Staff report that 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.