The DailyBrief

Monday August 21, 2017

Hidden political agenda: It is has become clear over the past two months that the border showdown between India and China on a remote plateau in the Himalaya mountains is not really about China building a road in a disputed area, Bertil Lintner writes. When China is involved in a confrontation near or across its frontiers there is always a hidden political agenda. China is attempting to drive a wedge between Bhutan and its traditional ally India, China’s main and traditional geopolitical rival. The sources of China’s frustration with New Delhi include its reluctance to join its One Belt One Road infrastructure development initiative and the long-time presence of the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan government in exile in India.

Show of strength: Amid tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, South Korean and US forces began annual military exercises on Monday, Asia Times and Reuters report. Pyongyang views such exercises as preparations for invasion and has fired missiles and taken other actions to coincide with military drills in the past. However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in insists they are purely defensive. “There is no intent at all to heighten military tension on the Korean Peninsula as these drills are held annually and are of a defensive nature,” Moon told cabinet ministers while warning Pyongyang not to engage in provocations.

Chaebol in crosshairs: The head of South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission has told Hyundai Motor Group to dissolve cross-shareholdings in the conglomerate, Soyoung Kim and Hyjunjoo Jin write. Kim Sang-jo said he has been in talks with the autos-to-steel conglomerate about overhauling its complex ownership structure, which critics say gives too much power to its controlling family at the expense of shareholders. “Many people, including me, are telling Hyundai that they shouldn’t waste more time before dissolving cross-shareholding,” said Kim, who has been nicknamed “Chaebol Sniper” for his shareholder activist campaigns targeting South Korea’s powerful family-run conglomerates. “I’m in ongoing conversations with Hyundai.”

Paper weighs in: The censorship in China of hundreds of academic papers from a prominent journal will have little impact because readership is small – and if Western institutions don’t like the way things are done in China they can leave, the state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Monday, Reuters reports. The editorial appeared after news that Cambridge University Press had blocked access on its site in China to 300 papers and book reviews from the China Quarterly, which the Chinese government had asked to be removed. “Western institutions have the freedom to choose. If they don’t like the Chinese way, they can stop engaging with us,” said the editorial in the Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid.

Vietnam’s energy dilemma: State planners say more than 50% of national power will be coal-fired by 2030, a big boost in the fossil fuel’s use that will worsen the country’s already severe air pollution and undercut its climate change goals, Dan Southerland writes. As a rapidly industrializing nation, it needs more electricity for both industries and homes, requiring it to not only build more coal-fired power plants but also import more of the fuel. Chinese companies appear ready to supply Vietnam with both coal and equipment, even as China closes some of its own coal-fired plants at home.

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.