The DailyBrief

Tuesday August 22, 2017

Japan’s problem too: For decades, Japan viewed animosities on the Korean peninsula as a headache for others. If North Korea’s saber-rattling wasn’t quite America’s fault, writes Grant Newsham for Asia Times, it was certainly Washington’s problem. That has all changed, however, thanks in part to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has helped shift the national psychology by promulgating a narrative of collective self-defense.

All Xi’s men: China’s recent confirmation of 26 new commanders for the People’s Liberation Army’s 13 group armies is another step in an ongoing shake up intended to strengthen the control of President Xi Jinping, writes Zi Yang for Asia Times. No leader remained with his old unit, with many receiving postings to far-away regions. The best explanation, says Zi, is that Xi hopes to curb military factionalism, better rendered in Chinese as “mountaintopism” or shantou zhuyi.

Thank you, Steve: The world owes President Donald Trump’s now former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, a debt of gratitude, writes the brilliant, unflinching David P. Goldman in his Spengler column for Asia Times. The press portrays Bannon as a bomb-thrower, says Goldman, but in defusing the North Korea issue by acknowledging there is no military solution to that country’s nuclear provocations he showed himself to be the most level-headed realist in the Administration. More than that, perhaps, he is one of the few people to understand that North Korea is a sideshow to the real threat of economic warfare being waged by China.

Chinese crime wave: In a special package, we report on Chinese criminal involvement in and around Southeast Asia. David Hutt writes that free-flowing tourism, lax law enforcement, and improved internet connectivity have opened the region to a myriad of Chinese crime gangs, helped by “dirty money” fleeing China. Alan Boyd, meanwhile, looks at the economic and health implications of Southeast Asia being inundated with cheap cigarettes supplied by Chinese smugglers, many of whom are also involved in trafficking humans, narcotics, animals, and other contraband. And Zi Yang investigates how China’s appetite for pangolins, considered a delicacy among the country’s nouveau riche and a curative in traditional medicine, has fueled a rising illicit trade in the endangered species.

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