The DailyBrief

Friday August 25, 2017

Cambodia clamps down: Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has entered a new phase of repression, one that has targeted foreign governmental and nongovernmental organizations and media ahead of crucial elections scheduled for next year, David Hutt writes. The expulsion of the National Democratic Institute and an apparent attempt to shut down the Cambodian Daily mirrors anti-democratic tactics used by other global authoritarian regimes. While authorities have persistently pestered civil society groups Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party have frequently labeled as loyal tools of the political opposition, the current campaign threatens to permanently uproot some of the country’s most prominent and long-standing pro-democracy and checking and balancing organizations.

Trump-Moscow collusion hysteria: If Trump is a stooge of Putin, why is it that Russia’s economy has tanked? And why is it that anti-Moscow Poland has been one of the best economic performers in Europe? Jerry Bowyer and Charles Bowyer ask. On Tuesday, the US government imposed sanctions on Russian individuals accused of exporting oil to North Korea. The same day, the US State Department blamed Russia for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. This has escalated tensions between Russia and the United States, severely undermining the theory that Donald Trump is acting in Vladimir Putin’s interests.

Russian transport infrastructure: Moscow has approved US$2.5 billion to expand and modernize the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur railways as part of a larger rail project to boost economic growth and exports from the country’s Far East region that borders the Pacific Ocean, Asia Times staff report. It will pay for 580 kilometers of additional main lines, signaling upgrades on 680 km of railway and 43 crossings, and the renovation of 90 railway stations. Russian Railways said in a statement on its website: “The project will contribute to the development of industrial enterprises in the region, create new jobs, and the necessary economic conditions for effective and sustainable development of Siberia and the Far East.”

Timely economic lessons: Masayoshi Son’s multibillion dollar investments in chipmaker Nvidia to Chinese Uber rival Didi Chuxing are all so, well, un-Japanese, William Pesek writes. After decades of debt crises, deflation and lost competitiveness, Japan Inc found caution to be a virtue. Son, who founded SoftBank, is going the other way, offering timely lessons for Asia’s No 2 economy. For the first time in 30 years, venture capitalists in the US and Europe are baffled by the scale, frequency and diversity of investments coming out of Japan.

Auto merger eyed: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) chairman and chief executive Sergio Marchionne is setting his sights on a merger with South Korean automotive giant Hyundai Motor Group while at the same time seemingly using China’s Great Wall Motor Co as a stalking horse, PK Semler writes. Sources close to the situation say Italian-Canadian Marchionne began planting rumors of possible Chinese interest in FCA in June after being rebuffed first by General Motors CEO Mary Barra and later by troubled Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen Group.

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.