The Daily Brief for Thursday, 28 September 2017

The DailyBrief

Thursday September 28, 2017

Abe’s comic timing: Few metaphors better capture Japan’s predictable cycle of optimism-disappointment, optimism-disappointment than character Charlie Brown, the football and Lucy, William Pesek writes. As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls yet another snap election, this latest one on October 22, investors are assuming the Charlie Brown crouch. Every few years, the character Charles Schulz made famous digs in to take another run at kicking a football. As “Peanuts” fans will recall, time and again Lucy promises she won’t yank it away, but Charlie Brown ends up in the mud, lamenting his gullibility. Few metaphors better capture the highly predictable cycle of optimism-disappointment, optimism-disappointment that sends Japan bulls into the mire. No prime minister in modern times inhabits the Lucy role better than Abe.

Thailand’s blimp fiasco: A decommissioned US-made aerial surveillance vessel has raised critical questions about the ruling junta’s top leaders’ corruption-busting credentials, Richard S Ehrlich writes. The junta faces rising demands for accountability and an investigation into the army’s 2009 purchase of the US$10 million “Sky Dragon” blimp to hunt jungle-based Muslim rebels. The blimp has subsequently leaked, crashed and rarely flew. The emerging scandal has spotlighted two of the junta’s top senior military officers and other high-ranking military officials involved in the contract, maintenance budget and related issues. “The investigation needs to look at those who were involved, including receiving the vessel, making the contract and using it,” said current interior minister and former army commander General Anupong Paojinda.

Pentagon threat hierarchy: China poses the most significant long-term military challenge to the United States, Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Bill Gertz writes. Dunford was asked to rank various military threats and identified nuclear missile-armed North Korea as presenting an “immediate” threat, with Russia and China posing potential dangers based on their growing nuclear arsenals. “We don’t actually have the luxury of identifying a single threat today, unfortunately, nor, necessarily, to look at it in a linear fashion,” Dunford said. However, he went on to say that, over the longer term, China represents the most significant danger, overshadowing the nuclear and cyber power of Moscow. “If I look out to 2025, and I look at the demographics and the economic situation, I think China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025, and that’s consistent with much of our analysis,” he said.

HK protest anniversary: Political heat between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps still simmers three years after “Occupy Central” protests paralyzed the heart of the city, Asia Times staff report. On September 28, 2014, tens of thousands of protesters started occupying Harcourt Road and Connaught Road in front of the government headquarters in Admiralty to call for a universal suffrage system for Hong Kong’s chief executive. After 87 lots of tear-gas grenades were fired by police, it became a different city – relations between Beijing and Hong Kong people turned sour. The September 28 protest led to the 79-day Occupy movement, or Umbrella Movement, which resulted in a veto of Hong Kong’s political reform proposed by Beijing. The proposal had been criticized by democrats as a “fake universal suffrage.”

China banking outlook: Profit growth slowed at China’s 39 A- and H-share listed institutions for the first half of the year, according to a PwC report, amid a growing ratio of credit and a fall in the rate of non-performing loans, Lin Wanxia writes. The aggregate net profit of the 39 banks was 849.72 billion yuan for the first six months, a 4.5% rise from a year earlier. Though net profits continued to grow across all four bank categories, including six large commercial banks, nine joint-stock commercial banks, 16 city commercial banks and eight rural commercial banks, most of them grew at a slower pace than during the same period last year. “There was a slight increase – [0.12 percentage points] in the rate of growth among the large banks, but the growth is slowing down overall,” said PwC’s James Tam.

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.