The DailyBrief

Friday September 29, 2017

Is Abenomics over? As Japan continues to slide in the global competitiveness rankings, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, a popular maverick, has joined forces with the country’s main opposition party, prompting pundits to ponder what two weeks ago seemed unthinkable: life after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, William Pesek writes. But neither the main opposition Democratic Party nor the new Party of Hope that Koike just joined has staked out positions that differ markedly from those of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Even if the Democratic and Hope crowds merge, they still need clear, unique and winning ideas to win. Still, the specter of a beat-Abe union instantly shifted attention from an inevitable LDP victory in the October 22 snap election to a post-Abe era.

Riyadh coup brewing? Saudi Arabian women being allowed to drive is a smokescreen – Salafi-jihadism is alive and well inside the Kingdom, Pepe Escobar writes. What’s more, another coup may be along shortly. The September 26 announcement that the draconian ban would be lifted, coming after years of liberal American pressure, was calculated with precision, arriving only a few days before House of Saud capo King Salman drops in for a chat at Trump’s White House. The soft power move was coordinated by the 32-year-old Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman; the king merely added his signature. The diversionary tactic masks serious trouble in the court. A Gulf business source with intimate knowledge of the House of Saud told Asia Times that “the Fahd, Nayef, and Abdullah families, the descendants of King Abdulaziz al Saud and his wife Hassa bin Ahmed al-Sudairi, are forming an alliance against the ascendancy to the kingship of the Crown Prince.”

‘Free Kurdistan’ inevitable: The recent independence referendum in northern Iraq is another crucial link in a long chain of events that will further fracture and bleed the Middle East region, Bilal Khan writes. And caught in the middle is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Many in the West are tired of Erdogan’s Ottoman revivalism, but somehow, he has outsmarted them up to now. It is said that he has dealt with opposition with an iron fist. Still, it is quite a feat to remain in power once the proponents of the “new Middle East” want you gone. And the new Middle East is coming whether Erdogan likes it or not. War is simmering in Turkey’s backyard. The second phase of the Arab Spring, the making of the new Middle East, has begun.

China bitcoin policy: What would happen if bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies were adopted like a popular app on mobile phones? The Chinese government decided it didn’t want to find out and blocked ICOs (initial coin offerings, a means of crowd-funding using a cryptocurrency), Jan Krikke writes. At the same time, the government is studying blockchain, the network-based brain of cryptocurrencies that is used as a distributed ledger managed by a peer-to-peer network. Cryptocurrencies may never be as secure as the gold in Fort Knox, but Beijing recognizes that they must have sufficient protection before they can issue, store and process billions, if not trillions, of their equivalent in dollars, euros or yuan. The issuance and use of cryptocurrencies raises many questions, some technical and some related to the financial and monetary architecture in place today.

Xi Jinping’s ascension: The Communist Party of China (CPC) has set the tone for its 19th National Congress, scheduled to open on October 18, as an epoch-making event on par with the founding of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong in 1949 and the launch of economic reforms and the opening up of the country by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, Wu Zhong writes. This appears to constitute an endorsement of President Xi Jinping as the third paramount leader after Mao and Deng. CPC official Jiang Jianguo said recently that the 19th Party Congress “will take care of not only the next five years, but the next two or three decades as well”. In other words, the Congress will set an agenda for the party and the nation to follow for quite a long time.

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.