The RSS | Asia Times Covering geo-political news and current affairs across Asia Wed, 15 Aug 2018 22:21:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sanya Hainan leads the country in home price growth Wed, 15 Aug 2018 22:12:23 +0000 The rise is concentrated in second- and third-tier hotspot cities, including Kunming, Yantai, Yichang, Yangzhou and Changsha The rising cost of new residential housing in Sanya city in Hainan province, as well as Jinan city in Shandong province, led the country in July, The Beijing News reported.

Home prices in Sanya and Jinan rose 3.7% and 3% respectively from a year earlier.

The rise in housing prices is concentrated in second- and third-tier hotspot cities, including Kunming, Yantai, Yichang, Yangzhou and Changsha.

Of first-tier cities, the sales price of new commercial residential buildings rose by 0.2% year-on-year in July, while that of second-hand housings increased by 0.5%.

Zhang Dawei, chief analyst of the Centaline Property Agency, said home prices in China are still experiencing an upward trend, while some cities have relatively higher growth rates.

Thus, it is very likely further regulations are expected to be introduced to rein in the market.

China’s robot sector growing at about 30% annually Wed, 15 Aug 2018 21:43:54 +0000 Although the industry has developed rapidly, the core technology has yet to see key breakthroughs, say experts Over the past five years, the average annual growth rate of China’s robot industry has approached 30%, though core technologies are yet to see major breakthroughs, The Paper reported.

According to Miao Wei, Minister of Industry and Information Technology, in 2017, the total value of the robot sector in China reached US$7 billion. Of that, the output of industrial robots has exceeded 130,000.

From the perspective of the globe, the value of the global robot industry has exceeded US$25 billion in 2017, growing by more than 20% from a year earlier.

Also, it is expected to reach $30 billion by 2018, according to statistics from the International Federation of Robotics.

Although the robot industry has developed rapidly, it still faces many challenges, said Miao. Core technology has yet to see key breakthroughs.

The application area needs to be further expanded and the legal and regulatory system must also be improved.

Regulator to allow foreign workers to trade A-shares Wed, 15 Aug 2018 21:35:52 +0000 Foreigners must come from a country whose security regulators have established a supervisory mechanism with the CSRC The China Securities Regulatory Commission has given the green light to foreigners who work in China to set up their own A-share trading accounts, The Paper reported.

Specifically, foreigners working in China and coming from countries whose securities regulators have established a supervisory cooperation mechanism with the CSRC, may apply to open an A-share trading account.

Other than the application form, foreigners who are interested should submit passport photocopies along with their passport, employment certificates issued by domestic companies and a copy of the business license or unified social credit code certificate of the company.

Meanwhile, foreign employees who work for Chinese companies across the border are now eligible to enjoy equity incentives. Previously, only those who work inside China were able to enjoy this incentive.

The changes will take effect from September 15.

EM bears may end up in scrapbook of ‘really awful’ forecasts Wed, 15 Aug 2018 21:17:38 +0000 ‘In a lot of emerging countries now, the quality of the investment climate is as good as a lot of the developed countries’ Following disappointing earnings results from one of China’s biggest tech giants, one index of emerging market stocks fell into bear territory on Wednesday.

The FTSE Emerging index of stocks in the developing world fell 2.3%, marking a more than 20% drop since its peak in January.

The selloff of Chinese social media, mobile payment and video game giant Tencent, helped push the index into bear territory, after months of trade war fears and rising US interest rates have weighed on sentiment.

But one billionaire investor, David Booth, whose investment firm has vastly overperformed the Morningstar industry benchmark, told Bloomberg that today’s hyperbolically pessimistic forecasts of emerging markets are missing the mark.

“Over the years, [Booth’s colleague Wes Wellington] saved magazine articles where people made forecasts and the ones that turned out to be really awful he highlights,” Booth said. The doomsayers who are worried about emerging markets today will likely end up in that scrapbook, he suggested.

“The global economy seems to be doing pretty well, give or take a bit. That’s always a positive impact. So I think these countries win or lose depending on that. If the global economy does well, they do very well and if the global economy does poorly, they typically do very, very poorly. Although during our financial crisis, emerging markets held up pretty well,” Booth noted.

“What’s happened to emerging markets over the last couple of decades is they’ve kind of wised up and realized if they want to attract capital, they better have better trading practices, shareholder rights have to mean something and I would say in a lot of emerging countries now, the quality of the investment climate is as good as a lot of the developed countries.”

As far as the trade war is concerned, Booth said, “We’re nowhere close to being there right now. […] Everybody’s doing a little dance move back and forth.”

It’s all about financial conditions Wed, 15 Aug 2018 19:58:29 +0000 The collapse in the price of industrial metals is not due to weak demand, rather, it is an expression of risk aversion Market chatter blames weakening Chinese demand, the Turkish economic collapse and possible weakening of world economic growth for the sharp drop in the price of industrial metals.

That doesn’t square with the observed facts. For one thing, China’s growth remains solidly in the mid-6% range, and China’s housing market – its most important source of copper demand – remains buoyant. There has been no change in global demand for industrial inputs in the course of the year, least of all from China, and certainly not from the US or Europe, where the latest industrial output numbers are steady.

Gold is a monetary metal first, second and third, and an industrial metal maybe fourth, and we observe that gold and copper have fallen in lockstep during the past several months.

Gold vs copper

Furthermore, we observe that both gold and copper are negatively correlated with the trade-weighted dollar index (DXY) during the past 20 months.

Gold and copper vs DXY

The collapse of the copper price by 20% from its June peak evidently is not an economic phenomenon driven by demand. Rather, it is an expression of risk aversion.

The world has gotten riskier during the past few months, for two primary reasons:

  1. There is a low-level trade war between the US and China underway that could turn into a high-level trade war; and
  2. The Italian elections put a bunch of unpredictable firebrands in charge of an economy with US$2.3 trillion in foreign debt and a dodgy banking system.

Heightened risk translates into a greater desire to hold cash balances (and that means a higher dollar, because most people pay bills in dollars and therefore hold cash balances in dollars). To get higher cash balances, market participants sell things like raw materials.

Turkey is utterly irrelevant to this shift towards risk aversion. The Turks may make the mistake of thinking that they matter but no-one else should encourage them. Turkey’s whole stock market is worth about US$30 billion at current prices, roughly the market capitalization of Monster Beverage Co. The big issues are European disintegration and Italian dyspepsia, and the US-China trade war.

Tencent shares dive on earnings miss, gaming worries Wed, 15 Aug 2018 16:07:41 +0000 Regulators freeze approvals for video games that have driven revenue Chinese tech giant Tencent, the parent company of the world’s largest video game company, is adding to the some US$170 billion already lopped off its market value, as investor uncertainty regarding the sustainability of the company’s bread and butter grows.

Authorities in Beijing have reportedly halted approval of game licenses, stoking fears that the government will crack down on video games that have driven Tencent’s revenue growth. Following that news and a disappointing earnings report, shares of the company dropped more than 3% in Hong Kong trading on Wednesday.

The Chinese government has long expressed concerns about the effect video games have on child and adolescent development and did not lift a blanket ban on console games until 2015. More recently, there has been speculation that the government might enact restrictions on mobile games. Last year, Tencent proactively imposed restrictions on how long younger players can play a game per session.

The reported freeze on new approvals comes amid a restructuring of regulators that has been ongoing since March. According to a report in The Financial Times, there are an estimated 3,000 games awaiting approval for commercial launch. Those include the desktop versions of most successful mobile titles, Battlegrounds and Fortnite, per Bloomberg.

Hurdles facing the company’s gaming businesses helped pull down revenues for the second quarter, which came in 5% below consensus estimates. The Wall Street Journal reported that sales growth for smartphone games slowed dramatically 19% from 69% from the same period a year earlier.

Tencent is the largest stock by market value in the MSCI Emerging Markets index, a grouping that also includes South African-listed Naspers, which owns 31% of Tencent.

Turkish lira stages rally after crackdown on short-selling Wed, 15 Aug 2018 15:15:20 +0000 Tit-for-tat with US continues as Ankara slaps tariffs on American goods Following a more than 8% rise in the Turkish lira versus the dollar on Tuesday, the unit continued its rally Wednesday as authorities took measures to curb bets against the currency.

Turkey’s banking regulator cut in half the number of currency swap transactions allowed to 25%, following restrictions already imposed on Monday, according to Bloomberg. Before the rally, the lira had lost around 45% of its value this year to date, recording record lows on a near-daily basis.

Turkish bonds were also buoyed by the moves, with yields falling 25 basis points.

The respite from the lira’s nosedive comes as a diplomatic fight between Ankara and Washington continues to spiral out of control. On Wednesday, Turkey increased tariffs on US cars, alcohol and cigarettes, following President Tayyip Erodgan’s calls for a boycott of American consumer goods a day earlier.

The moves are a response to the Trump administration’s decision to raise tariffs on metals imported from Turkey and place sanctions placed on Turkish officials. Washington took the measures after Ankara refused to release a US citizen who is being held on terrorism charges.

Copper is a China (and tariff war) story Wed, 15 Aug 2018 14:48:10 +0000 Data show the price of copper is not falling due to the Turkish economic crisis. Turkey is simply too small to matter Starting in late May, returns to Asian emerging markets have become closely correlated with the price of copper. The closest correlation is with the MSCI China index, at almost 80%.

The close correlation between copper and Asian equity markets (and the much lower correlation with other emerging markets) should put to rest the assertion that copper is falling due to contagion from Turkey’s economic crisis. Turkey simply is too small to matter. The copper market cares about China and other Asian economies.

EM ETF returns vs copper

Copper, often viewed as a proxy for industrial and construction activity, has given up its gains of the past year during the last several months, although it remains well above the 2014-2015 lows.

Copper price

The fact that the fall in the copper price was increasingly correlated with Chinese equity returns strongly suggests that the metal’s weakness reflected the market’s fear of trade war and its consequences. A slowdown in Chinese growth due to trade war would also affect the largest component of copper demand.

Scams, shrinking salaries and tax evasion stalk China’s movieland Wed, 15 Aug 2018 11:30:01 +0000 Spotlight falls on high-profile stars as Beijing gets tough in major anti-corruption drive Forget the opening credits, it is all about glitz, glamour and a sprinkling of controversy. During the past three months, China’s film industry has been mired in a series of scandals which are more reel life than real life.

In the latest sequel from this long-running blockbuster franchise, A-list actor and businessman Huang Xiaoming has been dragged into a stock market manipulation scheme.

Although there is no evidence that he was involved in the scam, his name appeared during an investigation by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or CSRC, into the Shenzhen-listed Jinghua Pharmaceutical Group.

“According to the released information, the company’s illegal [activity] was conducted through 16 stock trading accounts. And one of the accounts was held by actor Huang Xiaoming,” Caixin, the Chinese media group in Beijing, reported. “[But] sources close to the CSRC, who declined to be identified, [said] that Huang would not face punishment as he was not directly involved in the scheme.”

Along with his actress-model wife Angelababy, the 40-year-old heartthrob is treated like movie ‘royalty’ on social media by his legion of mainly female fans.

Successful business

He is also a highly successful businessman with an extensive stock portfolio and was ranked in the top 20 of the 2017 Forbes China Celebrity 100 list with earnings of 170 million yuan (US$24.7 million).

Indeed, this incident is unlikely to diminish his appeal after Huang’s studio issued a strongly-worded statement on Weibo, a Twitter-like online portal.

“To clarify the recent false rumors, I did not participate in stock manipulation,” it said. “We will continue to pursue accountability according to [the] law.”

Still, this is just the latest high-profile case to be played out in the glare of the media spotlight.

Actress Fan Bingbing, who is one of China’s major film stars, appears to have disappeared from public view after being caught up in tax evasion allegations, which she has vehemently denied.

Yet the row did trigger a major investigation into the industry, which is worth about $8.6 billion, by the Communist Party government as part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive.

“Will Fan Bingbing go to prison?” asked one person on Weibo, while others feared she had been banned from movies or was under house arrest. There has even been a lack of activity on her social media account during the past few months.

As speculation mounts, the country’s tax authorities and film regulators have brought down the curtain on “unreasonable” salaries and “money worship,” which have “distorted social values” by “misleading the youth into blindly chasing after stars.”

In June, the Central Propaganda Department, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the State Administration of Taxation, the State Administration of Radio and Television, and the National Film Bureau issued a statement with concrete proposals to Xinhua.

“It reminded the industry about prioritizing social benefits rather than box office returns,” China’s official news agency stated.

Streaming sites

New regulations will limit the fees that stars can be paid for onscreen work to 40% of total production costs and stipulate that no single actor should command more than 70% of the total casting bill.

Nine leading television producers have already signed the agreement, including Huace Media, and online streaming giants iQiy, Youku and Tencent Video. Producers Linmon Pictures, New Classics Media, Daylight Entertainment, Ciwen Media and Youhug Media have also stated they will stick to the new guidelines.

“Major Chinese production companies of films and TV series released a joint statement on Saturday saying no to so-called ‘sky-high payments’ for actors,” the state-owned China Daily reported early this week.

“The authorities [have also pledged to] step up punishment against tax cheating and evasion,” the newspaper added in an earlier opinion piece.

It appears Beijing is determined to take the ‘lolly,’ which is British slang for cash, out of China’s Lollywood.

Russia plays referee on the Golan Heights Wed, 15 Aug 2018 11:04:38 +0000 The area has been a repeated flashpoint over the course of Syria's civil war Russian military police posts are being set up in Syria along the demilitarized zone of the Golan Heights facing Israel, Russian state news agency Interfax reported Tuesday.

It is only the latest instance of Russia acting as a referee in the Syrian civil war.

The area has for decades been under the supervision of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF. The force, created in 1974, is mandated to help maintain a ceasefire between Israeli and Syrian forces and supervise disengagement.

But over the course of Syria’s seven-year civil war, the ceasefire zone has been a repeated flashpoint — between the Syrian military and armed opposition groups, as well as the Syrian and Israeli armed forces.

The UN Security Council in June 2017 passed a resolution calling on all groups to vacate UNDOF positions and to return peacekeepers’ vehicles, weapons and other equipment that had been looted.

Moscow, an ally to rivals Tel Aviv and Damascus, has used its influence to play arbiter.

Lieutenant-General Sergei Kuralenko, the deputy commander of Russian forces in Syria, said Tuesday that Russian military police were already deployed along the Golan Heights.

“At the moment four Russian military police posts are in place. Another two will be deployed in the near future. There will be six of them all in all. Eventually we may increase the total number to eight, if need be,” he told the Russian news agency TASS.

Kuralenko stressed the Russian posts sit outside the sensitive demilitarized zone and that the mission of his men is to assist UNDOF in renewing patrols.

According to TASS, Syrian government forces will take over the Russian posts “as soon as order has been restored.”

Hair today and gone tomorrow — but women couldn’t be happier Wed, 15 Aug 2018 10:57:03 +0000 A charity uses donated hair to make wigs for cancer patents who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Fourteen took part in the latest initiative It was a case of hair today and help tomorrow for 14 woman and children in New Taipei City, who lopped off their ponytails so they could be turned into wigs for people undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancers.

The group, who included a councillor and recent immigrants from Vietnam, gave their hair to a charity that operates a food bank. The councillor, Hung Chia-chun, was making her second donation, and  recalled she initially had mixed feelings about getting involved.

“I missed my long hair, which had taken years to grow,” she admitted. However, Hung was impressed by the initiative and said she now looks forward to doing her part to help the cancer patients.

One of the Vietnamese, with the surname Nguyen, brought her youngest daughter along to teach her that it is a bigger blessing to give than to receive. Nguyen has lived in Taiwan for 16 years, after marrying a local man. He died from a cardiac arrest six years ago.

A mother of three, Nguyen has herself been helped by charities, and said she tries to give back to society whenever she can.

Crypto market rebound driven largely by speculators Wed, 15 Aug 2018 10:43:03 +0000 The crypto crash that occurred over the past week has finally abated as keen-eyed traders jump on the rock-bottom prices in the hope of quick gains When any market falls hard, a bounce back is inevitable. The only difference with crypto-currency markets is that the drops are usually harder and farther than the rallies.

The crypto crash that occurred over the past week has finally abated as traders snap up rock bottom priced digital currencies in the hope of a quick gain. The market climbed a little more than 6% on Wednesday, according to analytics website, primarily spurred on by Bitcoin, which has gained a similar amount.

On Tuesday, markets crashed to a yearly low point, largely driven by Ethereum being dumped onto the market by blockchain projects that accumulated it earlier this year. It is only natural that after a big dip comes a rally in the ebb and flow of trading markets.

According to a Bloomberg report, Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin has attributed this to pure speculation. Echoing the sentiments of others, he said that the end of 2017 surge in crypto-currencies was a bubble and the ecosystem was stronger for it as things have returned to normality now.

“We’ve seen six big bubbles, each more epic than the previous one, and each bubble is astonishing when they’re happening, but when you look back they look like pimples on a chart,” Lubin said on Bloomberg Television. “With each of these bubbles we have a tremendous surge of activity and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”

Lubin is now the CEO of Consensys Inc, which helps blockchain startups build on top of the Ethereum platform. Developer activity has increased by two orders of magnitude since last year’s price spike which is why he is not concerned about the current market slump affecting the growth of the ecosystem and its adoption.

He added that traders were adding to the volatility and sees a future in which Ethereum will be a big player amongst hundreds of other protocols. “This is what it feels like to be living in exponential times,” he added.

Speculation has largely driven the pump and dump cycles that are so common with crypto-currencies, especially the smaller, lower market cap altcoins. Day traders, not specifically interested in the technology or its applications, are looking for a quick buck in an emerging market.

This is evident on most crypto coin charts that show massive swings in volume and volatility. For those holding on, or ‘hodling’ as the crypto community calls it, the long term prospects are much brighter.

Beijing may compensate families with only one child Wed, 15 Aug 2018 10:19:30 +0000 Beijing also wants 'one-child policy survivors' to have more babies as alarm grows over a lack of newborns in some areas Beijing may compensate families previously banned from having two children during the decades when China’s one-child policy was in force.

The State Council is contemplating doling out subsidies to households with only one child. The hope is that those with no brothers or sisters, known as the “one-child policy survivors” and who are now in their prime reproductive years, will have more babies.

Beijing was panicked to discover that newborns may become an “endangered species” in some parts of China, like the northeastern provinces.

Subsidies could be paid to one-child families in rural areas, families with special needs and those residing in less developed provinces in the west, according to the People’s Daily.

This is another admission by state media that Beijing had overdone its birth control policy since the 2000s when China’s population growth started to lose momentum and its subsequent revisions to allow parents to have more babies was too little and too late.

In 2006, Beijing started paying an annual stipend of about 600 yuan (US$88) to each rural resident aged above 60 with no child and similar allowances were also paid to parents of deceased or disabled children whose hope of having another baby were dashed by the one-child policy.

Central and local governments will pay for the subsidies, according to a notice released on the State Council’s website on Monday.

Introduced in 1979, China’s one-child policy was implemented for more than 30 years and averted an estimated 400 million births. The policy began to be phased out into a two-child policy at the end of 2015.

Read more: Northeast China has the world’s lowest fertility rate

Man gets 34 years for killing Filipino-American ex-girlfriend Wed, 15 Aug 2018 10:15:59 +0000 The accused's lawyer claimed his client acted under the effects of an antidepressant An American man was sentenced to 34 years in jail on Tuesday after he was convicted of murdering his Filipino-American ex-girlfriend in Las Vegas.

On August 3 last year, Makayla Rhiner, 21, was found dead by her boyfriend and mother in the garage of her apartment on the 8000 block of West Russell Road, near Buffalo Drive, Las Vegas media reported. Brandon Hanson, Rhiner’s ex-boyfriend, was arrested a week later for having allegedly stabbed Rhiner to death.

He was later charged with murder with the use of a deadly weapon, burglary and robbery. He was also accused of breaking into a car that belonged to Rhiner’s boyfriend and mother. Prior to the murder case, he and Rhiner had dated for about three months while attending classes at the College of Southern Nevada. They broke up in June 2017.

Hanson stalked Rhiner, damaged her car and then entered her house with a hunting knife, said Judge Douglas Herndon.

Hanson’s lawyer claimed the accused was suffering from severe depression and was under the effects of antidepressant medication. Prosecutors, however, asserted that the murder was clearly planned. They said Hanson had threatened to kill himself if Rhiner left him and at one point claimed, untruthfully, that he had cancer in an attempt to make her stay with him.

On June 15 this year, Hanson was found guilty of the charges, Fox5Vegas reported. On August 7, he was sentenced to 34 years in jail.

災難期間杜特爾特不見蹤影 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 10:05:54 +0000 在首都和主要工業區受到大規模水災影響的情況下,菲律賓總統顯然缺席,這引發了外界對他的健康擔憂和批評其領導才能 橫跨馬尼拉大都會和菲律賓工業中心地帶的大規模暴雨已將數千名菲律賓人從水浸的房屋趕到政府運營的避難中心。正如之前的自然災害一樣,國民需要政府強烈而明顯的反應,但菲律賓總統杜特爾特(Rodrigo Duterte)在面臨潛在的大規模災難時再次顯然缺席。亞洲時報(報導

由熱帶風暴摩羯(Tropical Storm Karding)組成長達一周的強季風降雨使風速達至每小時90公里,導致成千上萬的菲律賓人暫時陷入困境或永久無家可歸。

在與其同名河流相鄰的馬利吉娜市(Marikina City),多達4萬名居民被強制撤離。上周末,大雨將馬利吉娜河水位推高至20.4米,比2009年的颱風凱莎娜(Tropical Storm Ondoy)記錄的23米水位僅低幾米。


包括菲律賓國家警察局(PNP)署長艾爾巴耶德(Oscar Albayalde)和菲律賓國家首都地區警察辦公室(NCRPO)警長艾里薩(Guillermo Eleazar)在內的高級執法官員已公開領導受影響地區的偵察任務,以拯救被困家庭。



杜特爾特的得力助手Bon Go試圖緩解民憤。他說,總統一直密切關注達沃的情況,並計劃飛到訪受災地區,不過被惡劣天氣延誤了。


令許多菲律賓人感到懊惱的是,Go帶著一名扮作杜特爾特的人到訪避難中心。 雖然有些人覺得此舉充滿幽默,但此事促成人們把他與伊拉克前總統薩達姆(Saddam Hussein)作比較,後者常常依靠替身來執行國家事務。






撰文:評論員Jason Castaneda
相片:AFP / Noel Celis