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China’s movie box office revenue rose 9 percent in 2018 to 60.98 billion yuan ($8.87 billion), state media reported, a slower pace than the 13.45 percent clocked for the previous year.

Domestic films recorded ticket sales of 37.9 billion yuan in 2018, accounting for 62 percent of the total box office, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Monday, citing data from the State Film Administration.

Domestic films in 2017 accounted for 54 percent of total box office.

China is the second-largest movie market globally after the United States, though it already has more total movie screens after years of rapid expansion in theater networks.

The number of movie screens reached 60,079 across the country, an increase of 9,303 from 2017, Xinhua said. That compares to just over 40,000 screens in the United States, according to data from U.S.-based National Association of Theatre Owners.

China, which is on track to eventually overtake the North America film market, has become an increasingly important region for global producers looking to pump up their box office returns, despite a quota on imported films and strict censorship.

China has been seeking to promote home-grown productions to rival imported Hollywood films. But several big-budget Chinese films have flopped while more modest productions have done well, highlighting the challenges China faces.

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Religion, economy key to Widodo’s re-election

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Indonesia’s economy is another factor that weighs heavily on Widodo’s chances of re-election, said Hasan Jafri, the founder and managing director of HJ Advisory, a Singapore-based consultancy firm.

In his 2014 campaign, Widodo had promised to raise GDP growth to 7 percent by the end of his first term — but economic growth has remained relatively constant, hovering around 5 percent since he took office.

During his first term, Widodo tried to establish himself as a national leader after winning by a very narrow margin, Jafri told CNBC’s Street Signs on Friday. “But in the second term, I would expect that there would be a bit more decisive decision-making, and removing some of the hurdles that slow growth.”

At the current forecast of 5 percent, Indonesia’s growth is going to be “pretty much flat” relative to last year, Jafri said.

The topic of economic nationalism will also likely surface in the election campaigns of Widodo and Prabowo, Jafri said. In other words, both candidates are likely to pledge policies that favor domestic control of the economy.

The 1997 economic crisis is something that looms large in Indonesian polity, Jafri added, as “Indonesians had to sell assets to foreign investors — and in some cases, they really didn’t have a choice.”

Since then, there have been changes in laws that require foreign investors to sell their assets to Indonesian companies.

But ownership of Indonesian assets is still a “critical issue,” Jafri said, and that’s a strain that runs through the country’s political system.

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US calls on Russia to destroy new missile system

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S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile launchers are seen during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia on May 09, 2018.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile launchers are seen during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia on May 09, 2018.

The United States called on Russia on Monday to destroy a new cruise missile system which it said constituted a “direct violation” of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and accused Moscow of destabilising global security.

“Unfortunately, the United States increasingly finds that Russia cannot be trusted to comply with its arms control obligations and that its coercive and malign actions around the globe have increased tensions,” Robert Wood, U.S. disarmament ambassador, told the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

“Russia must verifiably destroy all SSC-8 missiles, launchers and associated equipment in order to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty,” he said, reiterating the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw from the 1987 pact in early February.

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Israel says its jets struck Iranian military sites in Syria

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Israel holds Syria responsible for allowing the Iranian forces to use Syrian territory as a base of operations against Israel. “Syria yesterday paid the price for allowing Iran to conduct attacks and to plan attacks from its soil,” he said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said the Iranian rocket attack provided “live testimony” to Iran’s entrenchment in Syria that could plunge the entire Mideast into war.

Speculation has abounded in Israel on what is driving the newfound overtness of its actions, with many suggesting domestic politics could be a factor ahead of Apr. 9 elections.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the military had no choice but to comment after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took credit publicly for the strikes. Yaalon said he supported the strikes but not the “chatter” around them and he accused Netanyahu of playing politics with the country’s security.

“Unfortunately … everything is connected to his political survival,” Yaalon told Israel’s Army Radio. “What does the publication give us? Can someone tell me what the benefit is, besides politics?”

However, Yaakov Amidror, a former Israel national security adviser, said that rather than pre-election rhetoric, the remarks meant to escalate words before escalating actions — and clarify that Israel was willing to take chances to stop Iran from building a war machine in Syria.

“If you want to … make clear to the other side that you are determined to prevent something, either you escalate the operation … or you say in public ‘I am doing it,’ meaning ‘I am ready to take the risk,'” he said. “When the Iranians didn’t understand it and fired a rocket into Israel, the reaction was immediate.”

Amidror said the ball was now in Iran’s court to see how far the latest conflagration would escalate.

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