Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
South Korea's promising GDP surprise
In a world of doom and gloom, Asia's fourth-biggest economy offers a touch of good news. Growth exceeded estimates even as gains in Korea's currency weighed on the country's all-import export machine. While the 1.1 percent gross domestic gain between July and September didn't break any records, it's a heartening sign. If our world has any place that acts like a financial early warning system, it's Korea. With little to cushion it from destabilizing global events, Korea's open economy is often the first of the top 15 to zig, zag or hit a wall. At the moment, events on the ground there suggest Asia is holding its own amid a shaky world economy.
Get ready New Yorkers, the Chinese are coming
Realtors from New York to San Francisco looking to unload pricey properties even as U.S. growth wanes can relax. Here's a timely Wall Street Journal piece on how the Chinese are coming to America with even deeper pockets and greater ambitions than the Japanese did in the 1980s. The interesting question will be whether that leads to a similar backlash. The White House and Capitol Hill should be careful about what they wish for with demands for a stronger yuan, which increases Chinese purchasing power. Lawmakers didn't much like the Japanese scooping up Rockefeller Center, the Pebble Beach golf course and other real-estate gems. It will be fascinating how American officialdom reacts to China's coming buying spree.
Thailand's latest bubble? Chinese tourists
Speaking of China's global ambitions, mainland tourists are flocking abroad in exponentially-rising numbers, and in ways that rankle some locals. Take Thailand, which in the first nine months of this year saw a 93 percent jump in arrivals from China. This Bangkok Post commentary exemplifies the debate over the pros and cons of exploding numbers of mainland tourists who might not be familiar with local sensitivities. One of its observations: China "recently issued a travel guidebook for its citizens who travel abroad. Among the tips are: no nose-picking; observe manners while eating; and attend to toilet etiquette." It will be interesting to see how the Land of Smiles controls the urge to frown over Asia's new engine of tourism growth.
Tony Abbott needs a lesson in climate science
On issues from gay marriage to social-safety nets, Australia's new prime minister is staking out positions decidedly to the right of his predecessors, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. But Abbott's denial of the connection between the fast-rising incidence of devastating forest fires and changes in weather patterns may be a rightward shift too far. He is hardly the only pro-business politician to downplay the link between climate change and natural disasters. But as this Sydney Morning Herald piece points out, it's absurd to assume it plays no part.
Mizuho's anti-yakuza efforts widen
Few headlines grab attention like a banking behemoth doing business with the mob. Mizuho Financial Group's unsavory links to Japan's crime syndicate are back in the news just days after it set up a department to prevent such loans. This sordid tale is a reminder of the sizable role Japan's fabled and heavily-tattooed gangster types play in the financial system of the third-largest economy and how little Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is doing to reduce it. Next week, Mizuho is expected to announce pay cuts and add new board members to placate angry investors, lawmakers and regulators. But this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg and it's time for Japan to get the yakuza out of the mainstream economy.
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