Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China's next debt bubble begins today.
Let's call China's 7.5 percent target what it really is: a license to stimulate. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Premier Li Keqiang hit all the right notes in Beijing today, pledging to accelerate the reform process, clean the environment, rein in runaway lending and, somehow, not miss a beat on the growth front. But this is really a green light for local governments and shadow lenders to do their worst for the good of the motherland. It's short-termism at its most dangerous. China is merely putting off the huge, destabilizing changes needed to create more organic and sustainable growth. The next Chinese debt bubble begins today.
Connecting the Thailand-Ukraine dots.
We're just a bit more than two months into 2014, and it's already clear this will be a bad year for democracy. In a March 3 column, Bloomberg View's Pankaj Mishra explored how the "venality and incompetence of ruling elites is turning millions of people around the world into rebels and secessionists." Here, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times decries the main lessons leaders still haven't learned from mass protests from Cairo to Bangkok to Kiev: Democracy "is about much more than voting," and "those who have won an election do not have the right to do as they please. That is not a true democracy, but elected dictatorship"
Election time in India.
Narendra Modi is looking good as India announces the dates and mechanics of a much-anticipated election. Roughly 815 million eligible voters, more than double America's population, will pick 543 lawmakers in nine rounds of voting from April 7 to May 12, with final results out on May 16. At the moment, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is seen winning the most seats, though not enough to form a solid governing majority. That adds another wrinkle of uncertainty into the mix: Smaller parties may hold the balance of power, something Moody’s warns could lead to an unstable coalition that weakens the rupee and heightens credit risks. So much for the election being a panacea for markets.
Japan's "emojification" opportunity.
For a country with thousands of years of history and enviable lineages of inventors, artists, writers, philosophers and filmmakers, Japan sure can be bad at marketing itself. This Atlantic piece about the global "emoji" craze has me wondering about missed opportunities. Nowhere in the article about the ideograms and smileys Japanese use in texts and e-mails does it mention their origin. It's but the latest reminder that many folks overseas don't know how sophisticated, quirky and, at times, advanced Japan's Internet tools were even 15 years ago. Why Japan hasn't done more to trademark and market its vast catalog of emoji characters will long baffle me. It's never too late, right?
Naked Chef hits to Hong Kong.
Jamie Oliver, the famed London chef and one-man global empire, is betting anew on Hong Kong, opening one of his Jamie's Italian joints in the Causeway Bay neighborhood. This isn't Oliver's first attempt to crack a city with five Michelin three-star eateries. Six years ago, his efforts to open shop there fell through. Given Hong Kong's rapid ascent as one of the world's premier eating cities, though, this bet by the Naked Chef seems like a safe one.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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