Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Malaysia frustration grows.
When China is calling on you to be more transparent, you know you have problems. Such is the lot of Prime Minister Najib Razak as officials, families and journalists in China and elsewhere demand more accurate details about Malaysia Air Flight 370, which vanished on March 8. It's one thing that Malaysia can't find the aircraft or offer even a general sense of where its wreckage might be. Making matters worse is the disjointed way the Transport Ministry and the government in general has handled a tragedy that is training a global spotlight on Malaysia. As this Bloomberg News pieces explains, the country's image is losing altitude with each passing, chaotic day.
Look in the mirror, America.
In this Foreign Policy piece, Yale economist Stephen Roach explores the irony of the world hunting for financial landmines in China and missing the real risk to the global outlook: America. "Hard Landing, USA" is one of those magazine articles that you hope is based more on hyperbole than fact -- and will ultimately prove wrong. But Roach's argument that America's political dysfunction, unsustainable debt and failure to rebalance its economy away from over-consumption is hard to refute. Will China do a better job of restructuring its economy than U.S. policymakers? Roach's money is squarely on China.
No subprime crisis for China?
China-U.S. comparisons are making the rounds elsewhere this week, including in Forbes. Here, the magazine argues that New York hedge fund manager Jim Chanos and his ilk are wrong to bet on a meltdown in Chinese property. Still, I must say I'm unconvinced by the logic of the article and its main source, Goodwin Gaw, managing principal of $7.5 billion-under-management real estate investment firm Gaw Capital. Essentially, his contention is that China won't experience a subprime crisis akin to America's because the government wouldn't let one happen. Authoritarian governments can paper over any number of economic cracks -- until they no longer can. China may be reaching that point.
Singapore bets on Brazil.
As Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC, looks to pump up returns, it's looking more and more beyond its own backyard of fast-growing Asian economies to Latin America -- Brazil, in particular. Its 5.02 percent stake in communications technology provider Linx and move to increase holdings in Sao Paulo-based food processor BRF SA are signs of confidence in Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's efforts to attack inflation and maintain healthy growth. It might just be a wise bit of diversification on the part of Singapore Inc.
Japan's rabid right targets Line.
In case you missed it amid all the three-year-anniversary coverage of Japan's March 11, 2011 earthquake, here's a disturbing Japan Times item about one of the biggest innovations to come out of the tragedy: smartphone application Line. Right-wingers are railing against the Tokyo-based messaging service that boasts more than 370 million subscribers and makes many Japanese proud. The problem? Line is a subsidiary of a South Korean company, Seoul-based Naver. Right-wing tabloids have echoed a flood of nasty, xenophobic online comments: The headline to one recent story read, "Line -- which is operated by a Korean company and attracts unthinking idiots -- is dangerous!" Hm, and who are the unthinking idiots here?
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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