Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Singapore's Bitcoin crackdown.
With Japan still reeling over the collapse of Bitcoin exchange operator Mt. Gox, other Asian governments are putting the virtual currency under the microscope. In the Philippines, central bank Governor Amando Tetangco is studying fresh regulations, while Singapore is clamping down on virtual-currency intermediaries including exchange operators and vending machines. The hope is to weed out money-laundering and terrorist-financing risks. For Bitcoin in Asia, the hits just keep on coming.
Parkonomics bets on womenomics.
As South Korean President Park Geun Hye works to increase growth and competitiveness, she is placing a huge bet on Cho Yoon Sun, her minister of gender affairs. A key pillar of Parkonomics is empowering the female workforce and creating 1.65 million extra jobs for women. Policies include increased subsidies for parents on childcare leave, preferential treatment for family-friendly companies seeking government contracts, and naming and shaming those with weak diversity rankings. Here, Cho is singling out a couple of role models in this regard, including Samsung and Lotte. Park's bet on womenomics is the right one.
Japan's next growth industry? Weapons.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's latest affront to public opinion has to do with the issue of weapons sales, something the nation has largely restricted for 40 years. Abe sees arms as a growth industry and a victory for his Abenomics revival program. The strategy comes with great risks, though, given that most Japanese support the ban on weapons sales, just as most disapprove of Abe's efforts to restart nuclear reactors in a uniquely seismically-active nation. China, too, is sure to react badly to Japan Inc. exporting guns around the globe.
U.S. avoids Malaysia's airplane drama
It's perhaps ironic that the nation with many of the foremost experts in radar technology, airline-crash investigations and, of course, the mechanics of the Boeing 777 is largely steering clear of the missing-Malaysian-airliner drama. Part of President Barack Obama's leading-from-behind doctrine? Here, the New York Times offers an intriguing look at the geopolitics and protocols of a still-unfolding disaster. As former National Transportation Safety Board bigwig Peter Goelz tells the Times, the U.S. "wants to be as supportive as possible and not ruffle feathers."
Another China knife attack.
For China's sake, let's hope that March ends quickly. The nation began the month with knife-wielding terrorists killing 29 people and injuring more than 140 at a train station in southwestern Yunnan province. That was followed by the disappearance of a Malaysian Air jet with 152 Chinese on board. A slew of signs that the nation's economy is slowing don't help. Finally, the central city of Changsha overnight was the site of yet another knife attack -- one that killed three people and seriously injured at least two others. April can't come soon enough for a nation suddenly bouncing from one tragedy to the next.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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