Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Latest victory for Taiwan's protesters? Reactors.
President Ma Ying-jeou suffered his second setback in the space of a few weeks as giant protests prodded him to stop construction on Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant. His first rebuke at the hands of demonstrators came over efforts to cozy up to China's trade engine without soliciting public input. This time, anxiety over the safely of nuclear reactors in such a seismically-active part of the world has forced him to retreat. Taiwanese turned against the nuclear industry after Japan's record earthquake in March 2011 precipitated the Fukushima crisis. Japanese wondering how to get through to pro-nuclear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might want to look to their Taiwanese brothers and sisters for inspiration -- and tactical advice.
Memo to India's next leader: GDP isn't enough.
Unless something unforeseen shocks India's political establishment over the next couple of weeks, Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party will be taking the reins in New Delhi. Yet here, from well-known technology executive Kiran Karnik, is a word of caution about turning Modi's rhetoric into reality for the nation's 1.2 billion people: Rapid gross domestic product growth isn't enough. Good governance, Karnik argues in this op-ed, is even more vital. "While we obviously need and want economic growth, do focus also on inequity," Karnik writes. "One hopes that your dream is not merely of an economically and militarily powerful nation, but of a happy, economically and socially equitable society, where individuals and groups live in harmony with each other. "
America's Southeast Asian swing state.
Of all Barack Obama's recent stops in Asia, Kuala Lumpur proved to be the most interesting. As this New York Times piece points out, the Obama White House often views Malaysia is a sort of Southeast Asian swing state, an unpredictable potential ally that falls somewhere between the vibrant democracy found in the Philippines and one-party authoritarianism. For the record, I'm disappointed Obama failed to meet with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. To some activists, the oft-imprisoned Anwar is Malaysia's answer to Myanmar hero Aung San Suu Kyi. But Obama's exchanges with Prime Minister Najib Razak concerning Malaysia's human-rights shortcomings are cause for hope. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
Obama's troop victory in Manila.
The Barack Obama stop that most irked China, meanwhile, was the Philippines, where the U.S. signed an agreement to boost America's troop presence. The move is clearly about countering China’s assertiveness over territorial disputes. The U.S. isn't just getting in deeper with a Southeast Asian democracy, but a country that's lobbying the world for a multilateral effort to tame China's geographical overreach. Oh to be a fly on the wall in Chinese President Xi Jinping's office today.
Singapore's Hello Kitty riot fears.
And for our quirky read of the day, here's an item on the mayhem that might ensue in typically buttoned-down Singapore over, of all things, Hello Kitty. As this Wall Street Journal piece explains, a promotion 14 years ago featuring the ubiquitous Japanese cat spiraled out control amid more demand for the toys than supply. Will McDonald's unleash a new Hello Kitty mania that leads to catty -- and pushy -- exchanges between desperate customers? Wear your riot gear just in case!
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