Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Tokyo earthquake shakes up Japan's outlook.
Monday got off to a shaky start for us Tokyoites -- literally. At 5:18 a.m., the Japanese capital experienced its strongest earthquake since March 2011, when a magnitude-9 temblor hit the northeast Tohoku region. Monday's quake, centered off the coast of Izu Oshima Island south of Tokyo, was just a 6.2 in U.S. geological terms. But it's causing big worries among seismologists trying to predict the next "big one." The problem is that as Japanese media buzz about the odds of another giant quake that would unnerve global markets, radiation continues to spew out of the damaged Fukushima power station, where thousands of spent fuel rods are sitting out in the open air. Bottom line: As Japanese stock up on bottled water, replace flashlight batteries and review evacuation procedures, investors should consider the implications of another Black Swan event in Japan.
Chinese banks gaining from new Cold War.
The real winners from Washington's worsening ties with Russia could be Chinese banks. Beijing has been remarkably adept at using America's geopolitical preoccupations since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 to advance its agenda around the world. Now, the ongoing Crimea dustup and resulting chill in U.S.-Russia ties is opening up new opportunities for financial institutions on the mainland. This South China Morning Post piece looks at how tightening sanctions from the U.S. are may lead to big deals for Chinese bankers in Russia.
India's Rajan braces for post-election brawl.
Reserve Bank of India head Raghuram Rajan may find that holding onto his job after a new government comes to power later this month is the easy part. Both the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which is expected to win, and the Congress party have intimated that they would keep Rajan in place after election results are revealed on May 16. But Rajan may be in for a political storm regardless, as lawmakers demand he retreat from monetary policies many see as too hawkish. Here, from Reuters, is a look at what's at stake -- and why Rajan would be wise to stand his ground.
Malaysia's Najib peddles his 2020 vision.
Prime Minister Najib Razak surprised the 10,000-plus cyclists who turned out for Sunday's "KL Car-Free Morning" event by showing up and joining the race. Yet there was a serious point to his appearance: to draw attention to Malaysia's bid to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020. Doing so would put Malaysia at the forefront of Asian nations addressing the forces behind climate change. It will be an uphill climb, not unlike parts of Najib's ride yesterday. But Southeast Asia's third-biggest economy will be a more vibrant and healthier force in the region if he crosses that finish line.
North Korea hits U.S. on human-rights abuses.
America's moral high ground has taken a severe beating over the last dozen or so years. Point out in a column that Beijing is a human-rights abuser, and you're sure to get e-mail zingers from Chinese reminding you of the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and the National Security Agency's overreach. Perhaps slapping China on human rights does make Washington look a bit hypocritical. But North Korea? Seriously? This Atlantic piece explores how even Pyongyang is telling the U.S. to take a look in the mirror. While America's moral high ground may have been diminished, however, Kim Jong Un has none on which to stand. At all!
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