Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Asia likes Obama way more than Bush.
Reading the Drudge Report or Karl Rove's hyper-partisan op-eds, it's easy to think Barack Obama wrecked America's image around the globe. Actually, the president who most did that in recent decades is still George W. Bush. The Pew Research Center finds that Obama's support rate exceeds Bush's by 28 points in Malaysia, 24 in Indonesia and 19 in Japan. Obama's numbers are pretty flat relative to Bush's in China, but even that's a victory for a leader who's siding with Beijing's rivals and indicting Chinese nationals for cyber-attacks. I'm sure these numbers won't get much airtime on Fox News.
Roubini traces "great backlash" to Asia.
Over the weekend, economist Nouriel Roubini looked at the rising tide of nationalism around the globe and globalization's discontents. Not surprisingly, he traces many of those currents to the Asia region -- Japan, China, South Korea and now India, too. Leaders from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta are putting out similar vibes as they try to drum up domestic support rates. The upshot is that regional tensions could blow up at any moment. "Economic failure," he writes, "could fuel further nationalist, xenophobic tendencies -- and even trigger military conflict."
Art of forgetting Tiananmen.
"The People’s Republic of Amnesia" is a seriously good title for a China book as Beijing compels its 1.3 billion people to forget the events of June 4, 1989 -- mostly successfully. In her book, National Public Radio correspondent Louisa Lim asserts that the iconic "Tank Man" photo is familiar to only 15 out of 100 mainland college students today. Too bad for Beijing it can't give the rest of the world amnesia, too. We must never forget the bloody crackdown China wants to erase from the world's memory.
Japan Inc.'s struggle in Internet age.
As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledges to get government bureaucrats out of the economy, here's a timely look at what the corporate sector should be doing to compete with peers in the U.S., China and South Korea. Aside from a failure to harness the Internet and focus more on designing software than hardware, longtime Tokyo-based scribe David McNeill bemoans the absence of support for start-up companies and the innovators lurking among the risk-averse salarymen. Even today, he writes, "Japanese capitalism channels investment and research funds to the country’s large corporations, making the emergence of a Google or Facebook more difficult."
It's "Groundhog Day" in Bangkok.
When Thais wonder how they got trapped in a Bill Murray movie, they can thank Thaksin Shinawatra. For anyone who feels they've lost the plot in Bangkok (most of us, I suspect), here's a worthwhile reality check from my Bloomberg colleagues Sharon Chen and Chris Blake. It explores how an ex-cop became a billionaire, commandeered a nation and left 67 million people as extras in a Thai version of the film where characters repeatedly relive the same day over and over again until they get it right. Sadly for Thaksin's Thailand, that could be a long, long time from now.
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