Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Angelina Jolie irks China.
The "Tomb Raider" star learned the hard way the importance of knowing your Chinese history when hawking a movie. In Shanghai to promote "Maleficent," Jolie was asked who her favorite Chinese director was. Her answer enraged Netizens on the mainland: “I am not sure if you consider Ang Lee Chinese, he’s Taiwanese but he does many Chinese-language films with many Chinese artists and actors." I'm willing to give the Oscar winner some slack here -- many experienced diplomats can barely grasp cross-strait dynamics and sensitivities. Of course, it didn't help that Jolie was accompanied by Brad Pitt, star of the "Seven Years in Tibet" film about which Beijing is still seething.
Vietnam's affordable housing boom.
Few economies in Asia are more volatile than Vietnam. But for punters looking for a sector that can stand its ground through boom and bust cycles, it's suburban housing. My Bloomberg colleague Jason Folkmanis looks at these opportunities through the lens of Nguyen Vinh Tran, CEO of Vietnam's biggest affordable housing developer, Nam Long Investment Corp. As Tran explains: “The middle class, they want safety, security, a nice area, higher-end. They want gated communities. A country like Vietnam, with a city like Ho Chi Minh City with over 10 million people, the demand is there. You just have to provide the right choice for the buyer.”
Japan steps up action in Chinese PM2.5.
The mainland's biggest export soon won't be something you can stamp a "Made in China" label on: pollution. To the list of disputes between Tokyo and Beijing, Japanese officials are now adding PM2.5-levels. The flow of airborne particulates that cause disease and premature death in high concentrations from the mainland is accelerating, leading Japan's Environment Ministry to set up a new monitoring organization. If reform really is in the air in Beijing, as Xi claims, few changes are more vital than clearing the actual air.
MSCI folks say no to South Korea.
Officials in Seoul can either get mad at not being included in MSCI Inc.’s global indexes or get busy. Frankly, I'm not sure MSCI made a good call on Korea and Taiwan, both of which were removed from consideration for an upgrade to developed-market status. China’s mainland-traded shares were excluded, too, but it's not like outside investors can easily buy them anyway. For reasonably-developed Korea, though, this is a wakeup call. President Park Geun Hye must accelerate efforts to internationalize the financial system, improve corporate governance and build the more creative economy she's pledged to inaugurate.
Hong Kong businesses miss the plot.
Chambers of commerce in Hong Kong are missing the plot when it comes to the Occupy Central movement. Businesspeople from Canada, India and Italy made that clear enough when they complained in a letter published in the South China Morning Post that a planned pro-democracy protest may “cripple” businesses and have chilling effect on the economy. No, that would be Leung Chun-ying, Beijing's man in Hong Kong. By doing China's bidding -- clamping down on the media and pushing the issue of patriotic education on youngsters -- Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung is chipping away at the independence that drives the city's dynamism and growth. Sure, a giant protest is a challenge in the short run, but Hong Kong becoming more like China is an infinitely bigger one.
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