Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China in Tesla's rearview mirror?
Elon Musk of Tesla has an accelerating China problem on his hands as Lu Guanqiu, billionaire founder of China's largest auto parts giant Wanxiang, turns up the heat. The South China Morning Post asserts that Lu is now "intensely focused on electric cars." Musk might want to look in his rearview mirror. "Overall, the Tesla versus Wanxiang fight is going to be highly entertaining," writes Jeffrey Towson. "Both Lu and Musk are visionaries who are already leaders in their industries. They both have long track records of success in hyper-competitive industries. They are both very, very smart. And they are both at the top of their game. So this rivalry should be great for consumers, and pretty fun to watch." Gentlemen, start your engines!
New Zealand holds its ground.
Graeme Wheeler is as countercyclical a policymaker as you'll find these days. With Bank of Japan, European Central Bank and Federal Reserve officials lost in the woods of zero interest rates and quantitative easing, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand governor is mulling another rate hike. Last week, the central bank raised borrowing costs for the third time this year and is signaling more moves to follow as the economy expands faster than long-run capacity. The Wellington-based Wheeler is a long, long way from his American, European and Japanese peers -- literally and figuratively.
Why Iraq is no surprise.
As things degenerate by the day over in West Asia, the same neocons who conned America into invading Iraq want a replay. In this blistering column, Stephan Richter, editor of the Washington-based online magazine The Globalist, explains how predictable Iraq's descent into chaos was even back in 2003 when then-President George W. Bush toppled Saddam Hussein with zero thought about filling the power vacuum that followed. Anyone who thought it was a good idea "turn all of Iraq into a powder keg," Richter writes, "at best showed complete ignorance of the history of the region." Now, as surging oil prices hit East Asian economies, they have those same neocons spoiling for war anew to thank.
China's Arab March.
Will China's huge investment in the Arab world go awry amid growing bloodshed in Iraq and Syria and its possible spillover effects far beyond? Minghao Zhao, a research fellow at Chinese think-tank Charhar Institute, tackles this evolving question in a Project Syndicate op-ed. China has invested untold billions in growing trade with the resource-rich region to the point where China is now its second-largest trading partner. As Zhao puts it: "China’s 'march west' into the Arab world is a bold effort to translate its economic might into enduring regional -- and, ultimately, global -- influence. This is a daunting task, but it is one that can not only help to secure China’s long-term future, but perhaps bring greater weight to bear in resolving the region’s immense challenges."
World's sexiest people.
All the world's a stage, as William Shakespeare wrote. If it were a beauty contest, Australian men and Brazilian women would be well positioned for accolades. In general, though, the Asia-Pacific region fares poorly in a sexiness poll of travel dating website MissTravel members. Yes, men Down Under were ranked No. 1 but no East Asian nation cracked the top 10. And among women, only Filipinas did, coming in fifth -- after Brits and Colombians. What does all this say about the world of economic or politics? Beats me, but this item sure did seem like a fun way to conclude today's roundup.
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