Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Taiwan's pre-Lehman jobless rate.
It will come as no surprise to anyone navigating the streets of Taipei (as I am this week) why Taiwan's unemployment rate fell to 3.99% in May, the lowest reading since July 2008. The place is one giant construction site as the island's capital expands its mass-rapid transit system and other infrastructure projects. Good news for the global economy that the jobless rate is well below its post-Lehman-Brothers-crash high? It could be, considering this open and nimble economy can often be a weathervane for shifts in global trade trends.
Australia mining for economic stabilizers.
"Beyond the Boom," is as aptly titled as a research paper on the challenges facing Australia could be. Penned by Reserve Bank of Australia board member John Edwards, it raises a fascinating possibility: Japan could return as the nation's biggest trading partner to offset a slowdown in China and help weather a slump in mining investment. "It is possible that by 2017 Japan may again be Australia's single biggest customer for goods and exports," he writes. While I'm not convinced, Edwards just became Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's favorite overseas economist.
Hollywood runs afoul of China -- again.
Among recent controversies was Angelina Jolie's suggestion that Taiwan wasn't part of China. Now it's, of all things, one of those inane "Transformers" sequels. This latest brouhaha is more of the dry, contractual kind with Beijing Pangu Investment Co. delaying the June 27 film release over disagreements with Paramount concerning sponsorships. Still, the spat is a reminder that Hollywood's efforts to crack China are a window into Sino-U.S. trade tensions. The apparent pettiness of this one suggests Chinese regulators won't be easily seduced by Hollywood's glitz.
Japan's Abe lays out military plans.
No leader in Asia does faux sincerity better than Japan's Shinzo Abe. Even as his well-known nationalism and designs on building an offensive military worry Asia, Abe argues his government is a force for light and peace in the region. He even talks up the evils of military expansion in this Project Syndicate op-ed. "Military expansion is inherently incompatible with Asia's move toward the center of the global economy. The fruits of prosperity should be reinvested in improving people's lives, not in weapons that can take them." Funny how Asian neighbors would probably direct similar warnings at Abe's Liberal Democratic Party.
India bets a on Modi stock rally.
As Narendra Modi rolls up his sleeves to take on India's inefficient and corrupt political system, stock punters are understandably giddy. As one Mumbai banker told the Financial Times: The country is in the midst of a post-election "gold rush. There aren't enough hours in the day to have meetings with people who want to talk about raising money." That's fine, so long as Modi understands how huge the disappointment trade will be if the hype about change in Mumbai markets isn't matched by bold action in New Delhi.
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