Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China irked by restless Hong Kong.
A funny thing happened on the way toward China controlling the Internet: Hong Kong. Try as it may, the army of cyber warriors which constitutes Beijing's Great Wall of Censorship can't shut down an online democracy poll that's enraging -- and shaming -- Communist Party leaders. Irked by stagnant living standards, skyrocketing housing costs and Beijing's micromanaging, many of the city's 7.2 million residents are voting for greater autonomy with their smartphones, tablets and PCs. And, much to Beijing's increasing dismay. Beijing says it plans to select the next Hong Kong head when Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's term expires in 2017. Millions of Hong Kongers are saying no way.
Cooling Taiwan tensions?
Zhang Zhijun's arrival in Taipei is a highly constructive sign in itself. China’s top official in charge of cross-strait affairs arrived for a four-day visit two months after giant protests made global headlines halted a trade pact between the two economies. He's the first head of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office to visit Taiwan. "To reach Taiwan from Beijing I flew three hours, but to take that step took no less than 65 years," Zhang said as he began meetings with his Taiwanese counterpart Wang Yu-chi. A sign of cross-straits détente? We'll have to stay tuned this week.
Malaysia's Najib taps the Chinese.
Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia appears to have gotten the memo. In naming six members from his coalition's Chinese partners to cabinet positions, Najib effectively bowed to discontent about the lack of diversity in the highest levels of government. Coming a year after a poor showing in the general elections was attributed to voters from the ethnic group, Najib's olive branch is a moment of potential optimism for a more inclusive and innovative Malaysian government -- and economy.
Is volatility about to return?
Much has been written about the death of market volatility as zero-interest rates from Tokyo to Washington sedate asset classes of all kinds. Is Asia prepared for a sudden -- and potentially violent -- return of chaotic trading activity? Here's a look at how things might play out. "With FX volatility at record lows, you're seeing all manner of stretch for yield," says Royal Bank of Scotland's Greg Gibbs. "If there's any evidence that the Fed is going to be moving rates higher sooner, the impact on markets would potentially be quite severe."
Ruling on Asiana crash.
As South Korea grapples with its latest transportation disaster -- the April sinking of the Sewol ferry -- the events that led to another are coming to light. The fatal Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco on July 2013 killed three and triggered questions about Korea’s pilot training and one of Boeing’s most popular jetliners. The conclusion by U.S. investigators: pilot errors, inadequate training and confusion about the airplane’s automated controls all contributed to the first commercial airline accident in the U.S. with passenger fatalities since 2009. Case closed? Nope. Expect Boeing and Korean regulators to continue debating this one.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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