Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Japan's new defense policy: Semantics.
If you can't alter your nation's constitution, pretend. That essentially is what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cowed his Liberal Democratic Party into doing today. Lacking the votes to amend Japan's war-renouncing document, Abe is reinterpreting it to expand the role of the military to include the defense of allies, against massive public resistance. This week, one Tokyo man even set himself on fire to protest Abe's semantic end run around Japanese law. Is that bold leadership, or prime-ministerial overreach? I can't wait to see the next set of poll numbers.
Tankan's unanswered questions.
Meanwhile, it was a good day for Abenomics, Abe's plan to revive Japan. The Bank of Japan's quarterly "tankan' survey showed companies increased their investment plans more than forecast even as a sales-tax hike dented sentiment, potentially aiding economic recovery. The problem, though, is consumers. They aren't upping spending activity because companies aren't paying more, even if they are investing. That mean today's good news could be short lived.
Kim cools as Xi visits Seoul.
The actions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un belie Xi Jinping's oft-stated contention that China lacks leverage over the Hermit Kingdom. As Chinese President Xi heads to Seoul this week, Kim's military brass is being told to cool it with the ballistic missile launches and general bombast. If only things could be like this on the Korean peninsula more often, you might say. Well, they could be if Xi's government used its economic leverage to bring North Korea to heel. Really, if Xi announced his own sanctions on Pyongyang -- no more cash, fuel or food -- the Kim dynasty would be a far more accommodating bunch.
India's building boom.
In case you missed this timely Atlantic piece on India, it says it all about the challenges facing Narendra Modi as he tries to upgrade the economy. While much of the task involves good governance and less red tape, Modi's biggest long-term challenge may involve construction. As China grapples with ghost cities and infrastructure overcapacity, "70 to 80 percent of the India of 2030 is yet to be built," says McKinsey. And that's not a typo. Time to buy Indian construction and transport stocks? It could just be.
Zomato hungry for New Zealand.
Zomato made its first acquisition globally, with more to come, says founder Deepinder Goyal. New Zealand is the first purchase by the India-born resource of restaurant information, one destined to become the largest in the world. As Quartz News puts it, the company's "expansion plan is lofty: enter 22 new markets in two years and consolidate the 12 they currently operate in. Zomato says it will now follow the acquisition route in a few other markets as well." Zomato, Goyal says, is in "advanced talks" with two companies, a Southeast Asia one and Europe one. Now there's a growing brand with a serious appetite.
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