Pesek on Asia: Fukushima Fears Spread
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Fukushima fears spread to America.
As Shinzo Abe takes any number of bows for last year's 57 percent Nikkei rally, you would never know the Japanese prime minister's government has a crisis of historic proportions on its hands. That's especially so now that the people of San Francisco are fretting over the nuclear leak at Fukushima. Health officials there are investigating elevated radiation levels, and a video depicting dangerous Geiger counter readings has gone viral in cyberspace. All nuclear accidents are global. It's time Abe realized that the world is watching as he fiddles in Tokyo.
Kuala Lumpur's corruption clampdown.
Anti-graft movements often work best when they start out small and grow from there. The bigger and splashier the campaign, the more likely it's about public relations, not true change. That makes Kuala Lumpur's crackdown on police corruption and money laundering so intriguing. The probe into 60 cops could be merely cosmetic. Or it could morph into something much bigger if a groundswell of public opinion prods Prime Minister Najib Razak to act more broadly. Heaven knows Malaysia, like many other countries in the region, needs to clean up its act. There's no better time to start than now.
A Hong Kong legend exits stage.
Run Run Shaw didn't just have one of the best names in showbiz -- the Hong Kong legend had one of the best set of eyes for great stories and even investments. Shaw Brothers Studios introduced and later exported in lucrative quantities Chinese cinema to a global audience in the 1960s. Long before Americans discovered Jackie Chan, or Quentin Tarantino popularized the kung fu genre for new generations in the West, Shaw's pioneering studio was launching the careers of world-class directors like John Woo and investing in American classics like 1982's "Blade Runner." Hong Hong's entertainment industry lost a giant when he died peacefully at the age 107. But the city will long be better off for his towering legacy.
Complacency catches up with Samsung.
Samsung chief Lee Kun Hee's October speech now seems painfully prophetic as the company's electronics business posts its first profit decline in nine quarters. The problem: Apple's new iPhones won over high-end handset buyers and models from cheaper Chinese producers lured budget customers. In October, Lee issued a warning to his staff: “You should arm yourself once again with a sense of urgency. You cannot afford to remain complacent.” This week's result isn't quite a crisis; Samsung's Galaxy phones and tablets and flat-screen TVs are still plenty competitive. But it's time for Samsung to innovate and wow its way back into the minds -- and shopping carts -- of consumers near and far. Come to think of it, the same could be said of South Korea's economy, of which Samsung often seems a microcosm.
Mark Twain is a curious Chinese sensation.
Few voices are more quintessentially American than that of Twain, who 103 years after his death remains one of the nation's most-quoted writers. Here's an intriguing New York Times piece about Twain's curious popularity in China, where his "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is a huge hit. The same goes for “Running for Governor,” a book about a fictional New York gubernatorial candidate. Of course, the Communist Party can't help but hope many of Twain's witticisms don't spread too widely in China, like one of my personal favorites: "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it." But for now, any rumors of Huck Finn's waning global popularity are greatly exaggerated.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)