Pesek on Asia: China Channels Pyongyang
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today.
China channels Kim Jong Un.
"Abe is now like a blind man riding a blind horse galloping to an abyss at midnight." Seriously Xinhua? We know China is cross with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, what with his honoring World War II war criminals and even straying into the weeds of World War I in ways that enraged Beijing. But in this commentary, the Communist Party mouthpiece doesn't just sound unhinged, but downright North Korean. Really, Kim Jong Un could be excused for wondering if some of his Korean Central News Agency staffers are moonlighting in Beijing. Abe has a lot to answer for, helping to drive tensions in Asia through the roof, but there's plenty of blame to go around. How deriding Japan's leader as "bigoted" and a "warmonger" serves to paint China in a more reasonable light is beyond me.
Hong Kong throws tantrum at Philippines.
Rising inflation; a widening rich-poor gap; a Chinese slowdown; runaway pollution; public anger about mainlanders overloading the place -- with so many risks circling around Hong Kong, it's great to see Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying focusing on what really matters: punishing Filipinos. Hong Kong is suspending visa-free access for holders of diplomatic and official Philippines passports, after talks over an apology to victims of a 2010 hostage crisis in city of Manila broke down. While these sanctions fall short of previous calls from lawmakers, Leung must be quite the multitasker if he has time to exact such petty revenge.
Don't forget those development goals.
In this age of austerity, when budgets are tight and domestic pressures are many among the richest nations, it’s easy to forget the developing world's needs. Here's a persuasive pitch by the World Bank's Mahmoud Mohieldin to recognize the economic progress attributable to official development assistance, or ODA, which amounted to $128 billion in 2012. "Over the last few decades," he says, "ODA has played a central role in lifting people from extreme poverty, financing investments in human and physical infrastructure, and smoothing the path of economic reform." With that kind of track record, let's be careful not to mess up the endgame now for Asia's future growth stars.
Lenovo may be buying misery with Motorola.
Stock analyst Alberto Moel of Sanford C. Bernstein didn't mince words: “This time Lenovo may have jumped the shark.” It's not the kind of idiom (referring to the moment when a brand declines) that the world’s largest personal-computer maker would want as it plops down $2.91 billion for, let's face it, a relic of the early wireless era. Sure, the Chinese company could make a go of Google's Motorola Mobility phone unit. As Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanqing puts it: “We dream to become a global player.” I'm just not convinced this has-been will get Lenovo there.
Indonesia's quirky Oscar moment.
Academy Award nominations pull films from obscurity to center stage in ways some governments might not like. Just ask Japan, which is still irked by the documentary "The Cove" winning an Oscar in 2009: the film shone a light on the annual dolphin hunt in the western town of Taiji. Indonesian officialdom may experience a similar burst of international intrigue should documentary "The Act of Killing" prevail on Oscar night. Its subject, an anti-communist slaughter in the mid-1960s being reenacted for tourists, could put violent elements of the nation's past in an uncomfortable global light.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter)
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