Pesek on Asia: Kerry's Climate Pivot
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
John Kerry pivots to climate change.
Even after massive investments in new technologies, China is struggling to make its economy green. Imagine the size of the landfills it will need in the years ahead. Yet China and other developing-nation powerhouses can’t afford to pollute with the same abandon Europe and U.S. did during their industrial revolutions. Our planet couldn’t handle 3 billion Asians consuming like Americans. That's the backdrop against which John Kerry is making a pivot to focus on mitigating climate change in Asia. It's about time the U.S. championed not just faster gross domestic product but sustainability, too.
Hits of Hoovernomics in Japan.
Ryutaro Hashimoto, Japan’s prime minister from 1996 to 1998, went to his deathbed in 2006 seething over being tagged as Asia’s Herbert Hoover. The U.S. president helped make the Depression of the 1930s great with an ill-timed and ill-advised tax increase; Hashimoto made the same mistake and ended Japan’s post-bubble recovery. Will Shinzo Abe befall a similar fate with a sales tax hike in April? Will history remember Abenomics as something closer to Hoovernomics? Only time will tell, but the annualized 1 percent growth rate of the fourth quarter suggests consumers and businesses alike are already bracing for the contractionary effects of tighter fiscal policy.
Singapore's lessons for Hong Kong?
John Tsang's hatemail inbox must by pulsating after his suggestion that Hong Kong should be emulating its rival as Asia's business center, Singapore. Tsang, the city's Financial Secretary, argues that Hong Kong should learn in particular from Singapore's success in importing labor and reclaiming land to fuel growth. Yet those views are hardly likely to be popular right now: Locals are already complaining about cheap labor -- much of it from China -- distorting the local economy, and protesters decry the rapid disappearance of the iconic Victoria Harbor. Tsang's perfectly reasonable message might well fall on deaf ears.
Limits of Spain's global policing.
Well, give Spain points for judicial ambition. China's neighbors are plenty aggrieved by its human rights abuses in Tibet, and its insistence on punishing any world leader who meets with the Dalai Lama. But Spain is that rare democracy willing to put its legal system where its outrage is. We can debate whether it's hubristic overreach to target faraway governments from Western Europe. Here, in case you missed it over the weekend, is an intriguing look at Spain's ambitions as global policeman and how it's going down in Beijing. Suffice it to say, not well.
China's vice crackdown.
Along with trying to retool the economy and avoid military conflict with Japan, President Xi Jinping is finding time to clamp down on prostitution as part of a national offensive against gambling, drugs and other vices. It's a worthy focus, given the untold millions of women trafficked each year not only from province to province but abroad. The latest target is the southern manufacturing city of Dongguan, which many Chinese call "Sin City" because of its many sex-related services for an influx of migrant workers, and businessmen from nearby cities. It comes a week after a similar raid in Guangdong province. No doubt many women enter the sex trade out of financial necessity. But such policy actions will serve a broader good if they make it harder to enslave young women with no interest in brothel work.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter @williampesek.)