Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
What's next for Thailand?
Here, Time magazine offers a useful timeline and reality check on Bangkok's latest military coup, the 12th in eight decades. The plot thickened today as military leaders summoned members of the Shinawatra family, who are at the heart of the nation's long-running conflict. Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was among 23 top officials who reported to army officials in this fast-deepening political crisis that's riveting the world's attention. Markets are even buzzing about a central-bank interest rate cut to avert a coup-related recession.
A new Vietnam War?
Vietnam's tit-for-tat with China over disputed territory is a geopolitical novelty all its own. Really, who would have imagined the backbone of the multinational companies that rule the economy -- the global supply chain -- would be disrupted by two Communist nations duking it out before the cameras? Here's another question, and a scary one at that: Are we witnessing the makings of another Vietnam War? Stephan Richter, Washington-based publisher of online magazine the Globalist, explores that very risk. Unlikely as it is, nothing good will come from Chinese and Vietnamese ships facing off in the Asian seas.
Aquino asks his own big China question.
In a Bloomberg News interview, Philippine President Benigno Aquino raised his own question about China's recent behavior: "These disputes with your neighbors, how does that help you in your quest to continue to improve your own economy?" It's a fair one when you consider the magnitude of President Xi Jinping's task. Restructuring the world's No. 2 economy will be mighty destabilizing and pose unprecedented risks to the Communist Party's legitimacy. You'd think Xi would be too busy to spar with neighbors over disputed islands. Of course, that could be the whole point. Flexing his muscles in Asia is a nifty way to maintain popularity at home.
Exploitation Inc. alive and well in Asia.
As the forces behind rising inequality get renewed attention in Asia, a new International Trade Union report is shining a spotlight on Western brands and their exploitative labor policies. Here, Asia Sentinel sums up its findings, including how Cambodia stands as one of the worst countries for labor rights, barely ahead of the "no rule of law" status awarded to countries like the Ukraine and Syria. Not surprising, Wal-Wart gets prominent mention.
Taiwan offers touch of good economic news.
As an open and trade-reliant economy, Taiwan is often a weathervane of sorts for the global financial system. It tends to slow rapidly or bounce back energetically when at economic inflection points. So, it may be a harbinger of goods things to come that Taiwan's gross domestic product rose 3.14 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier and the government is upgrading growth projections going forward.
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