Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Shutdown imperils Obama's Asia pivot
Barack Obama is scheduled to embark next week on a four-nation trip to deepen ties in a region representing more than half the global economy, and less overtly, to reassert America's presence in the face of China's rise. Or not, thanks to the government shutdown. Malaysian media report that the U.S. president is scrapping the Kuala Lumpur leg of a trek meant to build on his so-called Asia pivot. Obama may even be forced to cancel stops in Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines, too. As Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary, told Bloomberg News, Congressional Republicans "may think this is a political game," but other nations "will view that as a weakness."
Breakfast at Tiffany's for Japanese billionaire?
Telecommunications mogul Masayoshi Son can have breakfast at Tiffany's. Make that lunch and dinner, too, now that the Softbank founder has plopped down $326 million for Tokyo's landmark Tiffany Building in the downtown Marunouchi area. Son is known to be a savvy investor and this is one of the richest real estate deals in Tokyo in a several years. Is it a sign Japan's long-suffering property market is turning around in step with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's revival plans? Not necessarily, but the success of this investment will be a good barometer.
Bernanke's tapering uncertainty hits Asia's GDP
Concerns about the Federal Reserve's impending reduction of its record stimulus are weighing on China, India and the rest of developing Asia, compounding the region's slowdown. The easing of output that the Asian Development Bank estimates for developing Asia, which excludes Japan, is hardly extreme -- 6 percent in 2013 compared to a 6.3 percent forecast in July -- but every scrap of growth matters in a region struggling to reduce poverty and narrow wage gaps. Asia is in for a rocky few months as Chairman Ben Bernanke decides when the Fed's much-anticipated tapering begins. The region is feeling a bit, well, fed up.
China's appetite for destruction -- literally
Japanese are petrified of a gastronomical eventuality: the day a few hundred million Chinese can afford fatty tuna. Eventually China's masses will discover the wondrous joys of the pink "o-toro" Japanese so love and begin outbidding Tokyo sushi chefs for it. Foreign Policy has an interesting piece on how feeding China's 1.3 billion people as they grew richer and more discerning in their culinary tastes may leave the rest of the world wanting. Eat up now.
Move over BRICs. Here's Comes MIKTA
Call it sexy-acronym envy. Brazil, Russia, India and China all basked in increased attention after Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs lumped them together as the BRICs. Perhaps feeling left out, Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, and Australia have gotten together to form the rather awkward-sounding MIKTA. This Council on Foreign Relations piece argues the impulse of the countries to work together on international issues is a welcome development. To matter, though, MIKTA must be a genuine collective endeavor with clear aspirations for humankind. In other words, it must be all that the BRICs group isn't.
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Willie Pesek at firstname.lastname@example.org