Pesek on Asia: China's Big Test
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Big testfor China's Xi
Is China about to experience another Deng Xiaoping moment? Expectations are high as Communist Party leaders begin a four-day conclave, known as a plenum, tomorrow. History shows these kinds of introspective sessions can launch the big reforms that propelled China's growth, Deng Xiaoping's 1978 program being the most epochal. The Financial Times makes a compelling case for President Xi Jinping to use this plenum as opportunity to begin preparing for a rapidly-aging population. Among the urgent challenges facing China, demographics probably won't be front and center this weekend. But history won't be kind to this generation of leaders if it ignores how the one-child policy is imperiling China's future.
Eye on corruptionin Thailand
Is there a silver lining in the controversy over an amnesty bill that brought the Thai government to a standstill, precipitated giant protests and turned off foreign investors? Yes, argues this Bangkok Post Op-Ed. "It doesn't matter what you say. I say the `all the way' amnesty bill is good for the country in the way it has helped bring the issue of corruption into sharp focus," wrote local journalist Wasant Techawongtham. It's a fair point. Transparency International ranks Thailand after Swaziland and Morocco in its latest corruption-perceptions index. It's high time Thailand cleaned up its act, and the nation's internecine politics is the place to start.
Bullish on the Philippines
The time has come for the onetime "Sick Man of Asia" as growth returns, politicians improve governance and Filipinos feel more confident about the future, says billionaire Enrique Razon. Does his decidedly half-glass-full view of the Philippines stand up to scrutiny? History certainly counsels a bit of caution. President Benigno Aquino's efforts to strengthen the business environment are a work in progress at best. Nor can Aquino run for re-election in 2016. Yet this intriguing Bloomberg Markets magazine feature finds worth in the bullish case for the Philippines, one Razon is far from alone in championing.
Singapore leader gets hacked
The hacker group known as Anonymous scored a major online coup by breaking Lee Hsien Loong's website. This also could signal an escalation in its attacks on Southeast Asian governments over Internet censorship and corruption. As if Asian leaders didn't have enough to contend with -- Federal Reserve tapering, China's slowdown, deflation worries in Europe -- they now must spend valuable time and resources boosting cyber defenses. The irony here is that these attacks, particularly in the post-Edward Snowden world, will likely only lead to less Internet freedom and government transparency in Asia.
Gaming addictiondebated in Korea
South Korean lawmaker Shin Eui-jin submitted the "Prevention, Management and Treatment of Addiction Law," a measure aimed not just at fighting and preventing addictions to alcohol and drugs, but also gambling and online games. It's created quite a debate in Seoul and around a nation that prides itself as being the most wired anywhere. Is medical-doctor-turned-legislator Shin right to believe a law can keep Korean kids away from their LG computers and Samsung smartphones? As political wagers go, I'm not sure this one will pay off.
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