Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China causes a plenum doubletake
Two days after disappointing markets with vague platitudes about reform coming out of a four-day Party plenum, Xi Jinping served up the real thing. Well, at least a 60-point policy paper released on Friday night Beijing time promised the specter of big change. It's still entirely unclear if this is an epochal moment in Chinese history or a giant head fake. President Xi still needs to prod the Communist Party to loosen its grip on a top-down system that stifles the ground-up innovation China needs to create better paying jobs. Easier said than done, but Xi gets high markets for his burst of audacity.
Births in the Philippine disaster zone
Of all the dispatches I've read from the typhoon-ravaged Philippines these last 10 days, this one, co-written by Bloomberg News Manila bureau chief Clarissa Batino, affected me most. It looks at the plight of 25,000 or so women who will soon give birth in the disaster zone, where President Benigno Aquino has pledged to stay until he is satisfied with relief efforts. This baby boom, if you will, is an added and highly unique pressure on already overstressed aid agencies. As Sew Lun Genevieve Ah-Sue, country representative of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, says: "In crisis or not, women continue to deliver."
Larry Summers broaches " Asiaphoria "
The global economy is now being shaped and lifted by the trajectory of a couple of Asian giants, what Lant Pritchett of Harvard and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Summers call "Asiaphoria." In a research paper, they explore whether China and India are headed for a serious rough patch. The basic logic: what goes up economically must come down. "We are not arguing that one can predict with any degree of accuracy or confidence a slowdown but certainly policy makers need to be prepared for a wider range of extended slow-growth outcomes in these Asian giants than those that currently dominate the discourse," they argue. "Hitching the cart of the future global economy to the horse of the Asian giants carries substantial risks."
Edward Snowden ruins Tony Abbott's week
The U.S. whistleblower Snowden has struck Down Under, disclosing that Australia tried to listen to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's telephone conversations in 2009. That report, courtesy of Australian Broadcasting Corp. based on documents from Snowden, is sure to wreck Prime Minister Abbott's week. While he wasn't running Australia then, Abbott's government has some serious explaining to do. Indonesia, with the world's largest population of Muslims, is a key transit point for asylum seekers attempting to enter Australia by boat, and Abbott is seeking more Indonesian cooperation to stem the flow of arrivals. Good luck with that now.
Casinos may bet on Japan, Taiwan
Las Vegas magnates like Sheldon Adelson were right: Asia's explosion of foreign-owned casinos isn't a bubble, but a sign the region's gaming pie is just getting bigger. With Macau and Singapore looking a bit saturated for now, casino companies are eyeing Japan and Taiwan. Lawmakers might want to get over their aversion to blackjack tables and baccarat VIP rooms. Rolling the dice on casinos would give both economies a much-needed boost. Japan also wants to woo more foreign tourists ahead of its staging of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Odds are, casinos will help.
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