Pesek on Asia: Snowden Fallout Spreads

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Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:

Asia's spying suspicions deepen

After wreaking havoc in the U.S. and Europe, former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden's library of embarrassing documents is now shaking up Asian geopolitics. First came word that Australia tried to listen to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's telephone conversations in 2009. Now it may be Singapore spying on Malaysia, an allegation that risks damaging improved political and business ties between the Southeast Asian neighbors. Let's just say governments with dirty laundry they'd hoped to keep secret should prepare for the risk that they too will get Snowden-ed in the months ahead.

Japan's Abe takes on rice farmers

Score one for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's so-called "third arrow." The first two arrows deployed to boost growth were monetary stimulus and fiscal spending. Today, Abe took a first step toward delivering the deregulation vital to the third phase of his revival plan. Abe's government approved a plan to end a four-decade long policy that has helped to sustain the nation's 1.2 million rice farms. Still no word on the far more important -- and politically difficult -- move to reduce Japan's 778 percent tariff for rice imports, but scrapping the subsidy is a small feather in Abe's reformist hat.

Are CEOs addicted to 10% Chinese growth?

For all the glowing comments about the wonders of Xi Jinping's reform program, the world's corporate glitterati is clearly bummed about China's growth downshift from 10 percent to the 7 percent range, which already dragging on profits. Here, compliments of Quartz, is a smattering of comments that suggest just how much businesses grew to rely on double-digit mainland growth. Take this one from Nike Chief Financial Officer Donald Blair: "Revenue was higher for every geography, except China."

South Korea's income milestone

Long after beating the so-called middle-income trap, South Korea's per capita income is about to hit the $24,000 mark. Unlike Malaysia and Thailand, Korea managed to zoom through the $10,000 range thanks to open economic policies and a keen focus on education and training that helped broaden the benefits of rising gross domestic product. Korea still has a long way to go to increase competitiveness and foster innovation. But for executives around the globe looking for an increasingly affluent Asian market on which to focus in 2014, Korea could be just the place.

Is Time on Narendra Modi's side?

As Time mulls whom to name person of the year (and asks readers to vote), Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi is on the magazine's shortlist. The chief minister of the booming western state of Gujarat is leading the charge against Prime Minister's Manmohan Singh's Congress Party. Will voters be impressed to see Modi feted in the rarified ranks of America's Barack Obama, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pakistani teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai and's Jeff Bezos? Indians need not wait for next year's election to answer. They can go to Time's website now and vote.

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Willie Pesek at