Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Big Chinese deal makes Apple's month
No matter what else is afoot at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, December 2013 is likely to be remembered as a great month for CEO Tim Cook. China Mobile won state approval to start commercial service on the world's largest fourth-generation wireless network, clearing a key hurdle to offering the iPhone to 759 million subscribers. That's a potential customer base twice the size of America's entire population. Let's just say that for Cook and Apple, Christmas is coming early this year.
Australia and Korea reach free-trade deal
Say goodbye to those 300 percent tariffs on Australian agricultural goods entering Asia's fourth-biggest economy. It's good news for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who, frankly, has had very few policy successes to date. Or is it? Here's a lively contrarian take in the Sydney Morning Herald, arguing, among other things, that this deal could be a disaster for Australian manufacturers. Abbott said, "The benefits of the free-trade agreement start flowing immediately and will be long-lasting." But clearly, that will be a matter of keen debate Down Under in the weeks, and months, ahead.
Raghuram Rajan, Bollywood hero on a white steed
That's David Pilling's colorful description of how India's newish central-bank governor arrived on the job in September in this Financial Times column. Hyperbole aside, here's a timely reality-check on how -- against the odds -- Rajan's handiwork quickly turned a potential financial crisis into something far more manageable. India isn't out of the woods, but, as Pilling writes, "New Delhi is no longer in panic mode."
China angering South Korea, too
Hey, why quit while you're ahead? Or in the case of China's relations with its North Asia neighbors, make that behind. In recent weeks, the chatter was about warming ties between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Korean President Park Geun Hye, who has charmed the Chinese with her Mandarin skills. But China's new air-defense zone, one aimed ostensibly at Japan, encompasses areas claimed by Korea, enraging Seoul and giving Park new incentive to further strengthen relations with the U.S.and even Japan. And as fate would have it, Vice President Joseph Biden is in town tomorrow, fresh from calling on the Chinese to act more responsibly.
Deutsche Bank's $62,000 Tokyo bill
I don't care what Japan's Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission thinks Deutsche Bank director Shigeru Echigo did wrong blowing $62,000 entertaining clients from 2010 to 2012. I just want to know when Echigo is free to do the town with me and some of pals -- with his corporate card along for the ride, of course. Seriously, though, in a business culture that's propelled by pricey late-night boozing with clients and early-morning hangovers, it will be interesting to learn what kinds of shady dealings this guy was allegedly up to. Anyways, Echigo, we're free anytime here!
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