Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China's credit curbs aren't working
So much for China's great credit clampdown. In June, global markets quaked over hints that People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan was decisively curbing credit once and for all. The main target, the thinking went, would be a vast shadow banking system responsible for much of the nation's runaway credit growth. Well, not so much. Last month alone, new local-currency loans came in at $103 billion, an acceleration from $95 billion in October. If that's a clampdown, then we may need to change the definition.
Same-sex marriage setback in Australia
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made good on one of his more contentious election promises: protecting the traditional definition of marriage. The nation's first same-sex marriages were declared invalid and unconstitutional today by the top court in a ruling on a lawsuit driven by Abbott's government. If only Abbott would address the flagging economy with the same zeal with which he is pursuing a conservative social agenda. Yesterday was a bad day for gays elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, too, as India's top court upheld a 153-year-old colonial-era law that criminalizes homosexual sex in the world's largest democracy.
Samsung rethinks China as wages rise
The day officials in Beijing have long dreaded is here as big names like Samsung Electronics relocate production to cheaper locales like Vietnam. China never wanted to be the world's factory floor forever -- moving up the value chain is certainly on the nation's wish list. But is the exodus starting too soon for Communist Party leaders, who have promised to restructure the economy while also avoiding social instability? It's an open question, and one that this Bloomberg News piece on Samsung puts into stark relief.
Deadly business of Philippine news
The execution-style killing of radio host Rogelio Butalib, 44, would be shocking enough in any democratic nation. That he was the third journalist to meet a violent end in two weeks deserves immediate attention and action by President Benigno Aquino. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the Philippines ranks third-worst in its "impunity index" of countries that fail to combat violence against the media. Even before the latest killings, 72 Filipino journalists had been whacked since 1992. In a democracy like the Philippines, journalists have an extraordinarily important job to do. Must so many die doing it?
Toyota wants to start them young
Japan's consumer market is increasingly heading in the wrong direction for automakers. Not only are the ranks of the elderly, traditionally a non-driving demographic, growing: Now twentysomething Japanese are losing interest in owning vehicles, too. Many blame Japan's vast and efficient public transportation networks. So what's a company like Toyota to do? Market to kids. This Asahi story connects the dots between Japan's demographic challenges and the changing tastes of an entire nation.
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