Pesek on Asia: Myanmar's Irrational Exuberance
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Irrational exuberance in Myanmar ?
The huge coming out party in Myanmar since 2012 has officially veered into hangover territory. That's the gist of this Asia Sentinel feature that cites recent World Bank and U.S. State Department warnings about everything from the difficulty of doing business to unproductive investments to infrastructure-related bottlenecks. This was always inevitable when a nation walled off from the global economy for decades suddenly put out a giant welcome mat, and it hardly means Myanmar's boom is over. But let this be a wakeup call to President Thein Sein to ensure that improvements in the economy and business climate keep better pace with surging investor optimism.
Meet China's Xi, Internet czar.
Mao. Deng. Xi. If all goes according to President Xi Jinping's aspirations, that's how history will view the pantheon of great Chinese leaders. Beijing-ologists long ago toasted Xi as the strongest leader since Deng Xiaoping, who in the 1980s wielded that power to great effect to modernize the economy. But might posterity give Xi even more prominence than Deng, the great reformer? Well, to his roles as president, Communist Party general secretary and military chief, Xi is adding Internet czar. "Efforts should be made to build our country into a cyber power," Xi reportedly said. Perhaps Xi figures that he who controls the Internet in the future dictates the narratives of the past. What's certain, though, is that China's great wall of censorship is about to get a whole lot bigger.
India's naval microcosm.
As Indians mourn after a tragedy aboard one of the navy's submarines, the second such event in six months, Ravi Velloor of the Singapore Straits Times wonders if New Delhi blamed the wrong man. This week's resignation by Navy Chief of Staff D.K. Joshi is still making headlines around a nation clamoring for explanations for why its sailors seem so accident-prone. But here, Velloor offers a contrarian take on Joshi's departure and presents it as a microcosm of what ails India. "That an officer so highly decorated for his competence and valor should feel the need to quit on a force that he served brilliantly for four decades speaks of the depths of his frustration at Delhi's bureaucratic durbar and a defense minister so paralyzed by fear of scandal that dozens of key military projects have been stalled for months and years." A microcosm, indeed.
Subway bets on South Korea.
The sandwich chain will open 300 new stores over the next three years, a bet that's as much about the Westernization of the Korean diet as the economy's trajectory. Fred DeLuca, Subway's CEO and founder, visited Korea to get a first-hand look at a nation that brands from Starbucks to Delifrance see as one of Asia's premier growth markets. In a nod to local tastes, Subway is even introducing a Bulgogi Sandwich to sate the appetites of 50 million passionate beef eaters.
Beijing bids farewell to Gary Locke.
In a parting shot to China as the U.S. ambassador returns home, Gary Locke urged Beijing to dial down tensions with a Japan -- a suggestion that fell with a mighty thud with state-run media. China News Service, for example, slammed Locke's tenure, borrowing from Mao Zedong's infamous 1949 "Farewell, Leighton Stuart" speech savaging the then-U.S. envoy. Its "Farewell, Gary Locke" piece even paints him as a "banana -- yellow skin and white heart" who for a time served the Obama White House well in China. "However," the commentary concludes, "after a while, a banana will inevitably start to rot."
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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