Pesek on Asia: S&P's Australia Reality Check

William Pesek's take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today.

Good morning. Beyond the impositionof martial law in Thailand, here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:

S&P leaves Australia'sAbbotthanging.

Funny, rating companies normally say what they are paid to by the governments they grade. But here's a rare case of Standard & Poor's veering away from Tony Abbott's apocalyptic talking points. Rather than mimic the Australian prime minister's scary talk of imminent budget crises and runaway debt in the Group of 20 nation with the most enviable balance sheet, S&P went the other way, saying all's well. You can bet Abbott is asking for a review of just how much Canberra pays this S&P crowd.

Is Taiwan'sMa Ying-jeou a lame duck?

This question isn't just the talk of Taipei, but Beijing, too. Amid a staggering array of challenges, the one thing Chinese President Xi Jinping probably didn't expect to fret over was Taiwan. Since 2008, President Ma made things easy for the Communist Party by cozying up to the mainland and keeping Taiwan's independence movement on a tight leash. Giant student protests changed all that, forcing Ma to delay a sweeping trade deal with China and remember that he represents the Taiwanese people, not Beijing. The backlash against Ma's overreach suggests his China detente will take a backseat to domestic affairs during the last two years of his term. Xi can't be happy.

Mahathir reappears in Malaysian Airsearch.

At 88, it's quite clear the mercurial Mahathir Mohamad hasn't mellowed with age. He rarely misses a chance to toss zingers at the West or Prime Minister Najib Razak's way as the political system Mahathir helped create decades ago loses favor with the Malaysian public. Now, he's spinning colorful tales about how the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is holding out on information surrounding Flight 370, which went missing on March 8. I doubt his latest conspiracy theory will get much traction, though he may be giving John Le Carre fodder for his next spy thriller. Or should I thinking Dan Brown here?

Why Barack Obama needsNarendra Modi.

Long before Narendra Modi's historic thrashing of Rahul Gandhi's Congress party, Barack Obama's White House was extending olive branches to the man from Gujarat. After anti-Muslim riots in the state Modi governed since 2001, U.S. officials refused to meet with him and denied him a visa. America's tone changed months ago, as myriad leaks made their way into newspapers saying Washington could work with Modi. Here from Quartz, is a look at why Obama needs Modi's help as much as India's next leader needs the U.S. president's in the age of China.

China'sRodney Dangerfield problem.

The late comedian made a career out of I-don't-get-no-respect jokes. China's statisticians understand more than most what he meant as the economics world rolls its eyes at whatever data sets they churn out. Here's a quirky Wall Street Journal item on Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang taking on the critics. "There are some analysts who contend that [trade-related] arbitrage has led to false exports and that's what's behind the strong export growth. I believe this is speculation and without foundation," Shen told reporters. OK, readers, stop giggling!

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