Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
There goes the Asian neighborhood.
Asian governments had an abrupt wakeup call today as Vietnam claimed a Chinese vessel sank one of its fishing boats. The fallout from the most serious bilateral standoff since 2007 reverberated around the region with Japanese and Philippine officials crying foul and calling on Beijing to rein in both its ships and territorial ambitions. Well, good luck with that. The odds greatly favor more of these sorts of confrontations -- at sea and in the skies -- not less. Welcome to new normal of Asian geopolitics.
Asia's youth corruption problem.
Start `em young, goes the old adage. In Asia's case, though, this concept is taking on a life of its own, and a rather sinister one at that. According to Transparency International, 72 percent of Asians aged 15 to 30 say they would engage in a corrupt act for personal gain. One in five think it's fine to cheat and lie to amass wealth. While young people know corruption is wrong, says Transparency International's Srirak Plipat, "a very worrying number of them believe that in order to succeed in life they will have to compromise their values and conform to the current status quo."
Japan's Abe visits right place.
If Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reads his global press, he knows Asia is still seething over his December visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which among others honors 14 Class-A war criminals. Yesterday, Abe visited Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi cemetery, which is similar to America's Arlington, provoking absolutely no global outcry. He should take the hint. By visiting the uncontroversial Chidorigafuchi to honor Japan's war dead in the future, not Yasukuni, Abe would go a long way toward defusing tensions in Asia and rebuilding Japan's global "soft power."
Ex-Goldman guy shakes up Philippines.
In the Philippines, where one quarter of the nation's 107 million people live on less than $1.25 a day, every penny counts. There's no more obvious place to find the funds to eradicate poverty than the Bureau of Customs. President Benigno Aquino says smuggling costs Manila more than $4.6 billion a year. Here, from Bloomberg News, is a lively look one of the nation's newest anti-smuggling crusaders, a former Goldman Sachs banker to boot.
South Korea hunts missing ferry magnate.
With palpable anger and the highest-ever bounty of $488,000, South Korean President President Park Geun Hye is going after shadowy businessman Yoo Byung Eun. Prosecutors claim he's the ultimate owner of Sewol operator Chonghaejin Marine, and the Korean public is clamoring for his arrest. But this search for a missing billionaire who may, or may not be, a religious cult leader is growing more surreal by the day -- including church members staging rallies and acting as human shields around Yoo's compound. Really, you couldn't make this stuff up.
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