Pesek on Asia: Jack Ma Pulls a Ballmer
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Alibaba's Jack Ma does a Steve Ballmer.
Not to be outdone by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who's snapping up the Los Angeles Clippers, Jack Ma is buying into a soccer team. The Alibaba billionaire will pay $192 million for a 50 percent stake in the Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club, China's most popular team. Good investment or vanity purchase? Only time will tell, but Ma is getting off with paying peanuts compared with Ballmer's $2 billion deal. Sounds like a big score to me.
G7 should welcome China.
It's a truly odd spectacle. The world's seven biggest economies sending a warning China's way (in this case, over tensions in the East and South China Seas) when they could just address Chinese officials face to face. But the Group of Seven to too enamored with its past glory to invite Beijing into its club. Never mind that China's output far exceeds that of six of its seven members. China might not be a democracy and it's cozying up to Russia, but no major economic challenge of our time can be fixed without Beijing's help. Time for the G7 to face reality.
Good election news for Korea's Park.
A draw in local elections is rarely a plus for a national leader. But for South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who's spent the last seven weeks dealing with the fallout from a tragic ferry accident, the result was a comforting one. Splitting the vote with the main opposition party means Park avoided the drubbing that might have scuttled her economic restructuring agenda. Tensions remain high in South Korea following the deaths of 250 school children and Park needs to tread carefully. For now, though, her government can get back to the work of making the economy more competitive and innovative.
Pharrell Williams has them quaking in Tehran.
Catchy as his tunes can be, I never thought Pharrell Williams would be shaking up governments far away. This Foreign Policy feature explores how the craze set off by his international hit "Happy" is challenging the tolerance of autocrats in Tehran and beyond. Just as elsewhere in the world, young Iranians are making their own YouTube videos for the song. But, the article explains: "It didn't end well for the video's creators. All six of them were arrested by the Iranian secret police. The authorities paraded them on national TV, scolding the women for their allegedly 'immoral' behavior." Perhaps authorities would feel less threatened if Williams had named his tune "Unhappy."
Japan's dementia epidemic.
Asia's No. 2 economy has a unique problem on its hands. Local media are awash in tales about a growing number of missing elderly Japanese. In 2013, at least 10,322 disoriented people went missing, wandering the streets. It's a fascinating and disturbing problem that others in Asia, including South Korea and China, will soon face: How does a government deal with legions of memory-challenged folks who continue to live on their own? Convenience-store giant Lawson is even training staff to deal with befuddled senior citizens snacking on food items in stores without paying. These unique challenges will only get worse; now is the time to start figuring out a better safety net.
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