Pesek on Asia: China's Metals Probe
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Is China taking on double-counting problem?
News out of Qingdao Port sure got the attention of Standard Chartered and Goldman Sachs. Analysts at the former say a probe into metals inventories at the port have it "reviewing metals financing to a small number of companies in China," while the latter says the investigation may spur global banks to further curb commodities-financing deals in China and reduce foreign exchange inflows to the country. While questions abound, the big question is whether this is part of Xi Jinping's anti-graft push or an aberration. Either way, we may soon get a look at the mechanics behind the doubt-counting that muddies China's trade data. I've got my popcorn out.
Buyer's remorse in Bangkok.
After 20 days of military rule, some of the Thai coup's initial supporters are having a change of heart. Count the Bangkok Post's Achara Ashayagachat among those experiencing buyer's remorse as Army leaders widen attempts to quiet anti-coup sentiments. Others, of course, are still in a buying mood -- China Mobile today grabbed an 18 percent stake in Thailand's True Corp. for $880 million. But Achara isn't alone in arguing "the military should rethink its iron grip on power and begin addressing the economic and social disparity that is the root cause of political conflicts in a transparent manner."
The unappreciated geopolitics of volleyball.
Vietnam and the Philippines have found a delicious and relatively safe way to annoy China: volleyball. Given the obvious risks of taking on Chinese navy ships in waters around disputed islands, islets and atolls, why not try a friendly game on dry land between Vietnamese and Filipinos and drink a few beers in the process? Even better, do it on one of the above-mentioned islands in the South China Sea. Far from being amused, China called the match a "clumsy farce" and demanded the games cease. What's next, badminton on the contested Spratly archipelago?
Honoring the victims of Tacloban.
The best way for humankind to honor the thousands Filipinos killed by Typhoon Haiyan last November isn't with ceremonies or statues, but action on climate change. In this op-ed, Naderev Sano of the Philippines Climate Change Commission and Julie-Anne Richards of the Australia-based Climate Justice Program detail how the devastation came with a touch of serendipity. It's acted as rallying cry for groundbreaking studies released around the same time to name and shame the 90 cement, coal, gas and oil producers responsible for 63 percent of carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution. For these "carbon majors," the authors argue, "the time to pay up has arrived."
The tiny tweak that would boost Japan.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's three-arrows metaphor doesn't work for everyone. He pledges to fire monetary, fiscal and deregulatory arrows at Japan's rigid economy. To a Tokyo-based investor like Ed Rogers, Abe's plan is really about firing a thousand tiny darts aimed at making the economy more vibrant. This Quartz piece looks at one of those darts that would be easy to deploy and jumpstart labor-market reforms: ending the anachronistic and bewildering hurdles required for young people to apply for jobs. That alone would enliven a rigid and rapidly-aging workforce.
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