Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pesek on Asia: Media Sins on MH370

Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today.

How did the press do on MH370?

In this Atlantic piece, nomadic journalist James Fallows explores an under-reported part of the Malaysian Air tragedy: the media. In the age of breathless 24/7 news coverage, speculation dubiously filled the void left by incomplete data or understanding of how a Boeing 777 could simply vanish. It's a worthwhile read, the gist of which is that "for low-probability events when very little data is available, our ugly tendency to fall back on our imagination comes to the fore on all sides, as it has in the past two weeks with MH370."

Alibaba is more symbol than trailblazer.

As China gushes with pride and Wall Street imagines vast riches and unprecedented buzz, a moment of sobriety is needed. Alibaba is huge and important, but is it really a game-changing tech company? As this Wall Street Journal piece by Francesco Guerrera details, "the battle for the cream of the Chinese crop among the Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York exchanges won’t be defined by an IPO that is as large as it is idiosyncratic. Barring a stock-market collapse, Alibaba’s listing will be well received by U.S. investors. But it should be seen as a stage in Corporate China’s long march, not a great leap forward."

Crimean analogies are flying.

Czechoslovakia and Germany. Poland and Germany. Cyprus and Turkey. The Falkland Islands and Argentina. Mongolia and China. Now, to the list of possible historical parallels -- real and imagined -- to Russia's Ukraine adventure we must add Japan and China. This comes compliments of senior Japan cabinet office official Yasutoshi Nishimura, who told the South China Morning Post that Beijing's moves to snatch the Diaoyu Islands (the Japanese call them Senkaku) away from Tokyo are akin to Russia seizing Crimea. It's a unique geopolitical flame-up that offers something for virtually everyone, analogy-wise at least.

That economy killer called pollution.

The population of Hong Kong. That's how many people died from air pollution around the world in 2012 alone. Those 7 million fatalities, up from about 3.2 million in 2008, surpass deaths from AIDS, diabetes and road injuries combined. And they indicate a troublesome escalation in environmental risks not just to health but Asia's economic future. China, of course, is now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses and India is rising on the league tables. This fast-growing strain on public coffers, productivity and economic-growth deserves far more attention, study and attempts at prevention Leaders wondering what catalyst might foment the social instability that keeps them up at night may find it in the air they breathe.

India's "common man" movement is still a force.

Write off India's new Aam Aadmi (common man) Party at your peril. That's the upshot of this Asia Sentinel piece, which challenges the conventional wisdom that victory for Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is a given in elections ending in May. It argues that the message of Arvind Kejriwal Aam Aadmi party -- to "create the disruption that the operations of India’s political system and government machine desperately needs" -- may have greater resonance with voters than skeptics realize.

To contact the author of this article: wpesek@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Marc Champion at mchampion7bloomberg.net

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