10 January, 2006

guess who’s coming to dinner


North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has gone to China by special train, according to sources in the country. On Tuesday, Kim reportedly traveled there through Shinuiju and neighboring Dandong, Liaoning Province.

A South Korean military source confirmed Kim is in the middle of a China trip.

AsiaPundit would like to take this moment to expresses sympathy to all the servants currently assigned to Beijing’s state guest houses. Dr Evil can be quite a chore to prepare for.

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by @ 9:13 pm. Filed under South Korea, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, North Korea

malaysian black-metal blog

Via Brand New Malaysian, Centre for Independant Journalism (CIJ) has started a blog (in Bahasa) tracking how Black metal is covered by the Malaysian media.:

Black Metal

For more on Black Metal, and in English, visit Boing Boing and Jeff Ooi.

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by @ 8:06 pm. Filed under Blogs, Malaysia, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media


Bingfeng has a great montage of villain photos from communist Chinese cinema showing, among other things, how the mainland authorities used to view Taiwan’s Kuomintang.:

it’s not a patent of hollywood hits, in the good old days of red revolution back in 1950s and 1960s, chinese movies are masters of presenting a black-and-white world in which "bad guys", i.e. enemies of the revolution, are demonized and, like in hollywood movies, defeated by "good guys". two differences here - chinese "good guys" are usually a group of heros (or at least a hero supported by a group), and the fight is low-tech and without kung fu.


 On the left a KMT-supported bandit, on the right a KMT naval officer

And in the comments Bingfeng talks on how young mainlanders today view the Nationalists.:

Joshua: How do Chinese people feel about the KMT today, especially compared to the CCP? From my own experience with Chinese people (lived their 4 years), Chinese people are rapidly changing their mindset, even favoring the KMT as a kind of detached, idealized party. Is this true, at least among urban folks?

Bingfeng: absolutely. now the mainland government is revising the official stance to reflect that period of history, and mainland chinese are getting to realize that KMT troops played the key role in resisting the japanese invasions. the sentiments towards KMT are mixed, but in general, the younger generations kind of favor KMT for its leadership role in the anti-japan war, its forward-looking policies with mainland and the courage to face its negative heritage.

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by @ 7:35 pm. Filed under China, Taiwan, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Film


Joel, while browsing for new model cell phones, spotted one with a sleek aerodynamic design and keen feature: the Drunk-O-Meter:


That’s strange what is that option on the button opposite the camera? Is that “sobriety test?” Wow, that’s what it really says.

You know a country consumes a lot of alcohol when they start installing breathalyzers in their cell phones.

I think it’s a bad idea for a couple of reasons. The first is if you drink enough alcohol to warrant you checking then you probably shouldn’t be driving. The other is what is Samsung LG (AP edit) thinking? If their machine gives someone a false sense of security to drive when they shouldn’t and an accident occurs aren’t they just opening themselves up for a lawsuit? Not just from the fool who drove drunk because his or her cell phone told them too, but also from those injured by the same fool. Stick to MP3 players and cameras I say.

Of course when I was looking up breathalyzer in naver’s dictionary I noticed that breathalyzer is listed as drunkometer in America.

breath·a·ly·zer〔〕 n. 《영》 음주 측정기 《상표명》(《미》 drunkometer)

From Joel’s comments: “Beyond the brethalyzer, it also has a ringtone that sounds like a sports car engine turning over. Tell me that’s not cool!”

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by @ 5:53 pm. Filed under South Korea, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

unification war cats

While AP objects to some of the more extreme pan-green rhetoric, this is classic.:

After the announcement of the selection of gift pandas from Mainland China, reaction here has been typically polarized. A confused Taipei Times claims that Taiwan is somehow ‘standing up’ to China on panda imports. A paranoid DPP spokesperson labeled them today as ‘統戰貓’tong3 zhang4 mao, literally ‘unification war cats’, claiming that the pandas are China’s newest soldiers in its war of unification.

Those of us living outside 陳水扁 Chen Shui-Bian’s distortion field are shocked by revelations that the female panda has won climbing contests at panda kindergarten and that there actually are panda kindergartens.


AsiaPundit believes that the DPP is absolutely correct that the Mainland should not be able to offer gifts to Taiwan without going through elected authorities. However, this is a clear public-relations win for Beijing. Objecting to pandas does not reflect well on the Pan-Greens - even when the principle behind the objection can be supported, it just comes across as silly. Plus, Beijing scores big points domestically on this.: “See how mean and evil the splittists are, they won’t even accept our offer of two lovely, fertile pandas!”

This isn’t just about law or policy - this is about PR. With that, AsiaPundit would advise the DPP to try a different approach.:

A letterwriter to the Mon 9th ed of the Taipei Times suggested keeping the pandas kind of like “human shields” near the presidential building to help deter a decapitation strike … I half-seriously considered the same possibility yesterday, but didn’t include it in the post. The letterwriter also proposed renaming the pandas “Democracy” and “Freedom” once they arrive on Taiwan’s shores.

For the horrible truth about pandas click here.

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by @ 1:39 pm. Filed under China, Taiwan, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

pile on the heritage institute

AsiaPundit hopes to respond to Michael Turton’s rebuttal to the assertion that Taiwan’s KMT is more market oriented than the DPP. However, AsiaPundit will concede immediately that the Heritage Institute’s economic freedom rankings do have significant flaws. It is useful for providing a basic snapshot of economic liberties in relation to what it claims to measure, but by ignoring more unique elements of each market it does provide a distorted view.

Simon has a takedown on Hong Kong’s ranking by the SCMP’s Jake van der Camp here. But Singapore’s ranking as the No.2 freest economy also needs some review.:

MerlionIn Singapore, it is the government itself that stands in the way of the unfettered private enterprise that the Heritage Foundation’s criteria are supposed to favor. The major real estate, banking, transport, manufacturing and utility companies listed on the stock market are all government-controlled entities. They may be efficient, but is this an economy free of government intervention? The index also claims that "the market sets almost all wages." But actually "wages are based on annual recommendations made by the tripartite National Wages Council."

Tax rates and revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product are low in both cities. But governments control land supply and use it not just to raise money but to redistribute income in an off-the-books manner through publicly developed and managed housing provided with low-cost land, in which 83 percent of Singaporeans and 40 percent of Hong Kong citizens live. In Hong Kong, land prices for the rest are kept especially high, with the result that living space per inhabitant remains very low compared with countries with similar income levels. Land in Hong Kong is sometimes used for subsidizing favored industries and in Singapore tax subsidies - which by definition are discriminatory - are common.

Tax levels in Singapore look quite low. But how free of official imposts are its citizens when compulsory contributions to its Central Provident Fund take 33 percent of wages and are invested largely as the government sees fit, through nontransparent official vehicles such as the Government Investment Corporation? Compulsory savings help toward the accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves and a very high investment ratio. But the rate of return on those assets has been low.

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by @ 1:34 pm. Filed under Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Southeast Asia

zimbabwe’s equities trounce china’s

AsiaPundit knew that China’s stock markets would end 2005 at the bottom of the barrel, and that Bursa Malaysia would also rank low. Great gains by South Korean and Japanese markets have been well documented. Still, even for someone who keeps abreast of these things, this chart showing the 2005 performance of global stock markets in local-currency terms contains a few shocks. Not the least of which is that Zimbabwe topped the list.


click to enlarge

There are, of course structural reasons for the odd performances of some markets - China’s are well described here but AsiaPundit admits total ignorance on Zimbabwean equities.

That said, if a booming economy like China can produce negative returns on equity while a basket-case like Zimbabwe produces such stellar results, AsiaPundit would strongly recommend that Pyongyang establish a bourse.

(And if anyone can provide direction to a good article on Zimbabwe stocks it would be appreciated.)

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by @ 1:00 pm. Filed under South Korea, China, Malaysia, Asia, East Asia, Economy

shanghai’s bubble

The LA Times reports that Shanghai’s property bubble has popped.:

SHANGHAI — American homeowners wondering what follows a housing bubble can look to China’s largest city.

Once one of the hottest markets in the world, sales of homes have virtually halted in some areas of Shanghai, prompting developers to slash prices and real estate brokerages to shutter thousands of offices.

For the first time, homeowners here are learning what it means to have an upside-down mortgage — when the value of a home falls below the amount of debt on the property. Recent home buyers are suing to get their money back. Banks are fretting about a wave of default loans.

"The entire industry is scaling back," said Mu Wijie, a regional manager at Century 21 China, who estimated that 3,000 brokerage offices had closed since spring. Real estate agents, whose phones wouldn’t stop ringing a year ago, say their incomes have plunged by two-thirds.

Shanghai’s housing slump is only going to worsen and imperil a significant part of the Chinese economy, says Andy Xie, Morgan Stanley’s chief Asia economist in Hong Kong.

Although the city’s 20 million residents represent less than 2% of China’s population of 1.3 billion, Xie says, Shanghai accounts for an astounding 20% of the country’s property value. About 1 million homes in Shanghai alone — about half the number of housing starts for the entire United States in 2004 — are under construction.

"They’ll remain empty for years," Xie said, adding that a jolting comedown also was in store for other Chinese cities with building booms — including Beijing, Chongqing and Chengdu — though other analysts say the problem is largely confined to Shanghai.

UBS economist Jonathan Anderson, one of the economists who argues that the bubble is confined to Shanghai, issued this as last week’s "chart of the week."


The light green line shows the average rate of property price inflation in the Shanghai market. As you can see, prices went up … and up … and up, at a 30% y/y pace at the peak (and much faster in the high-end residential market). And then, as most everyone expected, the bubble burst and prices slowed sharply (and actually fell by a sizeable amount in the high-end market).

Now turn to the blue line, which shows the nationwide average excluding Shanghai. What happened in the rest of the country? In a word, nothing. Prices were never rising that fast to begin with, accelerated very slightly in 2003 and 2004, and have slowed very slightly since … and that’s about it. The point is that the speculative Shanghai bubble really was just a Shanghai phenomenon.

(h/t  Mish)

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by @ 8:08 am. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia

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