On the eve of the milestone East Asian Summit in Malaysia, China's state media last week trumpeted Beijing's "constructive attitude" toward the meeting. Yet in a briefing on prospects for the confab, senior diplomat Cui Tiankai declared it "impossible" for Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to sit down with his Japanese counterpart, Junichiro Koizumi, for a sideline chat.
Hong Kong Disneyland swung open its doors last week in a gala celebration marred by an ironic distraction: smog. Under the year's dirtiest skies, in air so unhealthy that visitors with respiratory ailments should have stayed indoors, dignitaries and Disney execs inaugurated a $3.5 billion project. "The park will provide thousands of direct and indirect jobs and, over the long term, bring billions of dollars of economic benefit to our economy," opined Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang.
Hardly a week goes by without news of a banking deal in China with lots of zeroes attached. On July 5 Singapore's official investment arm, Temasek, made headlines by confirming that it would invest $1 billion in the China Construction Bank when the latter lists in Hong Kong later this year.
John Cheh sells the shirt on his back. As chairman of Esquel China Holdings in Hong Kong, he runs a top producer of men's woven cotton shirts--or category 340Z under the World Trade Organization quota system that expired last week. "It's a high-end shirt with high yarn count.
It's New Year's Day, and 55-year-old Australian surf guide Rick Cameron is barking into three phones. "Syringes, needles, stitching thread" he conveys to partner Jane Liddon, who has called from the pharmacy in town. "Presumably, they have refugees," he surmises into another handset linked to an Australian diplomat planning a relief mission to Sibolong, a port town just south of Aceh's devastated west coast.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi knows the danger of taking credit for success in Japan. Two years ago he appointed a tough new bank regulator, Heizo Takenaka, who declared in a NEWSWEEK interview: "No bank is too big to fail." This heretical attack on one of the traditional pillars of Japan Inc.
Daiei came to epitomize the industrial sclerosis that befell much of Japan Inc. in the 1990s, a condition summed up in the phrase "too big to fail." The term describes bloated companies that couldn't be allowed to die because they'd bring down their banks, trigger massive unemployment and cause heads in government to roll.
For the gray-suited men who control Japan Inc., UFJ Holdings was a disaster waiting to happen. The weakest of the country's four megabanks carries billions in bad debt on its books, boasts dangerously wobbly "zombie" clients like the crumbling retailer Daiei and habitually seeks capital injections from its best customers to stay afloat.
WITH ALEXANDRA A. SENO IN HONG KONG, SUDIP MAZUMDAR IN NEW DELHI, MARK RUSSELL IN SEOUL AND HIDEKO TAKAYAMA IN TOKYO Zhe Lijuan has grown fat on Chinese dumplings--so much so that she recently opted to spend a bit of the proceeds from her successful Shanghai restaurant on a short overseas holiday.
Nestled deep in Kwun Tong, Hong Kong's gritty factory district, China's leading cell-phone manufacturer is plotting to conquer the world. Hatched in 1992 to make pagers in its namesake coastal city, Ningbo Bird sold more handsets on the mainland last year--nearly 11 million--than Nokia or Motorola.
The Japanese investor had once considered the incessant propaganda blaring on his factory floor a cost of doing business inside communist North Korea. Yet when he recently asked his joint-venture partner to pull the plug--a request indignantly rebuffed in the past--his counterpart's response was stunning. "Politics is now separate from economics," the North Korean foreman told him.