Curtis S. Chin

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Tokyo’s preparations for the 2020 Summer Olympics have not come without controversy. In July, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrapped star architect Zaha Hadid’s design for the new National Stadium due in part to spiraling construction costs. Prominent Japanese voices also had been raised, including by architects Fumihiko Maki, Toyo Ito and Sou Fujimoto, against a design they saw as too big for its surroundings, overshadowing Kenzo Tange’s iconic National Stadium built for the 1964 Olympics.

Hadid’s architectural firm has since launched a campaign to get Tokyo to reinstate its scrapped design, describing it as “the only way to achieve value for money in the market.”…  Seguir leyendo »

There goes the Year of the Horse. As 2015 and the Year of the Sheep unfolds, it’s time for one last look at the year we left behind.

A year ago, taking a page from Washington Post political columnist Chris Cillizza’s awarding U.S. President Barack Obama the dubious distinction of “Worst year in Washington,” we took to the digital pages of Fortune Magazine.

The challenge — naming who had the “Worst year in Asia” — and the “winner” then of that least desired of 2013 prizes: Obama also, for what proved to be his lost year in Asia, marked by canceled trips and persistent questions of where’s the substance to a much ballyhooed pivot to Asia amidst China’s rise and seemingly never-ending talks toward a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.…  Seguir leyendo »

From celebrations here in united Germany marking the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall to those in the United States over midterm elections delivering a more evenly divided Washington, what a week it has been for division — past and present.

Just a few days after his party lost control of the U.S. Senate in what has been termed a Republican wave sweeping aside numerous incumbent Democratic leaders at national, state and local levels, U.S. President Barack Obama was in Asia for summit meetings in China, Australia and Myanmar.

Unequal economic growth and sputtering efforts to strengthen cross Pacific trade are all on the agenda.…  Seguir leyendo »

How fitting it would be if the latest return visit to Asia by America’s top diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on behalf of America’s first African-American president, also helped to push the region, including China, to move beyond stereotypes. This is critical if Asia is to move forward toward greater peace and prosperity.

Whether it’s China with its large Uighur and Tibetan populations or Myanmar, aka Burma, with more than 130 distinct ethnic groups, Asia is facing growing protests and unrest among minority communities who feel poorly served by national government policies and attitudes.

Use of ethnicity, race or religion to divide or define one’s own citizens should have no place in the Asia of today, whether in giant India under newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the smallest Pacific island nation.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the context of the continued economic and military rise of China, an old Japanese propaganda poster from the Philippines now on display at a small but powerful exhibition in New York City, marking the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, is striking.

Japan’s wartime flag as well as those of the people, nations and admittedly colonies that Imperial Japan sought to conquer are visible in the exhibit.

This particular poster depicts parts of East and Southeast Asia, and in English, reads: “December 8th. The third anniversary of Greater East Asia War to defend Asia for and by the Asiatics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Isn’t climbing supposed to be one of “the” symbols of comradeship and team work? During the time Tenzing Norgay Sherpa — who would have been 100 years old Thursday — and Edmund Hillary climbed Everest in 1953, everyone was involved and shared the risk, the challenges and the joys of adventure.

How different it has been this year. As the world moves on to read of the next tragedy from Asia, the loss of 16 lives in an avalanche on Everest on April 18 at the start of the climbing season is for many likely to be yesterday’s news.

For us, though, our deep sense of sadness remains, only made worse by the tales of family and friends whom we have grown up or worked with in the Himalayan region.…  Seguir leyendo »

Having an Asian face with a U.S. ambassador title, I am often asked “where I am really from.” Or perhaps more politely, whether I am “nissei” or “sansei” — or just how many generations back did my family emigrate from Asia to the United States? I am generally forgiving, even to the comments of how “good” my English is, as no ill will is intended. And often it reflects the speaker’s own experiences, American or not, with immigration and immigrants.

For numerous countries in the Asia-Pacific region, immigration remains a contentious issue. Consider Australia’s controversial efforts to intercept at sea a new generation of “boat people” fleeing impoverished, strife-torn nations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Even as Japan and the rest of Asia look skyward — with perhaps a mix of admiration and trepidation — to the latest success to date of China’s 20-year-old, multibillion dollar space program, much more needs to be done here on earth to bring business growth to some of the highest parts of Asia and the Pacific, a region which is still home to the vast majority of the world’s poor.

As Afghanistan struggles to break free from a turbulent modern history that seems at times to keep that nation mired in poverty and the past, China joins the United States and the former Soviet Union as the third nation to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon.…  Seguir leyendo »

With investments by Japan and Japanese companies — as well as their American and European counterparts — on the rise in the once-pariah state of Burma (also known as Myanmar), it is worth asking how much the country has really changed since the days of military rule. One issue, in particular, that should be of great interest to Japan and the rest of East Asia is the extent of Burma’s military relations with North Korea.

Even as progress continues on a range of political and economic fronts, the latest news reports from Burma make clear that significant human rights concerns remain across many of the states that make up this troubled union.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recent riots in Sweden — by some measures the most “equal” nation on earth — raise some interesting questions about the state of equality in Asia, including in Japan, that are well worth pondering.

For several days recently, the Scandinavian nation, perhaps better known for the songs of ABBA sung regularly in Tokyo’s karaoke bars and as the home of the Nobel prizes than for scenes of unrest, was rocked by protests attributed in part to young, unemployed immigrants, some of whom set buildings and cars ablaze, perhaps testimony to the reality that inequality exists everywhere.

The news also had me revisiting the latest rankings of inequality in Asia, as measured by the “Gini coefficient.”…  Seguir leyendo »