Holding the postponed 2020 Olympics next July — as Japan appears determined to do — is crazy. Kudos to Michael Phelps for stating the obvious: “The fact that you’re going to put ten thousand plus athletes, plus all the volunteers, plus all the coaches, it doesn’t make sense to me. I just don’t see how it can happen.” This peerless Olympian also said he was astonished officials waited so long to delay the Games earlier this year as the pandemic swept across the globe.
There are troubling signs that the Olympics could become the superspreader event of all superspreader events. Vaccines are not a solution as they won’t be available in Japan until sometime between March and May 2021, leaving a narrow window for a national vaccination campaign.… Seguir leyendo »
With the coronavirus pandemic spiraling around the world, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics are unlikely to go ahead as planned. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe all but threw in the towel at a news conference this week. He and various Olympic officials have repeatedly insisted that the Games will be held as planned in July and August, but this time he left the timing up in the air, suggesting he is resigned to a postponement. Then, on Thursday, NHK television broadcast Diet deliberations where Abe was pointedly questioned about exactly when the Games would be held, and again dodged the issue.… Seguir leyendo »
Japan’s bureaucrats are great at some things. Crisis management doesn’t seem to be one of them.
As it attempts to manage the fallout of the covid-19 coronavirus — which has taken the lives of more than 2,000 people worldwide, including a Japanese man and woman on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship — Japan is reliving the bureaucratic red-tape nightmares that hampered emergency efforts in Kobe in 1995 and Fukushima in 2011.
After a major quake devastated Kobe in 1995, volunteers who came to offer help to the displaced were turned away by officials, as were Swiss search-and-rescue dogs because authorities refused to relax quarantine regulations.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the end of the second world war and the enactment of its pacifist constitution, Japan has deployed its forces overseas mostly on peacekeeping operations under UN auspices – and almost never to places where its troops are in harm’s way. But next month, the country will send a naval destroyer to the Middle East. On what is being described as an intelligence-gathering mission, the warship will patrol the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian sea and a portion of the Bab el-Mandeb strait, following a series of attacks on oil tankers in the region – including one that was Japanese-operated.… Seguir leyendo »
En las décadas de 1970 y 1980, cuando las empresas multinacionales comenzaron a vincular la sostenibilidad con el éxito comercial, el principal catalizador era la vulnerabilidad y no el altruismo. La presión de los consumidores, los boicots políticos y las costosas demandas judiciales estaban afectando los resultados finales de las compañías, y las políticas ambientales les ayudaban a blindarse de la mala publicidad y proteger a los accionistas de dolorosas pérdidas.
Hoy la sostenibilidad y la responsabilidad social corporativa ya no se originan en el miedo. En lugar de ello, la sostenibilidad se ve simplemente como una necesidad para el futuro.… Seguir leyendo »
The presidency of Donald Trump has triggered an unprecedented collapse of Brand America and sets the bar exceedingly low for global leaders. Yet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump’s closest if not only friend among them, deserves special scrutiny for his recent refusal to apologize to South Korea over the horrors endured by tens of thousands of women treated as sex slaves by the Japanese military during the 1930s and 1940s.
There is a “been there, done that” aspect of South Korean-Japanese relations. These frenemies have never reached a mutually acceptable understanding of their shared past. Today true reconciliation has become even more elusive due to democratization in South Korea.… Seguir leyendo »
Things don't always go to plan. In the past week Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems haunted by Murphy's Law -- if it can go wrong it will.
What was supposed to be a grand opportunity to strut on the international stage with world leaders gathered for the G7 Ise-Shima Summit and then make a pilgrimage with President Barack Obama to Hiroshima seems to be straying from the script.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama will be the first incumbent president to visit the site of the first atomic bombing, and his arrival on Abe's watch was supposed to burnish the Japanese leader's credentials as a statesman.… Seguir leyendo »
The stunning ouster of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Jan. 8 was good news for that island nation of 20 million, and further evidence of a universal yearning for good governance.
After a decade in power, Sri Lankans chose to hold Rajapaksa accountable for extensive corruption and nepotism, and for presiding over a climate of intimidation. His relatives and cronies dominated key ministries and institutions, and abused their powers to raid the public purse and silence critics. One-family authoritarian rule under the Sri Lanka Freedom Party did not pass public muster and despite the challenger’s late start and lack of resources, democracy prevailed.… Seguir leyendo »
In July, Joko Widodo, universally known as Jokowi, won a decisive victory in Indonesia’s presidential elections. Even before assuming office in October, he faces extravagant expectations in a nation that has endured mercurial (Sukarno), repressive (Suharto) and feckless (B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) leaders since gaining independence from ruinous Dutch colonial rule.
In a nation with a messianic streak, Jokowi inspires enthusiasm across the spectrum, from the poor and marginalized to businessmen, secularists and moderate Muslims who all invest high hopes in him. He is bound to disappoint, not because he lacks the courage of his convictions, but because so many powerful players have so much to lose if he succeeds.… Seguir leyendo »
Nationalism arouses solidarity and generates identity politics that threaten ethnic and religious minorities. Defining the “we” also defines the “they” — and the latter is inexorably marginalized.
Identity politics carry with them a high risk of sectarian or communal violence. State abuses of authority, and impunity for abusers, often transform grievances into a shared collective identity among victimized minorities, generating defiance, militancy and a cycle of violence.
China’s Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang, and Buddhist Tibetans, are resisting assimilation despite sustained efforts by ethnic Han Chinese. Both groups harbor strong resentments against Han-ification that sometimes erupt into violence — direct action that’s quickly suppressed by security officials.… Seguir leyendo »
Myanmar last week took the baton from the Sultan of Brunei, assuming the rotating chair in 2014 of Asia’s most important regional organization, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In December the country otherwise known as Burma will also host the Southeast Asia Games, a coming-out party for a nation emerging from a half-century of military repression.
These are stunning signs of Myanmar’s rapid rehabilitation from international pariah status following the slaughter of monks during the Saffron Revolution in 2007. Nonetheless, Myanmar remains convulsed by communal violence and anti-Muslim pogroms, generating risks for ASEAN’s unity and reputation.
ASEAN was established in 1967 and, with its headquarters in Jakarta, it has since become the fulcrum of regionalization, expanding membership, initiating dialogues and packing the annual schedule with numerous conferences that have promoted diplomacy in a region coping with various challenges to peace and stability.… Seguir leyendo »
On the eve of the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award the 2020 Summer Games to Tokyo, Seoul’s abrupt import ban on all fisheries products from Fukushima and seven other Japanese prefectures was clearly a response to public concerns about radiation spewing into the ocean.
Here, though, it looked like a blatant attempt to capsize Tokyo’s bid after what has been a particularly ugly year in the ongoing feud between South Korea and Japan. The two sides have never managed to resolve historical grievances arising from Japanese colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and a smoldering territorial dispute over the Takeshima/Dokdo islands in the Sea of Japan/East Sea.… Seguir leyendo »
In May 1998 President Suharto resigned, ending three decades in power in Indonesia and what was known as the New Order. As an army general, he had intervened against a coup attempt in 1965 that ended with the sidelining of President Sukarno and months of massacres all over the archipelago as Suharto consolidated his grip.
More than half a million were killed, bludgeoned with hoes and slashed with sickles; rivers and beaches were thick with dumped bodies and blood, even in idyllic Bali. Islamic youth groups, with military support, targeted alleged communists and ethnic Chinese. It was a time of reprisals and score-settling, but during the Suharto era this bloodletting, and the imprisonment of a million suspected communists, were taboo subjects.… Seguir leyendo »
China’s neighbors may have half-believed Beijing’s previous “smile diplomacy” and frequent reassurances that its rise posed no threat to regional peace and stability — but now everyone understands what hegemonic aspirations look like.
China’s military build-up and assertion of territorial claims all over the region is seen as a menace requiring a response; Washington is surely benefitting from this counterproductive posturing.
Analysts have long warned about China’s “string of pearls” strategy shifting the regional balance of power — a reference to its ambitions to build a network of ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar giving it Indian Ocean access. Now it looks more like China is stoking an arc of antagonism encompassing unhappy neighbors from Japan to India.… Seguir leyendo »
Alarming outbreaks of sectarian violence pitting Buddhists against Muslims in Myanmar cast an ominous cloud over that nation’s democratic transition from military rule.
Reading shocking reports of killings, arson and mayhem instigated by monks, or perhaps provocateurs, there is good reason to despair about the future. State violence against ethnic groups around the country has been a suppurating wound for decades, but now other long-pent-up resentments are erupting that threaten to derail the fragile process of restoring civilian rule.
Current communal strife has its origins in 19th- and 20th-century British colonial policy. Burma (as Myanmar was known in those days) was administered jointly with India until 1937, though treated as a lesser appendage.… Seguir leyendo »
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week condemned China's "unnecessary escalation" of tensions between the two nations over disputed islets known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.
He was referring to two incidents in January when Chinese frigates reportedly locked weapons radar onto a Japanese vessel and a helicopter, a claim China denies. Once fire-control radar is locked on, a missile can be fired at the designated target, generating obvious risks of miscalculation.
At best this is a militarized game of tag but one that could, at its worst, spark wider hostilities. When Japan indicated that its jets might fire tracer bullets to warn off Chinese aircraft, a Chinese general responded that Japan should refrain from doing so, as this would be taken as an act of war.… Seguir leyendo »