Geopolitical wags can’t help but wonder whether botched coronavirus responses constitute a “Chernobyl moment” for China or the United States. In Japan, though, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing a Fukushima problem.
Comparisons to Tokyo’s opaque, deer-in-the-headlights reaction to a 2011 nuclear crisis nearly 150 miles away are popping up more than Abe would like. That crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant saw a previous government play down radioactive threats to avoid public panic, deflect blame and criticize the foreign media.
Japan’s handling of the covid-19 outbreak seems eerily reminiscent. Just ask Kiyoshi Kurokawa, who headed the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission.… Seguir leyendo »
Tokyo’s coronavirus “state of emergency” is as surreal as they come. Though the streets are noticeably quieter than normal, subways and buses are still jammed with commuters. Stock trading goes on as normal. Many bars, restaurants and cafes are abuzz. So are barbershops, beauty salons and home improvement centers. In Shibuya and other meccas of youth culture, teenagers who should be hunkering down at home are out and about.
Leave it to Japan’s largest metropolis to morph shelter-in-place into a giant kabuki performance starring 8.3 million people.
Tokyo’s largely performative lockdown is also an apt metaphor for how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is mismanaging an economy cratering by the day.… Seguir leyendo »
If there’s a world leader having a worse year than Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president would sure love to meet them.
Even before the coronavirus arrived on Korean shores, Moon’s 33-month-old administration faced swelling protests over his policies, an economy teetering on the edge of recession and a Trump administration shaking down Seoul for protection money. But it’s Moon’s mishandling of the respiratory illness panicking the nation of 50 million that could be his undoing.
More than 1.4 million Koreans have signed an online petition calling for his impeachment. Among the gripes: the charge that Moon was too slow to ban visitors from China, putting commercial ties with Beijing ahead of public safety.… Seguir leyendo »
Fresh from helping elect Donald Trump, Facebook may be angling to help China’s President Xi Jinping win over his masses, too. And there’s little for the outside world to “like” about it.
According to The New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg’s universe of friends, shares and pokes is doing just what many of us feared: working up a new Facebook-lite platform that enables censorship to a degree that Xi might applaud. While access to China’s 1.4 billion people may be just what shareholders want to justify a price-to-earnings ratio of 47 times, Facebook’s methods would be a great leap backward both for China and the social media world.… Seguir leyendo »
Self-awareness often eludes U.S. officials who push American interests on Asia. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Vietnam was a case in point as the secretary of state implored the government to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In his pitch earlier last week, Kerry said the U.S.-led trade deal would bring “transparency” and “accountability” to the communist nation, helping it become a more open society that supports free expression. An odd thought, considering the Big Brother-like secrecy enshrouding the treaty on the U.S. side.
The pro-TPP argument goes as follows: This is the moment Asia’s reformers have been waiting for. It’s a chance for Japan to take on vested interests, Malaysia to kill growth-stifling affirmative-action policies, Vietnam to rein in bloated state-owned enterprises and Singapore to spur innovation.… Seguir leyendo »
The life of Park Geun Hye, South Korea’s just-inaugurated first female president, has so far been bookended by two larger-than-life men of debatable success.
The first is her father, Park Chung Hee, the dictator who ruled the nation for 18 years until his assassination in 1979. The second is Lee Myung Bak, her predecessor who spent the last five years in the Blue House, Korea’s presidential residence, and a fellow member of her New Frontier Party.
Park must deal with their shortcomings in reverse. The immediate challenge is to be truer to her party’s name than Lee ever was. Lee left office this week with an approval rating in the 20s, an economy burdened by record household debt, a widening income gap, a strong currency that is hurting export competitiveness, relations with Japan frayed and North Korea raising hell around the globe.… Seguir leyendo »
Singaporeans are raring to do something extraordinary: protest.
That might not seem like a big deal with the Arab Spring uprisings; Chinese journalists taking to the streets; and thousands of typically docile Japanese rallying against government policies. But tropical Singapore is the land of quiet brooding, where mass street demonstrations are as common as snowstorms.
What has people so riled up? Well, people.
The impetus for the Feb. 16 march was a report that the tiny island’s population may rise by as much as 30 percent to 6.9 million by 2030. This seems to be the government’s answer to the question of how to sustain prosperity in one of the most crowded and expensive cities in the world.… Seguir leyendo »
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is going American in a big way by setting the next national election seven months from now. The record length of the campaign is bad news for her opponent, Tony Abbott, and may be even worse for the nation’s 23 million people. Turning to a permanent campaign like that of the United States is shrewd politics. It puts opposition leader Abbott on the defensive, forcing him to offer more than tired conservative nostrums about the magic of lower taxes, less regulation and vague paeans to freedom. Instead, Abbott must offer specifics on how he will increase competitiveness and prosperity and how to pay for it.… Seguir leyendo »
Perhaps the most bizarre element of the horrific gang rape and murder of a New Delhi woman is how it became fodder for the India-versus-China debate.
Chinese media, not known for chronicling human-rights abuses at home, were all over the lethal attack on a 23-year-old Indian on a moving bus on Dec. 16, and her cremation on Dec. 30. Everything from a surge in demand for gun permits among women to a dysfunctional penal system to how democracy is failing India’s 1.2 billion people got enthusiastic coverage in China.
That was until a vast crowd staged protests in the Indian capital.… Seguir leyendo »