- Dragon Fighter
The People’s Republic of China has 56 recognized ethnicities; still, the Han majority makes up 92 percent of the population. Most of the remaining 55 groups are relatively unknown to the West. Some are even little known in China, as they are small and live on the margins of China-proper. Groups such as the ethnic Koreans and Manchu are highly integrated into the Chinese mainstream; however, the best known internationally, the Tibetans, are recognized mainly due to their protracted struggle for greater autonomy from the oppressive Han dominated national government.
In fact, the level of international awareness Tibetans receive is astonishing, considering Tibetans make up less than half of one percent of China’s population. This makes them only the ninth largest minority group. The “Tibetan Issue” is well known due to a superior global marketing campaign, which includes the venerable Dalai Lama and a host of celebrity Western activists. However, the 10 million Uighurs (also Uyghur) in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are more numerous, have struggled just as long against the Han Chinese, and their homeland is larger. Still, they have never enjoyed the same international regard. Perhaps, Turkic Muslims are not as appealing to the hearts and minds of the West as bald monks in flowing robes. Cultural biases aside, the Uighurs have failed at marketing, largely because they have no central leadership, no figurehead – until now.
Enter the Dragon Fighter: Rebiya Kadeer, the self declared “Mother Of All Uighurs”. Once, one of the wealthiest women in China, this slight mother of 11 children, divorcee, non-secondary school graduate, is one of China’s most wanted fugitives. The government has accused her of working with foreign interests to mastermind the July 5th Uighur protest that turned into a violent race riot. Over 200 people are believed to have died, most of whom were ethnic Han, who many Uighurs view as colonists.
The latest article is now up at Brooks Foreign Policy Review, here.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), founded 42 years ago, was created to provide a framework to advance regional stability in Southeast Asia at a time when the withdrawal of colonial powers had created a vacuum. This placed the newly independent states of the region in danger of succumbing to ethnic strife and communist insurgencies. Since the conclusion of the Cold War, ASEAN has embarked on a series of free trade initiatives, linking it to some of the Asian-Pacific regions most dynamic economies.
Article is also up at Brooks Foreign Policy Review, here.
In 2001, Former Singaporean Ambassador to the United Nations, Kishore Mahbubani asked a simple question, which was also the title of his book, “Can Asians Think?” Mr. Mahbubani sought to challenge, what he perceived as, Western paternalism. He believes that Asians do not need indefinite guidance by the Western world, because Asians are capable of independent thought, and just because these thoughts may differ from the West does not mean they are the result of defective thinking. A befitting question for the coming decade is, “Can Sub-Saharan Africans think?” For many Westerners it would seem the answer is, “No”, at least as far as Africa’s relationship with China.
In 2005, the Western media began to express “concern” with the increasing Chinese presence in Sub-Sahara Africa (Africa). During this period, many foreign policy observers began to promote the idea that China is plotting to take over Africa in some neo-colonialist attempt to gain unlimited access to natural resources. For example, Karin Kortmann, a German parliamentary state secretary stated in November of 2006, “our African partners really have to watch out that they will not be facing a new process of colonization” (Cheng 2007). The same year, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, Jack Straw, made similar allegations “Most of what China has been doing in Africa today is what we did in Africa 150 years ago” (Stevenson 2006). This Sinophobic boilerplate is hyperbole, but the narrative suggests that the average African is impotent and their leaders are all iniquitous or ineffectual.
This is too cute.
Receptionists at the Sekumiya Hotel in the city of Obama in Fukui prefecture
© AFP Shaun Tandon
OBAMA, Japan (AFP) – Obama, Japan, is rooting for candidate Obama, hoping that if he becomes the US president he will put this ancient fishing town of 32,000 people firmly on the tourist map and, just maybe, choose it for an international summit.
Supporters in Obama — which means “small shore” in Japanese — have held parties to watch election results, put up posters wishing the senator luck and plan a special batch of the town’s “manju” sweets bearing his likeness.
“At first we were more low-key as Hillary Clinton looked to be ahead, but now we see he is getting more popular,” Obama Mayor Toshio Murakami said.
“I give him an 80 percent chance of becoming president,” the 75-year-old said with a proud grin.
Murakami sent a letter last year to Obama, enclosing a set of lacquer chopsticks, a famous product of this town on the Sea of Japan (East Sea) in Fukui prefecture’s Wakasa region.
“I will present you the chopsticks of Wakasa paint and I am glad if you use it habitually,” Murakami said in the English-language letter. “I wish you the best of health and success.”
Murakami noted that Barack Obama’s birthday, August 4, happens to be “Chopsticks Day” in the city.
The manager and recptionist of the Sekumiya Hotel in the city of Obama
© AFP Shaun Tandon
Obama, who is also a hero in his father’s native Kenya, has been gaining in a neck-and-neck race with Clinton, in part by winning over voters in states that rarely back members of their Democratic party.
Murakami is now preparing another package for the candidate that will include a good-luck charm from the local Obama Shrine.
“For the first letter I found his address on the Internet, so I don’t know if he got it,” Murakami said. “But this time I asked the (US) embassy for his exact address, so I’m sure he’ll get it.”
Lest cynics find the city’s efforts naive, it was Obama himself who first drew attention to the connection.
Obama, speaking to Japan‘s TBS network in December 2006, said that when he flew once to Tokyo, an officer stamping his passport told him of the town.
“He looked up and said, ‘I’m from Obama,’” the senator said.
A professor saw the footage and contacted the mayor, who insists that his support for Obama goes beyond just his name.
“It seems to me that President Bush isn’t aggressively addressing global warming, but Obama would. And I like how he opposed the Iraq war,” he said.
Murakami also hoped a President Obama would sign a peace treaty with North Korea. It is no small issue in Obama, one of the seaside towns where agents from the communist state kidnapped Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, setting off a long row between the countries.
The election is being closely followed by many in 1,500-year-old Obama, a port nestled by snowy hills that in ancient times supplied food to the emperor when he lived in Kyoto some 75 kilometres (40 miles) to the south.
“When you look in Obama’s eyes and hear his voice, he’s very impressive,” said resident Rieko Tanaka.
“Hillary is a bit old-fashioned and she’s the wife of Bill Clinton, so I think a new person should lead the USA,” she said.
Tomoyuki Ueda, 40, a company worker dining at a restaurant serving the town’s celebrated mackerel, said it would be healthy for the United States to elect its first African-American president.
“I think both Obama and Hillary are qualified, but if Obama becomes president he could correct problems of racial discrimination,” he said.
Seiji Fujihara, a head of the local tourism board, said he has only met a black person once, but believed Obama’s election would make the United States “more equal” on racial issues.
Fujihara started a club for self-styled Obama supporters in the city and plans “I love Obama” T-shirts.
“We know we can’t vote. But if we send out a message, we can help push him to victory,” he said.