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This is too cute.

Receptionists at the Sekumiya Hotel in the city of Obama in Fukui prefecture
© AFP Shaun Tandon

Obama, Japan, roots for accidental namesake

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.


Rice Rebukes Bush Envoy Who Criticized Policy on North Korea – Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush’s special envoy on North Korean human rights said the current Bush Admin policy will not solve the nuclear issue in North Korea before Bush leaves office. Well, he is right, that is obvious to someone of the meanest intelligences.

Roadblocks on the Great Asian Highway – Interesting article about overcoming infrastructural barriers between Thailand, Laos, and China to create more efficient trade; and some immediate negative externalities for the local Laotian people.

Corruption-fighting Vietnamese granny gets award – Transparency International awards Vietnamese grandma for fighting the good fight for 25 years against death threats from local government officials. This woman is 150 cm (4’11” inch) tall and 40 kilograms (88 lbs) and has more “balls” than 99% of the politicians in Washington D.C., unfortunately for us Americans.

China closes 44,000 pornographic websites in 2007 – The Chinese government is not fond of “adult entertainment”. This is part of the increasingly common crackdown on various facets of the sex industry in China. I’m sure shutting down 44,000 websites has kept the thought police quite busy.

Science with Africa: Accelerating Science and Technology in Africa – Information on a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 3 to 7 March. The themes of the conference will be science and innovation policy, science themes and innovation and will consist of plenary sessions and workshops.

Africa: ‘U.S. Recession a Threat to Third World Exports’ – There has been a recession fear going through North America, Europe, and East Asia lately but any economic downturn for the United States will also significantly effect some of the world’s poorest nations, which are already on the margin. This will not just hurt trade but also aid revenues.

I did not think the DPP would gain control of the legislature from the KMT, but I also did not believe they would lose this badly. The KMT won 82 out of 113 seats. Ouch! Before the KMT just had a slight majority, enough to create deadlock. It seems this was a referendum on Chen Shuibien’s administration.

If Ma wins the presidency and completes KMT dominance, a lot of things will change in Taiwan. The 8 year deadlock has caused significant social stagnation on the island. I’m sure China will be pleased with this. The KMT are not ready to rejoin China, but they will not make any provocative moves either. This takes pressure off of American and Japan. Closer economic ties with the Mainland would likely help to jump start the economy; right now Taiwanese business is handicapped, which is a primary reason that business is firmly behind the KMT.

I repeatedly noticed during the campaign that the KMT has calmed down some of their “pro-mainland” rhetoric. It seems that multi-party democracy has led the Taiwanese government to reflect the pragmatic mood of the public. This is a good thing. I do not interpret this as a push by Taiwanese people (Benshengren and Waishengren) toward a pro-China position, but more of a pulling back of the more extreme rhetoric from Chen Shuibien in recent years; economic sluggishness; and corruption in the DPP (who originally ran on anti-corruption). The campaign rhetoric in both the Pan-Blue and Pan-Green camps has been to moderate their positions to the center. A good example of this is the fact Ma did not oppose the UN Referendum. He just opposed “how it was being handled”. My understanding was he wanted Taiwan to try to join the UN under the Republican of China (or maybe China Taipei); whereas he feared Chen wanted to do it as “Taiwan”, which would indicate “political separation” from the mainland.

As I have said many times, I am not pro-reunification or pro-independence. I’m pro-democracy. If this is what the people want then so be it.

Election fraud allegations are already starting to fly over at Michael Turton’s. There is no word yet from the anti-DPP China Desk, but keep posted.

Will Ma be Taiwan’s next president? It looks very likely.

Opposition wins easily in Taiwan

The Associated Press
Saturday, January 12, 2008

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist Party won a landslide victory in legislative elections Saturday, dealing a humiliating blow to the government’s hardline China policies two months before the presidential election.

President Chen Shui-bian resigned as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party immediately after his party’s defeat. “I should shoulder all responsibilities,” Chen said. “I feel really apologetic and shamed.”

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Iron Lady’ bids public farewell – Wu taitai gone already? I was looking forward to reading more about her after the last Sino-EU summit. Maybe she can consult for some African nations. This woman is a bulldog, and I mean that in a respectful way. Not just anyone could lead the negotiation for China ascension to the WTO.

S Korean military on alert following attacks by hackers – I’m not really surprised Chinese hackers attacked South Korea as there have been some major “beefs” between the two nations over interpretation of overlapping ancient histories.

Overseas Vietnamese eyed for hi-tech sector – Saigon Hi-tech Park is trying to recruit overseas Vietnamese tech workers to make up for the shortage of domestic talent. As one would expect there are growing pains.

China to Switch to Lethal Injections – China said they will stop shooting people in the head and use lethal injection, which is funny due to the fact America is debating if “lethal injection” is cruel and unusual punishment. Cruel and unusual punishment is against the U.S. constitution.

Li Yinhe on the recent porn crackdowns – An interesting post on porn crackdowns in China.

Japan pledges to help China curb pollution – A lot of confidence building came out of this meet, which was good. I lived in Shanghai and I can tell you about the throat and lung infections from the pollution, all the days that were so dark you could not see the sun, etc. China needs all the help it can get with this. It is a beautifully diverse country and although I think they “have to” go through this industrialization, just as everyone else has, itis good they are taking steps to limited the environmental degradation. For more information on other points discussed check here. On a side note, sometimes people underestimate the power of goodwill programs (i.e. exchange students) to change public perception, but I do not. 3,000 students can saw a lot of thinking at home when they get back.

Taiwan presidential candidate cleared on graft – Told ya so, here.

Shuffled off to history, veneration of Ro Moo Hyun will follow – French plays the requiem for the Roh Administration in South Korea. I’m sorry but I think he overplayed Roh’s statesmanship here, in large part, due to his dislike of the Bush Administration. I’m not a fan of George W. either, but even he was not stupid enough to try military action against a potentially nuclear armed N.Korea when there was so little intelligence and N.Korea could potentially nuke Seoul and Tokyo; especially with so many American troops exposed. Sorry, Mr. French; don’t buy it. It seems the S.Korean people did not either, as they elected the political opposite of Roh.

Nigeria’s graft catcher is sent for training – This is not good; just when I was congratulating Nigeria on its anti-corruption crackdown. Although it is likely Nuhu Ribadu did not go out of his way to “bite the hand that feeds”; any crackdown on corruption is better than none at all. The people know this and that is why he has popular public support. $380 billion in graft is nothing to sneeze at.

Tokyo opposes Taiwan’s UN referendum: Fukuda – This is not shocking coming from a Fukuda Administration. He appears focused on making good relations with America and China; both oppose the referendum. Although I recognize this as the most pragmatic position for all involved I have moral issues with it. I do not understand why Britain and Canada can allow or would allow significant segments of their country to vote for independence and Taiwan, a self governing democracy, can not democratically decide what it wants to do. It makes no difference to me if they voted for independence or voted to seek political unification with China immediately. What matters is they have no choice and countries that pride themselves on democracy and human rights are doing everything they can to smoother their right of self determination.

Update: It seems the Fukada Admin is sneaky. He said exactly what China wanted to hear in relation to Taiwan and then a couple of days later revised clarified his governments position:

Japan has recently explained that it “does not oppose” the plan to hold a referendum on its bid for a seat in the UN under the name Taiwan, but hopes the referendum will not raise tension in the Taiwan Strait, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

-Turnout is heavy in Kenyan election – Well it is election time in Kenya. I covered the candidate that is expected to win, here a few days ago. It seems to come down to a battle between Kibaki and Odinga; Kibaki being the incumbent establishment candidate of the dominant Kikuya tribe, and Odinga; the up and comer from a less affluent tribal group. Turn out is very high and from earlier reading it seems many people from the various other ethnic groups are tired of the Kikuya running things, but besides that education and the economy seem to be big issues. Whatever happens, I’m glad the vote is being judged “free and fair”.

Taiwan opposition presidential candidate awaits verdict on corruption case – I am pretty sure the verdict will be upheld and Ma will not go to jail or be disqualified from running for president. I’m also sure he is guilty but you know… 🙂

Japanese PM looks to boost ties through China visit – Well, looks like Fukuda will have a good trip as Beijing seems to approve of him and no major typical issues of “Chinese outrage” are on the table. This usually means that China wants something, like more Japanese investment (as they asked for a few weeks back). China is Japan’s largest trade partner and Japan is China’s largest investor. It seems most of the outstanding issues revolve around economics and military buildups on both sides. Could this be the dawn of new relations? I wouldn’t count on it, but money unites all. 🙂  The capital must flow!

Is the sun setting on Japan’s economic power?: GDP drops to 18th among major nations – This is nominal per capita, not purchasing power parity. Japan is still the second largest economy on earth in terms of GDP. Japanese people are also not poor, PPP is more accurate to measure this. This has to do more with exchange rates.

Asia: Lure of China proves irresistible for Japanese seeking fame and fortune – Maybe relations are getting better, after all. This is a very interesting article, worth the read; especially the last part concerning the Japanese companies problems.

Africa Brings New Financial Frontier to American Investors – This article speaks primarily  about African Americans investing in Africa.

This is a great editorial by a former Japanese ambassador, even if I do not fully agree with it. I blogged about this phenomenon before, but in Europe. This is what I was afraid of. Fukuda is soft at a time when Japan needs another “lion”, like Koizumi. I think if Fukuda wants Japan to stay relevant, they need to normalize and change their constitution so that they can have a offensively capable military. 60 years of self-castration is long enough. Japan needs to assume a larger security role in the region, NOW, but not because Washington wants that, but for Japan’s future. If Japan wants a seat on the UN Security Council, if htey want to stay relative in regard to China and not fall under the “Greater China Umbrella” in the future, now is an opportune time to get started in becoming a real world power. In this way I disagree with the author. The author seems to feel that Japan will be isolated as China nad America move closer together. My take is that China will become America’s focus and Japan will be left adrift, much more vulnerable to the will of China. I do not believe Japan should rely on America, but to become as much as an equal partner as possible to America and as a result a key player in the region that America can not afford to ignore and that China can not bully.

One of the problems is that Japan is has a very weak prime ministership, that relies so heavily on consensus, due to culture, it is often very slow to move, especially in ways that might be more controversial. In these types of situations, you need a strong leader dynamic, not a council of elders.

Fukuda should not discourage friends of Japan
Hisahiko Okazaki Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan’s domestic politics has been left in disarray because of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s humiliating defeat in July’s House of Councillors election followed by the abrupt resignation in September of Shinzo Abe as prime minister.

What effect are these developments having on the vitally significant relationship between Japan and the United States?

One important trend is the decline of U.S. interest in Japan.

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. and China relations going through a rough patch – There definitely have been “bumps” lately, as documented on this site. Once, a few years ago, a Bush Administration official said that China is both a strategic partner and a competitor. I have rarely heard this administration speak so practically in relation to foreign policy. It seems the realities of America’s interests have weighed on the Bush Admin, just as it did on Clinton. An entrenched power such as America and a rising power such as China, with radically different cultural norms; economies; geo-political realities; and political frameworks are not going to always share the same interests. My worry is that both sides, due to these inevitable frictions, will stop focusing on pragmatic mutual benefit and polarize their positions in an adversarial way. This can happen if we allow ignorance and populist pressure to run rampant in Congress over the latest and biased over-hyped sex media story about “bad China”. For China’s part, I think, many at the senior level in the CCP still do not understand how to deal with the West, especially the United States, due to an experience gap and cultural distance.

Nigeria: Yar’Adua in White House, Ready to Partner U.S. On Africom – There have been some results from the recent visit of Yar’Adua. This could be a positive thing for security on the continent, but as with most things of this nature, America is not doing it out of a sense of altruism; so the issue is the extent of mutual benefit. There appears to already be backlash in Nigeria, which s not surprising. African nations, since independence and especially since the Cold War, are fiercely protective of their sovereignty. I wonder how much of this is America trying to keep stability in a region where a good percentage of future oil supplies will come from, as well as intimidate China on the continent.

South Africa: Troops to Reinforce UN in Congo – This is a good sign. Yesterday, I was calling for more action in the Congo. I will be keeping watch of the progress made against the rebel insurgency.

Sierra Leone: Whose Quota, Exactly? – I am not sure how I feel about this. I know some Scandinavian countries have quotas for women in government, but unequal outcomes in every sphere of life is not always evidence of a problem. I’m not saying women are not discriminated against in Sierra Leone, but even in the most liberal nonsexist country does the average women really have as much interest in running for office or even politics as the average man?

Sudan: U.S. Senate Targets Asian, European Firms – This is a great move, too bad it is several years TOO LATE. After Rwanda, the world said never again, the United States said never again and we have watched it happen again for 6 years, and the biggest thing we have done is send in a rag tag team of underfunded African Peace Keepers who have a pathetically weak mandate , which causes them to run from and take notes on the Janjaweed while civilians get slaughtered in front of them. We continually allow China and Russia to block us at the UN. This is definitely not the first time this administration has failed pathetically in its diplomacy. How many years has it been since Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, declared the Darfur situation genocide? Apparently genocide is not important to the U.S. government if there is no one important to demonize with the charge.

Hat Tip to Confidential Reporter:

…according to an international opinion poll conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation.


On average, half of those surveyed would already call China a world power alongside the US.

Although the US remained the undisputed leader with 81 percent, China gained 5 percentage points compared to a similar poll conducted two years ago.

The Chinese placed even more trust in their country’s future prospects. 65 percent of respondents already perceived their country as a global player. Within China, this figure has risen 21 percentage points in the past two years.

In terms of the future, 57 percent of people around the globe expected China to be a superpower in 2020, while a mere 61 percent thought the US would still hold this position.

Among Chinese respondents, 80 percent believed their country would play a global role, but only 59 percent thought the US would be a world power at that date. In 2020, the Chinese expect the leading nations of the world to also include Russia (37 percent), the UK (31 percent), the European Union (29 percent) and Japan (23 percent).
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To save, South Koreans use credit cards – Koreans are learning about the convenience and dangers of credit cards.  I wish the article had some statistic on the average debt load of the Korean household as compared to American, or the percentage of defaults as compared to Americans.  I would be my money, that they handle their credit much better, despite the number of cards, and this is especially true of married couples.  I can not imagine the average S.Korean woman (who will be doing most bill paying) spending as recklessly as an American.

Hollywood officials say China has started banning American movies – Seems the rumors were true and do not just apply to Will Smith movies. 🙂   This is not just about the international property rights case at the WTO.  China has been perturbed about a few things, including American support for Taiwan and praise of the Dalia Lama.

CHINA: China rejects demand on communique – Just a brief update on Chinese denial.

Inter-Korean rail service resumes after five decades – More “Sunshine Policy” news.

Vietcombank says foreign buying capped to benefit local investors – Big bank about to go public.

Nigeria: President’s Visit Represents Start of New Relationship – Nigeria’s president visits the “George Dubya” in Washington.  The topics on the table are the Nigerian Delta (read: Oil), African peace keeping, and continued political stability.

No White Hair in the Chinese Leadership – This is funny, I was just talking about this to my wife last night. LOL