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North Korea/Japan Talks Cut Short: No One is Surprised March 8, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North Korea.
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Talks aimed at normalizing relations between the two North-East Asian countries ended abruptly, and in a typical North Korean fashion Thursday March 8, 2007 after the North refused to go on further if Japan would insist on discussing the abduction issue.
The DPRK considers the matter closed, but in Japan it is anything but, and remains a very emotional topic.

According to the Asahi Shimbun (08-03-2007), “no agreement was reached on any point, nor was any decision made on when the two sides would next meet.”

Xinhua (08-03-2007) went on to print what I can only assume to be a lie from North Korea’s Song Il Ho, the DPRK chief negotiator for these talks. He claimed that Japan stated that, “even if it is proved that the victims are dead, it cannot be said the abduction issue is resolved. In a word, they said that we must return the dead to Japan as alive people. If that cannot be resolved it cannot be said the issue is resolved.”

Not only does it not make any sense, but it is also not something one would expect to hear from Japan. However, one could easily imagine North Korea saying this type of comment.

The fact that these talks would end in this manner does not surprise anyone. As a matter-of-fact it was sort of expected in some circles.

What’s next for Japan? How can they deal with such an irrational state, one that has threatened Nihon more than once?

I am quite eager to see what the next step in this dance will be.

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Japan Ends War Time Compensation to China March 7, 2007

Posted by David in China, Japan.
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Okay, it was never really identified as such because “Beijing has refused outright war reparations”, but the flow of huge sums of money being given to China now and over the years, in the form of low-interest loans, is about to come to an end.

The Taipei Post (07-03-2007) reported today that “Japan has gradually been switching aid from China to other countries seen as emerging allies, such as India.” Japan “will end all loans to China by the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

I support this move, and wish all other countries, who still provide “aid” to China, would follow Japan’s example. After-all, if China is able to hold the Olympics it should not still be considered to be in need of financial assistance… The amount of money China spends on its military is another reason why we should not be giving it any money.

Talking to The Hermit State March 7, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North Korea.
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This past Tuesday Japanese and North Korean diplomats agreed “on a timetable for two days of talks” set to begin Wednesday March 7, 2007. According to an article in today’s Japan Times,  “the first day would be spent addressing Japan’s priority issue (abduction issue) and the second on North Korea’s — how Japan should atone for its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.”

Interestingly enough, but not surprising, after the day’s morning session of talks, “North Korea has delayed the afternoon session of talks with Japan on normalizing strained relations, raising doubts about their chances.”

In a BBC News story (March 7, 2007) it is mentioned that “the North gave no reason for pulling out, and it was not clear if talks scheduled for Thursday were affected.”

Could it be that since the first day of talks were to address Japanese issues and concerns the Hermit State is just playing games?

If the talks do resume on Thursday, as planned, I am willing to bet the North will be in attendance the entire day, and will not cause any undue disruptions. This is because the second day is all about what North Korea wants.

I’m also guessing they will claim that all of Japan’s concerns were addressed in the previous day’s morning meetings.

Even if the meetings have been disrupted for a valid reason (very unlikely), are they even worth re-scheduling?

How can any democratic/capitalist state in North-East Asia, or the world for that matter, have a normal relationship with the DPRK?

The Internet Makes Juvenile Delinquents March 6, 2007

Posted by David in China.
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A March 6, 2007 BBC News story reported that “China will not allow any more internet cafes to open this year.” This decision has been made in an effort to help “combat the rising problem of internet addiction.”

Fair enough! Internet addiction is a real problem, and I am sure China experiences its share. However, I believe the true reason, for not allowing any more internet cafes, is a little more obvious.

“The number of people using the internet in China has grown by 30% over the last year, to 132 million, the state Internet Network Information Centre announced in December.” To put things into perspective, China is “on track to surpass the US online population in the next two years”, and for a country who’s government is set on controlling what the population reads and accesses, this reality is quite alarming.

On the same day Xinhua ran a very similar story (March 6, 2007), but also included the mention of a report by the Beijing reformatory for juvenile delinquents which “claims that 33.5 percent of its delinquent detainees were goaded into committing crimes, mostly robbery and rape, by violent online games or erotic websites.” Really?

I tend to think the Beijing reformatory in question is a little more than a “re-education camp”, and their reports should be read with that in mind. It is more likely that these “delinquents” used the internet to access unauthorized material more related to democracy, and freedom than to porn.

Japanese involved in American bird flu drug deals? March 6, 2007

Posted by koda7 in Japan.
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Reuters ran an article today on a major deal struck between BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Japan’s Shionogi & Co. Ltd.  In essence BioCryst is giving Shionogi the right to manufacture and sell Peramivir in Korea and Japan (U.S. flu drug maker teams up with Japan’s Shionogi, Monday, March 5, 2007).

All that is fine but I ask is this a good decision?  First of all BioCryst has a fairly bad reputation with honesty.  They once lied to 22 clinical test patients about their cancers being cured to boost stock prices, turned out to be lies ( How a cancer trial ended in betrayal, June 24, 2001).  Secondly, the animal trials for this drug were only completed in September 2006.  Thirdly, an earlier oral version of the drug proved highly ineffective.

I guess my point here is that what happen to “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.   Sure a drug that has the potential of dealing with new strands of Influenza (bird flu strains) is a good idea, but I wonder if it would not be better to take a page out of China’s book.   They announced a massive vaccination campaign, of birds: “China will vaccinate billions of domestic poultry over the next few months to guard against an outbreak of bird flu this spring…” (China launches mass bird flu vaccination campaign, Union-Tribune, March 5, 2007).   Does this not appear more realistic as an option.  Well of course it would be pretty difficult to treat a billion people with expensive American experimental drugs.  But more importantly China “will also send experts to help monitor the breeding of poultry and waterfowl, and intensify monitoring of live poultry markets…”.

Perhaps Japan’s willingness to do business with their American friends should be re-evalutated in the case of Influenza?

Renovating the Local – Ski Japan! March 1, 2007

Posted by koda7 in Japan.
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Most the World is focused on a drop in world markets and the surprising resilience of American and Chinese markets. They are without out a doubt now intertwined as the economic poles of the world.

Well i’m not… Call me simple but its Winter time in the Northern hemisphere and its time to ski!

From an article in the Mainichi Daily New, “Japan is at the top in Asia in terms of skiing.” (Japan’s powdery slopes emerge as hot new international ski magnet, March 2, 2007). But what i’m really interested is the amount of foreign investment going into the Ski industry.

I remember watching the 1998 Nagano Olympics and hearing the reporters explaining that event had to be postponed or delay due to too much snow. I don’t remember ever hearing that about an Olympic venue anywhere. I remember thinking how great the ski hills were.

The thought never crossed my mind as to how the industry was actually going. Well if it was going well locally at that time, it seems to have been rejuvenated by those Olympics. The ski industry appears to have clasped in the 90s after a huge surge in the 80s, ” with the economic slump the following decade, and is still being undermined by the country’s shrinking population.” The population issues in Japan are for another post, another time.

But what interesting is that Japan ski resorts and investors, as well as foreign investors bailed out the industry and found new clients: the west. It appears that pre-Nagano the Japanese ski industry was primarily local. After the winter games, main land Asia and Australia took notice and saw the Japanese “snowy” mountains as the preferred choice.

Think about this: Three of the world’s most famous ski resorts, Aspen Valley (USA), Whistler (CAN), and Davos (SWI) recieve 25, 30 and 35 ft of annual snowfall respectively. Japans west coast receives on average 45 ft annually. Its actually astonishing that it took so long for the investors to open their eyes.

Apparently these resorts have even addressed the biggest barrier with tourism in Japan: language. “…owns like Hirafu show that times are changing. English permeates everything from restaurant menus and bus schedules to ski classes.”

Of the 14 million skiers that ski on Japan’s mountains only 7 million are Japanese. Some one call Donald Trump… oops too late Don. “In December, a unit of U.S.-based Citigroup Inc. paid 6.2 billion yen (US$51.2 million) for 12 troubled ski resorts…” and “…Japanese property giant Hoshino Resorts said it would spend US$84 million to revamp two failed ski resorts it bailed out in 2003 and 2004. ”

With the language barriers being broken and real innovative services, such as day care for skiing, the Japanese tourism industy in ripe. So the only thing left to look at is cost… Japan’s biggest problem.

While the the average Japanese Ski pass may be less than those at a large American or European mountains, your not getting the same value. At 2/3 the cost of the foreign ski pass your getting half the mountain (in size and acreage), a 1/3 more snow, and a real expensive flight ticket.

None the less its good thinking and demonstrates excellence innovation in tourism. It will only grow further with the increase in Asian economies and the increase in Chinese affluence.

Welcome Traditional China? February 27, 2007

Posted by koda7 in China.
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I realize that most posts on this site relate to Business and Politics but as I am a homegrown anthropologist I’ll be taking a differrent spin on the East. Please be patient with me as I’m an anecdotal poster.  Japan and its cultural innovation tomorrow!

Welcome traditional China

 

About two years ago I played badminton at a university. When waiting for a court I liked to discuss with my fellow players about culture, business and school. I always found a strange situation arising: whenever the conversation turn to spirituality and philosophy my Chinese friends had very little or nothing to say. I always assumed that they didn’t understand my English.

 

One day after one of my unsuccessful attempts to discussing religion and philosophy, a good friend of mine, Sharon (understand that’s her English name, I can’t properly pronounce her Chinese name), she turned to me and said, “Kids from China don’t understand that.” I probed further, and she explained that there was a spiritual vacuum in China. People cared about success and money to the point where spiritual culture was not really practiced or learnt.

 

I’ve often thought of China as a human machine that manufactures and reproduces worldly innovation. I haven’t seen anything original come from China in my lifetime. That is not to say that there has been none merely that it seemed not to be an important aspect to the Chinese social structure.

 

 

So when China began “opening up” to the western world I thought there would be a 2nd cultural revolution. Now I think I realize why there won’t be. Historically, China has been the tortoise not the hare, to borrow and western parable. China has slowly climbed to the front of the economic and political stage; where as the US has made a relatively quick jump to power. All this to say China is not a machine any more. The individual appears to be resurfacing.

I came across an article recently that brought me to think about this. In an article entitled “The return of Confucius” (Spectrum – Standard Weekend – China’s Business Newspaper, February 24, ), there appears to be a thirst; a very real and powerful thirst for identity in China; a spiritual identity which is truly Chinese. The world can not, in this modern age, survive with a China as it currently exists. The cultural vacuum that is China will never be satisfied with Western culture. A nation can not adopt a culture or a way of life from another and survive.

 

The article speaks of a strange phenomenon that occurred with the presentation of a female academic’s understanding of Confucius’ teaching. This academic/author Yu Dan is breaking records both in personal appearances at book signings and lectures, and in books sales. In fact her book What I Have Learnt From The Analects has sold over 3 million copies in China. She has become celebrity re-interpreting Confucius’ teachings in a modern tone and the thirst for it seems real, even fanatical.

 

During the Chinese cultural revolution much of the Confucian teachings were abandoned and disregarded; primarily being viewed as soft. Now that China is placed front and centre is it time for its rebirth?

 

Confucius’ teachings revolve around rules of behaviour and high ethics. While China excels in rules of behaviour, the nation on whole would benefit greatly from Confucius’ ethical teachings. Many western societies often mistaken one of Confucius’ teachings with their own “Golden Rule”. It was Confucius who said, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”. If China feeds itself of its own rich tradition and heritage the world will benefit. Western culture may only create more consumers in China but Chinese culture has the potential to create more ethical humans.

 

Replacement February 22, 2007

Posted by David in General.
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As previously mentioned, someone else will be posting on canexafish.wordpress.com for the next week-and-a-bit. I’m not exactly sure what topics will be covered but they will be relevant to North-East Asia, as originally intended when I started this blog.

Enjoy!

Humiliation February 22, 2007

Posted by David in China.
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The ongoing love-fest with China’s economy and its potential has been getting on my nerves lately. Yes, it’s true that China will be a super-power one day, and it is also true that their economy is super-hot at the moment. It’s a capitalist’s wet dream.

However, I just thought I would take the time to remind people of the obvious, that China is still a very repressive, Communist (ish) state, unwilling to address its human-rights record, and in many ways absolutely backwards in the methods they use to run the country.

The latest example that comes to mind is (China Daily 16-02-2007) the public humiliation of two boys which recently took place in China. Municipal bylaw enforcement officers in Chongqing (South-western China) “stuck confiscated paper advertisements all over the bodies of two boys and paraded them after they were found dispensing the ads” throughout the city.

Now although there was public outrage, the fact remains that this type of punishment occurs frequently in China.

On December 8, 2006 The International Herald Tribune reported on “Shenzhen’s public humiliation of sex workers”. It was actually broadcasted on television, “a chilling flashback from 30 years ago.”

“In this case prostitutes and a few pimps, were paraded in front of a jeering crowd, their names revealed, and then taken to jail without trial.” Were these people “sent to work camps for re- education?”

That particular throw-back to the Cultural Revolution also met with opposition from the people who expressed “their outrage at the incident in one online forum after another.” Still I doubt the authorities pay much attention to online forums, or to what the people want in general.

My point?

All financial benefits aside (as great as they may be), the free-world should never forget exactly what type of people govern and impose rules, and regulations in China.

There is great potential in China, but they have a long way to go.

Raising Interest in Japan February 21, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North-East Asia.
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In the West, when the average person thinks of the Land of the Rising Sun, not much comes to mind except the typical stereotypes, myths, a few cultural aspects, and an extra-ordinary amount of absolute BS about the society in general (Usually from returning English Teachers or just plain idiots).

Other-than-that, not much consideration is given to Japan, its role on the international stage, and how its general welfare can have a direct effect on all types of people throughout the world.

As the world’s second largest economy, Japan plays a key role in the over-all health of the global economy. Therefore, keeping that in mind, what’s good for Japan is good for the world. Which is why, learning that “Japan’s central bank has raised interest rates to 0.5%” is welcome news. Their economy is improving day by day.

According to a 21-02-2007 BBC News article, the decision to raise the rate was made because of the “steady growth in the economy”, and the fact that “Japan’s recovery was likely to continue.”

However, although the rate hike lifted borrowing costs, it was “not enough to interrupt the huge but potentially volatile flow of cheap yen out of Japan that now helps prop up global stock and real estate markets.” (International Herald Tribune 21-02-2007).

“The flow, known as the yen carry trade, is the product of the yawning gap between Japan’s rock-bottom borrowing rates and the much higher rates in other countries.” It also serves as an example of Japan’s importance to the world economy.

Think of the mess that would be created if that trade was to suddenly stop.

There are many other examples that demonstrate how and why Japan is such an important player in the world. But to list them here would take too long.

However, I would ask you to consider the following, in another BBC News story (21-02-2007) it was reported that during US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s recent talks with Japanese leaders, Japan was praised as “one of America’s closest allies”. It was also stated that their alliance was for “Asia and for the world”.

I couldn’t agree more. Especially, when the words are coming from the biggest player around. In fact, I would go so far as to say Japan is the USA’s greatest ally.

Obviously I am not an expert on Japan (and my writing skills are limited) but I think it’s important that we get to know more about this particular country, and not just the old war stories, manga, or crazy TV shows. People like Shingen are a great source of information on all sorts of Japan-related matters, and there are tons of reading material out-there.

Go read.