Daily Archives: November 18, 2009

By Zach Coleman, FT Asia world news editor

Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, may have looked like he was bulking up ahead of Barack Obama’s first presidential visit to Seoul this week when he sported a sweater under his suit jacket.

In fact, Lee and his cabinet – who joined him adding some layers of protection – were trying to lead by example as they committed the country to cut its carbon emissions in a symbolically under-heated meeting room during a cold snap.

How Seoul will reduce emissions by four per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 has not yet been spelled out. But the track record of other leaders using sartorial gestures to promote energy conservation has been mixed.

Months after becoming US president, Jimmy Carter donned a cardigan to underscore that the energy crisis was the “moral equivalent of war”. Carter hoped to summon public solidarity to conserve energy and reduce oil imports through steps such as reducing wintertime heating and driving more efficent cars.

But in the heyday of the Pontiac TransAm, his plea for sacrifice didn’t resonate with the American public (how would Hummer owners react now?). Oil imports continued to climb and Carter was eventually sent packing by the sunnier optimism of Ronald Reagan. Read more

In this audio interview, Edward Luce, the FT’s Washington bureau chief, analyses the significance of President Barack Obama’s first visit to China. Read more

By Geoff Dyer, FT China bureau chief

Have we just watched the launch of the G2? As Barack Obama has said several times this week, there are few big global problems that can be solved without the agreement of the US and China. And talking in terms of a G2 captures some of the shifting balance of global power where a wounded US is seeking to find common cause with a rising China. Read more

By Mure Dickie, FT Tokyo bureau chief

The depth of Barack Obama’s pavement-scraping bow to Japan’s Emperor Akihito last weekend has become a matter of controversy at home drawing individous comparisons with the upright Dick Cheney  (see this Los Angeles Times blog).

So here’s my verdict on the president’s protocol performance.

First off, Obama definitely wins some credit for being so obviously keen to show respect for local feelings. This is an important message to convey given that his administration has been rather brusquely waving aside calls by Japan’s new government for a rethink on a controversial Marine base relocation plan.

Like people everywhere, the Japanese appreciate when visitors abide by the old injunction to “follow village ways when in the village” (the local equivalent of “When in Rome…”). And bowing is very much a part of Japanese etiquette. Read more