It is always entertaining when news from the outside world intrudes upon a seminar. I’m in Hong Kong and this afternoon was talking at an event, organised by the Asia Society, on US-Chinese relations. As we were going in, we got the news that Yukio Hatoyama had resigned as prime minister of Japan.
What’s that got to do with the relationship between Washington and Beijing? Quite a lot, as it happens. In his short period as prime minister, Hatoyama had raised the intriuging prospect that Japan might be distancing itself a little from its very tight “special relationship” with the US. He has talked of his desire for an East Asian community and a huge delegation of his party members flew over to Beijing, late last year, for a grin-and-grip with President Hu Jintao. He also promised to move the US marines’ base on Okinawa. It his failure to keep this promise that has provoked Hatoyama’s downfall.