I just came across this revamped version of what purports to be North Korea’s official website. Even if it is not, and is just a fan site, it is a credit to what is described on the homepage as a genuine workers’ state in which “all the people are completely liberated from exploitation and oppression”.
I’ve never been to North Korea (visa still pending) but, from what I can make out from this site, it sounds like a pretty wonderful place. It is apparently the only country where “the workers, peasants, soldiers and intellectuals are the true masters of their destiny” and in a “unique position to defend their interests”. Read more
A pro-democracy protester holds a placard with picture of blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Photo AP
First Wang Lijun. Now Chen Guangcheng. If anybody else sneaks into a US diplomatic mission in China we might really have a story on our hands.
The events that have electrified China over the past few months come safely under the category of things you couldn’t make up. In February, Mr Wang, chief of police of Bo Xilai, China’s most charismatic politician, turned up in the US consulate in Chengdu. He brought with him piles of documents, including what is said to be evidence of the murder of a British businessman, allegedly by Mr Bo’s wife. Read more
It’s hard to see why a Shakespearean play about a Scottish king should be controversial in Thailand. Nevertheless, the Thai film board has seen fit to ban a local film version of Macbeth.
One of the producers says the film board obviously thinks the story of Scottish regicide retold in the film, Shakespeare Must Die, is an allegory about Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister. Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, is disliked by many Thai royalists for allegedly challenging the authority of the king, something he has always denied. Read more
Few can now doubt that Japan’s economy, hardly in the most robust of shapes anyway, has taken a battering from last year’s tsunami. On Monday, data showed that output fell between October and December for the third time in four quarters as companies battled a perfect storm of problems. Read more
Rick Perry eat your heart out. According to the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s government plans to dissolve 10 of 88 state bodies deemed inefficient or with overlapping authority.
That easily beats the timid reform proposal from the Republican presidential candidate who appears content to get rid of just two government departments – or was it three? Read more
(Top row L to R) Thai deputy prime minister Kittirat Na-Ranong, Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, Peruvian president Ollanta Humala Tasso and (front row L to R) Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Chinese president Hu Jintao and Canada prime minister Stephen Harper – Image AFP/Getty
There may be a leadership crisis in Europe, but Asian leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Honolulu mostly appeared as relaxed as the bronzed holidaymakers stretched out on Waikiki beach.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, was so laid back he began his presentation at the parallel business leaders’ forum with a song of his own composition.
The tune, accompanied by sappy lyrics worthy of a charity single, was about saving the environment, a sentiment that Indonesia sometimes honours in the breach.
Still, the retired general credited with bringing political stability and economic growth to his country of 240m people, appeared in confident mood. He said that the economy, which has been growing steadily above 6 per cent, was fairly resilient to the troubles in Europe. He pointed to a deficit of just 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product – which he said would be lower next year – and public debt/GDP levels of 25 per cent. Are you listening Lucas Papademos? Read more
The Chinese are voting again. Having lost their chance to determine the outcome of Happy Girls, an audience-participation talent show that has mysteriously vanished from next year’s schedules, they are voting instead for Ai Weiwei, the artist and thorn in Beijing’s side. Read more
“I almost left the country thinking they’re moving a little too fast. I never thought I would say that about Myanmar.”
Those are the words of Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s deputy foreign minister, after a trip this week to Burma, which the Norwegians call by its official name of Myanmar. Mr Barth Eide said that political reformers in the country “have the upper hand” and were moving quickly to try to consolidate their position before there was a counter-offensive from hardliners. “The danger is not that it’s not sincere,” he said of the push to open up the political process, “but that the counter forces will set in.” Read more
At least one newspaper in China has finally come out in strong support of pro-democracy demonstrations and mass sit-ins. An opinion piece in the official China Daily objected to what it called a “blackout imposed by major news media” of the growing protest movement.
The country being so criticised is not, of course, China.
Rather, it is the US, the latest leg of the global revolution, where news of the Occupy Wall Street movement has allegedly been suppressed. Read more
China’s definition of what constitutes its “core interest” appears to be spreading. Such interests used to be confined to a few areas, about which the Communist party would brook absolutely no dissenting view. These included its national security, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Tibet, where there is a strong separatist element, quite obviously forms part of China’s definition of territorial integrity. So does the island of Taiwan, ceded to Japan in 1895, and now a self-governed democracy. Beijing has made clear that, if Taiwan were ever to declare formal independence, it would invade. More recently, the term has been applied to Xinjiang, the huge area of western China that has been the scene of clashes between local Muslims and Han Chinese. Read more
Here we go again. Japan has a new prime minister. This is a truly momentous event – momentous, that is, for anyone who has managed to maintain a smidgen of interest in who runs the Japanese government these days. So this one goes out to all three of you.
Yoshihiko Noda will be sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday after being elected leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Monday afternoon. Read more
Drum roll. Tan-Tan-Tan-Tan. And the winner is…Tony Tan. After the tightest of electoral races, Dr Tan was on Sunday declared the president-elect of Singapore, beating out three other candidates who also happen to be called Tan.
The post is largely ceremonial. But the slimmest margin of victory for the government’s preferred candidate – just 0.34 percentage points over his closest rival – suggests there is something stirring in Singapore’s once predictable political scene. Read more
Just what the world needs – another think tank. Except that maybe, just maybe, this is a good idea. This week saw the launch of the Fung Global Institute, a self-styled Hong Kong-based independent research institute that wants to be the Brookings of Asia. Its mission is to produce “business-relevant research on global issues from Asian perspectives”.
There are a few red flags here, of which later. But the idea itself is timely. If Asia continues to grow at anything like its current pace, it will play an increasingly important role in the global economy. Yet it lacks anything like a coherent, intellectual voice. The global dialogue is being held in Washington, New York and London. Asia’s views deserve to be heard more – and not just in cacophony of a forum like the G20. Read more
I have just returned from a trip to Tohoku, the north-east region of Japan pulverised by the worst tsunami and earthquake to hit the country in decades. More than 20,000 people are dead or missing and some of the coastal towns in the worst-affected areas lost up to 10 per cent of their inhabitants. Some 200,000 homes and shops have been washed away, nearly 80 per cent of the buildings in some places.
There had been hope that the shock would jolt some sense into Japan’s politicians. Sadly, that seems not to have occurred. Read more
Aung San Suu Kyi on August 14, 2011. Getty Images.
There are some strange things going on in Burma, the country renamed Myanmar by the generals who have ruled it since 1962. On Sunday, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to her home after leaving Rangoon, the former capital, for the first time since she was released from seven years of house arrest in November.
The 66-year-old Nobel prize winner opened a library, donated food to some flood victims, and made a couple of speeches to several hundred supporters in which she asked for their patience. Read more
This video posted from a Fukushima town-hall meeting on YouTube was brought to my attention by a colleague. It is remarkable on many levels. It shows a group of citizens listening to bureaucrats from Tokyo with less than the usual deference shown to the mandarins who have run Japan since the war.
The audience is made up of citizens who live far enough from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant not to have been evacuated by the government, but close enough to have genuine concerns about elevated levels of radiation. Read more
Saturday’s high-speed train accident in China is above all a tragedy. At least 35 people have died and more than 200 people have been injured.
The number of casualties may yet rise. But the accident also has a broader meaning. It will strengthen the case of those who have accused Chinese authorities of building a high-speed network too quickly and of cutting corners in the interests of leapfrogging other nations and, possibly, generating kickbacks for corrupt officials. Read more