Obama’s state visit to Japan
This week, we look at Japan, where President Barack Obama is concluding a state visit. The US leader and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have vital business to discuss, from Japan’s delicate and rather dangerous relationship with China, to the state of the Japanese economy and hopes for a major new trade deal. David Pilling, Asia editor, and Lindsay Whipp, former Tokyo correspondent, join Gideon Rachman to discuss
By Gideon Rachman
Ukraine is a distraction. Syria is a distraction. For believers in America’s “pivot to Asia”, the centre of Barack Obama’s foreign policy must remain the region of the future – Asia. The pivoters will be delighted that this week – despite a raging crisis with Russia – the president is embarking on a four-nation tour of Asia, beginning in Japan.
• Putin is proving his skills as Russia’s great propagandist, with his use of Soviet-era symbolism alarming those fearful for the country’s democracy.
• The Ukraine stand-off offers Beijing a broader role on the global stage.
• The FT’s series on the Fragile Middle continues, with a look at how India‘s petty entrepreneurs face an uncertain future.
• About to take over a crisis-ridden company with a demoralised workforce? Look no further the Vatican under Pope Francis for a case-study in how it should be done.
• As forests of empty new housing towers fill the horizon in Chinese cities, yet more state sanctioned construction would amount to yin zhen zhi ke – “drinking poison to quench one’s thirst”.
• Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker accused of fraud and one of the Kazakh president’s main political opponents, says the UK is being manipulated by a kleptocratic dictator after London decided to revoke his asylum status. Read more
• The FT continues its Fragile Middle series with a look at how one in five Chinese are only one pay packet away from losing middle class status.
• War has created civilisation over the past 10,000 years – and threatens to destroy it in the next 40.
• Turkey‘s social media curbs are darkening prospects for its technology sector.
• Despite the undue frostiness that has greeted Iran’s nuclear spring, politicians and diplomats are convinced Tehran wants a deal.
• It took just four years for Kim Yong-chul to go from chief lawyer at Samsung to working in a bakery. Now the most high-profile whistleblower in South Korean history is back in the spotlight.
• China is unlikely to have a Lehman-style moment – but danger is lurking in the shadows. Read more
• Twenty years ago Rwanda descended into the madness of genocide. UN peacekeepers were stretched to breaking point, but one man stood out, taking huge risks to save hundreds of lives.
• Beijing’s military build-up is generating a new Asian arms race as China’s neighbours seek to counter its growing might. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
When political leaders start rewriting the past, you should fear for the future. In Russia, Hungary, Japan and China, recent politically sponsored efforts to change history textbooks were warning signs of rising nationalism.
By Gideon Rachman
In 1996 a friend of mine called Jim Rohwer published a book called Asia Rising. A few months later, Asia crashed. The financial crisis of 1997 made my colleague’s book look foolish. I thought of Jim Rohwer (who died prematurely in 2001) last week as a I listened to another Jim – Jim O’Neill, formerly of Goldman Sachs – defending his bullish views on emerging markets in a radio interview.
By Gideon Rachman
Faced with a dangerous political threat, governments the world over tend to place their faith in the same magic medicine – economic growth. When world leaders try to address the roots of terrorism, for example, they instinctively assume that prosperity and jobs must be the long-term answer. And when a regional conflict threatens to get out of control – in east Asia or the Middle East – the standard political response is to call for greater economic integration. From Europe to China, governments place their faith in economic growth as the key to political and social stability.
I arrived in VIP-full Davos with one prediction in mind: 2014 will be the year the world returns to normality or at least the semblance of normality with the tapered exit from quantitative easing.
After three days at high altitude, the prediction is intact and I have five other takeaways. Read more
At a debate in Davos Joseph Nye, the American political scientist, asked the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, what he felt about the comments of the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Sino-Japanese relations earlier in the week and especially the parallel Mr Abe drew between the pre-world war one relationships in Europe and those between China and Japan today.
These were Mr Yang’s key points in reply: Read more
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe did not shy away from discussing the tensions with China in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Lifen Zhang, editor-in-chief of FTChinese.com, examines the reaction of Chinese delegates and journalists.
FTChinese.com editor-in-chief Lifen Zhang says the focus is not just on China’s economic power but its foreign relations. He also says Chinese business remains cautious about spending its cash piles.
James Gorman, the chief executive of Morgan Stanley, neatly summarised his view of US authorities’ so-called “princeling” probe, into whether rival bank JPMorgan sought to win deals in China by hiring the sons and daughters of the country’s elite.
“There are a lot of talented people that come from those families,” Mr Gorman told CNBC, in a television interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Full story on FastFT
By Martin Arnold, Banking Editor, in Davos
The first of many debates about China at Davos this year made an unexpectedly hostile debut this morning as Zhang Xin, head of Beijing’s biggest property developer Soho, was put on the spot over the country’s crackdown on corruption.
“Your industry is one of the most corrupt in China,” said moderator Andrew Browne, China editor of the Wall Street Journal, as he asked Ms Zhang to share her views on the issue. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The official theme for this year’s World Economic Forum is predictably bland – “Reshaping the World”. But the unofficial slogan will be “America is back”. Predictions that the US economy will grow by 3 per cent this year – added to worries about emerging markets – mean that Davos is likely to be bullish on America for the first time in years.
One of the most popular slang terms in China these days is tuhao, sort of a cross between “vulgar tycoon” and “nouveau riche”. Think Beverly Hillbillies, China-style.
These days China needs these hillbillies and their spending power more than ever. The economy, as figures released on Monday show, is again more reliant on investment than it is on consumption – nearly a decade after it began talking about rebalancing. Read more
♦ Borzou Daragahi on how the excesses of the extremist group Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – have sparked an armed rebellion against it in its northern Syria stronghold.
♦ Jamil Anderlini argues that modern China needs to set up its own House of Lords to improve governance.
♦ In a world with more inherited riches, it makes no sense to cut estate taxes, writes Robin Harding.
♦ A handwritten poster at a Seoul university has struck a nerve, prompting a wave of copycat banners airing grievances across South Korea. Young-Ha Kim explains the craze in The New York Times.
♦ Bangladesh’s leaders must deliver on the most basic promises of democracy – or they will prove Henry Kissinger right, says Tahmima Anam in The Guardian. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Can thinking about the past improve the way you handle the present? If so, this year’s centenary of the outbreak of the first world war could do the world a great service by persuading modern politicians to spend more time thinking about Sarajevo, and less time worrying about Munich.
At the end of every year, I attempt a first draft of history by listing what seem to me to be the five most significant events of the past twelve months. Some of my picks for 2013 also featured in 2012. I hope this is not because of intellectual laziness, but simply because the war in Syria, and the turmoil in Egypt remain defining events of our era. I probably should also once again include the tensions between China and Japan – but they are still simmering and have not yet boiled over. So I’ll give the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands a rest this year.
So let me start the list for 2013 with a genuinely new event that has global significance: Read more
China and Japan in the struggle of the century
Aerial posturing over disputed territories in the East China Sea has caused concern among the international community. After China declared an air identification zone over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the US despatched two B-52 bombers in an apparent show of defiance, but has instructed its civilian airlines to respect the zone. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Jamil Anderlini, Beijing bureau chief, and Geoff Dyer, US foreign policy correspondent to shed light on the situation