Friday, August 13, 2010

Asia: The New Empires and The Dividend

China Korea Japan, wrestling with past, depict the future

Japan’s latest apology: What's the motive?

While August 15th is the date of World War II celebrations and mourning with the defeat and surrender of Japan Imperial armies, a date useful to all "apprentis sorciers" of geopolitics, I attended an interesting exhibition at the Tokyo National Musuem of Ueno which happened to describe the deep interaction between China, Korea and Japan. The theme is the "Yellow river valley and its civilization and its impact on the whole Asian culture."

Various sections here, one shows the birth of dynasties and explains how the governments were locally organized and centralized both in knowledge and power, and it does give sights for the origin of politics and governance in Asian nation as blended in the Mediterranean "Mare Nostrum" of Europe.

The second section of this Ueno National Museum exhibition is about the birth of craftsman-shift and shows daily life in ancient China, and offer the comparisons with rural Korean and Japanese societies who demonstrated more talents in the non-said than the media flocks tend to believe...

I did not see anything or anyone showing any concern for the prime minister latest jig-jag bait for popularity. The Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, said sorry to South Korea for its colonization of the Korean Peninsula against the will of the Korean people 100 years ago. Expressing “deep remorse”, Mr Kan offered a “heartfelt apology” for the 36 years of colonization, which ended with Japan’s surrender in the Second World War on August 15, 1945.

And that's it.

Reaction: critical moot point as of no practical significance or no juicy game with a dividend of practical consequences for Japan, a well known player in this game. Besides, former prime minister Murayama sent the message of Japan's apologies in... 1995.

One can vaguely understand why a Democrat, able for a while to diffuse a vague idea of "alternance" after decades of conservative Liberal Democratic party regime, is trying to make a statement. With no compensation and revision of slavery, and brutality, the sincerity of these Kan's apologies is left in the basket of amateurish policy making.

The victims' answer was expected: In Seoul former "comfort women" and members of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan held a protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul, last Wednesday, demanding full compensation from Tokyo. They also urged Japan to offer a genuine apology for its annexation of the Korean Peninsula 100 years ago.

In China, the media gave the news plenty of attention. While expressing anger that Japan had chosen to ignore its colonial history in China, newspapers speculated that Japan had an ulterior motive. That motive, they claimed, was that "Japan was trying to counter China’s rise by recruiting South Korea on its side, in a greater scheme masterminded by the US. "In the 1990s, the US needed a unified Europe to counter the rise of Russia. Recently, the US has been trying to split Asia apart, to check China’s development," the analyst Liu Zhiqin wrote in Global Times, member of the official People’s Daily press group.

On the front page: "The timing of Japan’s apology came at a sensitive moment, China and South Korea used to be allies in the struggle against Japan’s invasion history. Now, will the "détente" between South Korea and Japan be the beginning of Japan’s effort to improve its relations with other Asian countries or will it serve as a turning point for Japan, together with South Korea, to counter China?" Here is the point, loud and clear.

Asian countries victimized by Japan during the Second World War often compare the former Hirohito Empire with Germany. "Japan’s apology was more sincere than before. But it’s not yet at the level we can wholeheartedly embrace." wrote Choi Woon-do who is a researcher with the Northeast Asian History Foundation, a South Korean official affiliated institute established in 2006 to examine disputes with neighboring countries: "But in Germany’s case, there was domestic consensus to admit its wrongdoing. Japan didn’t have a domestic consensus among themselves. This creates a credibility problem of Japan’s apology."

Liu Jiangyong, a professor of Japanese politics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, is on the same line: "Some people in Japan oppose the apology. Different Japanese leaders have different historical views. That would also influence the relationship Japan has with its neighbors. Germany and Japan are completely different, Germany’s apology was very easier to do as one group, [quite followed by the whole Germany folk] the Nazis, took the responsibility. But for Japan, all the Japanese have to take responsibility for its colonial and World War Two wrongdoings."

Japan this time pointed out that the annexation was done against Koreans’ will. But importantly, it didn’t admit the illegality of doing so.

One can imagine how Sir Ernest Satow, a British diplomat in Tokyo, would disagree as he witnessed and described the motives of Japan's annexation of Korea after he mentioned the horrific murder October 1895 of the influential Queen Min by the assassins led by Japan's legation in Seoul First Secretary Sugimura. Skillful Queen Min had the control on King Kojong and she was known for her alliance with China against Japan's advance. She paid the full price stabbed and slashed then burnt alive in the garden of the Korean palace as witnessed by an American military advisor, the General William Dye with others. A murder planned by Miura Goro, follower of the Yamagata clique, tool of Japan economic expansion in North-East Asia.

Then the question to be asked after Kan's apology: what is to be the next magic formula of Japanese compensation to the victims? Apologies alone won't be remembered long as a sincere admittance of wrongdoing in today's lucrative Asia. And apology from Emperor demanded by Koreans, according to the Korea Times: the Japanese emperor is to make a "sincere apology" over past wrongdoings. KOreans are claiming Kan’s statement was carefully engineered to dodge Japan’s responsibility for forcefully annexing Korea 100 years ago. "Kan just said Japan’s annexation of Korea was against the will of the Korean people. He did not acknowledge its unlawfulness. Until Japan fully admits to its past wrongdoings and offers a genuine apology, we will continue to fight in cooperation with other civic groups at home and abroad."

While experts argue, the reality battle on seas continues.

Vigilance 警觉

Today... "The United States and ROK must continue their efforts to enhance vigilance of the North and lessen any defensive weaknesses that may tempt further provocative acts. Both countries must avoid military operations that only serve to goad or intimidate North Korea, however appealing that may be to those wishing to settle scores. For this reason, future exercises, patrolling activities, and command and control arrangements including rules of engagement must be regularly reviewed with this concern in mind."

With reciprocal threats... "The nuclear deterrent has been supplied all along by the Ohio-class subs that are within the START II limits and are armed with Trident nuclear-tipped missiles. There are two of these super weapons on patrol (probably off Hawaii) at all times and each has the capability of firing 26 missiles, each of which, in turn, is capable of carrying six nuclear warheads with yields of approximately 4.5 megatons . Some of these missiles are targeted on Russian sites in Siberia, but it is likely that the bulk of the targeting is on China. The total of American nukes pointed at the Chinese during each may exceed the entire reported Chinese stockpile of 200 nuclear warheads (although the Chinese are supposed to be adding to and renovating their stockpile). In addition, the US reportedly maintains an additional stock of 2,000 nuclear weapons in Asia which are available for delivery by ships and planes. The American missiles are reportedly pointed at Chinese launch sites. Any US nuclear attack on such sites in Henan and the adjacent provinces would, given the prevailing winds, kill millions in a diminishing swathe all the way over to Shanghai (although the fallout is projected to be only 50 REM near Shanghai). There are apparently at least 20 Chinese 4 megaton missiles targeted on American cities. They are believed to be targeted on cities because the Chinese do not have the capability---and probably never will---to target the American subs that carry the deadly Trident missiles. There are all sorts of complications -whether to overfly Russian territory for one- to estimating which American cities are at risk, but Los Angeles is certainly in the cross hairs."

IN NBR quoting November 2006 "Kristensen Report"
Federation of American Scientists/Natural Resources Defense Council

With this in mind, the United States plans "to design its next generation of ballistic-missile submarines for nuclear deterrence missions," a high-level Navy official said last month according to Elaine M. Grossman Global Security Newswire. Defense leaders had earlier said that new submarines in the fleet which are to begin replacing the service's 14 Ohio-class "SSBN" boats in 2029 could carry both nuclear and conventionally armed missiles.

What about Japan versus China's influence?

Time is far when Toyotomi Hideoshi was defeated by a Korean king's fleet allied to suzerain power of China in bloody naval battles in the 16th century. Today's Japan navy is powerful. For Japanese joining other Asian powers, update alliance and fix the memories, question of a regained influence is timely objective and will.

What would be the key features that determine a nation's weight in the international arena? Answers are the economic strength, the technological advancement, the demographic vitality, the ethnic cohesion and it goes without saying that military expenditures power and political momentum factors are key specifics. The specific pre-targets are the Arabic Indian China Pacific maritime zones.

From here, a wider development is expected to come in the East Asian seas as demonstrated with the latest naval military maneuvers and drills, the Cheonan corvette incident was just a pretext. Real objective is to assess needs and develop new naval technologies. Both the western Nato and an undefined secondary role left to Japan and South Korea versus the China Russia led coalition of forces are to forcefully modify geopolitics in the region.

Region where conflicts remained thanks to government and media fueled tensions. For how long? How China and Russia, more open and market-oriented, would join forces to achieve this goal, turning Asia into a leading financial center (China holds much of the U.S. treasury bonds) and boosting their industry for civilian and military industrial strategies? Prospective watchers are getting ready now that China and Russia will have much more to gain from cooperation than from rivalry.

One China-Russia and others' cooperation field is the maritime fleet industry.

Large multipurpose warships are unlikely to disappear from the fleets any time soon. Legacy systems, from nuclear powered aircraft carriers to destroyers to nuclear submarines "will remain for several generations and rather than single-purpose ships, commanders prefer maximally capable ships under all possible fighting conditions."

With this the idea that ships should fight together to maximize their effectiveness is well established. Added to the fact it comprises highly integrated local and wide-area networks supported by high-speed computers that process and transmit intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance obtained through an overwhelming number and great diversity of geographically dispersed sensor -radar, optic, acoustic, electronic- which then will be shared by the surface ships, submarines, aviation, and land based stations, thus providing them with a common operational picture and real-time battle space awareness.

Knowledge as power

While tens of millions of people flow to the Shanghai expo, not to the Mao's mausoleum in Bejing, joined by Japanese tourists, vigilance on both side is requested, and for this as a prerequisite, knowledge and people are accounted as a reliable power.

History moving on, Asian society will change and Japan too after balance of power changes in the Far-East, and Japan will again and certainly cruise under a new equivocal role, less for the values of free market to reach the number 1, 2 or 3 rather than to regain a sphere of influence and a dividend of sovereignty that she lost 65 years ago, while stuttering apologies each first weeks of August in tune between horror in Hiroshima and amnesia on the premises of the Yasukuni shrine revisionist's museum.

This is the somber aspiration of politics as well as its promise while a powerful China is said to continue to flourish and quite smoothly renounce more often to Marxism and redefine her cultural nationalism to embark on more concrete steps of policy-making with a less utopian deadline. That being said, if the generals agree to run for it...


- News agency, Korea Times, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi shimbun, BBC.
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 2009.
- 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy.
- Intelligence Community Annual Threat Assessment.
- The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.
- Russia: Back to the Future? Testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate.
- Ray Cline 1975. World Power Assessment.
- Halpin, Tony. 2009. Brazil, Russia, India, and China Form Bloc to Challenge US
Dominance. London Times.
- Jean Ziegler. The swiss, the Gold and the Dead. And talks in Sorbonne, Paris.
- A telling battle over China's history curriculum. Ross Terrill, The Weekly Standard.
- Reporter's notes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Art and Creativity, Yokohama "French Joie de Vivre!"

Art to empower the Marine City

Yokohama Creative City Center

For a city like Yokohama, second biggest of Japan, culture and art are something not only to enrich citizens’ lives but also to empower the city itself and enable it to be internationally competitive. Based on this objective, Yokohama has advocated a new vision called “Creative City Yokohama” and promotes the citizen-led designing of a city of art and culture.

Artist atelier

Yokohama offers a base for artists to produce an ideal environment for creators and let them live and work by securing studios and ateliers, it becomes their production bases in the central area of Yokohama, second city of Japan in population, and half an hour from Tokyo Megalopolis. They rush to gain experience, contacts and result is a sudden desire of intense creation.

Chess Art Mat

Yokohama also renovated old buildings constructed between the Meiji and early Showa period (1868 to around 1930s) and utilizes them in the fields of audiovisual art and culture, such as theaters and galleries.

Dolls flying in your mind

Legendary Yokohama's red light district, from Ukiyo-e to Toulouse Lautrec

"Western Traders at Yokohama and encounter with Ukiyo-e an street scenes. For Japanese artists, the port city of Yokohama became a primary incubator for a new category of images that straddled convention and novelty. Although Yokohama prints have been widely maligned for not being up to the standards of Ukiyo-e, this image by Hashimoto Sadahide (1807-ca. 1878) has both technical and artistic strength. Bustle and change are implied by every rippling wave and the repeated lines of oars, stripes, planks, rigging, and pleats--punctuated by the wave crashing at the base of the ship. Reportedly, while Sadahide was sketching the scene, he dropped his brush in the water and borrowed a pencil from a foreigner to continue drawing."

The city also actively collects creative businesses, by establishing clusters, in order to vitalize the local economy and nurture and support young talents. Old parts of Yokohama are revitalized such as the legendary Yokohama's red light district Hinodecho, Koganecho and Hatsuko. Prostitutes and slums time already passed years ago.

In the past, it was famous for tiny brothels with show-windows on front, and prostitutes in it. Cleared by the City and police who chased the local mafia, inhabitants were deported back to mainly Thailand, China, Philippines. The houses are still here, travelers and backpackers can even rent a room here for less than Yen 3,000. Names of the girls are still printed over the door and bars...

"At it peak, the Koganecho area used to be home to some 250 small brothels. Many people are afraid of coming to this area alone at nights," said Shingo Yamano, director of NPO Koganecho Area Management Center.

All the changes started after a thorough clamp down by the government in 2005, followed by continued tenacious efforts to clean up and revitalize the area by police, social workers, and most notably, artists." Xinhua reports in the China Daily.

Yokohama BankART Studio New Yokohama's directors Mr Osamu Ikeda and Mr Toshio Mizohata of "BankArt 1929" expose the concept and how Yokohama work for creative arts and offer a collection of disciplines from Asian artists

Click the arrow to watch

Click the arrow to watch

Yokohama history

Yokohama was a small fishing village up to the end of the feudal Edo period, according to the encyclopedia online wikipedia, when Japan held a policy of national seclusion, having little contact with foreigners. A major turning point in Japanese history happened in 1853–1854, when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived just south of Yokohama with a fleet of American warships, demanding that Japan open several ports for commerce, and the Tokugawa shogunate agreed by signing the Treaty of Peace and Amity."

It was initially agreed that one of the ports to be opened to foreign ships would be the bustling town of Kanagawa-juku (in what is now Kanagawa Ward) on the Tōkaidō, a strategic highway that linked Edo to Kyoto and Osaka. However, the Tokugawa shogunate decided that Kanagawa-juku was too close to the Tōkaidō for comfort, and port facilities were instead built across the inlet in the sleepy fishing village of Yokohama. The Port of Yokohama was opened on 2 June 1859.

Yokohama quickly became the base of foreign trade in Japan. Japan's first English language newspaper, the Japan Herald, was first published there in 1861. Foreigners occupied a district of the city called "Kannai" (関内, "inside the barrier"), which was surrounded by a moat, and were protected by their extraterritorial status both within and outside the moat. Many individuals crossed the moat, causing a number of problems. The Namamugi Incident, one of the events that preceded the downfall of the shogunate, took place in what is now Tsurumi Ward in 1862; Ernest Satow described it in A Diplomat in Japan.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the port was developed for trading silk, the main trading partner being Great Britain. Many Western influences first reached Japan in Yokohama, including Japan's first daily newspaper (1870) and first gas-powered street lamps (1872). Japan's first railway was constructed in the same year to connect Yokohama to Shinagawa and Shinbashi in Tokyo.

In the same year, French renown science-fiction writer Jules Verne set Yokohama, which he had never visited, in an episode of his widely-read Around the World in Eighty Days, capturing the atmosphere of a fast-developing, Western-oriented Japanese city.

In 1887, a British merchant, Samuel Cocking, built the city's first power plant. At first for his own use, this coal-burning plant became the basis for the Yokohama Cooperative Electric Light Company. The city was officially incorporated on 1 April 1889. By the time the extraterritoriality of foreigner areas was abolished in 1899, Yokohama was the most international city in Japan, with foreigner areas stretching from Kannai to the Bluff area and the large Yokohama Chinatown.

The early 20th century was marked by rapid growth of industry. Entrepreneurs built factories along reclaimed land to the north of the city toward Kawasaki, which eventually grew to be the Keihin Industrial Area. The growth of Japanese industry brought affluence, and many wealthy trading families constructed sprawling residences there, while the rapid influx of population from Japan and Korea also led to the formation of Kojiki-Yato, then the largest slum in Japan.

Much of Yokohama was destroyed on 1 September 1923 by the Great Kantō earthquake. The Yokohama police reported casualties at 30,771 dead and 47,908 injured, out of a pre-earthquake population of 434,170. Fuelled by rumours of rebellion and sabotage, vigilante mobs thereupon murdered many Koreans in the Kojiki-yato slum. Many people believed that Koreans used black magic to cause the earthquake. Martial law was in place until 19 November. Rubble from the quake was used to reclaim land for parks, the most famous being the Yamashita Park on the waterfront which opened in 1930.

Yokohama was rebuilt, only to be destroyed again by thirty-odd U.S. air raids during World War II. An estimated seven or eight thousand people were killed in a single morning on 29 May 1945 in what is now known as the Great Yokohama Air Raid, when B-29s firebombed the city and in just one hour and nine minutes reduced 42% of it to rubble.

During the Korean War, the United States Navy used Yokohama's port as a transshipment base. Ships departed Yokohama in 1951, carrying war dead home to the U.S. During the American occupation, Yokohama was a major transshipment base for American supplies and personnel, especially during the Korean War. After the occupation, most local U.S. naval activity moved from Yokohama to an American base in nearby Yokosuka.

The city was designated by government ordinance on September 1, 1956.

The city's tram and trolleybus system was abolished in 1972, the same year as the opening of the first line of Yokohama Municipal Subway.

Construction of Minato Mirai 21 ("Port Future 21"), a major urban development project on reclaimed land, started in 1983. Minato Mirai 21 hosted the Yokohama Exotic Showcase in 1989, which saw the first public operation of maglev trains in Japan and the opening of Cosmo Clock 21, then the tallest Ferris wheel in the world. The 860m-long Yokohama Bay Bridge opened in the same year.

In 1993, Minato Mirai saw the opening of the Yokohama Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan.

The 2002 FIFA World Cup final was held in June at the International Stadium Yokohama.

In 2009, the city marked the 150th anniversary of the opening of the port and the 120th anniversary of the commencement of the City Administration.

It will welcome APEC* this coming autumn. Information

*Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, is a forum that brings together the leaders and ministers of 21 member economies to pursue the goal of sustainable regional growth.

France and Yokohama linked by Art and common Joie de Vivre

1867. Japan sends a delegation to the 1867 World Fair in Paris.
1867. The French mining engineer Francois Coignet is sent to Japan and is put in charge of the gold mines of Ikuno in 1868.
1868. Kobe incident (January 11). A fight erupts in Akashi between 450 samurai of the Okayama fief and French sailors, leading to the occupation of central Kobe by foreign troops.
1868. Eleven French sailors from the Dupleix are killed in the Sakai incident, in Sakai, near Osaka, by southern rebel forces.
1869. Former French advisors under Jules Brunet fight alongside the last Shogun loyalists of Enomoto Takeaki, against Imperial troops in the Battle of Hakodate.
1870. Henri Pelegrin directs the construction of Japan's first gas-lightning system in the streets of Nihonbashi, Ginza and Yokohama.

The history of Franco-Japanese relations (日仏関係 Nichi-Futsu kankei) goes back to the early 17th century, when a Japanese samurai and ambassador on his way to Rome landed for a few days in Southern France, creating a sensation. France and Japan have enjoyed a very robust and progressive relationship spanning centuries through various contacts in each others' countries by senior representatives, strategic efforts, and cultural exchanges.

After nearly two centuries of seclusion by "Sakoku" in Japan, the two countries became very important partners from the second half of the 19th century in the military, economic, legal and artistic fields. The Bakufu modernized its army through the assistance of French military missions (Jules Brunet), and Japan later relied on France for several aspects of its modernization, particularly the development of a shipbuilding industry during the early years of the Imperial Japanese Navy (Emile Bertin), and the development of a Legal code.

The first French Military Mission to Japan arrives in Yokohama January 13, 1867. Among them is Captain Jules Brunet, in front, second from right. The first French military mission to Japan

France derived part of its modern artistic inspiration from Japanese art, essentially through Japonism and its influence on Impressionism, and almost completely relied on Japan for its prosperous silk industry.

Recently France has been very involved in trade and cultural exchange initiatives with Japan. Some people see this as being a result of former French president Jacques Chirac being a Japanophile. Chirac has visited Japan over 40 times, probably more than any other world leader outside of Japan, and is an expert on the country. France has started the export promotion campaign Le Japon, c'est possible. France and Japan have also worked together to improve dire health situations and underdevelopment in Africa, Djibouti, Madagascar, Uganda, and in several countries in Asia including Cambodia and the Mekong river banks.

Japan and France are also known to share ideas with each other in the realms of art and cooking. Japan has been heavily influenced by French cuisine within the past few decades, as seen on the television show Iron Chef. Anime and Manga are popular in France: manga represents 1,400 of the 4,300 annual book publications and 40% of the comics sales (95 Million € in 2008). The movie Interstella 5555 was a collaborative motion picture with Japanese anime writer, Leiji Matsumoto, and the French house band, Daft Punk. French historical figures and settings from medieval, Renaissance, Napoleonic, and World War eras have served as models for certain popular stories in Japanese entertainment. The purity of Japanese painting and illustration, and likewise the modernity and elegance of French visual arts has resulted in hybrid styles in those creative fields.

The two countries have been collaborating closely in the area of nuclear energy generation.

The first automobile in Japan, a French Panhard-Levassor, in 1898.

The parent company of French Renault Alliance, Nissan President Carlos Ghosn has its headquarters moved to Yokohama.

One of the best specialists of Japan France relations and to whom we owe some of these pictures is a French entrepreneur and historian Christian Polak who wrote extensively on the French military missions to Japan.

International Education in Yokohama

Saint Maur International School, Yokohama, Japan established in 1872 to provide an education for children of all nationalities and denominations, is the oldest international school in Japan, located in Yamate-cho. It also offers a French school

Sources: Foreign Press Center, City of Yokohama, Art Bank center, Wikipedia, Christian Polak notes' courtesy, Reporter's notes.