Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How Can One Tolerate Portraying Past Colonialism as NOT Evil?

For many countries that have some colonial past, the national identity is often supplemented, and in many cases, defined by struggle for freedom and throwing off colonial rule.  That of the US is a great example.  The cherished principles of freedom is evidenced by the early rebels' personal sacrifices in battlefields against the British.  And their struggles are epitomized as heroic in places like the lyrics of the national anthem.  The US is often not the exception but the norm in post-colonial countries, many of which systematically link the idea of nation with pain of colonialism.

Assessing the Presence of Chinese Firms in Africa

As comparatively new players on the African continent, Chinese companies often face uphill battles against much more entrenched European and American competitors.  With their strong advantages of extensiveness in local resource ownership, social networks with influential local leaders, and brand recognition among the common populace, Western firms use their long-established traditional presence and trust to secure large segments of the African market.  The lack of such long history has forced Chinese firms, many of which largely unknown to Africans, to undertake a brazenly risky approach in doing business on the continent to compete with the West.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Potential Restrictions of Offensive Joking in a Conservative Society

In America, people sometimes say that the funniest jokes tend to be the most offensive, and in a socially liberal Western society (at least in the parts of it not directly straddling the Bible Belt), decades of evolving freedoms in speech have guaranteed that not many things being said can still offend people immediately.  Comedians (and common people cracking jokes, for that matter), often take to greater and greater extents just to ensure their offensiveness (and thus funniness) can be taken to higher and higher levels, through more and more unique and disgusting ways.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew and Legitimization of Pragmatism in Politics

To be universally respected as a national leader is not an easy task, especially one that has governed during the turbulent times of global rivalry.  Yet, with the conflicts interests of Soviet-American bipolarity in the past and Sino-American duality in the present, Lee Kuan Yew shrewdly managed to make the island city-state liked by both sides, but somehow managed to extract beneficial economic externalities from balancing opposing ends.  Singapore, as a global entrepot with little prejudice in its political agenda on the international stage, greatly benefited.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Overly Simplified Politicization of Soft Power

On the massive central plaza inside the sprawling Korean-owned mall that is Lotte Shopping Avenue, there was an event involving what seems to be an exchange between Korean and Indonesian high school students.  Yet, the event was nothing fun and games.  The students were drawing massive South Korean national flags, with additional one-story high color posters hanging on the walls behind the central plaza.  The posters, with large English texts and cartoon drawings, claimed "Dokdo: islands of Korea!" "Donghae: the East Sea of Korea!" and "Celebrate the Life of An Jung-Geun!"

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Persistence of "Looking at the Bigger Picture"

On the way back from a short journey to see his grandparents, the author was riding a cab from Beijing's train station to its airport on the outskirts of the city.  The city, as is the case in most Chinese New Year's, was completely deserted, even on a 10 pm on a Saturday night.  The cab driver was a bit overtly joyful of how the normally insanely crowded city can be so refreshingly devoid of human density, making the usually painful drive to the airport (even on the five-lane expressway) a complete breeze with little traffic and fantastic speed.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Can Liberalism Also be Fundamentalist?

A couple of years ago, there was a South Park episode that made fun of the late Steve Irwin,  Australia's famed "crocodile hunter."  The episode characterized the nature of Irwin's TV documentaries as mere attempts to gain viewership by intentionally pissing off wild animals while fully knowing that the animals will be pissed off by the human intrusions.  By skirting serious physical danger in his pretty much unnecessarily violent interactions with the pissed off animals, Irwin somehow gains a status of folk hero in the process.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

One-Sided Interpretations of History and Underlying Grievances in the Shadows

Sri Lanka is scheduled for another presidential election on January 8th.  As a result, the streets are filled with campaign posters and pictures of the two main candidates, more notably that of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent.  His party's blue flag grace the man streets of the country's main cities, with campaign personnel busying themselves plastering posters with photos of him shaking hands with notable foreigners or cuddling a small child on the campaign trail.  His campaign team is on the road through main towns, drawing huge crowds with fiery speeches.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Oxymoron of Modern-Day Constitutional Monarchy

On the hotel TV's broadcast of Chinese stations, there was a program on the follies of Chinese emperors of the past.  One particular episode discussed how absolute adoration of the emperor (at least in superficial terms) made the personality of the emperor so lofty and self-righteous to the point that his altered  decision-making patterns turned a peaceful and prosperous nation into one ravaged by war in matter of years.  The professor repeatedly warned the audience of detrimental effects that creating a cult of personality can have on the direction of a polity.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

the Stubborn Resilience of Colonial Economic Arrangements

In Malaysia, there is a often a belief that the tripartite racial division of the country also has a rural-urban dimension.  While the Chinese and Indians make up (almost) a majority in the country's big cities due their traditional roles as businessmen and white collar professionals, the Malays dominate the rural regions, where they have lived and sustained themselves through agriculture for centuries.  The urban-rural nature of the division lead to large income gaps between the Malays and the non-Malays and contribute to under-representation of Malay leaders in the country's economic life.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Portrait of Elitist Existence

Tucked in a little corner of an unmarked road leading into a plain-looking residential neighborhood, a little unassuming row of shops greets guests who may or may not intentionally drove down the one-way street.  At once lost and disoriented, the visitors would be rather surprised that a classy decor in a neat little room would even exist in such a place.  "A brother of a model opened up the place," the author was told as he sat down to have a meal in a shop specializing in crepes.  Despite it being lunch hours on the weekend, the shop seemed empty, with a few quietly chatting away, generating a relaxing ambiance.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Economic Costs of Political Alignment

This week the world celebrated 25th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall, an undoubtedly momentous event that signaled that the Cold War, and along with it the half-century economic division of the war, was coming to a precipitous, and some say, fortuitous, end.  News media outlets around the world spent pages of prime printed real estate to discuss the implication of the event for the modern world, especially in the context of continued economic disparities across the old East-West German border.  The reports made no qualms about highlighting the long painfulness that followed initial euphoria of unification.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ebola, Food Security, and Public Surveillance

Since this blog previously remarked on how mass media uses clear double standards to judge whether a certain case is more worthy of coverage than another, the public's fear of an Ebola epidemic, despite news of optimistic recoveries and winning battles, has been continuing unabated.  More and more stories of lone travelers landing in other parts of the world, bearing fevers and other, more mysterious symptoms, have only served to stoke repeated feel of crisis among the general populace.  The sheer unpredictability of where the disease may land next have kept the public concerned in ways that exaggerate the lethality of the disease.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Flexibility of Morality

"Ideals are harmless, its the human aspect that makes it lethal," the main character in the WWII-themed war movie Fury (played by Brad Pitt) uttered to his subordinate as the two walked through a small German town hall, filled with corpses of Nazi loyalists who committed suicide.  The comment, especially with the gruesome background of dead bodies and massive portrait of Adolf Hitler on the wall, reflects so poignantly on the role of ideology in modern-day conflicts.  From the haphazard American invasion of Iraq to the violence-filled conquests of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the power of political principles lead to death and destruction.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A (Huge) Slice of China in the Middle of Nepal

Having the traditional Nepali fare of daal bhat (light curry with rice) in a local restaurant in Kathmandu, the author was lucky to share a table with a couple of Nepali businessman in the widespread pashmina (fine cashmere textiles) industry.  Suddenly, one of the guys pick up his phone, and to the author's surprise, starts going off in a fluent conversation in Mandarin.  Inquired afterwards, he divulged that he is based in Shenzhen, just home for the long seven-day golden week China is celebrating for the Oct 1 holiday (for Founding of the People's Republic in 1949).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Democracy Not for the Sake of Democracy

The front-page covers of the Philippine Star newspaper this morning was a gigantic picture of the masses of protesters occupying Central, the ground zero of Hong Kong's ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.  The newspaper noted Filipino solidarity with Hong Kong in its pursuit for full-fledged democracy, noting shared political values and the Philippines' own struggle for democracy in the past.  The newspaper's reactions to the demonstrations, in this case, have been highly aligned with those of the major media across the world, whether televised, printed, or social.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

One Country, Two Worlds

One of the first thing a visitor to major towns in Peninsular Malaysia's East Coast would be the flags hoisted on steel poles.  The Malaysian national flag, the state flag, and...umm?  Is that a little Palestinian flag flying below the state flag?  Support for Palestinian freedom seems like part of daily lives here.  Shops and hotels seem to always have donation boxes for the Palestinian cause, and banners point out how Malaysia ought to be the second home for Palestinian refugees.  Indeed, Malaysia has pledged medical and financial support for Gaza during times of Israeli invasions, but the rhetoric in KL has never reached this magnitude.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Newfound "Fluidity" of East Asian Relations

For those paying attention to the intricacies of East Asian politics, some recent events could contain some serious game-changers.  For one, the Abe government in Tokyo has announced one of the most radical military reforms since end of World War II, effectively giving the Japanese Self-Defense Forces the ability to initiate war and place combat personnel outside home soil through "collective self-defense."  In other words, if Japanese allies (such as the US or South Korea) are attacked, the Japanese government now has the legal basis to deploy troops to directly assist in combat, anywhere on the globe.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

World War I and the End of the "Globalized World"

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Archduke Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo, a watershed event that is often considered the beginning of World War I.  After a century, it is perfectly justified that many have forgotten the significance of the event, especially given that modern-day Sarajevo itself has been quickly turned into a virtual American protectorate in the aftermath of the Yugoslavian Wars and ethnic genocides that followed.  But upon closer look, it can easily be argued that WWI marked the end of an era that the modern world is struggling to return to...and the repercussions are still extremely important today.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The "Political Solution" of National Disunity

With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inching toward Baghdad, taking valuable oil assets and key cities in the process, the Obama Administration's decision, for now, to clearly rule out direct military assistance to the Iraqi government reflect a long-held sense of dismay among both American politicians and people toward the increasingly volatile situation in that part of the Middle East.  As someone who remained skeptical of the US war effort in Iraq ever since its very inception years ago, the author, perhaps among many others, now sense the coming of renewed chaos in the region through creation of new divisive actors.