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Eyes on Asia
by Valerie Sartor
2008-01-28 09:22:22
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When the western world looks at Asia most people, particularly Americans, focus their gaze on China. Rightly so: the country has made remarkable economic strides, with average annual growth rates in excess of 9 per cent over the past two decades. This year China's economy grew an amazing 11.9% in 2007 during the second quarter. After over twenty years of rapid economic development China's overall GDP ranks sixth in the world; the nation's per capita GDP now exceed s the US. Even more significant is the fact that China also has the world's second-largest foreign exchange reserve s. The country is a showcase: as the average standard of living has improved, China's switch from a totally planned economy to a socialist market economy has greatly promoted productivity, industrialization, and introduced advanced technology.

But has anyone noticed lately that Japan's economy is nearly twice as large as China's? Or that, just as China started her economic climb almost thirty years ago, Japan was being reviled in the USA and deemed a financial menace? Today most Americans either ignore Japan or view the country as slightly eccentric and juvenile, even kinky. When thinking of Japan cartoons and Kenzo comes to mind, along with silly giggling girls dressed in outlandish makeup and ultra-short miniskirts, and they're always clutching 'little kitty' purses.

The image is false. Japan nestles comfortably in second place as a global economic power. The pacific island nation is discreetly enjoying its longest period of sustained growth since World War II. And unlike China, who is suffering from repeated digs at the quality of her exports, Japan's global brand names are powerful and extremely profitable, especially in the US. Japan underwent radical restructuring and downsizing in the 90's in order to survive and thrive globally. The country did experience a few political upheavals and many businessmen committed suicide as the economic bubble sputtered and regrouped, but now Japan has quietly and firmly skittered close to the top of the global economic ladder.

Yet Western nations and American investors are frantically throwing their capital and accolades at China, while somehow ignoring the fact that banks, major industries and natural resources rest tightly in un-audited, unregulated and unclean governmental pockets. Clearly, China's ruling class has a not so secret notion that as long as the standard of living continues to go up and the economy expands instead of overheats then the Communist Party will remain high up the ladder - while simultaneously living high on the hog. The country's leaders bamboozle Western economists by solemnly intoning appealing democratic buzzwords, ranging from "rule by law" and "Medicare" to "eliminating poverty" and "go global" – yet the country staunchly remains a one party system of elite, non-transparent rulers.

Japan, in contrast, has truly adapted the concept of political change through free, direct elections. Maybe they're not as free as the Scandinavian countries but it's still a lot freer than anything else in Asia. Furthermore, Japanese society has more experience with capitalism and global markets, and, with its deeply capitalized infrastructure, the country has no need for flammable economic growth. In short the Japanese are way ahead of China not only regarding true democratic reform, but also regarding their standard of living and social welfare measures. Today the Japanese live better than Americans if you measure success by GDP alone.

Evaluating Japan over China politically or through the eyes of a wary venture capitalist is not the key issue here but rather watching the two Asian brothers circle around one another in the world's financial ring. Clearly Japan and China are both, for the first time, economic powerhouses and both will be simultaneously and fiercely competing for power, resources, energy and land – on both a regional and on a global scale. Yet the two countries are also pretending to be good ole boys: in the spring of 2007 China overtook the US and became Japan's biggest trading partner. Western business should be asking to what extent these two Asian entities would be able to cooperate and continue on an economic rise. Why haven't they cooperated more closely? Will they be able to cooperate or will they simply remain hostile, historical rivals? Nationalism, security and business clout will determine the outcome.

Many foreign experts feel that China's growing nationalism has largely replaced the Middle Kingdom's spirit of Communism. Among the young and the growing middle class great pride is publicly exhibited toward the booming economy. Among the elderly, the intelligentsia and even the poor being Chinese still equates with an innate feeling of superiority over the foreign barbarians who repeatedly invaded their land in the past and who are tolerated today only because they bring wealth, knowledge and tools into the mainland. The Chinese are keenly sensitive to past humiliations, especially regarding Japan. Three major wars and several territorial disputes have occurred between the two countries in the last two centuries.

In 1894 Japan formally went to war with China over Korea and after one year won great concessions. Korea was previously an important client state that had always kowtowed to mother China. The Japanese recognized Korea's strategic location and wanted to get the coal and iron reserves, as well as port access. Earlier, in 1875 Japan had forced Korea to open up to foreigners and to attempt to declare itself independent from China. Japan's swift victory in 1895 demonstrated the Chinese empire's weakness. At that time, in addition to Korea, the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan, the Pescadores and the entire Liaotung Peninsula in Manchuria to Japan. Unfortunately for China this defeat also encouraged various Western nations to encroach upon the Chinese mainland and make further demands as well.

In 1931 the second Sino-Japanese War began. After the first war the Japanese had renamed Manchuria 'Manchukuo'. Over time they became more aggressive and expansionist; sporadic fighting broke out and rose in intensity. By 1937 the Japanese had invaded large swathes of territory not allocated under their treaty rights. In August 1937 the infamous Nanjing Massacre took over 300,000 Chinese lives, many of them women and children.

Fierce fighting on both sides resulted in a stalemate until 1941, when the Japanese began to advance against the Allies causing American and European troops to retaliate and come to China, thus opening WWII's Pacific Theater. In 1945 the Japanese surrendered and evacuated the Chinese mainland.

The Chinese suffered profoundly under the Japanese occupation. During the period of Japanese occupation Sino-military efforts along with the assistance of the Allies were hampered by the unstable political climate. As many as twenty million Chinese died from starvation and related war casualties.

Today many young Chinese admire Korean and Japanese fashion, music and lifestyles but very few Chinese, young or old, have any real affection for the Japanese. Mixed marriages are quite rare; movies depicting the Nanjing massacre and the war era remain riveting for all age groups. The three wars, the Nanjing Massacre, and the fact that Japan has made a stronger, faster economic recovery are all bitter pills for the majority of Chinese to swallow.

Growing nationalism, combined with competition for resources, has provoked open animosity. The Diao Yu Islands are a case in point. These eight, small uninhabited islands rest in the East Asia Sea, traditionally claimed by China, were ceded to Japan in 1895 along with Taiwan after the first Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895. After WWII both territories were returned to China. When the Chinese began drilling for oil in 2003 the dispute over sovereignty began anew. Some violence occurred and both countries are still unable to resolve the issue.

Another territorial concern lies further out. The southernmost island of the Japanese archipelago, Okinotorishima, is defined as an "island" by the Japanese but termed "five rocks" by the Chinese. The Japanese regained sovereignty of this area in 1968; in 1996, as per the UN Convention: Laws of the Sea, they wished to classify the area as an island in order to claim the sea rights around it for 154,500 square miles (incidentally, an area larger than all of Japan). The Chinese still hotly contest this move; again, because of possible oil and mineral resources in nearby waters that they feel should be open for grabs.

The Nanjing Massacre, old territorial disputes, as well as new arguments about sea shipping routes and right of way between Taiwan and the mainland, and the Taiwan issue, all serve to undermine any cooperative efforts between China and Japan. In the past they both had the common purpose of checking Soviet expansionism. Japan, the stronger brother, led the struggle to help China, clearly the weaker power.

Along with a shift in balance of power has come a parallel shift in the international security environment. Significantly, t he US-Japan alliance has changed in the last decade and could pose a possible threat to Chinese sovereignty and military aspirations. Japan is quite cozy with the US and has even sent troops to Iraq in a show of support. Although the US economy has weakened – China is now contributing more to global GDP growth (measured at market exchange rates) than the United States , and although an American recession might even help China by forcing the government to boost its domestic demand and stop relying as much on exports to allow the economy to re balance and grow in a sustainable pattern, the fact that Japan and the US are cooperating together beyond the old Cold War bilateral security arrangements can only make China cringe. Both are imposing their views in areas China considers sovereign: Taiwan, Tibet and waterways circumventing Chinese soil. Japan is too close and the US is too powerful for them to cozy up together and bully China on policy issues and land rights.

Adding even more fuel to the fire is the potential danger that an American recession would create trade hostility between China and the US. Next year is an election year: trade sanctions and China bashing will undoubtedly be on the agenda. If Japan also felt threatened and decided to impose sanctions as well then the leaders in Beijing would have their hands full.

Furthermore, in the next fifteen years China will consume exponentially more resources and requires massive amounts of energy sources because, as the Chinese economy soars so does the standard of living and the requirement for more fossil fuels, water resources and energy. To aggravate this need the country has experienced several catastrophic environmental domestic disasters. If China cannot manage to integrate environmental well being with her blistering economic growth where will the country turn? The nation is already harvesting resources in other parts of Asia and Africa; how much time will it take before China establishes profitable enterprises on foreign soil? Before China starts requisitioning valuable resources by force? And what would Japan or the Western Powers do in retaliation?

China has a long, sophisticated political history. The powers that be in Beijing weigh every move they make with Japan and the USA. Bland, enigmatic and practical, the Chinese are sure to try to attempt parallel bonds with both Japan and the USA, while increasing their military force and developing their business and technology. Whether the historic animosity can be curbed enough to put Japan more in China's pocket than the US' pocket remains to be seen. And whether the US is willing to stay out of Asia Pacific if any incidents are provoked might be an even more vital question.

Valerie Sartor is an American linguist working as an English editor and writer for the Chinese government.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-28 13:08:34
Interesting overview of China’s and Japan’s place in the enigma and puzzle that is Asia. What I consider by far the larger issue, hardly touched in this article, is the ultimate fate of freedom or religion, freedom of speech, and respect for inalienable and universal human rights in China. The myopia of Mao se Dung in declaring religion “poison” to the Dali Lama of Tibet and then proceeding to destroy his culture, consists in failing to see that religion is the soul of a culture and a nation which destroys it and dishonors it does so at the peril of losing its own cultural identity. To the contrary, a nation that respects it, considers it integral part of its culture but remains democratic and like China continues making great economic strides is India. Unlike the Chinese Communists, the Indians believe that not by bread alone does man live. Ultimately they may have the better view of the nature of man. As Jefferson put: those who place economic considerations above freedom eventually end up losing both. That advice goes for the US and the EU too.

Sand2008-01-28 15:16:52
Thomas Jefferson I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-28 17:24:31

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever."


Sand2008-01-28 18:11:39
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Horatio G Spafford, March 17, 1814

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-28 18:51:59
"The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights."

--Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819.

"RELIGION, AS WELL AS REASON, confirms the soundness of those principles on which our government has been founded and its rights asserted."

--Thomas Jefferson to P. H. Wendover, 1815. ME 14:283

Sand2008-01-28 18:57:22
Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-28 20:18:06
"I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others."

--Thomas Jefferson to Edward Dowse, 1803.

Sand2008-01-28 20:32:48
The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticism of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from it’s indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, July 5, 1814, Lester Cappon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959) p. 433

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-28 21:08:32

"Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, 'This would be the best of all possible Worlds, if there were no Religion in it,' !!! But in this exclamation I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly [a minister and a schoolteacher, mentioned earlier in the letter]. Without Religion, this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell."

John Adams-- letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817

Comment: the above quotes on religion from Jefferson and Adams show us great minds which may at times appear contradictory to the small minded fanatical intolerant and basher of religion mind-set but it is on the contrary a sign of a nuanced educated mind which, as Aristotle pointed out, is able to look at both sides of the coin and hold two opposite ideas and analyze them before cavalierly rejecting one or the other.

Sand2008-01-28 22:32:27
I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshiped by many who think themselves Christians.
-- Thomas Jefferson,

Sand2008-01-29 05:58:21
Beware of philosophers' claims
Aristotle knew the rules of all games.
His cockeyed conclusions
Were full of confusions
Illusions, delusions, bad aims.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 06:03:51

•His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent: he was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, & of the sublimest eloquence.Like Socrates & Epictetus, he wrote nothing himself.
But he had not, like them, a Xenophon or an Arrian to write for him…
Notwithstanding these disadvantages, a system of morals is presented to us, which, if filled up in the true style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man… He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief of one only God, and giving them juster notions of his attributes and government.
His moral doctrines, relating to kindred & friends, were more pure & perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philanthropy, not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.

--Thomas Jefferson. Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT. (Jan. 1, 1802)

Sand2008-01-29 06:19:35
To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise ... without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 08:09:25

Jesus, taking for his type the best qualities of the human head and heart, wisdom, justice, goodness, and adding to them power, ascribed all of these, but in infinite perfection, to the Supreme Being, and formed him really worthy of their adoration... Jesus inculcated that doctrine with emphasis and precision.

--Thomas Jefferson. Letter to William Short, August 4, 1820.

Sand2008-01-29 08:35:46
I am delighted that Paparella is cooperating with me to expose the thinking of Thomas Jefferson towards religions in general and organized religion in particular. Each of these quotations clearly indicates that Jefferson was inspired by the original statements of Jesus towards humans acting rationally and with compassion towards each other and how Jesus' original intentions have been corrupted by organized religion to create horrible suffering throughout history and done to a huge extent to enrich and empower the religious organizations without sincerely moving towards Jesus'original designs.
The following quote is revealing as to Jefferson's acceptance of Christian mythology:

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823,

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 09:38:31
I am glad to hear that Sand is now xooperating with me and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and Christopher Dawson in finally acknowledging that there was such a person as Jesus Christ who lived in Palestine and came at a particular time and place from a particular people with an "original designs," which makes him an historical figure and not a mythological one like Minerva. Not too long ago he attempted to put in doubt the very existence of Christ. A modest step in the right direction but welcome neverthless. The next modest step I would now suggest is that of acknoledging at long last another historical fact that he has been consistently side-stepping: that he has it up-side-down: for the first three hundred years of Christianity the ones underwent horrible suffering and persecution were the Christians exactly because they were trying to carry out the vision of Jesus of which Jefferson and Adam speak so admiringly. I am afraid that mixing apples and oranges simply will not do.

Sand2008-01-29 09:51:40
Apples and oranges as fruit or thought make a very delicious and nourishing salad.

f by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, "that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a reply to John Adams' letter, quoted by Joseph Lewis in his address "Jefferson the Freethinker," delivered at a banquet of the Freethinkers' Society of New York on the evening of April 13th, 1925, at Hotel Belleclaire, 77th Street and Broadway, New York City, in honor of the 182nd anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 10:10:07
Without Religion, this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell."

--John Adams-- letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817

Sand2008-01-29 10:18:29
Can anybody with the slightest amount of decency and intelligence look at the situations pervading the modern religious world and not consider it a reasonable approximation of Hell?

Sand2008-01-29 13:38:42
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
-- Thomas Paine, (1737-1809)

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 14:56:34

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

President George Washington, September 17th, 1796

Sand2008-01-29 15:14:38
Anybody with half a brain only has to look around to see how impossible it is to govern the world with or without the Bible. Despite what he said it seems George Washington had the good sense not to try to govern the world.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 17:44:23
So much for the father of our country! What did he know; he was not an "enlightened man." The Bible to the bonfire of the Flying Spanghetti Monster you go, with George Washington, Jefferson and Adams who in their "profound stupidity" read it every day! And I thought that a first step had been taken. The voices must be visitiong again!

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 17:52:01
Much as the Loyalists despised Paine, many supporters of the Revolution held him in higher contempt. Indeed, John Adams would later call him "that insolent blasphemer of things sacred and transcendent libeler of all that is good...."

--J. Brian Phillips in Tom Paine's Revolution

Comment: birds of a feather always flock together.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 17:57:08
Sand 2008-01-29 05:58:21

"Beware of philosophers' claims
Aristotle knew the rules of all games.
His cockeyed conclusions
Were full of confusions
Illusions, delusions, bad aims."

Did your concoct that proposterous statement or did the voices suggest it?

Sand2008-01-29 18:11:58
Thomas Paine was one of the recognized legends in the founding of this country. He was an author and revolutionary activist who took part in three revolutions. His role in American history, as well as world history, is monumental. John Adams said: "Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain." Paine's impact on philosophy and politics helped mold the age of democratic revolutions and reverberates down to this day.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 20:12:54
I wonder how you'd now square the circle and reconcile the above quote from Adams about Paine with the your sympathetic and approving picture of Paine. Was not Adam one of the founding fathers too worthy of consideration? Or are we dealing here with the epistemology of lunacy; if reality does not agree with one's view of it, so much the worse for reality?

Sand2008-01-29 20:52:10
There is no question that Thomas Paine was a vital influence in establishing the virtues of liberty and freedom that characterizes the basic documents upon which the USA was founded and anyone who questions this is either a fool or a scoundrel or a compound of both. He had a difficult life as his principles were far ahead of his time. More details can be found at http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/thomaspaine.htm

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-29 22:01:41
So much the worse for Adam's view? Can we safely consign it to the bonfire and proceed undisturbed? The criterion for a rationalist, I suppose, is that it conform to one's "enlightened" view.

However, any perceptive reader cannot but notice that in reality I never said that ideas don't matter, not excluding Paine's, neither did I say that that Paine made no contribution to the stirring of the revolutionary spirit, you put that in my mouth as you are accustomed to do, in order to proceed with your unfair aspersions of anybody who has a different view of an issue. All I asked was "how do you square your glowing report of Paine with Adam's view. Since you had no answer you ran away from the question. So much for intellectual courage and honesty.

Sand2008-01-30 04:57:39
Goodness! How you do squirm away from the implications of your comment. How long did you study under Karl Rove?

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-30 05:52:06
I thought so!

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