Category Archives: Asia

BRIC City

My new favorite news source, Global Post, has an interesting story about the rising economic powers, the BRICs.  (That stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China for those of you who don’t care for the kinds of silly acronyms to which comparative politics professors and Thomas Friedman are prone.)

So despite the ongoing global financial crisis — which, to be sure, has damaged these high-flyers too — the BRICs have most definitely arrived. And, yes, they are here to stay.

That point has been reinforced again and again in recent days and weeks. And one thing is clear whether it’s spoken in Mandarin, Russian, Hindi or Portuguese: the BRICs want a bigger say in how to manage the global economy.

Two weeks ago at the G20 finance minister’s meeting in Horsham, England the BRIC countries — for the first time — released their own communique on how the global economic crisis should be managed. In it, they called for a bigger voice.

It makes sense that these countries want a bigger role in the global economy.  They are important.  Then, later today, I saw a headline on Drudge Report that said “Brazil president blames white people for economic crisis…

President Lula:

“This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing.”

He added: “I do not know any black or indigenous bankers so I can only say [it is wrong] that this part of mankind which is victimised more than any other should pay for the crisis.”

You know, you can’t argue with facts.

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Secretary Hillary talks to the netizens

Via the State Department’s Twitter I came across this press release.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had an online interview with a Chinese professor named Qi Ye.  The first question went like this:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, let me thank you for having me be able to speak to the netizens – I like that phrase — and I am so pleased that you are focusing on such an important topic as energy efficiency and climate change.

PROFESSOR QI: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: In our own lives, we have tried to be much more conscious of what we should do. So, for example, we use compact fluorescent bulbs, which are less of a drain on the electricity grid. We have installed more high-energy resistant windows, more insulted windows. We have, obviously, insulated our utilities and our homes. We have also recycled, so that we are trying not to add to the landfill waste more than absolutely necessary.

And my husband, of course, with the Clinton Foundation, is running a climate change program with, I think, 40 cities around the world working on higher energy efficiency, and so much else. So, we have tried to do more, but we are constantly asking ourselves what more we can do.

Okay.  Whatever.  But couldn’t she have said, “We are trying to drive less”?  Come on, Madame Secretary!  That’s really what you should tell people.  Next time I hope she says: “I ride my bike to Foggy Bottom.”

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Laura Bush: Stateswoman for the Twenty-First Century

Not.

Laura Bush and Arab wives

I am deeply saddened by the humanitarian crisis in Burma right now.  (In case you don’t know a cyclone hit the country on Sunday and killed more than 22,000 people.  41,000 are still missing.)  And I hate the Burmese government as much as the next guy.  But why did Laura Bush feel the need to make a political statement out of the crisis?

Irrawaddy, an exile Burmese news magazine reports:

Speaking on May 5 at the White House, Laura Bush said, “If we can get some sort of team in there to assess what the other needs are, then I feel very assured that the United States government will follow with [greater assistance].”

She also accused Burmese military rulers of having failed to warn their citizens in time about the approach of a killer cyclone.

Mrs Bush went on to urge Burma’s government to ensure its referendum is free, fair and inclusive as the military junta moves forward with the constitutional referendum scheduled for this Saturday, May 10, despite the havoc created by Cyclone Nargis.

The Irrawaddy story quotes an exiled Burmese political analyst as saying, “This is a time when people are dying and suffering to a horrible degree, so if the US really wants to help, it can help without making political demands.”  I agree.

But I also have to wonder: Why Laura?  Who in the White House or the State Department decided that Laura Bush was the right person to criticize the Burmese junta? Or is this something that she picked on her own volition. Regardless, it was inappropriate.

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Trapped in Tibet

I haven’t been following the crisis in Tibet that closely (though I do think it seems pretty clear that a boycott of the Beijing Olympics is in order), but this story in today’s Washington Post, which describes the eyewitness account of a nineteen year-old Canadian backpacker, is fascinating.

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