Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Alliance Chutzpah

Once again I am faced with the question of whether or not it is too early in the week to announce the Chutzpah of the Week award. However, this one has the merit of a historical context, since it is a follow-up to an award given to Taro Aso last March, when he was Foreign Minister of Japan. The basis for the award was but one of a chain of absurdities that culminated in an election in Japan that resulted in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe losing control of the upper house of his country's parliament. Nevertheless, Abe has remained as Prime Minister; and the capacity of his judgments and policies seem to have followed in his wake. This week's award is based on a Reuters report of his current visit to India filed by George Nishiyama and Surojit Gupta:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Wednesday for a "broader Asia" partnership of democracies that would include India, the United States and Australia, but omit the region's superpower, China.

It is hard to view any proposal for a "broader Asia" that ignores China as anything but an arrogant absurdity. Certainly, one can hold up the standard of democracy as that reason for excluding China; but what is really at stake is a power play to counter the growth and domination of the Chinese economy. The absurdity of the vision stems from the fact that countries such as the United States, Australia, and India are as interested in cultivating China as both as customer and a partner as they are in facing the challenge of China as a competitor. To reduce such economic complexity to a competitive threat (which is likely fueled by a long-standing Japanese cultural tradition) is to trivialize it to a level that will likely do more harm than good, which may well be the best criterion for chutzpah this week!

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