For all the hyperbole around the importance of the Asian century, how well does the West – and Australia – really know Asia? We can argue that knowledge of Asia over the past 50 years has increased dramatically, but knowing the region – a more intimate, subtle process – is another matter.
Public opinion of Asia quickly declines in the West at the first sign of difficulty, as surveys by the BBC World Service, Pew Global Research and the Lowy Institute recently confirmed. These 2013 surveys show signs that sentiments towards Japan and China are slipping to similar levels recorded in 1953.
The crushing victory by Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party in the weekend’s elections has signalled that Japanese voters are worried, disillusioned and impatient for change. With Japan’s economy still in the doldrums, China’s influence growing and the country still reeling from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, many Japanese want a return to when the country was an economic powerhouse and its regional and domestic security was assured.
Although ignominiously defeated just three years ago, the recycled former prime minister Shinzo Abe has led the LDP back to power on a platform of getting the economy moving, standing up to China and re-starting the country’s nuclear power program. Despite around 80 per cent of Japanese voters wanting to see a phase-out of nuclear power following the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, Abe’s pro-nuclear LDP sees nuclear power as central to the economy’s revival.
This article appeared in the Sunday Debate page in the Herald Sun, 15 January 2012.
To read the argument from the anti-whaling side (Sea Shepherd), please go to the following link.
Before talking about the whaling in the Southern Ocean
IT IS quite unfortunate that the current debate on whaling is somehow focusing only on the Japanese scientific research whaling in the Southern Ocean and the clash between the whalers and environmental activists. It is actually distracting the debate from the fundamental question. The focus of the debate should be on a question: How should human beings relate to this creature, the whale, in the 21st century?
To whale or not to whale … THAT should be the question
I was simply amazed when I read a small online Japanese article about a week ago. It was reporting the departure of three whaling ships from Shimonoseki, former whaling town in the western Japan, heading for the Antarctic. I was amazed not that I was surprised by the fact that the Japanese had decided to return to the Antarctic yet again but that one official from the Japanese Fisheries Agency was quoted as saying that they had beefed up the fleet’s security level to counter the attack from activists and they were releasing the information beforehand because it may work as a “deterrent effect” .
Excuse me? Deterrent effect? Are you serious?
Japan March 11th 2011: For the record
In the evening of 22 March, I boarded Qantas flight 22 bound for Sydney via Hong Kong from Narita International Airport. It was a familiar flight for me which was usually a direct flight between Tokyo and Sydney. However, the flight route of the QF22 had been changed due to the disaster in Japan. Qantas wanted to make sure the safety of their crews.
Although I was unhappy and slightly anxious about the change of the route, the flight turn out to be the most memorable and, maybe, the safest flight I have ever had. 72 crew members of the Australian rescue team returning to Australia from the disaster zone were on board.
Whaling has been a touchy issue between Australians and Japanese for a while. Since being appointed to my current position as an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow in May 2010, I have been asked a number of times by my Australian colleagues and friends “what’s your research topic?” And every time, I seem to need to pause and grin a bit and say “whaling”. My Aussie friends will normally then hold their breath for a second, slightly stare at me and say “agh … that’s interesting.” What is this nervousness that exists when referring to whaling in this country?