Sunday, February 24, 2013

(Updated with Word Cloud of Speech) PM Abe Goes to Washington DC, Declares "I Am Back, So Japan Shall Be", Hardly Anyone Cares in the US

The Japanese media has made a big deal out of Abe's visit, telling us how the prime minister negotiated the shale gas deal and TPP (Transpacific Partnership free trade scheme) and how he gave an English speech at a prestigious institution (Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS).

Not just the media but Japanese citizens in Japan have been making a big deal out of it. Some support him, others criticize him for committing too much in favor of the US.

So I searched if there was any major coverage of the visit in the US mainstream media. After all, with the 20% fall of yen in a short span of time and with accusation of currency manipulation, you would think the visit generated some media interest. North Korea did the nuclear test, China continues its rhetoric over the Senkaku Islands.

Wrong. Of the major papers, all I found was an article in Wall Street Journal on February 22, and it was written by a Japanese reporter.

I went to the CSIS site, and found the video and the transcript of the speech and the Q&A session that followed.

The speech is devoid of substance, meaningless in a literal sense to the English-speaking audience (I can just see through the original Japanese). What's even sadder is that there was only one question from the media. The other questions were from the CEO of CSIS, a college student, and a CSIS staff.

I searched for the video of the press conference after the meeting with President Obama. Well, it was not even a press conference but just an extremely brief chit-chat with the press in the Oval Office with the president and the prime minister sitting on their chairs with legs crossed.

All questions were directed to President Obama, except one. And that only one question was asked by a Japanese reporter in Japanese.

Here's from Abe's speech at the CSIS. He starts off by talking about himself. According to his narrative, his quitting the prime minister's job was to reflect on the future of Japan, not because of his chronic diarrhea:

...I am back and so shall Japan be.

...The time I’ve spent, five long years, since leaving office as prime minister was my time for reflections. First and foremost, I reflected upon where Japan should stand in the future. I didn’t think whether Japan could do this or that. I thought more often what Japan must continue to do.

He also says he looked at the globe. (Huh?)

I also looked at the globe. It tells me that as your long-standing ally and partner, Japan is a country that has benefited from and contributed to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific for well over half a century. The bedrock for that, needless to say, has been our alliance.

It is high time in this age of Asian resurgence for Japan to bear even more responsibilities to promote our shared rules and values, preserve commons and grow side by side with all the high achievers in the region. No luxury is allowed for Japan to be self-absorbed in its struggle against economic malaise.

My mental globe also told me that Japan must remain a robust partner in fight against terrorism. My resolve is even stronger now after what happened in Algeria, the killing of 10 Japanese and three American engineers.

The world still awaits Japan, I thought, in promoting human rights in the fight against poverty, illness and global warming, and the list goes on. That’s why, ladies and gentlemen, I stood for office again. That’s why I’m resolute to turn around Japanese economy.

"In this age of Asian resurgence"? He said this to the US audience? Oh boy. Hubris is back.

I have no doubt that the original Japanese speech was written by the prime minister himself who is, basically, full of himself.

Quite a contrast to the speech that DPJ's Seiji Maehara gave to the former Congress members back in September 2012. Maehara's speech had substance, and was interesting - so much so that I ended up watching the entire 1 hour video.

Abe's speech, I lasted for about 3 minutes. I couldn't even bother to read the transcript carefully looking for meaning that wasn't there. If you want to torment yourself, here's the link to the video and the transcript.

From my past interactions with the Japanese readers, it seems very difficult for them to accept that Japan doesn't count much outside Japan. With the leader like this, it is little wonder.

Abe's speech in word cloud - Japan more Japanese...:


Anonymous said...

"My mental globe" Jesus. Obama could have made this same speech. Yes, no substance. Nothing to find in the way of a direction forward. This is what "leadership" looks like in our time. Pathetic. How can anyone take Japanese leadership or US leadership seriously? There are plenty of other examples around the world but limited to these under discussion.

Late Birthday wishes to you and me. Mine is the day following yours.

Warmest regards,
Smoking Caster

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Happy Birthday to you, SC.

I totally agree with you that O could have made the same speech. And just like O, Abe is restricting the media access to himself. They will be great together.

Anonymous said...

Too much insanity.

Anonymous said...

For five years "I didn't think whether Japan could do this or that. I thought more often what Japan must continue to do".
So for five years he could not come up with one single new idea and now here we are: insane public spending on the same old concrete and "fighting global warming" (with nuclear power plants I suppose).
Anyways, Abe flew to the US to keep Japanese growers quiet so the whole show is of no relevance to the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for article and the video link, but couldn't watch more than 2 minutes of Abe's speech. This is a shame to say the least... How can japanese media make a big deal of this poor, meaningless self-talk? Is it because he had the "courage" to go abroad? How can he get the support from the people of Japan? I feel like Japan had early (PM)-sale in december...

JAnonymous said...

At least, within the 5 years he was pondering, shit happened and he clearly says he didn't care, since, as anon said above, he didn't think of anything new. Just continue the same BS. Picture him "how should I carry on nepotism ? Which of my uncles, nephews, ill-bred cousins need an amakudari ?"

Now, I recently saw the Abe public-opinion poll. I did not check the details, except that around a couple thousands people were polled (sample population made of voters only) and there was 80ish return rate. The support was 70+%. Enough said.

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