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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, November 06, 2006


looking (far) east

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, November 06, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
I've grown supremely tired of the dominance of the middle east, terrorism, and endless civilizational existenialist angst. When I have to deal with middle east issues, for example in defending my rights and identity as a muslim and an American, I will continue to do so at City of Brass. But being doomed to repeat history - deja vu, ad infinitum - seems to be the defining characteristic of the Holy Land. And I'd rather be a smart consumer of noise-filtered yet ideologically broad opinion about the middle east than aspire to pundit status. Blogs like Belgravia Dispatch, American Footprints, and Abu Aardvark pretty much cover the bases on that score.

What's more interesting to me is the power dynamic between China and Japan, frankly. On a trip to Kyoto in 2004 for a conference, I became better acquainted with Japanese culture as it truly exists, in defiance of the mass media stereotype. A full day wandering Tokyo left me genuinely and permanently receptive. And China figures large in my consciousness given that a significant fraction of my professional circle and colleagues are of Chinese origin. It's impossible for me to regard (the people of) China as an enemy, but a clash of civilizations almost certainly lies ahead. That is a reality that educated people on both sides need to acknowledge and do their utmost to modulate from within.

As a new topic, China and Japan certainly are rich veins of pundit ore to mine. For example, on the delicate dance between new Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and his counterpart in China, President Hu Jintao:

Mr Abe's first move was to pull a surprise "Nixon goes to China" visit to Beijing to meet President Hu Jintao. Mr Hu had said he would not meet Mr Koizumi until he promised not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan's war dead, that includes 14 Class A war criminals from the second world war. Mr Koizumi visited the shrine anyway and passed on the summit with Mr Hu. Recognising the futility of his own approach and worried about the danger of anti-Japanese protests turning against the Chinese government, Mr Hu wisely chose not to demand the same condition of Mr. Abe. Mr. Abe, in turn, wisely chose not to promise that he would go to the shrine as Mr Koizumi had. With ambiguity re-established, Mr. Abe was able to meet Mr. Hu and reorient the Sino-Japanese dialogue towards more important challenges, such as cooperating to roll back North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes.

This stuff is Kremlinology for the 21st century. I'm going to reorient to the Orient.

And yes, I do feel some guilt about abandoning Africa. But Jonathan Edelstein has that covered, so a consumer I will remain.


I've grown supremely tired of the dominance of the middle east, terrorism, and endless civilizational existenialist angst.


one thing to remember about china and japan: they are fast becoming geriatric societies. the USA will be non-trivially more youthful for a while longer....


If you are looking east IMO you also want to account for India.

Only a bit smaller in population than China. Median age a bit under 25, as compared to China's 32+ and our 36+. A direct competitor to the US in areas where we see our future -- technology as compared to manufacturing. Last but not least, Indian Air Force pilots flying Sukhoi-30's were widely seen as outflying US pilots in F-16's in 2005's COPE war games.

Not to be discounted.

Thanks -


alas, my ethnicity aside, I'm not well-positioned to comment on India :) I assume that the folks at sepia mutiny are better positioned to comment on India. Maybe I should add them to my rounds. I also think that my analysis might be too tinged with my own identity affiliation as well. As a muslim, I sometimes feel like i have a personal stake of some sort in the outcomes in the middle east; the same might arise were i to start India-related punditry (plus, I piss off a lot of people because I refuse to see India and Pakistan as cultural and ethnic cantons).With Japan and China, there's enough distance that I can be more objective.

I would really like to see you guys also pick up a topic of interest too! :) I think we have a good stable of contributors here and if we choose our topics strategically we can actually raise SNR overall. I dont want to be American Footprints lite.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.