The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 26. 2012   

June 25, 2012   
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In This Issue

It's a rare issue of the Journal that features two stories on Southeast Asia, but Bertil Lintner offers an analysis of contemporary politics that cuts to the heart of the nature of Burmese dictatorship and democracy that extends from Aung San Suu Ki to the ongoing repression of multiple autonomous movements. Caroline Hau's interrogation of the "Chinese" in Southeast Asia reconstructs the fundamental categories of China and the Chinese to consider the multiple faces of Chineseness. Kosuke Takahashi probes the US-Japan decision to inflict the "widow maker" Osprey on Okinawa and the anger the decision has produced . . . yet another example of US-Japan decisions bypassing the Okinawan government and people. Robert Jacobs takes a close look at radiation as a cultural talisman in 1950s American film and popular culture.

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Bertil Lintner, Burma 2012: Democracy and Dictatorship


The triumphant tour of Europe by Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been a boost to the forces for change in a country that came under iron-fisted military rule half a century ago. She was received with almost the same honour as a head of state in Switzerland, Norway, Britain, Ireland, and France, where she met leading statesmen, government officials, prominent human-rights activists and even royals. Today, there is an air of optimism as some reforms toward a more democratic system have been introduced since a new quasi-civilian government took over in March last year.  

Suu Kyi's European tour in June follows a by-election on April 1, in which her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 of the 44 seats it contested in a by-election to the country's national parliament and some local assemblies. During the election campaign, a mass movement spread across Burma on a scale not seen since tens of thousands of Buddhist monks led anti-government demonstrations in 2007, and the massive nationwide uprising against the old military regime in 1988 which first brought Suu Kyi to the fore of the country's pro-democracy movement. Wherever Suu Kyi appeared this year on the campaign trail, tens of thousands of people of all ages showed up to listen to her speeches, or just to line the roads and cheer along the routes of her motorcade.


Yet this article sets the resurgence of the NLD against the overwhelming power of the Burmese military, the limited democratic space opened under the Constitution, and the multiple ethnic wars being fought with no end in sight.   

Bertil Lintner was a senior writer for the Far Eastern Economic Review for more than twenty years, covering Burma and related issues. He now writes for Asia Times Online, the Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and Jane's Information Group in the UK. He is a recognized expert on Burmese issues as well as ethnic minorities, insurgencies and narcotics in Southeast and South Asia. He is the author of seven books on Burma, among them his Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948, which tells the story of the ethnic and communist insurgency in Burma, and the intertwined Golden Triangle opium trade. His most recent books on Burma are Merchants of Madness: The Methamphetamine Explosion in the Golden Triangle and Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Struggle for Democracy.   


Recommended citation: Bertil Lintner, "Burma 2012: Democracy and Dictatorship," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 26, No. 4, June 25, 2012.


Read More. . .
Caroline S. Hau, Becoming "Chinese"-But What "Chinese"?-in Southeast Asia

Over the past three decades, it has become "chic" to be "Chinese" or to showcase one's "Chinese" connections in Southeast Asia. Leaders ranging from President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino of the Philippines to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj, and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand to President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia and Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia have proclaimed their Chinese ancestry. Since 2000, Chinese New Year (Imlek) has been officially celebrated in Indonesia, after decades of legal restrictions governing access to economic opportunities and Chinese-language education, use of Chinese names, and public observance of Chinese customs and ceremonies.

This wide-ranging account considers the multiple images of the "Chinese" in film, tv and popular culture, and the competing sources of "Chineseness" official and popular from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, among others.

Caroline S. Hau is Associate Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.  Her most recent book is Traveling Nation-Makers: Transnational Flows and Movements in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia, co-edited with Kasian Tejapira.


Recommended citation: Caroline S. Hua, "Becoming "Chinese"-But What "Chinese"?-in Southeast Asia," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 26, No. 2, June 25, 2012.


Read More. . .
Kosuke TAKAHASHI, Osprey Deployment a New Tinderbox on Okinawa

On May 23, 1988, in Arlington, Texas, Bell Helicopter unveiled with much fanfare a new combo-aircraft; a fixed-wing plane that could climb and hover like a helicopter, but also rotate its giant propellers forward and fly like an airplane. On that day, Peter Van Sant, then correspondent for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, called the plane a "revolutionary new aircraft" that was the latest "future shock". He expected it to carry commuters to Washington or Boston from Manhattan, as it could take off and land in downtown business districts, reducing travel times. It was called the V-22. "By the year 2000, there could be a market of five to eight million passengers annually," a company spokesperson at Bell Helicopter predicted at the ceremony. Twenty-four years later, the V-22 has yet to be used as a commuter aircraft between New York and Boston. Instead, across the Pacific, the Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, having been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, is becoming the next tinderbox issue on Japan's southernmost subtropical island prefecture, Okinawa. Once again the issues center on US-Japan decisions that bypass the Okinawan people and threaten to sacrifice their interests.

Kosuke TAKAHASHI is a Tokyo-based Japanese journalist. He currently works as Tokyo correspondent for Asia Times Online and IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. He also served as TV commentator for Nikkei CNBC (news television channel broadcast in Japan) from March 2009 to March 2012. A graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and the School of International and Public Affairs, he is a dual master's degree student.  


Recommended citation: Kosuke TAKAHASHI, "Osprey Deployment a New Tinderbox on Okinawa," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 26, No. 3. June 25, 2012.

Read More. . .
Robert Jacobs, Radiation as Cultural Talisman: Nuclear Weapons Testing and American Popular Culture in the Early Cold War


On what appeared to be a normal day off the Pacific coast of California, Scott Thomas was relaxing on his boat and enjoying a peaceful day of leisure. His wife had just gone below to grab two beers when he noticed a strange fog approaching. He stood up, and for a moment, the fog enveloped him. The cloud passed, and when his wife returned, she saw that Scott seemed to be covered with glitter. The couple thought nothing of this until the impossible began to happen: Thomas began to shrink; he had been transformed into The Incredible Shrinking Man.  

Released in 1957 as public concern over radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests was rising, The Incredible Shrinking Man uses the device of a radioactive cloud from a nuclear weapons test as a plot twist to miniaturize an actor to the point where he has to fight with cats and spiders. He shrinks out of his job, out of his marriage, out of his life. His exposure to radiation has a devolutionary impact on him; he fights progressively smaller and smaller adversaries, until finally he becomes microbial. At no point do we see any form of destruction or horror; the only monster is the silent cloud of fallout. After Thomas innocently notices it in the opening scene of the movie, it slowly and inexorably dehumanizes and erases him.
The monster postulated in this movie was a real monster; its clouds blew across the United States even as the movie was in theaters. Moviegoers could consider the notion that the fog in the air when they left the showing of The Incredible Shrinking Man might just be that real, live monster.


This article scans radiation and radiation fears in American popular culture of the 1950s.    


Robert Jacobs is an associate professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University. He is the author of The Dragon's Tail: Americans Face the Atomic Age (2010), the editor of Filling the Hole in the Nuclear Future: Art and Popular Culture Respond to the Bomb (2010), and co-editor of Images of Rupture in Civilization Between East and West: The Iconography of Auschwitz and Hiroshima in Eastern European Arts and Media (2012-forthcoming). His book, The Dragon's Tail was released in a Japanese language edition by Gaifu in 2012. He is the principal investigator of the Global Hibakusha Project.


Recommended citation: Robert Jacobs, "Radiation as Cultural Talisman:Nuclear Weapons Testing and American Popular Culture in the Early Cold War," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 26, No. 1, June 25, 2012.

Read More. . .