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Japan: Same Predictions of Change

Building of the National Diet, the Japanese parliament/ Photo: erinsikorskystewart/flickr

Blinded by the prospect of change? The National Diet, Japan's parliament/ Photo: erinsikorskystewart/flickr

For The Economist, as for most other commentators, the dice have been cast. Four years after it won a landslide victory under the reformist banner held by Koizumi Jun’ichiro, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is expected to lose the lower house elections set for 30 August. The predicted winner will be the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) (don’t be misled by the party names, they don’t mean much).

However, government change has been predicted before, or as The Economist writes: “The 54-year-old LDP’s obituary has been written many times, and the corpse has always revived.” Among those obituarists is also The Economist, who like me, have been wrong in the past. But this time, the evidence seems defeating. Recent opinion polls suggest that 46 percent of the respondents would vote for the DPJ compared to 19 percent for the LDP. A week ago, the DPJ won the elections to the Tokyo metropolitan assembly and pushed aside the LDP, which had been the biggest party there for 40 years.

Nevertheless, I remain skeptical about the prospect of government change. Let me give you four reasons for this.

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Good News, But Bad News Will Keep Coming

In the wake of the Xinjiang riots, mass casualties and plenty of unwanted press, Chinese leaders were undoubtedly hoping for some good news.

They did not have to wait long. Little more than a week after the Urumqi riots Chinese authorities announced that the Chinese economy had grown by a healthy 7.9 percent in the second quarter of 2009. Compared to the West, this is a spectacular achievement and an encouraging sign for all those that saw the end of the world coming just months ago.

To the surprise of many seasoned China analysts and economists, China’s stimulus package managed to inject much-needed capital into the industrial sector; succeeded in offsetting the worst effects of massive export-industry layoffs by employing migrant workers in government projects, and perhaps most importantly, ensured that government-owned banks continued to lend despite the downturn. Even retail sales rebounded, the government announced, indicating that the Chinese consumer is still feeling confident and secure (unlike the rest of us).

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China Internet Users Surpass US Population

Photo: faungg/flickr

Photo: faungg/flickr

Via The Guardian:

China has more internet users that the entire population of the United States, according to new research by the government-sanctioned China Internet Network Information Center.

The study says that at the end of June there were 338m internet users in China, a 13.4% jump since the end of 2008, and well ahead of the official US population, put at 307m by the US Census Bureau.

But, according to the story, penetration is still relatively low, with China at just over 25 percent and the US at 70 percent.

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ISN Weekly Theme: Yemen

Closed doors in Yemen, but not just in the streets / Photo: eesti, flickr

Closed doors in Yemen, but not just in the streets / Photo: eesti, flickr

In its latest push against press freedom in the country, Yemen held the first press court session over the weekend. According to the Yemen Times, Sami Ghalib, editor-in-chief of the paper Al-Nida has the dubious distiction of being the first journalist taken to the dock, accused of “insult and humiliation,” which is Orwellian-speak for exposing corruption in a government ministry.

But lack of press freedom isn’t the only issue Yemen is facing. This week were highlighting what ails the Arabian Peninsula country and what can be done.

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Hola Mexico: A Post-election Reflection

The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.

The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.

In five weeks from now I will be moving to Mexico.

They say there is no place like home – and indeed, the state of things will be very different from what I know in Switzerland.

People not finding themselves under extraordinary circumstances emigrate because they want a lifestyle that can be best accomplished in their country of destination.

But I guess thoughts about lifestyle and how to best accomplish it would require deeper consideration – especially when it comes to accomplishing it in a country we associate with drug violence, economic problems and …swine flu. I will avoid going deeper and offer simply a brief reflection about the recent Mexican elections.

Has the country reinstitutionalized the revolutionary myth? The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took power for the first time 80 years ago, enjoyed seven decades of domination, and has now accomplished a successful comeback. Therefore, I cannot help associating the PRI with the country’s authoritarian past.

When I go back and read James M Malloy words from 1977 about authoritarianism in Latin America, I can only hope that the described states of affairs would not still apply today:

“Mexico’s political system is characterized by patrimonially controlled participation exercised by the political elite based on the underlying assumption of privilege rather than right. (…) The decision-making process is legitimated by massive support from precisely those sectors of society that participate least in the distribu¬tion of benefits: labor, peasants, and Indians. For more than forty years the Party (PRI) has maintained this monopoly by preempt¬ing and institutionalizing the revolutionary myth and by creating for itself an image as the key component of an indissoluble trinity composed of Party, government, and political elite.”

However, things have changed during the past 30 years since Malloy’s writings.

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