Burmese now officially on White House Christmas card list

President Barack Obama, fresh from winning an election (not least because his opponents had degenerated into a bunch of extremist freaks), passes through one of the world’s few remaining bits of authentic mid-20th Century-style Third World, complete with horrid flag, where the dictators are having to open up to avoid becoming absorbed into Yunnan Province, and he’s apparently a bit full of himself and can’t help but deliver what is, if you look at it, a more-than-slightly condescending speech to what a predecessor of his, when governor of the Philippines, would have called ‘our little brown brothers’.

No doubt well-intentioned, but a bit too heavy on the mission civilisatrice. It reminds me of the ‘sanctimonious sermonizing’ (Malaysian then-Foreign Minister Badawi) of then-Vice President Al Gore in the late 90s when he toured Asia dropping trendy buzzwords like ‘reformasi’, ‘People Power’ and ‘doi moi’ without knowing one from the other.

This is important because, although everyone’s too nervously polite to mention it, Asia from now on is going to be the focus of a struggle for power and influence between China and America. In the medium to long term, this clash can only become fiercer. China’s regional stance is to stress cooperation and mutual respect one minute and to lash out with more-or-less blatant threats of violence if any of its neighbours questions its increasingly acquisitive policies. To make things interesting, many Southeast Asian countries are essentially run by ethnic Chinese who are outnumbered by poorer natives who tend to have a latent racist streak. This should be fertile ground for the US to win the hearts-and-minds contest to be friendly neighbourhood cop and force for stability. But patting people on the head – this patronizingly – for taking their oh-so-impressive baby steps to democracy doesn’t help.

Maybe Hong Kong’s Central Policy Unit could offer some communications advice*. Pro-democrats like Emily Lau are naturally alarmed by its emergence as a propaganda machine. More interestingly, a civil service union is upset that the CPU could play a role in selecting appointees for government advisory bodies, claiming that the pen-pushers have some sort of magical power to perform this function, which mere mortal outsiders obviously lack. This sounds like an opportunity for the CY Leung administration to bring some uppity bureaucrats into line in the decision-making/policy-implementation scheme of things. A long-overdue thumping, that is. If only.

* Basically: shut your eyes and pretend they’re Europeans.


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10 Responses to Burmese now officially on White House Christmas card list

  1. PropertyDeveloper says:

    It’s a sort of slow race, where the least psychopathic/autistic/schizophrenic nation wins. China’s way of showing empathy for her neighbours is to accord special treatment to the longlost diaspora, while militarising in all directions. The US are notoriously weak on hearts-and-minds, having had to finally cede ground in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else in Asia. What may swing the balance is Hollywood and Macdonalds vs China Daily and the Confucius Institutes.

  2. Boo says:

    He repeatedly got Aung San Suu Kyi’s name wrong, and called President Thein Sein “President Sein”, which puts him in the Bush leagues of diplomacy.
    And I’m not sure how comfortable Aung San Suu Kyi is getting a kiss from this guy as a greeting.


  3. Joe Blow says:

    …Asia from now on is going to be the focus of a struggle for power and influence between China and America…

    As if Korea and Vietnam never happened.

  4. Lois Beluga says:

    What’s wrong with red, gold and green? Most of the world’s flags are that colour scheme nowadays.

    Or is it the Socialist star which offends people?

    It’s the comin’ movement, bro. Get wid da programme!

    The CPU like most Hong Kong civil servants suffers from HDADD – High Definition Attention Deficit Disorder.

    Most of what goes on around them fails to register but when they do notice something, they really notice it!

    For a while.

  5. Maugrim says:

    Interesting that Cam Ranh and Subic Bays (developed by the US previously) are coming back online as military posts. Its 1965 all over again without the decent music. BTW, Obama regularly stuffs up in situations like that, signing 2008 rather than 2011 in a visitors book at Westminster and talking through God Save the Queen at the reception come to mind. Cept its Bush who is the ‘only’ dullard it would seem.

    Hemmers, no mention of the ‘blue book’ conspiracy theories? Or did I miss it?

  6. Stephen says:

    I only paid attention to one of the three but what’s the betting that TVB (confirmed) Pro China Morning Post and RTHK refered to the country as ‘Myanmar’?

    President Obama and perhaps more importantly Aung San Suu Kyi called the country ‘Burma’.

    What does that tell us about the obedient little minds running English language media ?

    One last question, Why when I watch TVB (and doubtless ATV) main news in Cantonese I get mainly Hong Kong news (and the anthem). Whilst if i watch it later in English I don’t and the second or third story is about a ‘twister’ in the midwest?

  7. Aghast says:

    RTHK says Burma

  8. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Stephen, It’s simple: because English is a foreign language, brown and white people are foreign, ESF schools are foreign, with foreign teachers and children, so of course no national education. How could foreigners benefit from it? And real permanent residents have 3 stars, because the SCMP tells us so.

  9. davyjones says:

    Any of you guys been to Burma?

    It’s a beautiful country!

    The people are very content at least on my visit 6 years ago.

    They should be more content now with a little bit more freedom. And the place reminded me of Singapore in the sixties.

  10. Vile says:

    BOMBAY!! Still has a lot of nice, picturesquely decaying colonial architecture – although not for long, with any luck. Hong Kong developers are already sniffing around the place.

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