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The meaning of President Obama
Ushio - December 2008
American presidential elections are extraordinary things. Can you think of any other country in which the winning candidate in an election spent 21 months, almost two whole years, engaged in an active, official campaign for the job? And he was preparing,...
Dangerous milk from China’s Communist Party
Ushio - November 2008
Will food products made in China ever be safe? All countries have occasional scandals concerning badly made or deliberately adulterated foods and other products. Even Japan has had its share of scandals, even in modern times. But China sees to have...
Socialism in America
Ushio - October 2008
America, it is often said, is the land of free markets, of unregulated capitalism, of what detractors call “market fundamentalism”. The financial crisis, popularly known as the credit crunch, that emerged from America’s housing-finance market in August...
The Western Credit Crunch, one year on
Ushio - September 2008
The date that is conventionally chosen to mark the beginning of the so-called “credit crunch” in America and Europe is August 9th 2007. So one year has now passed of what officials from the normally cautious International Monetary Fund in Washington,...
The mystery about capitalism
Ushio - April 2008
I have been a financial journalist—among other things—for more than 25 years. Most of the time I have concluded that although finance can seem complicated, in fact the underlying issues in finance are quite simple. Money is always money, after all,...
Does the economy determine elections?
Ushio - February 2008
It has become conventional to say that most general elections are won or lost on economic issues, for those are the day-to-day matters that affect more voters than any other. In America’s 1992 presidential election, when Bill Clinton beat the incumbent...
Europe´s difficult year ahead
Ushio - January 2008
Europeans like to compare themselves with Americans. That is perhaps inevitable given our shared history and cultural origins. For the past decade, however, this comparison has produced an odd mixture of feelings for Europe. In 2008, those feelings are...
The difficulty with dictatorship
Ushio - December 2007
During the Cold War, it became a sort of joke to look at the use of the words "democratic" or "peoples" in the names of countries: the joke was that if the country used that word in their name, it guaranteed that the country was a dictatorship, often...
Slow wine, in the heart of Europe
Ushio - November 2007
Twenty years ago, some Italian food producers started a wonderful campaign group called the Slow Food Movement. The idea was to start a reaction against the spread of fast food, symbolised always by McDonald’s hamburgers and the famous golden arches....
Japan´s lessons for the financial crisis
Ushio - October 2007
August is usually a quiet month in the financial markets. Even traders in bonds and shares take holidays. And, since markets generally become volatile in response to news, and since typically there isn’t any economic news in August, it is a good time...
Olympics, smog and China
Ushio - September 2007
At eight o’clock in the evening of the eighth of August, the eighth month of the eighth year of this decade, the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games will begin. All those eights in the time and the date are supposed to be auspicious for this...
The love of old buildings
Ushio - August 2007
There are many things that Britain and Japan have in common, including our island status, our long histories as independent countries and our somewhat sceptical attitude towards our neighbours on the mainland. One thing that makes us very different, however,...
The gap between Korea, Japan and the US
Ushio - July 2007
When I lived full-time in Tokyo as a foreign correspondent in the mid-1980s, I used to visit South Korea quite frequently for my job. I enjoyed learning about the big contrasts between Tokyo and Seoul: the higher living standards in Japan, the fact that...
The coming crunch in China
Ushio - June 2007
Everyone who visits China comes back impressed: all the smart new buildings, the wide new roads, the sparkling and efficient airports. They invite a question among foreign admirers: why can’t we organise things as well as the Chinese? This question is...
The folly of economic nationalism
Ushio - May 2007
In democracies, it is said, politicians running for election try to bribe us with our own money. In other words, they make promises that will cost taxpayers a lot of money, and the voters are the people who end up providing the taxes to pay for the promises....
The promise of India
Ushio - April 2007
In India, this year has been officially designated as “the year of Japan”. Thanks in part to an extremely energetic Japanese embassy in the Indian capital, Delhi, a great range of events have been planned, from cultural events to serious business conferences....
China faces reality in Africa
Ushio - March 2007
Last year, one of the most widely cited concerns about the rise of China was the fact that it seemed to be “taking over” Africa and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. It was a widespread concern mainly because it was a new discovery: old issues, such...
Tony Blair and the saddest political mistake
Ushio - February 2007
This year in my country, Britain, one of our longest-serving and most famous prime ministers will announce his retirement. Tony Blair established a worldwide reputation as a highly-skilled, ultra-modern political leader by winning three general elections,...
Economics, consumer loans and gangsters
Ushio - January 2007
There is a common proverb in English that says that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. The meaning of this saying is that many policies or actions may be done with the best and most noble justifications or intentions, but they still lead...
The Moon colony in Arabia
Ushio - December 2006
Science fiction books in the 1950s and 1960s often seemed to feature human colonies, in the far distant future, that had been established on the Moon, or on other planets, or on parts of the Earth that had been devastated by war or natural calamity....
How to be friendlier with the neighbours
Ushio - November 2006
At one time, when there was a clear distinction between leftists and rightists in politics, the main task for political candidates was to sound different from one another. Socialists and conservative right-wingers read from quite different scripts. Now,...
Getting serious about global warming
Ushio - October 2006
In every country around the world, in politics there are some issues on which good politicians know that it is vital to say the right words, but then to avoid any real deeds. Quite often, pensions have been one example. Politicians know they had better...
The morality of war
Ushio - September 2006
How fortunate it must have been to be a leader like China´s Mao Zedong. The man who in effect became China´s Communist emperor from 1949 until his death in 1976 succeeded because he was utterly devoid of moral feelings: he seems to have had...
Japanese lessons for Italy
Ushio - August 2006
When I was visiting Milan and Florence recently, I was reminded how appealing Italy is to Japanese visitors. Although Florence was also full of American students, visiting Europe after the end of their spring semester, for me the second most noticeable...
A Matsuri for books
Ushio - July 2006
In recent years, especially in Europe and America there has been a common lament, at least among the older and literate sort of people. It is that modern life is no longer cultured, that standards of thinking and writing among the young have fallen, and...
Dealing with a nuclear Iran
Ushio - June 2006
Ever since 1945, when the first nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world has lived with an extraordinary contradiction. This is the fact that in an era when progress has been made, year after year, in all sorts of political, economic,...
The power of globalisation
Ushio - May 2006
Sometimes, we become so preoccupied by what is happening today, that we forget what happened only yesterday. This matters because where we have come from also influences where we are going, and we will fail to understand our direction and destination...
Insulting cartoons and the limits of free speech
Ushio - March 2006
Editors of newspapers and magazines like to think of themselves as quite influential people. But usually they are not. Politicians do pay court to them, but not out of respect for their judgment and status: in reality, they care about editors only as...
The case for American leadership
Ushio - February 2006
During recent years, it has become harder and harder to find anyone outside the United States who will agree that American leadership is good for the world. The ever-rising civilian death toll in Iraq, the absence of weapons of mass destruction, the imprisonment...
The future power of Chindia
Ushio - January 2006
People who follow the course of world politics and economics often disagree on many things. But these days there is one thing most do seem to agree upon: that China and India are on the move, and that these Asian mega-countries will be the great powers...
Memories, museums and war
Ushio - December 2005
Anyone who studied my schedule during the past year could be forgiven for concluding that I am obsessed with museums and with war. Nothing could be further from the truth. But nevertheless it is true that I have recently visited a wide range of memorials...
Optimism about Japan
Ushio - November 2005
People often think economics is all about money and statistics and strange mathematical equations. But that is wrong: in my view, economics is really just a way of studying human behaviour, using money as its method of measurement. And one ingredient...
Dealing with natural disasters
Ushio - October 2005
Few can disagree—unless perhaps they are President George Bush himself—that the American federal government´s handling of the natural disaster that befell New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina has been nothing short of a national shame and humiliation....
Reflections on the atom bombs
Ushio - September 2005
Every year, when it comes to celebrating my birthday, two things strike me, leaving aside the extra pleasure I get on that day from my family. One is that it is a sad day for the world, even if it isn´t for me: for my birthday falls on August 6th,...
Making poverty history
Ushio - July 2005
In western Europe this year, we seem to be experiencing a strange mixture: a cult of the celebrity and a cult of Africa all rolled into one. This is occurring because of the increased attention being given to the plight of Africa´s poor and to the...
Asia’s historic rivalry
Ushio - June 2005
As a writer who has long been fascinated by Japan and (like everyone else) has recently become fascinated by China, I am inevitably also fascinated by the relationship between these two countries.
The origins of moral authority
Ushio - May 2005
One of the most famous sayings of Josef Stalin was the answer he gave when asked his reaction to criticism of him by the Roman Catholic church. "How many divisions does the Pope have?", he replied. In other words, since he has no army, why should I pay...
The true nature of national identity
Ushio - April 2005
Where does the essence of a country´s identity lie? Recently, I came to ask myself that question because I paid a visit to Las Vegas, for the very first time.
I have visited...
The new face of American foreign policy
Ushio - March 2005
One Thursday morning in early February I had a surprise. A phone call came to my office from the American embassy in London. "Would I be free to join a roundtable discussion with Condoleezza Rice?", the voice said. Of course, I replied: no one would say...
Help the tsunami survivors with trade, not aid
Ushio - February 2005
How much should we help others, and if so how? Those questions of human morality seem to be in a special category: the category of questions so basic they are almost never asked. The terrible tsunami that killed so many people around the Indian Ocean...
Why Turkey belongs in Europe
Ushio - January 2005
What is meant by Europe? That is a question many European leaders have been asking themselves, as they ponder whether Turkey should be allowed to become a member of the 25-country European Union. I pondered this question too, on a recent visit to Turkey.
Grappling with democracy
Ushio - November 2004
Democracy is an easy idea to be in favour of, unless you are in power in an authoritarian government. But why is it so important? And what is required to make democracy really work?
Dealing with kidnapping
Ushio - October 2004
We are in an era when shocking events and situations seem to be all around us. Partly, this is because there are more shocking things occurring, as people realise that modern communications allow them to use shock and terror as a weapon in international...
The American presidential choice
Ushio - September 2004
Election campaigns are typically occasions when parties promise they will bring changes, all for the better—except the incumbent party, which claims that its policies are responsible for all the good things that are happening, and that the outside world...
A place for reconciliation
Ushio - August 2004
Around the beautiful old city of Salzburg in Austria, "the hills are alive with the sound of music", at least according to Julie Andrews´ character in the movie of that name. That is only fitting for the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a...
Corn laws, rice laws and the poor
Ushio - July 2004
For almost three years, talks have been going on to try to achieve a new phase of world trade liberalisation—the Doha Development Round, named after the capital of Qatar in the Middle East, where the talks began, and named for the supposedly prime aim...
The meaning of a bigger Europe
Ushio - June 2004
It is too easy to be complacent about what has just happened in Europe. Ten countries, eight of them from central Europe and so formerly part of the Soviet Union, joined the European Union on May 1st. That was, in a way, just a technical or institutional...
Optimism, pessimism and terrorism
Ushio - May 2004
There are two noticeable divides, these days, in world affairs. One is between those who are essentially optimistic about politics, war, terrorism and economic development, and those who are pessimistic about all of those things. The other divide is between...
Better impressions of Japan
Ushio - April 2004
Bit by bit, step by step, month by month, the worlds opinion of Japan is changing. Such opinions always change even more slowly than the country does itself, and they very often change rather later than does the truth itself. But that opinion really is...
Comparing Britain and Japan
Ushio - March 2004
The question that everyone wants economists to answer, and which even economists would dearly like to be able to offer good answers to, is the question of why some countries achieve economic success and why others fail. The trouble is that, as with...