Yesterday, Paul Sracic emailed me his quick response to President Obama’ State of Union address, which included the following take on Japan:
No one in the U.S. will care about this, but Obama mentioned China, India, and South Korea several times -- but never Japan. Do you think that the Japanese people will care/notice this?Sure enough, the story showed up later that day on the Yomiuri and Sankei websites (and this morning in the Yomiuri and I sure Asahi hardcopy versions). Paul is an expert on US politics (he’s quoted on the SOTU itself in a Reuters wire), but he obviously figured out how the Japanese mind works while he was in Japan on his
Yomiuri: “Japan” Goes Unmentioned This Year Too: exhibits the strengths of South Korea, China (hardcopy version)Sankei does the whole SOTU BRICs count: China four times, India three times, Russia twice, and Brazil once. (Ian Bremmer believes that Russia isn’t a real BRIC, but that’s another story.)
Sankei: Country Names Mentioned in Obama Speech: South Korea Most Often, at Five; Japan Zero (online version)
If this sounds familiar to you, you’re right. We went through this during the 2008 presidential primaries, when many people here gave John McCain the thumbs-up over Hillary Clinton in the Foreign Affairs essays contest because McCain issued a paean to the US-Japan relationship while Clinton mentioned China more often than Japan. Note, though, that Clinton’s essay was more about the foreign policy and security challenges that the United States faced, and how she would deal with them. Obama is naming names mainly as countries that are doing things that the United States should emulate at home. And no, as the Sankei count shows, England and France don’t show up either. But Europe does, as in: “Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do.”
The silver lining for Japan is that this wakeup call is good news for people here who are pushing reform.