Who wore it better?

Narendra Modi takes every opportunity to do some yoga:

modi-yoga1

He tweets about it often (there was a flurry of yoga-related tweets last night for Maha Shivaratri).

Now comes the turn of Shinzo Abe:

screenshot-from-2017-02-25-19-27-18

According to the caption that’s actually zazen meditation, but close enough.

Who wore it better?

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New Year, Old School Cool

Winning the Politicians’ New Year Messages Stakes by a country mile this year is Shinzo Abe, with this impeccable display of old school cool:

This year’s effort from Vladimir Putin was also pretty good – he gets kudos for actually going out into the snow to film it this year, rather than doing it in a studio in which everyone present looks as though they’d rather be removing their own gall bladder with a hammer drill rather than ploughing their way through this dismal charade again (see also under: all Russian tv ever).

Putin New Year address

The end result is definitely up there with Shinzo Abe’s message as the best of the bunch under review here. Sure, the only thing colder than the weather is his delivery, but we weren’t expecting rainbows and unicorns.

Nice coat too.

Park Geun-hye, for her part, did a pretty standard speech hoping for growth through innovation in the year of the red monkey, which only sounds batshit insane if you’re unfamiliar with the Chinese calendar.

Park Geun-hye new year speech

On the other hand, pretty much every South Korean national event involves a military component, and the film of Park honouring the RoK’s fallen soldiers is actually rather evocative, and certainly a classy look for her:

Park Geun-hye incense

There she is putting out her cigarette at the National Cemetery.

Just kidding. She’s burning incense.

Kim Jong Un’s new year message was a pretty standard performance, notable mainly for the fact that no two media outlets were capable of agreeing on whether it was conciliatory or belligerent (see under: choose your own adventure):

Reactions to Kim Jong Un new year speech.

Similarly, the aesthetics of Xi Jinping’s speech were much the same as last year (which we covered in great detail here).

Xi Jinping New Year speech

In fact, if you pay close attention, you will notice that all of the books and photos are in exactly the same positions as last year, arguing strongly in favour of this being a stage set.

Oh, and he also promised that China will be kicking ass and taking namesnot be absent” internationally in 2016, which is pretty ominous however you look at it.

Pranab Mukherjee was also broadcasting from a fake office, and an unsettlingly non-euclidean one at that:

Pranab Mukherjee new year speech

Is that green thing wall or carpet? Are those bookcases resting on the floor or some sort of trompe-l’oeil effect painted onto the plaster? Look at that thing for too long and you’ll find yourself feeling oddly sea-sick. It’s clearly got to Gandhi already.

He also dropped some pretty heavy hints on the subject of tolerance, seemingly directed at Narendra Modi and his followers.

By contrast, Lee Hsien Loong gave his message not only from within the four mundane dimensions of time and space, but inside a real room. He’s been on holiday in Korea for the past two or three weeks, which explains the rather relaxed look (even if the deskless chair makes him look like he’s applying for a job):

Lee Hsien Loong New Year Spech

On the whole, it’s a well-judged and nicely reassuring speech, and worth watching here.

 

Japan is Tired of your Shit

Japan is tired of your shit

The Japanese ministry of foreign affairs just changed a sentence on its website. Rather than describing South Korea as ‘an important neighboring country that shares basic values with Japan such as freedom, democracy, and a market economy’, it now merely describes it as the ‘most important neighboring country’.

And South Korea is outraged. How could you do this Japan? How could you?

Meanwhile, in other news, South Korea is also outraged that Wendy Sherman said that ‘it is not hard for a political leader anywhere to earn cheap applause by vilifying a former enemy’. They’re also outraged that Big Hero 6 contains Japanese references.

They also just began a new round of confiscation of assets from the children and grandchildren of people accused of collaborating with the Japanese during the war. No doubt any ressemblance to the North Korean songbun system of hereditary political dishonour is entirely coincidental. (One also presumes that a certain Takagi Masao‘s daughter will be safe from any depredations…)

The problem, as mentioned before, is that outrage has diminishing returns. If you’re never anything but outraged, and you make it clear that no amount of apologies or compensation will ever be enough, then that pretty much frees up the people who’ve offended you to do whatever the hell they like, a fact upon which Shinzo Abe has built his entire foreign and defence policy.