November 2018Spectacle

NHK's Asia Insight: A Window to Developing Countries

Asia Insight” is a program by NHK WORLD, a Japanese cable news provider, that makes the lives and struggles of today’s Asians come alive. For U.S. citizens this program is a window to parts of the developing world not covered by our news. The news is mainly cultural, economic, and political.  

Our news organizations do not focus on how the world is developing. Writing my article on climate change left me feeling that we need to see how the whole world is changing, but  we are stuck with drama masquerading as domestic news. Below is a description of the programs and not a political analysis.

One program focused on the relationship between China and Laos. China is helping Laos develop by building large dams on the Mekong River, which runs from China to Vietnam. These dams benefit both China and Laos by providing electricity to both countries. Other help comes from Chinese investors who open banana plantations in Laos, which provide enough hard currency for many Laotians to build their own homes. However, the plantations also create polluted water and the dams interfere with fish life cycles as well as regional water supplies.

Programs on China cover rising enterprises such as cartooning, graphic novels, and bookstores. It was interesting to see a cultural movement spring up and the opportunities and difficulties that bookstores created and the censorship they faced. Some of these changes could only have happened once China reached its current level of development.

The Philippines episode was about a construction worker living and working in a major city. Urban renewal was about to force him to move to the countryside, where he would face an expensive and dangerous commute.. As in the United States, in other countries wealth is built on the struggle of working families.

A story about a Korean grandmother concerned her efforts to get a high school diploma. When she was young the nation was poor, and only the boys in her family got to go to high school.  Korea is now a developed country with faster web speeds than the United States.

The program on Myanmar (formerly Burma)  traced the history of armed revolt in its border areas. Central Myanmar had always been poor but more stable. However, surrounding areas had ethnic conflict and different economic links (sometimes drugs). After decades of warfare, a general and a former rebel become peace advocates and have begun working together. The peace movement is integrating Myanmar.

These brief descriptions of the programs do not do them justice, but these programs show how the world is developing. We have entered a period where the entire world is developing, and we will have to work with everybody to avoid a climate disaster. Some countries are so poor that they would likely use cheaper but more-polluting coal, since there is little real alternative for them without outside aid.

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