Bhutan was never going to be an early adopter. It is a small and remote place — a little more than twice the size of Los Angeles and Orange counties combined, perched at the eastern edge of the world’s highest mountain range. The Buddhist constitutional monarchy, however, is steadily moving into the modern era, even as its 800,000 people struggle with how much of it to embrace.
Hiroyoshi Takeda is not a typical Japanese man. Instead of a suit and tie, the 39-year-old Tokyoite wears T-shirts with technicolour caricatures of a mustachioed south Indian movie star. Rather than bowing, he dances. He doesn’t ride the metro, but travels the streets in a gaudily adorned autorickshaw imported from Tamil Nadu.
Hundreds of the youth come enthusiastically to the newly opened martial art center to see and learn the Shaolin after they have heard about from their friends or relatives. The branch of the Chinese Kung Fu was brought and introducing to Afghans by Hussain Sadiqi, an Afghan-Australian martial artist, who has defied the unsafe situation in his homeland to serve his people by teaching them the art.
China is quickly becoming a world power, capable of exercising considerable influence over other countries. And it is advancing to the centre of the geopolitical stage just as — if not because — American and European leadership seems to be retreating into the wings. China certainly has a receptive audience. One reason is that the “darker nations”, as the international-studies scholar Vijay Prashad calls global-South countries, feel greater kinship with China than with the United States and Europe.
CineAsia is upon us already, the last major cinema conference of the year and a time to take stock. This show has taken on new significance in recent years as it highlights the growth of Asia as a film market and the increasing importance of the region to global cinema. The Asia-Pacific region will account for 40.4% of global box office in 2016.
The term "soft power" has been thrown around the media and academic circles for the last couple of years, but its currency has heightened in regards to Australia's relationship with China. All countries practise some form of soft power — the ability to coax and persuade other countries that their culture and values are desirable.
There’s a vintage example of American exceptionalism in the Financial Times this week, by the paper’s US editor Gary Silverman. The article is about the appointment of Trevor Noah to the vacant Jon Stewart berth on The Daily Show. But Noah’s controversial Twitter history isn’t what concerns Silverman. Instead, he sees Noah’s career arc – growing up bi-racial in Soweto, where “my existence itself was a crime”, emigrating to America, working his way up in short order to the most prestigious satire gig in the country – as a classic tale of “American soft power”.
Now that the decades-long trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba looks to be a thing of the past, Americans may soon be partying with Cuban goods like it’s 1959. Culturally, however, Cuba’s influence has been here all along.