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Monday, Nov. 21, 2005

JAPANESE PERSPECTIVES

Tweedle-George, tweedle-Jun and their futures in Wonderland


In Alice's world through the looking glass, Tweedledum has "Dum" embroidered on his collar and Tweedledee has "Dee" embroidered likewise. Alice assumes they both have "Tweedle" written on the backs of their collars as well. In our world of 2005, "Dum" would read "George W." and "Dee" would be "Junichiro," or, of course, vice versa. Heaven knows what is written on the backs of both collars. It may be better not to know.

George W. came to call on Junichiro the other day. It was a very fleeting visit, but both parties seemed to have a great time. They agree on most everything. Indeed it is hard to tell them apart. One of their many common features is that they often do not seem quite real. Like Alice, one might find oneself on the receiving end of the retort: "If you think we're waxworks . . . you ought to pay, you know. Waxworks weren't made to be looked at for nothing."

For all the closeness of the relationship though, Alice connoisseurs will know that Tweedledum and Tweedledee are destined for a battle. This comes about because Tweedledum accuses Tweedledee of spoiling his nice new rattle. The rattle in question actually turns out to be rather an old one, but the brothers battle it out over the thing anyhow.

"Contrariwise," as Dum or Dee would say, there is not much for George W. and Junichiro to dual over just at present. George W. wanting to send more mad cows to Junichiro may be one little matter. The question of where George W.'s soldiers are to be relocated within Junichiro's territory is another. How much longer Junichiro consents to sending soldiers to assist George W.'s increasingly troublesome conflicts in the desert is a possible third. But really, none of them is a feud deep enough to seriously jeopardize the very special relationship.

However, one thing did come up over the seemingly cloudless horizon of that relationship during George W.'s brief stay at Junichiro's place. This was when George W. asked Junichiro about "Mr. C."

What did Junichiro make of his gigantic neighbor beyond the strip of water that separates his country from the rest of Asia? Junichiro was of the view that people were wrong to claim his special relationship with George W. was impeding his country's rapprochement with that huge new kid on the block. In fact, the more chummier George and Jun, the better for all concerned, including Mr. C. Junichiro went on to say that he regarded the Mr. C not as a threat, but as a commercial opportunity.

Well and good. Or is it? George W. may have felt just a slight little tinge of concern at Junichiro's myopic preoccupation with the special relationship. It is of course very nice to be put first at all times. But if you are not quite sure yourself how to treat a new acquaintance of rather great girth, you may actually wish your twin brother were not so uncompromisingly complacent about his own relationship with the acquaintance in question.

So what will happen now? As it happens, Alice's looking-glass world provides the answer yet again. Dum and Dee do not have to battle unto death after all. And it is actually the big Mr. C that comes to the rescue. For the tale of Dum and Dee takes a startling turn, just as the battle is about to become full-fledged.

"Just then flew down a monstrous crow. As black as a tar-barrel; which frightened both the heroes so, they quite forgot their quarrel." Oh dear.

Noriko Hama is an economist and a professor at Doshisha University School of Management.


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