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Obamamania takes over East Asia... or does it?

Claudia Gabarain's picture
Photo courtesy of pierrelord under a Creative Commons license. Full set.

So today we're blogging about... you guessed it. Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of the USA is capturing the world's attention, and in an overwhelming positive way according to many sources. The BBC released results of a worldwide poll in 17 countries --which included China, Indonesia, and Japan-- showing great optimism about the improvement of US relations with the rest of the world. Only in Japan and Russia the optimists reached less than 50% of those surveyed. China, however, registered one of the largest increases in optimism between this November-December survey and a similar one conducted last summer, and 93 per cent of those surveyed said that the US's top priority should be dealing with the global financial crisis. Indonesia, where Obama lived a few years as a child, is the most optimistic among the Muslim countries in the survey (see full results here -2.26mb pdf).

Looking at individual articles in the media, though, the enthusiasm seems more tepid: The Australian does a media round-up in the region and concludes that (non-Islamic) Asia isn't swept up in Obamamania because its relationship with the US is more focused on the economy than on the cultural and strategic issues where the bigger changes are expected. And a member of the conservative think-thank American Enterprise Institute warns today in the Wall Street Journal that Obama should pay closer attention to Asia --a source of potential problems for the U.S., he says.

But for now... let the parties begin! Jakarta will hold two inaugural balls --one free, the other not--, one of them organized by Democrats Abroad (the official arm of the Democratic Party for Americans living outside of the u.S.), which is also behind a "Bye Bye Bush Bash" in Cambodia. In Beijing, the U.S. Embassy will instead say  goodbye to its ambassador and a spokeswoman directs homesick Americans to witness and enjoy the inauguration at bars. The Jakarta Post reports that Obama will indeed send a special message to Indonesians during the ceremony.

As for here, in Washington DC, all the talk is about how many people will finally turn out, how cold will it actually be, how badly the Metro system will collapse... Until we find out the answers, the photo gallery by a colleague very, very close to this blog illustrates well the Obamization of the city: the souvenirs, the exhibitions, the magazines, the people...

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