George Soros in Japan


George Soros met me in Japan last night, and we had a fascinating dinner with Tadashi Yamamoto, President of the Japan Center for International Exchange.
The dinner discussion was off the record, but one of the interesting things that I can write is that Soros, Yamamoto, and others like former Prime Minister of Japan Yoshiro Mori and Mort Halperin have been allies in getting strong public sector/private sector support in Japan and the United States for the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
This is an area where the activities of progressives like Soros and conservatives of the Bush administration sort are allied together — and the same liberal-conservative alliances exist in Japan.
George Soros and I are both speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. The Soros event is Monday at noon at the FCCJ and has more than 250 people coming.
He is in Japan to meet a number of political, business and media leaders and to discuss global conditions ranging from the recent North Korea nuclear test to current (and future?) wars in the Middle East. He is also here for the release of the Japanese edition of his book, The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror.
Interestingly, Soros has not been to Japan in five years — and was last in Tokyo the week before 9/11. I learned from him that he was in Beijing when the 9/11 tragedy occurred. His son called him when the first plane hit, and George turned on CNN and saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center towers.
One of the leading contenders for the now awarded (to Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank) Nobel Peace Prize, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, actually said that Soros was someone who should actually receive the Nobel. Soros is controversial in many quarters, but it is interesting to note that in much of the world’s eyes, to use Condeeleezza Rice’s framing, Soros was and is the original “transformational diplomat”.
Ahtisaari stated:

“I wish my good friend George Soros would receive the prize at some point,” Ahtisaari said on Finnish television.
“He has promoted open democratic society in the world and used lots of his own money and energy for it, and he still does,” said Ahtisaari, Finland’s president in 1994-2000.
Soros, the Hungarian-born financier, has given away billions of dollars through his network of foundations and the Open Society Institute to promote democracy and human rights, especially in ex-communist eastern Europe.
Soros, also known as “The Man Who Broke the Pound” for betting against sterling in 1992 until Britain pulled out of the currency grid that preceded the euro, has been a vocal critic of President George W. Bush and the U.S. engagement in Iraq.

My event is Tuesday morning, 17 October at 8:30 a.m. I’ll be discussing how to construct an ecosystem of policy entrepreneurship via think tanks — but also reflecting on my views about Japan’s growing debate between healthy and pugnacious nationalists.
For those TWN readers who want to go to hear my presentation at the FCCJ, one of the members has graciously agreed to sponsor you for the meeting so that you can get in — but the cost is 2,500 yen — which would have to be paid to this FCCJ member on site as there is no billing system or credit card system available.
If you would like to attend, email me as soon as possible at
More on Soros in Tokyo later.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “George Soros in Japan

  1. Linda says:

    We all admire the kinds of things Soros, Bono, Ted Turner, Jimmy Carter, Clinton, Gates, Buffett are doing. U.S. government, in recent decades, has always given a much smaller proportion of tax dollars to foreign aid than is given by most European countries. Nightprowlkitty makes some very interesting observations. However, nobody seems to be leading and organizing average citizens–nor do most of them seem to care.
    In past decades, civil rights movement (Check out rebroadcast of “Eyes on the Prize” on PBS this month), anti-wr movement, and anti-nuclear movement had tens of thousands out in peaceful demontrations marching every weekend, thousands outside whenever a President they opposed spoke–not just Cindy Sheehan or Code Pink gals–far too many people to be ridiculed. There was some of that before we invaded Iraq, and I personally didn’t march until February, 2003 weekend when there were the biggest marchs. But I couldn’t get most of my friends to join me even though they opposed invading Iraq.
    Poll numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as masses of citizens out on the streets peacefully expressing their positions in demonstrations that have proper permits. Any ideas why this isn’t happening? Is everybody too busy blogging, sending IMs, or what?


  2. Robert Morrow says:

    Why is our government spending money on AIDS? Who cares? Ditto AIDS in Africa. Who cares? It’s not like someone can cough on you and you get HIV. The AIDS industry is just one big scam for liberals and socialists.
    I find it ridiculous that our government is wasting money on this white elephant. If it is so important, why not have a national telethon like MS? Then we will see if the American people really want to spend money on this.


  3. karenk says:

    Of course health care issues like TB and AIDS cross conservative and liberal political lines. We’re all human and these diseases can hit anyone. A good example of the socialist aspect of health care is this: The average working person might not want to pay for a homeless persons health care but when that person coughs resistant TB on them in the subway, it becomes a different story!
    Cannot be ignored….This is why Bill Gates has donated sooo much $$$ towards fighting TB. He gets it.


  4. Jon Stopa says:

    “Don’t get me wrong, I am very supportive of private charities and private initiatives. But this is a trend that is beginning to disturb me a great deal.


  5. Carroll says:

    Nightprowlkitty has a point.
    Although I imagine Soros is good at intellectualy and ethically compartmentalizing his various interest ….others aren’t, there is this problem we seem to be having with “unoffical” and unelected” organizations operating where they should not…(understatement).


  6. Nightprowlkitty says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I am very supportive of private charities and private initiatives. But this is a trend that is beginning to disturb me a great deal.
    We have Clinton’s Global Initiative, where Laura Bush was a speaker, and now Soros doing big things in the world in concert with conservatives. Well that’s just lovely, except that it completely undercuts the Democratic process. Doesn’t it appear even slightly strange that people who can work together on these initiatives cannot work together in government? And that perhaps this is not a good thing?
    This trend seems to me to be cutting out the average citizen in a disturbing way. Instead of our country and other countries around the world getting together to solve global problems in both the environment and health areas, we have big money groups completely going over the heads of government, and in the case of the US, our government becomes more and more regressive and incompetent.
    So Clinton can hobnob with Laura Bush. Soros can hang out with Bush Administration conservatives. And the gap grows wider and wider between both those groups and regular citizens in terms of how big problems get solved. I pay my taxes in order to have a government that includes my own voice in solving problems that affect everyone. In this new era my taxes are going … where?
    Sorry to be rambling on this, I haven’t been able to be clear in my own mind as far as articulating this feeling into words. But warning bells have been ringing loudly for me since Clinton came to my home town of NYC for his initiative, and this post makes those bells ring even louder.


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