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”.
“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 email@example.com.
More on Soros in Tokyo later.
— Steve Clemons