Happy News for the New Year

Happy News for the New Year

If only Santa Claus were Asian

By Tom Plate
Pacific Perspectives Columnist

LOS ANGELES -- It is well known that President George W. Bush -- a practicing Christian -- happily and devoutly celebrates Christmas. That's not at issue. What is not known is whether he believes in Santa Claus.

It is impossible to underestimate the significance of this. For if he does so believe, an understanding Santa just might grant him gifts that otherwise might elude his presidency.

And what might some of these gifts be?

Confidential sources tell us the president would consider 2004 a very good year if Santa, in his merry wisdom, made these kinds of events happen on the Asian continent:

BULLETIN -- China's President Hu Jintao, breaking with decades of tradition, agrees to meet with Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian in Oslo, Norway, to discuss the possibility of a Chinese non-aggression pact in return for a Taiwanese non-independence guarantee.

BULLETIN -- A North Korean intelligence squad, while transporting illicit drugs from a Pakistan province, stumbles across Osama bin Laden's cave hideaway. They get back to Pyongyang with the clandestine information, report it to Maximum Leader Kim Jong-il, and he passes the top-secret location on to Beijing.

BULLETIN ­- President Jacques Chirac unexpectedly announces a massive new French aid program to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, its former colony facing increasingly intense international condemnation (and thus growing foreign-aid cutoffs). The issue of its brutal mistreatment of Christian minorities was brought to an international head by a Wolf Blitzer report on CNN titled "Why Can't the Vietnamese Tiger Change Its Stripes?"

BULLETIN -- China announces that the Bush administration is dropping its insistence that North Korea dismantle its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs as a precondition to massive U.S. aid and a non-invasion security guarantee.

BULLETIN -- The Hanoi government unexpectedly announces an amnesty and reconciliation program for the Montagnards, the Christian minority living precariously in the central highlands. To everyone's utter astonishment, a Montagnard is appointed regional chief of security.

BULLETIN -- Elements of the U.S. 82nd Airborne announce the capture of a scraggly and dazed Osama bin Laden. They credit U.S. intelligence sources with providing information about the location.

BULLETIN -- The World Bank announces a major new aid program for Vietnam, funding vast infrastructure projects left unreconstructed since the devastating war with the United States.

BULLETIN -- Under intense interrogation, a fatigued and defeated Bin Laden reveals the location of a huge underground warehouse of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. In the United States, Diane Sawyer of ABC News, who in a previous interview had cast scorn on Bush administration claims that such weapons existed in Iraq, breaks the story exclusively  -- though, oddly, without evident glee.

BULLETIN -- The United States announces a massive aid program for Vietnam, praising the government's new human rights policy toward the Montagnards.

BULLETIN -- The South Korean government of Roh Moo-hyun makes the dramatic announcement that the government of the North has just offered to send 3,000 of its elite forces to match South Korea's 3,000 troops in Iraq as part of the growing international peacekeeping effort.

BULLETIN -- North Korea announces that it is not only dismantling its nuclear-weapons program but confirms that it has agreed to join with Seoul and send peacekeeping forces to Iraq as a goodwill gesture to the West.

BULLETIN -- In Paris, the Chirac government announces that Hanoi has offered to send to Iraq a peacekeeping force to join the growing international effort to rebuild Iraq.

BULLETIN -- From Stockholm, the Nobel Committee announces that one of the finalists for this year's Peace Prize is Santa Claus, identified from trace DNA evidence on sleigh skid marks in brutally cold Manchuria, to be of Asian ethnicity.

BULLETIN -- In China, when asked at a press conference whether he believes in Santa Claus, avowed atheist President Hu Jintao snaps impatiently: "There is no Santa Claus."

BULLETIN -- The Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 goes to the presidents of China and Taiwan for their courageous work in defusing cross-straits tension, often cited as a potential trigger of world war. From Washington, President Bush applauds Stockholm's decision, but says, "Yes, Hu, there is a Santa Claus! How else could all of these goods things have possibly happened?"

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Tom Plate is a professor of Policy and Communication Studies at UCLA. He is a regular columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, the South China Morning Post, The Straits Times and the Honolulu Advertiser. He is a member of the World Economic Forum, and the Pacific Council on International policy. The author of five books, he has worked at TIME, the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Mail of London. He established the Asia Pacific Media Network in 1998 and was its director until 2003.

For publication and reprint rights, contact Tom Plate at tplate@ucla.edu or John Simpson (john.simpson@latsi.com) of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International.

The views expressed above are those of the author and are not necessarily those of AsiaMedia or the UCLA Asia Institute.