China Wants Land; Russia Needs Babies

Malala: Source of inspiration and worry. Aamir Qureshi / AFP-Getty Images

This Land is My Land

China violated Japan’s airspace for the first time in 54 years, when a military surveillance plane flew over the Japanese Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims as its own and calls the “Diaoyus.” It was the most provocative incident to date in the territorial dispute between the two states, and Japan scrambled eight F-15 fighter jets to pursue the Chinese aircraft, which slipped back into Chinese airspace. The Chinese have engaged in ever-bolder incursions into Japanese territorial waters around the minuscule islands, these actions being of a piece with China’s larger strategy of maritime assertiveness in the Far East. Particularly striking have been Beijing’s nonnegotiable claims to vast swaths of sea that abut Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the strident nature of the anti-Japanese discourse in China. The Senkakus have been under Japanese control since 1885, when, as terra nullius (or land belonging to no one), they were occupied by Japan and passed into Japanese sovereignty. China acquiesced to Japan’s title until 1970, not once raising a claim to the islands; but then, with evidence of oil in the islands’ vicinity, Beijing took to asserting title over them. The U.S. has not taken a formal position on the sovereignty of the Senkakus, but has made it clear that the U.S.-Japan security treaty would extend protection to the islands. Experts believe that the Chinese incursions are intended to influence the U.S. to exclude the islands from the treaty’s ambit, for fear of being sucked into war with China.

What’s in a Name?

Rather a lot, if news from Mingora, in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, is any indication. Mingora is the town where Malala Yousafzai, a 12-year-old schoolgirl, was shot by the Taliban, who were incensed by her advocacy for female education. Her cause was taken up by Pakistan’s government, which flew her to the U.K. for medical treatment and which renamed a local college the “Malala Yousafzai Girls College.” Far from inspiring local girls, however, this name change has sparked indignant protests, with students ripping down her posters in the institution and clamoring for her name to be erased from the signboard outside the front gates. The father of one of the protesting students told a Newsweek reporter in Pakistan that the eruption was not a sign of disrespect for Malala. It was, instead, purely self-protective: “If the college is named for Malala, the Taliban will attack the building and blow it up.” A local administrator rued the protests, saying that they would give heart to the Taliban and embolden them in their war on schools for girls.

Mother Russia

Vladimir Putin’s obsessive mission to restore greatness to a Russia fallen on emasculated times has taken a quixotic turn: he has called on the country’s women to have at least three children each, arguing that there can be no national security without national fecundity: “In order for Russia to be a strong and sovereign country, there must be more of us ...” Current birthrates are an anemic 1.7 children per woman, and the president will dole out cash awards to those who would subvert the demographics. Critics respond that the real reason for a decline in population lies in Putin’s governance. At least 1.25 million Russians, particularly from the better-educated classes, have emigrated in recent years; so perhaps a nicer president would be a quicker way to get a demographic boost.

world-NB30-ravi-shankar Ravi Shankar, father of Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones, and grandfather of world music. Bruce Flemming / AP

Ravi Shankar, R.I.P.

He was a sitar virtuoso who fathered two prodigies—Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones—and influenced more Western artists than has any other Eastern musician. A bundle of complexities, he took a dim view of the drug-using young hippies who flocked to his concerts at Woodstock and elsewhere, even as he made it his mission to teach Americans and Europeans that a more salubrious path to ecstasy was through his music. We can thank Ravi Shankar, who died last week, age 92, for many things, but his most enduring contribution could come to be seen as his siring of the concept of “world music,” that portmanteau category that includes everything from ragas on the sitar to Gambian kora players. Shankar awakened the West to a nonoccidental musical canon of immense grandeur and richness. With that, he changed the musical world.

With Luke Darby and Jane Teeling