There will be many sighs going around the world on Friday next week. Sighs signifying that, for some at last, the waiting is over and we can get on with life, and probably as many sighs signifying an "Oh despair!" attitude as Donald Trump takes the Oath of Office as he is Inaugurated to become the 45th President of the United States of America.
Now, before you go rushing for the delete key (sick bag?) I am not about to charge off with a piece to add to the millions that have been written already ... and myriad yet to come ... of so-called informed opinion about the good, bad, ugly, truths, untruths and anything else the writers believe to be true on the subject of the next President. And they all think that their story is the only one to believe. I happily acknowledge that some have better insights than others but I am less sure about the rest and how do you choose?
No, I propose to be significantly more dull and actually just consider a few things that have crossed my mind recently, although partly as a result of what we might be seeing post the inauguration, in so far as matters are playing out in Asia. Before I do that, a little trip down memory lane. Mine!
January 20 is the designated day for every US Presidential inauguration, or at least has been since 1937, but it's an important date for me too because on that day in 1968, somewhere around 10 a.m, I stepped inside a BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation - forerunner to British Airways and sometimes unkindly referred to as Better On A Camel) VC10 flight from London to Dubai with a stopover in Beirut, arriving some time in the afternoon ready to start work the following morning. My first international "posting", never ever dreaming what I would do or where I would be 49 years later. Okay, that's enough nostalgia!
Have you been noticing what's been going on in Asia lately?
There has been much rhetoric coming from the USA over how they are going to rein in China and make life tough, and the USA has demonstrated that it wants a different relationship with Taiwan, and how it believes that the Philippines and Japan are going to need to be friendly towards them - although I am not sure what the US reaction will be if Japanese motor companies propose to build a car factory in Mexico. Lots of talk, but what is the reality?
Frankly I am not sure it is going to work out the way some might intend.
President Duterte, whose popularity in the region is quite amazing given his professed actions and methods in curbing the illegal drug trade - a curbing that in itself is laudable but perhaps not quite in the manner attributed to the President - has visited China. He suggested that despite his opposition to the creation of "islands" in the South China Sea, they and China should try to be friends. Smiles and handshakes all round followed by some substantial infrastructure investments in the Philippines by China, and an allowance by them so that Philippines fishermen could fish once again in disputed waters. Off goes President Duterte to Japan where he publicly states he wants the US forces out of the Philippines in the next two years. One has a sense that the Japanese would like a similar arrangement to get the US out of Okinawa, so this plays well with them. What has just happened? Japan has provided some finance for more infrastructure projects in the Philippines. Duterte is playing his international hand well.
Now here's a dilemma. We have to be honest and say that relations between China and Japan have never been that warm, and although Ms. Inada, the Japanese Minister of Defence has been successful in raising the amount of budget spend on the military they would still as a back-up probably prefer to keep the US fleet nearby as long as their personnel behave themselves. But wait a minute - didn't the President-elect say that if countries wanted US assistance they would have to pay for it? Where's that going to go for heavens sake?
And in the case of South East Asia I get the sense that there is still some comfort in having a US presence nearby - and if President Duterte is serious about ridding himself of US personnel from his country - especially if he has to pay for the "privilege", what next?
Add to that little melting pot the concerns being raised about North Korea's new-found nuclear missile launch capability, the difficulties being faced by Mrs Park in South Korea, the continuing woes of Prime Minister Najib in Malaysia, the "blasphemy" row in Indonesia - and we haven't even started on places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar - we have plenty in this region to think about already.
And while President-elect Trump faces a reality show of his own, starting out as something of an Apprentice, those of us with interests in Asia need to be very sure we keep ourselves up to speed with the local news. Maybe on twitter!!