THE COMMONWEALTH OF BAIZOU, commonly called Baizou (白象) and sometimes nicknamed the Tangled Policymaking Chimera of Baizou is a moderately-sized, genial, island nation in the Pacific ocean broadly east of the State of Japan, ceremonially ruled by Sovereign Haruto with a restrained hand, and in practice led by Premier Fukushima Sonoko with a fair vision, and remarkable for its inexplicably pluralistic population, truly Byzantine policymaking processes, and casual skepticism of unregulated markets. The compassionate, democratic, devout population of 21 million Baizoans love a good election, and the government gives them plenty of them. Universities tend to be full of students debating the merits of various civil and political rights, while businesses are tightly regulated and the wealthy viewed with suspicion.
The enormous, socially-minded government juggles the competing demands of Education, Administration, and Welfare. It meets to discuss matters of state in the capital city of Wakuna. The average income tax rate is 33% and even higher for the wealthy.
The very strong Baizoan economy is highly specialized and led by the Video Technology industry, with major contributions from Book Publishing and Furniture Restoration. State-owned companies and private businesses commonly interact. Average income is 51,000 pounds, and distributed extremely evenly, with relatively little difference between the richest and poorest citizens.
Stolen onigiri are met with detailed and thorough police investigations, Princess Consort Yuu's book White Elephants and White Lies is a bestseller, therapists are inundated with despairingly confused grad students studying legislative law, and political junkies are flabbergasted by recent cooperation between the longtime rival parties of the Marxists and Socialists. Crime, especially youth-related, is totally unknown, thanks to a capable police force and progressive social policies in education and welfare. Baizou's national animal is the white elephant, which frolics freely in the nation's many lush forests, and most Baizoans are adherents of Mahōzōhō, Christianity, or Buddhism (and sometimes a combination of all three).
Baizou is a constitutional monarchy with democratic republic elements located on an island in the central-west Pacific ocean broadly east of the State of Japan. The nation-state covers approximately sixty-five thousand square kilometers and is comprised of fourteen prefectures divided further into districts.
Though a small nation that often lives in the shadow of the more prominent Japan and China, Baizou has a relevant niche as the eminent powerhouse in VHS technology, programming, and design, having perfected the medium after its invention in Japan; it exports the majority of videocassette hardware and software, hosts the most respected programmers and designers in the technology, and is consistently at the cutting edge of new inventions and design, from the first Video Computers to the VES and SVES to the groundbreaking CARRIE automated intelligence.
The name Baizou originates from a mixed on'yomi/kun'yomi pronunciation of the Sino-Japanese characters 白象, meaning "white elephant," a phrase with multiple allusions. The most self-evident is the historical indigenous population of elephants, particularly white elephants, that existed on the island of Baizou before the arrival of the first Japanese settlers and the subsequent colonization and development.
However, historical anecdotes suggest that the phrase also stems from a rather cheeky epistolary interaction between the residents of Baizou and the Empire of Japan in the twelfth century; when the Baizoan colony began refusing to pay taxes and tributes as previously deemed appropriate for such a protectorate, a Baizoan correspondence claimed that, as Japan was the land and origin of the rising sun, and as Baizou was very markedly east of Japan, it could not be said to fall under the sun's rays as it passed to the west and was thus neither under the influence of Japan. In response to this tongue-in-cheek reasoning, the Imperial response casually mentions that Baizou's sunlessness must be why its elephants were so pale. Though the historicity of this event is not universally agreed upon, the white elephant, despite any negative cultural connotations thereof, was indeed informally adopted by Baizoan culture as a symbol of their island and people from the latter half of the 1100s onward and now is prominent on the Baizoan flag.
Baizou's formal history began with the establishment of a settlement on the island by Japan during the late Heian Period. In a short-lived exploratory effort, an outpost was set up on Baizou, though no other permanent settlements were constructed by this effort, which persisted when the settlers discovered the presence of elephants by which valuable ivory could be obtained as well as veins of metals, such as gold and iron. The name Baizou was given, in reference to the white elephants discovered in its forests, and for a hundred years it operated as a colony of Imperial Japan; the island proving its value over and over again.
During this period, there are sparse records of interactions with the indigenous Po-Usikwa people already living on the island. Although the nature of these relationships is poorly understood owing to the scarcity of the record, extrapolation based upon the present state of Baizou suggests that significant assimilation of the Po-Usikwa into the Japanese ethnic majority took place. More recent historical and archaeological research has found evidence of settler pressure on the Po-Usikwa moving them toward not fully consented assimilation. Modern Baizoan politics currently struggle with how to grapple with this new understanding of Baizou's relationship to the Po-Usikwa aboriginals.
Despite this assimilation, however, some Baizoan culture reflects the Po-Usikwa heritage. Most notable is the native Mahouzouhou faith and its shamanistic practices and occult magic, whose adherents still constitute a popular minority in contemporary Baizou.
In the 1100s, the dynamic between Japan and Baizou shifted dramatically. In its lifespan, the once-small colony had grown tremendously, now spanning the isle with multiple settlements. However, Japan still considered Baizou to exist in service to the rest of Japan, a resource to be utilized. While this arrangement sat well originally, with the inhabitants being few and having known Japan as their homeland, by the 1100s those living on Baizou had in many cases been born there. People had begun to see Baizou as a home more than a work environment. And as internal fiscal pressures led mainland Japan to exact further taxation from Baizou, what was a fanciful notion transformed into a movement within a lifetime.
In 1147, Baizou ceased paying tax and tribute to Japan, leading to a flurry of correspondence between the empire and the island. By 1150, Kobayashi Jirou, an official who served as effective director of the colony, in organization with prominent nobility that had established themselves on Baizou and other community leaders of the island, declared Baizou independent. In a surprising move, however, Japan did not press the issue, instead beginning negotiations for trade and diplomatic engagement. This caught Baizou flat-footed, as it did not even yet have a semblance of formal government, and in the following exchange, Japan is generally agreed to have gotten the vaguely upper hand with trade arrangements. However, as the Imperial regime declined and the Kamakura Shogunate rose to prominence, Baizou obtained a new opportunity to establish relations. It was in these treaties that Baizou established itself as a formal kingdom with Kobayashi Jirou at the head, claimed to be in accordance with traditional pre-settlement Baizoan rites and beliefs received through the Po-Usikwa.
Baizoan-Japanese were largely peaceful across the rising and falling shogunates, Baizou retaining its relevance as resource rich with metals, minerals, plant matter, and ample fishing. Emperor Go-Daigo even received from Baizou a gift of a painting of a white elephant from Baizou during the brief Kenmu Restoration in 1334.
International relations shifted again in the late 1400s and early 1500s as European influences expanded and came to Japan and Baizou. The earliest were Portugese Roman Catholic missionaries, in 1501 as part of a missionary effort to Japan as well. The religion, new to Baizou, took impressively well, leading to high conversion rates and the establishment of an eparchy in 1547. As these missionary efforts grew increasingly successful, however, European attention was increasingly drawn; by 1604, Portuguese traders made landfall in Baizou alongside merchants from the English White Elephant Company. While at first these guests were entertained and trade established, as the decades passed it increasingly apparent that intents were not purely friendly, and Baizou began to make efforts to eject these foreign interests.
By the 1670s, however, it was far too late. Portuguese and English interests had acquired sufficient real estate to use as effective beachheads, and hostility became violence as a three-way war broke out between the Baizoans and surrounding foreign powers.
The conflict was quickly at an end, though, in a surprise that would frustrate Baizoans through to the modern era: rather than lose the war entirely, then current King Kuronoma Hirotsuga struck a peace accord with the English White Elephant Company, giving up his kingship in exchange for being crowned in accordance with the traditions and rites of the Church of England as a Sovereign of Baizou, administrating on the Empire's behalf. Kuronoma's gambit paid off for himself, as he retained his autocratic powers and forced the Portuguese into a sheepish retreat—all at the expense of the Baizoans' dignity and sense of reason.
Literature of the period is filled with excoriating commentary against Kuronoma's decision, ranging from accusing him of betraying the Baizoan people to how little sense it made for a sovereign crowned by the Church of England to lead a nation that hosted a plurality and near-majority of Roman Catholic practitioners. Nevertheless, the tension rarely rose above serious complaint as England did what Japan previously had not - maintain a loyal military presence—and the grumbling of locals was tolerated, along with the rejection of the Church of England, so long as trade was maintained and Britain exercised the occasional abusive arrangement.
Baizou traded hands once again in 1933 when what was then the Empire of Japan expanded its borders in earnest. There was no bloodshed, as British forces simply abandoned the island before Japanese military forces moved in, appointing the present Sovereign to serve as administrator for the Empire. As was embodied by a Western aphorism that later became quite popular: new boss, same as the old boss.
In 1945, Baizou surrendered to the United States following a firebombing of Wakuna that decimated local infrastructure and yielded tens of thousands of casualties. Rather than watch this destruction continue, Sovereign Fujioka Hachiro, son of Fujioka Gorou, declared Baizou's surrender, yielding the island to American occupation.
The occupation ended in 1946, upon which Baizou was once again declared an independent nation. The tumult of the years, however, had put it in a state of severe disarray, and various legal reforms imposed by the successive Japanese, British, and American occupations left its systems of governance in a Byzantine snarl. Nevertheless, Baizou carried on and limped into the modern world, following the example of its neighbor Japan and implementing rapid modernization and adoption of a plenitude of Western influences. While Japan experienced long-term American occupation, Baizou was spared attention and set itself on incorporating the modern practices it saw in the world around it.
Through the Cold War era, Baizou remained aloof, joining the Non-Aligned Movement, thanks to the efforts of International Peace Party legislators.
1976 marked the invention of the VHS in Japan, which took Baizou by storm in the latter part of the same year, grabbing the interest of all manner of industry and field, from media magnates to computer scientists. Baizoan entrepreneurs and inventors took the technology to its limits and quickly established itself on the cutting edge of VHS and VCR technology by designing and selling home videocassette systems, perfecting videocassette-based computation, storage, and editing; and introducing the world to a rudimentary videocassette-driven "intelligent program" in 1989, the Casette-Automated Recorded Responses and Imitated Emotions, or CARRIE, stunning the world.
Presently, in the year 2004, Baizou sits comfortably on the world stage, neither a powerhouse nor a weakling. Baizou continues to reign premier in VCR technologies, though is otherwise often considered small and quaint. Academia has a vested interest in Baizou's culture on the grounds that it holds the last remnants of the otherwise disappeared indigenous culture that existed in the islands. Baizou's Sino-Japanese background, unique religious and traditional practices, and strong sense of social justice and societal responsibility set it apart both on the East Asian and international stages.
Local policy analysts and foreign academics consistently agree that after centuries of independence movements, a smattering of sovereigns' surrenders, two different colonial legal reformations, and a postwar government reinstatement-reformation-preservation, the systems of Baizoan legal jurisdiction, legislation, and administration have ceased to make proper sense.
The sovereign is the head of state; it is a hereditary title passed on to the eldest child. Sons were traditional until the 1939 reforms under Japanese occupation. Dynastic naming conventions are eschewed for the adoption of noble names that marry into the royal family. The sovereign is in large part meant to be ceremonial, but quirks of laws grant the office total authority over budget proposals and approval of magistrates, veto power over matters of treaties, declarations of war, education reform, congressional rule-making, and vetoes; temporary veto power over agricultural policy, subsidy policy, and election reform; and an uncountable smattering of other temporary and situational powers that sovereigns may spend a lifetime learning to master from signing some but not all treaties to appointing certain but not every magistrate to declaring quorums to changing quorums to changing police powers to censuring sovereigns to censuring certain censures and more.
Legislative powers are nominally held by the Parliament and the Council of Citizens (nominally, because all powers in government hold some form of legislative, executive, and judicial powers). Though traditionally only noble classes served in the Parliament, distinctions of membership were dissolved during the American postwar occupation. Parliamentary representatives (often called representatives for short) speak on behalf of prefectures and serve six year terms; their numbers are determined proportional to the population of the prefectures they represent.
Members of the Council of Citizens are councilors and are national, rather than local, representatives; councilor terms are four years, and elections are held every year. Twenty-four councilors comprise the body and are appointed through an instant runoff system by which citizens select the nine candidates they most want to see elected out of candidates to fill the six seats up for election.
The powers of the Parliament and Council overlap, but differ in specific areas. Parliamentary committees are able to offer condemnation of legislation, both proposed and passed, and can outright veto situationally; the Council is forbidden to form committees except by the permission of the upper magistrate, a council of minor magistrates, the sovereign, a parliamentary committee appointed by the sovereign, or a committee of the Council exercising limited license exigency; the Council reviews all budgetary submissions, the Parliament votes on budgetary amendments, the Council has primary oversight of education, health and safety, navies, piracy, assigning districts for magisterial assistants, copyright, declarations of war and technology; the Parliament has initiatory purview over armies, air forces, security, food standards, prisons, library work, peace treaties, and appointing magistrates.
Like the sovereign, situational factors grow and shrink these jurisdictions considerably and frequently, and each body (as well as its committees) can make special declarations or invoke unique rulings and precedences to affect what it or another branch of government can execute, from condemnations of proposals to overturning judgments to dethroning, crowning, uncrowning, and rethroning sovereigns; and more.
Perhaps most significantly, a significant portion of the legislative motions proposed, voted upon, passed, and failed by the Parliament and Council do not rely on simple majorities, and this can be affected by the prior mentioned rule invocations. Crowning sovereigns requires a majority in a third of Parliamentary committees or a two-third super majority of the Council body, approving budgets necessitates a third of the Council while passing them is effected by three-fourths of the Parliament except when the Sovereign or Magistrate declares pressing and necessary circumstances, reducing the vote to three-fifths of the body, and accepting treaties is a vote by 4/7 of either the Council or the Parliament, unless there is a magisterial or situational sovereign veto, which then requires a 2/3 vote for.
Finally, the royal magistry serves Baizou in judicial capacities, though even these offices are as entangled in the web of vetoes, approvals, temporary jurisdictions, and invocations as the rest of Baizoan constitutional monarchist republican democracy. Magistries break ties in Parliamentary committees and Council votes, though not the parliament itself; councils of at least three and no more than twelve minor magistrates can overturn sovereign vetoes, unless the upper magistrate upholds the sovereigns decision, unless the Council overrules the magisterial ruling or the original veto was of a technology-related policy, unless the minor magisterial council's decision was 4/5 instead of unanimous; the upper magistrate has chief authority over submitting proposals on judicial rights and prison employment opportunities; and the upper magistrate is the final authority to which cases are appealed, except in cases which the Council declares a legislative judiciary, unless the Parliament condemns that judiciary or the sovereign invokes royal judgment.
Through this interweaving network of exceptions, rules, conditionals, jurisdictions, pre-emptions, exemptions, voting benchmarks, and headaches emerges Baizoan policymaking. Baizoan VHS programmers are more famous, but their legal scholars may well deserve as much credit.
Global Federation Membership
Baizou joined the Global Federation, appointing Mizushima Miya (former Marxist party minority leader) as ambassador to the Global Federation, after a particularly spastic legal contortion. Political scholars broadly agree that New Liberal Party members in the Parliament, after failing to make headway on a policing reform bill with the Technocrat-controlled special Council temporary law enforcement committee, formed a bloc alongside Labor Councilors within the Foreign Engagement Committee and declared a vote on joining the Global Federation. Experts suggest that because compliance with Global Federation law would be mandatory to membership according to the treaty proposed in the Council committee, those who pushed the effort believed they would be able to entirely circumvent Baizou's Gordian lawmaking systems.
However, this attempt did not go unnoticed, and it was quickly voted down (the treaties requiring two-thirds for passage) until proponents were able to invoke a special ruling for three-fifths voting on foreign policy and pass the treaty. Sovereign Oshiro attempted to veto the invocation, but allies in the magistry formed a special council of seven to overrule the veto in a six-to-one vote. This lasted until Councilors condemned the overruling under temporary jurisdiction, but the magisterial council evaded this by declaring necessary powers and ejecting the seventh member who had voted against the overruling. This led to the Council committee authorizing a new Council committee which declared the magistrates out of order, prompting the Sovereign Pro Tempore to halt the declaration and order it to vote. As the vote was about to pass, a minor magistrate approved a Councilor to use unique powers to require a minimum abstention, ultimately forcing the vote to fail.
After a week, legal scholars sufficiently disentangled the mess to safely declare that Global Federation membership had indeed been adopted. Now, however, arose the problem of who would act as representative. In the wake of such a knot as was had, restraint won the day and legislators and the sovereign and magistrates discussed, proposed, and vitriolicaly argued about possible candidates.
Before the figurative armistice could collapse, Mizushima Miya was nominated against her will in a bizarre compromise. Because Mizushima was a relative newcomer to national politics and therefore did not dominate as a leader in either party bloc in government, nor align with the New Liberals or Technocrats, appointing her was akin to giving up the original loophole of getting around national legislating while also leaving open the possibility of any interest swaying her one way or another, thus giving all a fair shake. At the same time, because her Marxist commitment was obvious, both new Liberals and Technocrats could feel confident that she would keep interests of pary rivals New Conservatives and Self-Defense out of Baizou's international politics. Because the process of renouncing membership would've been even more difficult to meaningfully achieve, this was eventually "agreed" upon in the sense that blocs, parties, and factions ran out of ways to undermine it, and Mizushima was somewhat unceremoniously removed from her Councilorship (coincidentally giving the Wakuna Restoration bloc a new majority in the temporary special committee on magnetic tape manufacturing regulation) and shipped off to the Global Federation.