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Archive for the 'Asian Politics' Category

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Sandra Fahy on North Korea and the Impact of Famine

Sandra Fahy, Marching Through Suffering

“This fact, that they use humor and wordplay, directly challenges the notion that [North Koreans] are all brainwashed victims.”—Sandra Fahy

Earlier this Fall, North Korea News interviewed Sandra Fahy about her book Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea, which we just published. It’s a fascinating interview in which Fahy describes some of the challenges of studying North Korea, particularly given her background in anthropology. Obviously not able to talk to people living in North Korea, Fahy spoke with recent defectors to learn about how North Koreans make sense of their world.

Fahy points out that the famine in North Korea has not produced the kind of social upheaval some policymakers thought might happen. She argues that famine rarely does cause these kinds of monumental change, however, she was surprised by the lack of anger on the part of North Koreans:

When I was conducting the research I was surprised by something: I had expected North Koreans would have been angry, annoyed, judging of the state for failing to provide food for them (as it promised to do).

They were angry after the fact, in South Korea and China, but when I asked them to recollect their lives in North Korea they did not have anger toward the state then. They did not see the triage of resources toward the military, toward the capital, as unfair. Rather “that’s just the way it was”—this kind of banal rationalization that was unusual to me.

I believe my most important findings are these: first of all, we should not presume that those who defect are always and necessarily the worst off. Many still hold the memory of Kim Il Sung highly, while demonizing Kim Jong Il.


Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Sheila Smith on 3 Things to Know about Japan-China Relations

In the following video Sheila Smith, author of Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China discusses how territorial disputes, economic rivalry, and wartime history continue to thwart diplomatic progress between Japan and China. However, she argues that the easing of relations between Asia’s two biggest economies is essential to securing the future prosperity of the region.

At 6:00 pm, Sheila A. Smith joins CFR President Richard N. Haass to introduce Intimate Rivals. The event will be streamed live here.

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Househunting in the Homeland — Part 2 of an essay by Wendy Law-Yone, author of “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”

“It struck me for the first time how stable, how fixed was the life of a dictator…. He was the immovable, centrifugal force that had sent thousands of Burmese citizens spinning out into the troposphere of permanent displacement.”—Wendy Law-Yone

A Daughter's Memoir of Burma, Wendy Law-YoneThe following essay is by Wendy Law-Yone, author of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma. This is the second part of her essay (read part one here) looking back at her return to Burma after years of exile:

The young reporters were watching us drive up and down the road at snail speed, peering at the house numbers from the open windows of our taxi. As we approached once more the high wall in front of which they were gathered, I asked the taxi driver to stop.

They crossed the road toward us in a pack: four women and two men in their twenties and thirties, cameras and press ID’s swinging from their necks, a boom microphone leading the way.

“What are you looking for, Auntie?” The sassy girl with the ponytail leaned in through his window to address me.
“House number Fourteen A,” I said. ‘We can’t seem to find it.’ I got out of the car to stretch my legs, and was immediately surrounded.
“Hello, Auntie! Where are you from, Auntie?”
“From this very street. I used to live here. At Number 14 A.”
“When, Auntie?”
“Long before any of you was born.”
“And Auntie now lives in – ?”
“London!” Ah’s! and Aw!’s of wonderment. I might have mentioned the moon.
“But tell me,” I said. “What are you all doing here, anyway?”
“Waiting for the prisoner release,” said the girl with the ponytail brightly. Then, seeing my blank look, “Auntie does know about the prisoner release?”

Auntie did know. Only Auntie had been distracted and forgotten the big news: Six hundred political prisoners were to be released that day—yet another earnest of the government’s dedication to reform.

“General Ne Win’s grandsons are coming home any minute!” one of the boys blurted out. “That’s why we’re waiting here, in front of their house.” I stared at the house with the high wall across the street, slow to take in the revelation.

In 2001, the year before his death, Ne Win had fallen foul of the ruling military clique and been placed under arrest together with the daughter with whom he was living. The following year, the daughter’s husband and three sons were imprisoned on charges of plotting a coup.

Ne Win died in 2002; his daughter was released from house arrest in 2006, but his grandsons had remained in prison. It was they who were about to be released.

“You mean,” I said, “they still live here?”

It struck me for the first time how stable, how fixed was the life of a dictator. Since assuming power in 1962, Ne Win had lived on this street, and died on this street, exactly where, as a fifteen-year-old, I had last set eyes on him. He was the immovable, centrifugal force that had sent thousands of Burmese citizens spinning out into the troposphere of permanent displacement.


Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Househunting in the Homeland — An Essay by Wendy Law-Yone, author of “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”

A Daughter's Memoir of Burma, Wendy Law-YoneThe following post is part 1 of an essay by Wendy Law-Yone, author of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma. For more on the book, you can also read our interview with Wendy Law-Yone

It was last day of my two-week tour of Burma, and the calendar was auspicious. Friday January 13th, 2012. Friday the thirteenth, at the beginning of a leap year! An excellent day to wrap up the business of househunting in Rangoon. That was how I had slugged the page in my notebook listing the homes I had once lived in and was determined to track down. HOUSEHUNTING.

I was born in Burma, but fled the country in 1967, at the age of 20. My father, Ed Law-Yone, publisher and editor of The Nation, Burma’s best known English-language newspaper, was still languishing in political prison when—desperate to escape the crushing police state my country had become—I decided to decamp. Accompanied by my brother Alban, I headed for the Thai border, choosing the “backdoor” route favored by smugglers and insurgents. Long before we reached the border, in the southern port of Moulmein, we were picked up by the secret police, and jailed for two weeks of interrogation.

Eventually, in May 1967, I was granted permission to leave the country—as a stateless person. Since then, I had been back only once: in 2001, after a 33-year prohibition. Some states are particularly pitiless toward their prodigal sons and daughters. The Burmese military regime was one of those states. Or had been.


Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

An Interview with Wendy Law-Yone, author of “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”

A Daughter's Memoir of Burma

The following is an interview with Wendy Law-Yone, author of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma:

Question: Why did you decide to write a memoir of your father’s life as opposed to a more conventional biography?

Wendy Law-Yone: A conventional biography would have required scholarship and research of the kind that simply wasn’t possible when I set out in earnest to write about my father’s life. Like a great many Burmese exiles of my generation, I was barred from returning home to Burma for such a prolonged period—33 years in my case—that I had pretty much given up hope of ever going back, much less of being allowed to investigate my father’s past in situ. But I never wanted to write a biography in any case, so that was not even in the equation.

The question was what to do with his memoirs, which had been collecting dust for years, for decades. What eventually supplied me with the courage – and the necessary interest—to give them the airing they deserved was the decision to tell his story from two perspectives principally: his and mine. My version of his life—and the ways it impinged on mine—would act as a gloss on his version. Anyone can write a biography of my father, I thought; but I alone can write a memoir. It was the one unique contribution I could make.

Q: What was the importance of The Nation, the paper your father edited, to Burmese society from the late 1940s to the early 1960s?

WL-Y: My father founded The Nation in 1948, the year of Burma’s independence. For the next fifteen years, throughout the post-war era of parliamentary democracy, the newspaper rose steadily in circulation and influence to become the leading English-language daily, with an international reputation. In 1963, following a coup that brought in a military dictatorship, his newspaper was shut down and he spent the next five years in prison.

When he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism in 1959, his citation read: ‘More than any other paper in Burma, The Nation has taken the role of a social conscience, speaking energetically against restrictive press laws, waste, inefficiency, and intolerance, and censuring “apartheid” and racial discrimination …’ The role he himself took on in the public sphere has few equivalents in modern journalism – he appointed himself both watchdog and blood hound.

When he died in exile in 1980, his obituary in the New York Times described him as “the first independent newspaper editor of free, post-war Burma, and also to date the last.”

Q: What role did your father play in the movement to overthrow the military government of Ne Win in the early 1970’s

He instigated the movement, organized it, masterminded it, and watched it die in its infancy. He must have hatched his plans in jail, because the minute he was released, he went into action. He convinced the deposed minister U Nu to spearhead the resistance he envisioned, then fled Burma to set up a government-in-exile in Thailand. The movement was soon joined by prominent politicians from Rangoon, as well as armed dissidents already operating in the border regions. He lobbied key members of the Thai government to provide a safe haven for the former Burmese prime minister—and to turn a blind eye to his subversive activities. He went on an international fund-raising tour with U Nu, banging the drum loudly on three continents. Then he returned to Thailand to engage in more diplomacy and conspiracy, shuttling between jungle camps along the Thai-Burmese border, vetting mercenaries and other would-be supporters of the cause, negotiating with Thai government officials increasingly fed up with the Burmese troublemakers they were harboring.

The movement fell apart within a year or two of its founding. But brief though it was, the coalition it brought together – of a central Burman government and an alliance of ethnic minority armies—was without precedent. It was the first and last bid for the restoration of democracy in Burma—until Aung San Suu Kyi and a new generation of dissidents came on the scene some fifteen years later, in the ‘8888’ uprising.


Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Video: Wendy Law-Yone Discusses “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”

In the following video, Wendy Law-Yone discusses her new book A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma at the Frontline Club in London. (Please note, the British title for her book is Golden Parasol: A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma):

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Book Giveaway! A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma

A Daughter's Memoir of Burma

“Gorgeous: vivid, precise and awash in remembered sunlight.” — Independent on Sunday

This week our featured book is A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma, by Wendy Law-Yone

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, August 8 at 1:00 pm.

Wendy Law-Yone was just fifteen when Burma’s military staged a coup and overthrew the civilian government in 1962. The daughter of Ed Law-Yone, the daredevil founder and chief editor of The Nation, Burma’s leading postwar English-language newspaper, she experienced firsthand the perils and promises of a newly independent Burma. This memoir tells the twin histories of Law-Yone’s kin and his country, a nation whose vicissitudes continue to intrigue the world.

Read the introduction to A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma:

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

New Series in American-East Asian Relations

Nancy Bernkopf Tucker and Warren I. Cohen Books on American–East Asian Relations
Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the creation of the Nancy Bernkopf Tucker and Warren I. Cohen Books on American–East Asian Relations series. The series is named after noted diplomatic historians and Columbia University Press authors Nancy Bernkopf Tucker (1948–2012) and Warren I. Cohen.

The goals of the series are to publish high-quality, rigorously researched works in the academic fields in which Tucker was involved. Selection of books written by new and established scholars will begin in late 2013 and will concentrate in the areas of political science, international affairs, diplomatic history, Asian history, and Asian studies. The press will be able to draw at least $15,000 from the fund to help support the cost of publishing and promoting each new title. The series aims to publish one or two new titles every year.

The series is made possible from a generous donation by Nancy Bernkopf Tucker and Warren I. Cohen. Before her death Dr. Tucker set in motion plans for the series, which was completed after her death by her husband, Professor Cohen.

Professor Cohen remarks, “This series is intended as a monument to Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, a great scholar, a superb teacher, and my beloved wife. Publication of works in her chosen fields will help keep her goals alive and ensure that she is never forgotten.”

Scholarly integrity for the series will be maintained by the internationally distinguished academics serving as series editors: Thomas Christensen (Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University), Mark Bradley (University of Chicago) and Rosemary Foot (St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford).

Those interested in publishing in the series should contact Anne Routon, senior editor at Columbia University Press with a proposal containing a brief description of the content and focus of the book, a table of contents or chapter outline, literature review and market analysis, and professional information about the author, including previous publications.


Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Denny Roy — The US and China Should Stop Striving for Trust

“Strategic trust will not be attainable for the foreseeable future. The U.S. and China have many areas of fruitful cooperation, which can and should go forward without waiting for trust to break out…. For these inherent rivals and potential adversaries, the emphasis belongs on ‘verify,’ not ‘trust.’”—Denny Roy

Denny Roy, Return of the DragonAs recent talks between Barack Obama Chinese President Xi Jingping demonstrated, the United States and China are still searching for a way to trust one another. But is trust really necessary or possible?

In a recent, much-discussed article for The Diplomat, Denny Roy, author of Return of the Dragon: Rising China and Regional Security, argues that more and deeper dialogue between the United States and China might not necessarily lead to an ease of tension or greater trust. Ultimately, Roy argues, suspicions between the US and China are warranted and the two nations have “irreconcilable differences over several fundamental strategic questions.” These include some of China’s sovereignty claims; the future strategic roles of Japan and South Korea; and the extent of China’s sphere of influence.

The misunderstandings surrounding the positions of each nation cannot be easily solved. Roy explains:

The problem is not that each country erroneously perceives the other as warlike. Both want peace, but on their own terms. Some of what China calls “defensive” looks to others like aggression. What America terms “stability” is “containment” to China.

Indeed, more “bluntness and honesty” might bring out additional attitudes that are not often discussed publicly and that would drive Americans and Chinese further apart, such as the Americans hoping for the demise of the Chinese Communist Party or the Chinese suggesting that all U.S. military forces in the Asia-Pacific should relocate to areas no further west than the Hawaiian Islands. More transparency would not dispel mutual suspicions, it would confirm them.


Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Andrew Nathan on His First Trip to China

My First Trip to China, Andrew NathanMy First Trip to China: Scholars, Diplomats, and Journalists Reflect on their First Encounters with China, edited by Kin-ming Liu, includes an essay by Andrew Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and more recently the author of China’s Search for Security.

In the essay, which is also posted on an accompanying site hosted on China File, describes his first trip to Maoist-dominated China in 1973. Nathan writes:

A three-week program of visits to production brigades, factories, industrial exhibitions, neighborhood committees, department stores, schools, universities, and the occasional classic tourist site, moving from Guangzhou to Beijing, then to Shanghai, Hangzhou, and back to Guangzhou. At each unit we sat in an arc of chairs or around a table, received a jiandan jieshao (simple introduction) from a “leading cadre,” took detailed notes, asked earnest questions, and walked through the facility trying to peer behind the façade of Maoist correctness for signs of real life.

Among other things Nathan, who traveled with other professors and young U.S. scholar, came under suspicion from Chinese academics for a reference he made in his book as well as Chinese officials who thought he was taking taking photographs of propaganda posters.


Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Siddharth Kara Interviewed in The Economist

Siddharth Kara

The Economist blog Feast and Famine: Demography and Development recently interviewed Siddharth Kara about his new book Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia .

In the interview Kara explains how people become trapped and exploited in the system of bonded labor in a desperate attempt to get credit:

Bonded labour, or what’s often called debt-bondage, is a form of feudal servitude, where credit is exchanged for pledged labour. The class in power will often coercively extract and extort far more labour out of the debtor than the fair value of the credit they received. Sometimes an entire family can endlessly work off a meagre loan taken years before. More than half of the world’s slaves are bonded labourers and the products made by them permeate the global economy.

Bonded labor is a particular problem in South Asia where there are high rates of poverty and a caste system which allows the unfair system to persist. In addition to the caste system and poverty, bonded labor also continues to exist and grow because of corruption, social apathy, and the fact that it has become part of the global economy. In the following excerpt from the interview, Kara explains how bonded labor has become part of the global economy, though it is often hidden within its complex processes:

Q: Are there any sectors that seem particularly prone to use the products of bonded labour?

A: Well, yeah. Often times the supply chains for these products can be very complex, so sometimes a company that’s importing goods may not realise exactly what’s going on on the far side of their supply chain. The industries that have the highest prevalence included products like rice, tea, coffee, but also things like frozen shrimp and fish, granite for your counter tops, cubic zirconia, hand woven carpets, sporting goods, apparel, the list goes on and on. Construction is another one, including office buildings for international companies, or major road construction and infrastructure projects.

Q: To what extent does bonded labour a problem of globalisation?

A: The global economy is a powerful force [that creates] demand. A company can scour the globe for under-regulated labour markets in order to benefit from cheap wages. Labour is almost always the highest cost component in a business, so if you can minimise or virtually eliminate labour costs you are saving a lot of money. The global economy does look for and demand and feed on these systems, which stimulates their persistence.

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

VIDEO: Interview with Andrew Nathan, author of China’s Search for Security

The following video is an interview with Andrew Nathan coauthor (with Andrew Scobell) of China’s Search for Security. The interview was done with China File, a project of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society. (Apologies for the glitch with the formatting; it should be corrected soon):

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Sophal Ear: Escaping the Khmer Rouge

In the following TED Talk, Sophal Ear, author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, describes his own family’s story of escaping the Khmer Rouge:

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Interview with Zheng Wang, author of Never Forget National Humiliation

Zheng Wang, Never Forget National HumiliationThe following is an interview with Zheng Wang, author of Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations:

Question: What is historical memory? Why did you use “never forgot national humiliation” as the title of this book?

Zheng Wang: Let me give you an example, while only some Americans actually witnessed the fall of the World Trade Center towers on September 11th, future generations of Americans are undoubtedly becoming connected to this national trauma through its retelling in the news, family stories, and classroom lessons. Historical memory is recollections and representations of past historical events shared by a particular group. For a group of people, their collective historical memory can be linked to both a single event as well as their national experience. It is collective memory of the past that binds a group of people together. For example, the National Mall in Washington D.C. reminds Americans of the glories and traumas of the United States. Each year millions of students visit their nation’s capitol to see these grand symbols and hear the stories that define what it means to be an American.

For the Chinese, their historical consciousness has been powerfully influenced by the so-called “century of humiliation” from the First Opium War (1839–1842) through the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1945. Chinese remember this period as a time when their nation was attacked, bullied, and torn asunder by imperialists. “Never forget national humiliation” is the English translation of a Chinese phrase Wuwang Guochi. In this book, I refer to it as the “national phrase” of China. The Chinese characters associated with this motto were engraved on monuments and painted on walls all over China. In general, this book examines how the discourse of national humiliation became an integral part of the construction of national identity and nation building in the different periods of China. It also explains how today’s Chinese youth engage with the phrase and how this informs their understanding of who they are and their perception of the rest of the world.


Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Stephen Tankel — Afghan War Is Not Over Yet

Storming the World StageYesterday, CNN.com published “Afghan War Is Not Over Yet,” by Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the author of Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba. In this article, Tankel takes a detailed look at the unsettled political situation in Central Asia after President Obama’s announcement of the “irreversible” plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. Tankel sees a great deal of uncertainty that must be resolved and a wide variety of challenges that must be be met before any successful withdrawal can be effected.

He first questions the efficacy of the Afghan National Army in maintaining stability:

The Afghan National Army is already taking the lead in regions with roughly 75% of the population, with U.S. and other NATO troops acting as support. However, this does not include the most contested areas in the south and east, where Afghan forces are slated to assume responsibility by next summer. Serious doubts persist about their readiness to do so.

Despite significant training efforts, the army’s level of competence remains in question. It lacks many of the support functions needed for war fighting. The army will remain dependent on international forces for these capabilities and on the international community for financial assistance, expected to cost at least $4 billion a year.


Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Bryan Tilt: China’s Path to Sustainable Development

April 22 was Earth Day, and in honor of the occasion, we will be running a series of posts over the course of this week by authors of our environmental studies titles. These articles will cover a wide range of topics relevant to the study of the earth and the environment, from global climate change to the effects of economic development on the environment in China.

The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China

Bryan Tilt is an anthropology professor at Oregon State University and the author of The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China: Environmental Values and Civil Society. Currently a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in Beijing, Tilt is working on a book about water resources in contemporary China.

China’s Path to Sustainable Development
Bryan Tilt

“Sustainability” is both an interesting analytical concept and a current buzzword whose precise meaning is difficult to pin down. Without getting too bogged down in the particulars of defining sustainability, it seems clear that the concept hinges on balancing economic and social growth with the limits of the biophysical environment. Nowhere is the need for sustainable thinking and action more acute than in contemporary China, where a population of more than 1.3 billion grapples with rapid industrial growth, urbanization, species extirpation, serious pollution, and a growing middle class of energy-hungry consumers.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Ho-fung Hung: South China’s Protests Are Not as Subversive as Many Think

“China’s escalating popular violence against local authorities and humble petition to the central government in the last two decades should be understood in light of [a] longstanding Confucianist conception of authority. This conception persists despite all the ideological and political revolutions of the twentieth century….”—Ho-fung Hung

The following post is by Ho-fung Hung, author of Protest with Chinese Characteristics:

The recent protests against land grab in Wukan and a polluting power plant in Haimen in South China have captured the world’s attention and lead many to ask whether something significantly different from China’s many other local protests is happening., The Wukan villagers’ orderly exercise of self-governance after the CCP authorities fled the village, as well as their political demand for local democracy, is rare if not unprecedented. So is the Haimen protesters’ occupation of the local government building.

The Wukan protest, in particular, resonates with many great uprisings in China’s history such as the Leiyang rebellion of 1844. In the early 1840s, local intellectuals in Hunan’s Leiyang County adamantly petitioned higher authorities against local tax abuses. The arrest and torture of a leading petitioner unleashed an armed revolt in which villagers seized the county seat and set up their own local government, which was short-lived and was crushed by imperial government forces. After the crackdown, the grievances against the Qing state continued to brew in the area and prepared many locals to embrace the Taiping Rebellion that shook the very foundation of Qing rule in the 1850s.

Despite their democratic demand and parallel with uprisings in Chinese history, we should also notice the Wukan protesters’ emphasis of their loyalty to the central government and their begging for mercy and aid from the highest authorities. In the Haimen protest, we likewise see protesters kneel during their action to beg for intervention from higher authorities to stop the construction of a second power plant. In this regard, these protests are not much different from most other recent local protests that are militant against local authorities but submissive toward the central government. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, China watchers rested much hope on such confrontational local protests and cast them as precursors to larger-scale movements that could radically change the status quo. But these waves of unrest came and went and the party-state remained in control.


Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

North Korea: Analysis from Columbia University Press Authors

A variety of Columbia University Press authors have been asked to comment on recent events in North Korea, including Victor Cha coauthor of Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies, who appeared on PBS Newshour to discuss the death of Kim Jong-il and its possible impact on North Korea and the United States.

Meanwhile, Cha’s coauthor David Kang spoke about the legacy of Kim Jong-il on NPR. In the interview, Kang addressed the possibility of a kind of “Arab Spring” happening in North Korea:

We tend to focus in America on the repressive side because there is certainly – it’s a police state. And there are 100, 200,000 people in prison camps. There’s a massive military and police presence. At the same time, as Sandra pointed out, this is the only game in town and so it’s very hard – if you imagine people who maybe unhappy down in a village somewhere, for them to organize and get together and actually engage in an Arab Spring is extremely difficult in North Korea.

So, in many ways I think the idea that there’ll be a popular uprising is really unlikely and what most of us think about is it would be some kind of palace coup or some top-down kind of problems that would eventually lead to an overthrow in North Korea. Not necessarily bottom-up with people taking to the streets.


Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

David Kang on Asian International Relations Past and Present

David KangRecently David Kang, author of East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute, has written about relations between Asian both as it developed from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries and the current situation between China and North Korea.

In a recent piece written for Rorotoko, Kang discusses the aims and arguments of East Asia Before the West. He describes the book as setting out to examine the seemingly simple question of how international relations functioned in East Asia before the arrival of Western imperial powers. He argues that assessments of East Asia are seen through a lens of European relations which distorts the distinct nature of relations between China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, etc. While there was violence in the region it was mostly between nations and nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes and not among each other. Kang writes:

Emphasizing formal hierarchy and yet allowing considerable informal autonomy, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and China had considerable peace and stability in their relations with each other. By contrast, the European “balance of power” system emphasized formal equality of nation-states, but entailed endemic conflict among states.

While obviously much has changed in East Asian relations—the dissolution of the tribute system, China’s loss as the dominant cultural power— and Western institutions and ideas have been integrated, Kang suggests that it “might be worth exploring how much and how deeply East Asian states have internalized these Western notions—and whether and to what extent any of East Asia’s past history may affect their beliefs and goals in the future.”


Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

What do Americans Think of China?

Living with the DragonWith Hu Jintao visiting the United States this week, Barack Obama will have to navigate a variety of both international and domestic issues. How does China’s rise as an economic and military power affect the American public? Conventional wisdom often suggests that Americans are wary of China.

However, Benjamin I. Page and Tao Xie, authors of Living with the Dragon: How the American Public Views the Rise of China, argue otherwise. Based on extensive polling and analysis of Americans’ attitudes, the authors conclude that Americans are by-and-large moderate in their views and favor cooperation with China but still have some concerns.

The authors write:

In the economic realm, we saw that most Americans now recognize that China’s economy is likely to grow to equal the size of the U.S. economy and is likely to do so rather quickly—perhaps within twenty or thirty years. Reactions to that prospect tend toward the negative. And many Americans—though happy to get inexpensive goods from China—worry about the quality and safety of those goods, about China’s trade practices (widely seen as “unfair”), and especially about the impact of trade and investment with China on the jobs and wages of American workers. Yet there is no evidence so far of an upsurge in protectionist sentiment, just support for measures like environmental and workplace safety provisions in trade agreements plus opposition to major investments in the United States by Chinese or other sovereign wealth funds.