Pathogens don’t know anything about borders. They don’t care about history or ethnicity. They are interested in just one thing: reproduction. They are constantly in search of places where they can be fruitful and multiply. Trade and war have been the great facilitators of the plagues that have periodically decimated the human race. Soldiers and… Continue reading Coronavirus: Cooperation vs. Quarantine
The United States is losing its status as a Pacific power. It can no longer control developments in East Asia. It still maintains a large military footprint in the region. But that military presence no longer translates into an ability to achieve the outcomes that Washington wants. For better or worse, the post-World War II… Continue reading The Collapse of the East Asian Order
In the beautiful and terrifying novel The City of Devi, communal hatreds escalate in India and Pakistan until the two countries feel compelled to threaten each other with nuclear weapons. At least, it starts out as a threat. Pakistan vows to take out Mumbai, and India will level Karachi. But everyone involved knows that nuclear… Continue reading The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Washington and New Dehli are having a mutual lovefest these days. Donald Trump is popular in India — where only 17 percent of the population considers the president “intolerant,” compared to a global average of 65 percent — and he has warmly welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House. Both leaders are eager to bump… Continue reading Trump’s Majoritarian Dream
In talks this week at the DMZ, South Korea welcomed the participation of North Korea in the upcoming Winter Olympics. The two countries also discussed restarting reunions of divided families and reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula. Earlier, both sides reestablished their hotline. All of this adult conversation is a welcome change from the war… Continue reading Walking Back War in Korea
There’s been precious little good news from Asia these days. Washington and Pyongyang continue to trade threats of war. Right-wing nationalist Shinzo Abe won reelection as prime minister in Japan last month. Major storms have hammered several countries in the region, most recently Typhoon Damrey in Vietnam. And now, in the wake of those typhoons… Continue reading Building On The Good News From Asia
They were Muslims, and they were leaving the country in droves. Their homeland, a remote corner of a multiethnic country, had become a warzone. Militants had taken up arms to fight for their rights, and the central government retaliated in force. Human rights abuses, mostly by the government, were rampant. Caught in the gunfire, hundreds… Continue reading The Rohingya and the Responsibility to Ignore
The most aggressive nationalist in Donald Trump’s administration has been kicked to the sidelines. Steve Bannon, who served as Trump’s chief strategist, left the White House in mid-August after giving a candid interview to a liberal U.S. magazine. After a career of outrageous statements, Bannon finally said something in this interview that was completely unacceptable… Continue reading Regime Change in Washington?
John Dower is one the most preeminent historians of World War II’s Pacific theater and the aftermath of the conflict in Asia. His book War Without Mercy (1986) described the racial component of the U.S. campaign against Japan. In Embracing Defeat (1999), he examined the post-war U.S. occupation of Japan. He has long taken a critical look at U.S. foreign… Continue reading America’s Violent Century
Asia has been the future for more than a generation. When Americans try to glimpse what’s to come, images of the Pacific Rim flood the imagination. For movie audiences in 1982, the rain-soaked Los Angeles of Blade Runner looked like downtown Tokyo. By 2014, the City of Angels in the Spike Jonze film Her had more of a Shanghai vibe. This… Continue reading Who Will Take America’s Place in Asia
During the presidential campaign, when he was still battling an array of Republican heavyweights for the party’s nomination, Donald Trump indulged in a bit of hubris that would have buried a more conventional candidate. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said at a campaign… Continue reading Killer Presidents
James Mattis visited Asia this month on his first foreign trip as the new head of the Pentagon. It was less a get-acquainted visit than a damage control tour. His boss, President Donald Trump, had threatened to escalate tensions with China and prevent North Korea from launching a nuclear-capable ICBM. He’d accused Japan of currency… Continue reading Will Trump Complete the Pivot to Asia?
Review of Robert Boynton, The Invitation-Only Zone (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), 271 pages The abduction of Japanese citizens by the North Korean government is so fantastical a story that it seems to be the stuff of magical realism. It’s not surprising that so many Japanese refused for so long to believe… Continue reading The Invitation-Only Zone (Review)
Review of John Dower, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two (Haymarket Books, 2017), 160 pages John Dower is one the most preeminent historians of World War II’s Pacific theater and the aftermath of the conflict in Asia. His book War Without Mercy (1986) described the racial component of the… Continue reading The Violent American Century (review)
Americans don’t care about East Asia. That’s a strong statement. So, let me make a few qualifications. First, Americans love Chinese, Japanese, and (increasingly) Korean food. They like to visit East Asia. They will, on occasion, watch a Hong Kong action film or the latest from Park Chan-Wook. But when it comes to the pressing… Continue reading East Asia Is Invisible
Japan and South Korea have very close alliances with the United States. They also have had diplomatic relations with each other for 50 years, not to mention considerable trade back and forth during that time. At a popular level, many Japanese are wild about Korean bulgogi and soap operas while many Koreans love Japanese sushi… Continue reading Japan and South Korea: A New Beginning?
China is worried about climate change. The largest emitter of carbon in the world, producing nearly twice as much as the number two United States, is looking at a future of flooded coastal cities, creeping deserts in the north, and water shortages throughout the country. On the eve of the huge climate change meeting in… Continue reading Can a Green Asia Lead the World?
Voters went to the polls last Sunday in Burma to elect a new parliament. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) — Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — scored an impressive victory. According to the early returns, the NLD is on track to win over 80 percent of the vote and… Continue reading Burma: Democracy with an Asterisk
My wife and I lived in Tokyo for three years. At the end of our time there, we threw a going away party for ourselves. “No gifts,” we told all our friends. Instead, they could bring something for the potluck meal. Oh, and they had to take something away with them. We were giving away… Continue reading The Lacquer Box
Island disputes are a big thing in Asia. Japan and China both claim the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan and South Korea tussle over Dokdo/Takeshima. Japan and Russia still haven’t definitively sorted out who owns the Kuriles/Northern Territories. You’d think that these existing island disputes are a sufficient headache. But no: Countries in the region are making… Continue reading Asia: On the Rocks
Imagine an international event sometime in the near future known as the Apology Games. It is held every four years and features teams of professional diplomats, politicians, and conflict resolution specialists (with a few actors thrown into the mix). There are many rules in this Olympics, but one trumps all the others: contestants can only… Continue reading The Apology Olympics
In the ads in the back of old comic books, a skinny little kid is hanging out at the beach when a bully comes along and kicks sand in his face. The little kid, who weighed 97 pounds at the time, was Angelo Siciliano. He hightailed it to the gym, where he worked out until… Continue reading Is Japan’s Prime Minister the Next Putin?
It wasn’t long ago that certain pundits were predicting war in Asia. Back in the spring, the conflict over the South China Sea was heating up as China sparred with Vietnam over an oil exploration rig and with the Philippines over disputed reefs. Japan and China, meanwhile, were butting heads over a string of uninhabited rocks in… Continue reading Asia Smiles for the Cameras
By now, the phrase “Pacific Pivot” gives off a whiff of nostalgia. The Obama administration’s announcement of its intention three years ago to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward Asia seems to belong to an entirely different era. It was a time when the United States had the luxury to think geopolitically: to craft long-term policies… Continue reading The Dance of Superpowers
In 2000, I organized a meeting in China that brought together independent trade unionists, campaigners for corporate codes of conduct, and human rights advocates. We had spirited conversations about strikes and labor organizing and how to deal with the Communist authorities in Beijing. We didn’t worry about the government monitoring or breaking up our meeting.… Continue reading Hong Kong: The Future of People Power?
(written with Emanuel Pastreich) East Asia faces an enormous number of challenges. The countries of the region clash over territory, argue over history, compete for diminishing natural resources, and dispute the balance of power along the Pacific Rim. In response to all these challenges, the United States has offered a one-size-fits-all approach: free trade and… Continue reading East Asia: A Farewell to Arms
President Barack Obama’s recent tour of Asia was an opportunity to reenergise his foreign policy after a series of setbacks in the global arena. The four countries on the week-long tour — Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines – have all been eager to upgrade their relationships with the United States in light of… Continue reading Obama’s Half-Pivot to Asia
For the second year in a row, the world is spending a little less on the military. Asia, however, has failed to get the memo. The region is spending more at a time when many others are spending less. Last year, Asia saw a 3.6 percent increase in military spending, according to figures just released by… Continue reading World Cuts Back Military Spending, But Not Asia
International borders are manmade. They are arbitrary, although they often conform to some natural feature of the landscape. And they are very difficult to change. It is a cornerstone of the international system that borders should not be altered by force. Particularly since the end of World War II, the international system has resisted any… Continue reading What the Crisis in Ukraine Means for Northeast Asia
Last year was a tough time for President Obama. The health care roll-out was plagued by website malfunctions. His ambivalent approach to intervening in Syria satisfied neither hawks nor doves. Congress stalled on major legislation like immigration reform. And the leaks by Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on American citizens,… Continue reading Has Obama Already Forgotten about Asia?
- What’s Up with the Herd? FPIF
- Death and the Economy: A Dialogue, FPIF
- COVID-19 and the Global Economy, Inference
- Revisiting the Goldilocks Apocalypse, TomDispatch
- A Global Green New Deal Could Defeat the Far Right—And Save the Planet, Newsweek
- The Widening Rift Between the US and China, The Nation
- Between Rocks and a Hard Place, Foreign Policy
- Deserts vs. Development in China, Global Post
- Infantilizing North Korea, Hankyoreh
- Jeju Island: Paradise with a Dark Side, Washington Post
- Waiting for the Curtain, Washingtonian
- My Backlogged Pages, New York Times
- Starting Where North Korea Is, 38North
- Will Facebook Remake the World? Harvard International Review
- Are We All North Koreans Now? TomDispatch
- Bringing a Living Wage to the Farm, Alternet
- Writers from the Other Asia, The Nation
- The Forgotten Lessons of Helsinki, World Policy Journal
- The Politics of Dog, American Prospect
- Containment Lite: U.S. Policy toward Russia and Its Neighbors, FPIF
- The Costs and Dangers of NATO Expansion, FPIF
- The Selling of the Russian President, 1993, Z Magazine
- The Age of Diminished Expectations (Review), Commonweal
- Poland’s Solidarity: Who Is in Charge? Z Magazine
- Corruptions of Empire (Review), Philadelphia City Paper