One in a Billion

The story of An Wei overlaps almost perfectly with the story of Communist China. Born in a small village some distance from the northwestern city of Xian, An Wei was seven years old when Mao took control of the country in 1949. As the son of peasants, he was part of the first generation of schoolchildren to get a Communist education. He participated in the new communes of the Great Leap Forward,...
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Left Behind by Korea’s Success

In South Korea these days, a popular dish at trendy restaurants is budae jjigae—an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink stew full of noodles, red pepper paste, Spam, sausages, kimchi, American cheese, baked beans, tofu, and whatever else the chef might want to throw into the mix. Budae means “battalion” in Korean, which points to the stew’s origins in the Korean War. The conflict took a...
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America’s Violent Century

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 policy, subjecting the vaunted...
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Strange News from Another Star

NORTH KOREA IS NOT the information black hole it’s so often made out to be. It’s more like Alpha Centauri, a star several light years from Earth. We can remotely acquire a wealth of information about this distant location, even though there’s always a frustrating time lag. It’s not the speed of light, but the speed of processing defectors that prevents us from getting information about...
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The Other Vietnam Syndrome

THE VIETNAM WAR, for most Americans, has always been a tragedy with only two characters: the courageous but callow GI and the wily and ultimately victorious Vietnamese Communist. Everyone else, from the hapless South Vietnamese allies to the sinister Soviet and Chinese supporters of Ho Chi Minh, have been just bit players. This boiled-down confrontation has shaped a nearly continuous stream of US...
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The Real North Korea

Any book that purports to tell the story of the “real North Korea” runs the risk of serious overhype. North Korea, after all, is perhaps the least understood, least accessible, and least research-friendly country in the world. It has been called an “intelligence black hole.” Journalists rarely visit, and when they do they can’t just interview anyone they please. Historians rarely visit,...
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