Asia, Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Trump’s Majoritarian Dream

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

Asia, Korea

Walking Back War in Korea

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

Asia, China, Korea

Building On The Good News From Asia

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


Regime Change in Washington?

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?

Asia, Book Reviews

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… Continue reading America’s Violent Century

Asia, US Foreign Policy

Killer Presidents

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

Asia, Book Reviews, Korea

The Invitation-Only Zone (Review)

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)


East Asia Is Invisible

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


Can a Green Asia Lead the World?

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?

Art, Asia

The Lacquer Box

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


Asia: On the Rocks

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


The Apology Olympics

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

Asia, China, Security

Asia Smiles for the Cameras

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

Asia, China

The Dance of Superpowers

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


Hong Kong: The Future of People Power?

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?

Asia, Security

East Asia: A Farewell to Arms

(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

Asia, US Foreign Policy

Obama’s Half-Pivot to Asia

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

Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe, Uncategorized

What the Crisis in Ukraine Means for Northeast 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

Asia, US Foreign Policy

Has Obama Already Forgotten about 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?