Wartime History and Beijing’s Response to the New Defence Minister in Tokyo

In the wake of the Upper House elections in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has completed a reshuffling of his cabinet. As described by Japan hand Michael Cucek, it was not a particularly inspiring set of choices made by the newly-consolidated Prime Minister: Taro Aso (the right-wing former PM perhaps best recalled for his off-the-cuff endorsement of Hitler’s constitutional revision style) remains at the helm … Continue reading Wartime History and Beijing’s Response to the New Defence Minister in Tokyo

Grain Politics and Sichuan in the 1950s

There are few lines of historical investigation more fraught in China than those concerned with food, security, and famine in Sichuan province in the 1950s. But where to start the investigation? Which reference points obtain? For Frank Dikotter, the reference point is Mao, and the beginning point seems to be 1953. In his book Mao’s Great Famine, the historian locates the origins of the famine … Continue reading Grain Politics and Sichuan in the 1950s

Writing the Early Postwar: White and Jacoby’s _Thunder Out of China_

Foreign correspondents are crucial conduits for insights into contemporary East Asia. As I’ve learned from my conversations with various bureau chiefs, stringers, and greybeards in the region, there are few people willing to share insights as journalists, as it is their job to be, and to stay, plugged in. For the contemporary historian, reading the accounts of journalists in the region in the 1940s an … Continue reading Writing the Early Postwar: White and Jacoby’s _Thunder Out of China_

Second-Hand Stories: East Asia in the Bill Clinton Autobiography

This essay was written in Seattle on 24 February, 2009; a shorter version was published at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma that spring. This past weekend I took a long walk up Seattle’s Dearborn Ave, encountering errant alcoholics, homeless in their shopping carts, shards of sunlight, and football fans with sandpapered hands.  As is often the case when seeking out new information, my goal was … Continue reading Second-Hand Stories: East Asia in the Bill Clinton Autobiography

Report on Opium in China from the German Embassy in Tokyo, 1944

On June 8, 1944, the German Embassy in Tokyo sent a report back to the Auswärtiges Amt, or Foreign Ministry. Unlike so many other files dealing with foreign affairs, at this particular dispatch showed no signs of Ribbentrop’s blue pencil — the German foreign minister was notoriously narcissistic and had to see the full text of every article mentioning his name. Instead the leader dealt … Continue reading Report on Opium in China from the German Embassy in Tokyo, 1944

Notes on Teaching the Nixon Visit to China

The Nixon visit was as clear a turning point as will ever arrive in diplomatic history, involving two of the world’s most important nations. The Nixon visit is a prism into talking about what had come before (the breaking off of relations in 1949), the crisis of the Cold War (inclusive of the Korean war), the Cultural Revolution, and what would follow – China’s “opening … Continue reading Notes on Teaching the Nixon Visit to China

The “Ground Zero Mosque”: The View from China

  This op-ed was written in August 2010 as a submission for the New York Times but never published. Things have changed quite a lot in the intervening five years, but perhaps the reading of the Chinese sources, if not the somewhat narrow US perspective, will be of some minor value.  Many thanks to Charles Kraus, among other things a Xinjiang specialist, for his comments on it … Continue reading The “Ground Zero Mosque”: The View from China