George H.W. Bush in Mao’s China

  With the death of George H.W. Bush, it is an opportune time to look back at his time as the top U.S. diplomat in Beijing in the immediate aftermath of Nixon’s 1972 groundbreaking visit to China. Although the period of Bush’s presidency (1989-1993) has yet to hit the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes, a large amount of open-source material has been made available … Continue reading George H.W. Bush in Mao’s China

North Koreans Watching Fox

This post operates on sanity-preserving ground rules: No referring to: think-pieces, think-tank analyses, journalistic hot takes, outraged or absurd Tweets (other than those thumbed out by POTUS), Chuck Schumer’s courageous stand against a commemorative coin, or speculation about what this consistently incoherent White House intends to do. Do not engage with the orgy of clickbait flowing out of the inexplicable leak from the Pompeo/Andrew Kim … Continue reading North Koreans Watching Fox

New Book Reviews: Espionage in Republican China, and Britain’s Role in the Korean War

My two new book reviews engage with the intelligence history of two chaotic decades in China, and the British role in the Korean War, respectively. Review of Panagiotis Dimitrakis, The Secret War for China: Espionage, Revolution and the Rise of Mao (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017). Forthcoming in War in History (submitted 10 March 2018) Panagiotis Dimitrakis has clearly had a lot of fun compiling this … Continue reading New Book Reviews: Espionage in Republican China, and Britain’s Role in the Korean War

Resources on North Korean Music Diplomacy

  One strand of my ongoing academic work as a historian of Northeast Asia concerns music and cultural diplomacy in and by North Korea. My published online work on this topic generally does a few things. It: – tries to understand what the music scene means for broader cultural changes in Kim Jong-un’s Korea; – documents which ensembles seem to be in the favour of … Continue reading Resources on North Korean Music Diplomacy

Hillary Clinton and the Taxing Friendship: China and North Korea

This essay, previously unpublished, was written in Seattle on 27 May 2010. Hillary Clinton arrived in Beijing last weekend to send an urgent message to China: put pressure on North Korea.  Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are peaking, provoked by the North Korean sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and the consequent death of 46 soldiers allied to the United States.  Secretary Clinton, like … Continue reading Hillary Clinton and the Taxing Friendship: China and North Korea

Reflections on the History of Chinese-North Korean Relations, and US-DPRK Relations Today

Sometimes we need to modify the questions we ask. The question “Is the Chinese Communist Party going to cut off North Korea?” results in a fairly predictable string of analyses — usually adding up to an answer of “no.” Perhaps we might be better off by shifting perspectives, asking “To what extent does the regime in Pyongyang trust its counterpart in Beijing?” Such a question … Continue reading Reflections on the History of Chinese-North Korean Relations, and US-DPRK Relations Today

Comment on the North Korean Missile Launch

I was on BBC television this evening (via the Leeds studio) discussing the North Korean missile launch with Celia Hatton, who, fortunately for me and the BBC, is a veteran ‘China hand’ with years of experience in Beijing. Hatton is now a presenter in London, and she was kind enough to have a discussion with me about the relevant issues prior to going on the air, … Continue reading Comment on the North Korean Missile Launch

North Korean Human Rights: Rex Tillerson as Blank Slate

Will the Trump administration maintain and extend US pressure on North Korea on the human rights front? Will the Executive Branch aim to extend and intensify US criticism of and dialogue with Chinese counterparts on topics regarding the PRC’s mistreatment, hukou discrimination, imprisonment, and/or refoulement of North Korean refugees? At a 29 November 2016 event at the Bush Library, Senator Lieberman said keeping up the human … Continue reading North Korean Human Rights: Rex Tillerson as Blank Slate

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

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