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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

October 28, 2009

Written by C.N.

Role Reversal: China and Japan Relations with U.S. Changing

Ever since World War II, the Asian-Pacific political and military landscape has been pretty stable from the U.S.’s point of view — Japan has been the U.S.’s staunch ally while China looms as possible threat and enemy to the U.S. However, we might be seeing this situation change in opposite directions — China and the U.S. moving closer together while Japan starts to increase its distance from the U.S. In regard to the former, as Reuters reports, the Chinese military (no less) says it wants closer ties to the U.S.:

At the start of a visit to Washington, Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the People’s Liberation Army Central Military Commission, said military ties were generally moving in a “positive direction” and defended China’s fast-paced military development as purely “defensive” and “limited” in scope. . . .

Xu’s visit, which will include a tour of major U.S. military bases, including U.S. Strategic Command, was meant to give a boost to military-to-military dialogue, which Beijing resumed this year after halting it in 2008 to protest a $6.5 billion U.S. arms sale to Taiwan. . . . Last week, Gates said better dialogue was needed to avoid “mistakes and miscalculations.”

Xu said U.S.-Chinese military relations have improved since President Barack Obama took office in January and can be expanded further.

As an example of the latter development (Japan and U.S. relations moving farther apart), the Brookings Institute describes how Japan’s new government is looking to do things a little differently than its predecessors:

Among the changes sought by the [Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ] is a new approach to the Japan-U.S. relationship. In a statement made both before and after the election, [new Prime Minister Yukio] Hatoyama has pledged to build “a close and equal relationship with the United States,” which implies that the new government will re-examine the current relationship with Washington.

He has also proposed an idea to create a so-called “East Asian Community” . . . [that] would include such countries as China, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the ASEAN countries, but would exclude the U.S. . . .

[DPJ co-founder and former leader Ichiro] Ozawa’s basic argument is that the [Japan’s] overseas deployment for international peace activities should be carried out based on UN resolutions, rather than on alliance-based agreements with the United States. His basic idea is “Japan has to have an equal relationship with the U.S. It should have its own voice.”

This approach is already causing some concern in Washington, and it will certainly cause stress in the Japan-U.S. relationship when in January the DPJ will terminate the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling activities in the Indian Ocean which support U.S. and coalition activities in Afghanistan.

We should note that both articles make clear that the status quo is still in effect for now. That is, big differences and suspicions remain between the U.S. and China and that the overall political relationship between Japan and the U.S. is still strong. Nonetheless, these developments demonstrate that international relations can change rather quickly.

In fact, this rapid pace of international political and military evolution seems to be one of the basic characteristics of the Asian-Pacific region in the age of 21st century globalization. On the heels of apparent increased tensions between China and India, flux and fluidity are likely to be the normal dynamic of the region for the foreseeable future.

As always, such changes can create both dangers and opportunities for different actors and parties. This includes Asian Americans, who may have the chance to play a greater role in helping to shape these changing political, economic, and cultural landscapes.

October 16, 2009

Written by C.N.

Online Guide to U.S.-China Relations

Here is an announcement from my colleagues at the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA:

UCLA’s “U.S./China Media Brief” Commemorates New Era of U.S.-China Relations

On the People’s Republic of China 60th anniversary year (1949-2009) and on the eve of President Obama’s historic November China visit, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center releases the new electronic, downloadable version of the “Presidents Edition” of the U.S.-China Media Brief to commemorate a new era of Sino-American relations. The “Presidents Edition” also serves as a handy electronic guide, together with the previous downloadable “Beijing Olympics Edition” to current issues in U.S.-China relations.

The U.S./China Media Brief website offers exclusive interviews with experts in U.S.-Chinese relations, commentary by former President Jimmy Carter, and essays exploring topics that range from labor unions to Obama’s potential impact on China.

Recent YouTube and podcast profiles feature: media expert Li Xiguang of Tsinghua University, Beijing; Janet Yang, Chinese American film producer; Gordon Chang, Stanford professor; Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times Beijing Bureau chief; Cheng Siwei “the father of Chinese venture capitalism;” and Y.C. Chen, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on U.S. corporate labor practices in Southern China.

The U.S./China Media Brief is accessible online for your viewing. Downloadable guides and materials include the following:

  • The entire 24-page, six-color 2009 U.S./China Media Brief “Presidents Edition,” which contains useful maps, charts, and commentary as well as summaries of key issues that will form the backdrop of President Obama’s November trip to China.
  • “China and the U.S. in the World,” a seven-page fold-out map that compares U.S. and Chinese energy, resources, and influence in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East developed by Harvard-trained researcher Sharon Owyang.
  • Downloadable video and audio podcasts that contain exclusive interviews with experts in U.S.-China relations. You can also find video interviews with these experts on YouTube.
  • A compact Presidential Chart and Guide that traces the three decades of Sino-American normalization. This chart and guide summarizes past U.S. presidents’ relationship with Chinese leaders, ranging from Nixon to Obama.
  • An illustrated U.S.-China timeline that highlights key events/moments in the 200 year history between the U.S. and China.
  • Also, the 2008 “Beijing Olympics Edition,” reviewed by the New York Times on its Olympics blog (downloadable).

The U.S./China Media Brief was funded by the Walter and Shirley Wang U.S./China Relations and Communications Program at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.