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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.

August 31, 2009

Written by C.N.

Data on Beliefs and Attitudes Around the World

As our world becomes increasingly globalized and interconnected in the 21st century, what happens in one country is more likely than ever to affect what happens in other countries. The global recession that started here in the U.S. is direct proof of that. But in addition to political and economic matters, globalization also involves the diffusion of culture, attitudes, and beliefs from one country to another.

Within this context, it’s in everybody’s interests — particularly for Americans — to understand what citizens from people of different countries around the world feel about various global issues. To help in that process, the well-respected Pew Research Groups has released an interactive compilation of their Global Attitudes Project Key Indicators Database that compares international attitudes on a variety of issues:

This interactive database allows users to explore public opinion trends in 55 countries on topics ranging from attitudes toward the U.S. to people’s assessments of their own lives to views about globalization, democratization, extremism and other important issues.

Data can be searched by question, by topic or by country – and results can be displayed in map, table or chart formats. The findings are from eight surveys conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project from 2002-2009 among a total of more than 200,000 respondents.

Perhaps the most telling result whether citizens around the world have a favorable or unfavorable attitude overall towards the U.S. As shown below, the results show some wide fluctuations between countries and in some cases, within the same country across time (click on the graphic below to see a full-size version):

Click for full-size graphic

For example, European countries such as Britain, France, and Germany had high favorable attitudes of the U.S. in 2002, then declined roughly 50% in just a couple of years, then have rebounded to even higher levels in 2009 with the election of President Obama.

On the flip side, three of the U.S.’s key allies — Japan, Pakistan, and Russia — experienced a slight decline in favorable attitudes toward the U.S. between 2007/2008 and 2009 (some of which probably relates to the U.S. plunging the world into a global recession).

So what’s the take-home message here? These particular results (of course, there are many others to peruse) go to show that international attitudes can change rather quickly and can be influenced by a wide variety of reasons.


May 1, 2009

Written by C.N.

Asians in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People

Time magazine has released its annual list of the World’s 100 Most Influential People and I highlight the Asians or Asian Americans on the list (descriptions are from Time magazine):

Leaders & Revolutionaries

  • Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (President of Indonesia)
    The country’s transition from authoritarianism has proved that as a democracy, Indonesia can be culturally vibrant and economically prosperous. Since winning the presidency in 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has managed to keep the nation afloat, even during the current global recession. . . The time is right for Indonesia, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation, to assume a more prominent position in Asia and throughout the Muslim world. In response to President Obama’s warm overtures to Muslim countries for a new phase in relations with the U.S., Yudhoyono can take the lead and chart a new course for the region.
  • Wang Qishan (Vice Premier of China)
    He is the man China’s leaders look to for an understanding of the markets and the global economy. As a result, China has been supportive of U.S. actions to stabilize our capital markets and has not given in to those who advocate reversing economic reform to insulate China from the world. . . . Wang managed the largest bankruptcy restructuring in China’s history in 1998 and thereby prevented a banking crisis that could have crippled the country’s growth.
  • Ashfaq Kayani (Pakistan Army’s Chief of Staff)
    General Kayani, 57, commands an army with troops fighting in what President Barack Obama has rightly called the “most dangerous place in the world.” He’s lost more than 1,000 soldiers in that fight. He knows the stakes. He’s got a plan.
  • Xi Jinping (Vice President of China)
    As Vice President of China, Xi is considered the most likely candidate to assume the country’s presidency in 2012. You can already feel the Chinese system starting to flex as it prepares to make way for him. . . . Xi’s own experiences as a provincial leader and his firm politician’s instinct suggest that he is trying to knit the interest groups of China’s ruling Communist Party into something capable of executing the difficult political and economic reforms that have become essential. The running joke in Beijing is that anytime there is a potentially nasty task, Xi gets it: the Olympics last summer, and now an urgent new working group on social stability.

Builders & Titans

  • Nandan Nilekani (Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Infosys Technologies)
    Infosys, the information-technology-services giant, was India’s first truly global company, and its core entrepreneurial insight was that spectacular success can be achieved through innovative, ethical and transparent business-management practices. In the process, Nandan, 53, became both a corporate icon and India’s brand ambassador. . . . As the new India, fueled by its robust democracy and favorable demographics, seeks to make the transition from a developing nation to a developed one, it will need the vision and talent of people like Nandan Nilekani.
  • Jack Ma (Chinese Internet Entrepreneur)
    As founder and CEO of Alibaba.com, Ma, 44, runs one of the world’s biggest B2B online marketplaces, an eBay for companies doing international trade. Alibaba and Ma’s consumer-auction website, Taobao.com, did so well that in 2006, eBay shut down its own site in China.

Artists & Entertainers

  • Lang Lang (Chinese Pianist)
    He has started the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, dedicated to supporting young pianists around the world. You hear him play, and he never ceases to touch your heart. And he’s fearless. He’s not afraid to burst the bubble of false élitism.
  • A.R. Rahman (Indian Musician)
    A.R. Rahman, 43, dominates the music industry so totally that he has supplied the sound track for a whole generation. He enjoys the godlike devotion of India’s youth, but everyone from the street child who sweeps train platforms to the middle-aged doctor in Mumbai’s posh Malabar Hill hums his tunes. . . . Renowned for his immense range, he’ll do a traditional score for a conventional film, then blend exotic vocals with Japanese music and Western classical arrangements in his next project. A veritable Pied Piper, he has no competition, yet he makes it a priority to discover new talent and promote it.

Heroes & Icons

  • Somaly Mam (Cambodian-French Activist and Humanitarian)
    [As a result of the Khmer Rouge's genocide], 12-year-old Mam was sold into sexual slavery by a man who posed as her grandfather. She eventually ended up in a Phnom Penh brothel, beginning a decade of horrific rape and torture. She describes this period of her life simply: “I was dead. I had no affection for anyone.” . . . In 1996, Mam created a nonprofit organization called AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire, or Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances) that works with local law enforcement to raid brothels and reintegrate the trafficked women into society. . . . She has paid a terrible personal price for doing so, enduring death threats and assaults. In an effort to deter her work, brothel owners even kidnapped, drugged and raped Mam’s then 14-year-old daughter in 2006. Most people would have walked away. Mam continues to fight back so that others can be spared the pain she once suffered.
  • Suraya Pakzad (Afghani Activist and Humanitarian)
    It is difficult to name a more committed advocate for women’s rights in Afghanistan. A recipient of the 2008 International Women of Courage Award, Pakzad is the founder of the Voice of Women Organization, committed to providing Afghan women with shelter, counseling and job training. Her shelters give abused women safe haven, legal services and long-term protection. She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about gender-based violence that victimizes Afghan women.
  • Tiger Woods (American “Cablinasian” Golfer)
    You rarely see an athlete who single-handedly changes an entire sport. When Tiger couldn’t play last year because of an injury, golf ratings suffered. He has changed the way golfers train and prepare themselves and has brought huge numbers of new fans to the sport. . . . We should all enjoy it. We may never see a golfer like this again.
  • Manny Pacquiao (Filipino Championship Boxer and Humanitarian)
    Pound for pound, Manny Pacquiao is the best boxer in the world. But even more important than holding that distinction, Manny has connected with the people of his home country, the Philippines, to the point where he’s almost like a god. The people have rallied behind him and feel like they’re a part of him, because they can see his talent, his dedication, his grace and his class. The grip he holds over the Philippines is similar to Nelson Mandela’s influence in South Africa.

Scientists & Thinkers

  • Steven Chu (Chinese American Secretary of Energy)
    Chu, 61, won the Nobel Prize in 1997 for his esoteric studies in physics. . . Perhaps Chu’s greatest impact, however, has been in the area of energy. Long a vocal advocate of weaning the U.S. from its dependence on fossil fuels, he was picked by President Barack Obama for both his ability and his candor. With the future of the earth’s climate dependent on rethinking the ways we consume energy, both skills will be needed in equal measure, but it’s the candor part that might be the most refreshing.
  • Yoichiro Nambu (Japanese Physicist)
    Scientists have always sought symmetry in nature, meaning laws that are the same in all circumstances. Nambu realized that when a situation occurs that defies symmetry, a new particle is born. . . . A major task of the Large Hadron Collider, the particle accelerator near Geneva that was turned on last year, will be to search for a particle known as the Higgs boson that, according to Nambu’s theory, is responsible for breaking the symmetry between electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force. . . . Nambu shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.