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 the maritime equivalent of...
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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 apologize for the conduct of their own nation. In the...
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Is Japan’s Prime Minister the Next Putin?

In the ads in the back of old comic books, a skinny little kid is hanging out at the beach when a bully comes along and kicks sand in his face. The little kid, who weighed 97 pounds at the time, was Angelo Siciliano. He hightailed it to the gym, where he worked out until he turned himself into someone no bully would ever think of attacking. In addition to getting a new job as the strongman at the...
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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 the ocean between them. South Korea and Japan, both U.S. allies,...
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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 rather than simply respond to immediate crises. The United...
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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. True, we were in China, and the...
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