• Zhuangzi and the Becoming of Nothingness (SUNY Press, 2018) offers a radical rereading of the Daoist classic Zhuangzi by bringing to light the role of nothingness in grounding the cosmological and metaphysical aspects of its thought. Through a careful analysis of the text and its appended commentaries, David Chai reveals not only how nothingness physically enriches the myriad things of the world, but also why the Zhuangzi prefers nothingness over being as a means to expound the authentic way of Dao. Chai weaves together Dao, nothingness, and being in order to reassess the nature and significance of Daoist philosophy, both within its own historical milieu and for modern readers interested in applying the principles of Daoism to their own lived experiences. Chai concludes that nothingness is neither a nihilistic force nor an existential threat; instead, it is a vital component of Dao's creative power and the life-praxis of the sage.
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  • Greater interest in what is happening in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang in recent years has generated a proportional need for context, and especially insights into the politics and policies being enacted there and how these interface with local perspectives. For this reason and many others, David Tobin’s Securing China's Northwest Frontier: (Cambridge UP, 2020) is a vital contribution to our understanding of the PRC state-building and narrative-creation efforts which justify projects like the region’s vast network of detention camps. More than this, the book also delves into the lives of ordinary residents of Urumqi, the region’s capital, and how they respond to state efforts to craft a hegemonic vision of Chinese state- and nationhood.
    Moving smoothly from the promotion and performance of discourses of ethnic unity, to discussion of how Xinjiang’s Uyghur population is officially constructed simultaneously as integral to a process of ethnic “fusion” and irreconcilably “Other”, the book draws on textual analysis and fieldwork in the region to reveal a textured picture of a place and populations under immense stress. Urumqi residents of different backgrounds, Tobin shows, have differential abilities to voice alternative views of what identity and security mean, which in turn cut to the very heart of what “China” means and represents for its own citizens and, perhaps, for those beyond its borders too.
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  • Mongolia is sometimes seen as one of the few examples of a successful youth-led revolution, where a 1990 movement forced the Soviet-appointed Politburo to resign. In Young Mongols: Forging Democracy in the Wild, Wild East (Penguin Random House SEA: 2020), Aubrey Menard profiles many of today’s young activists in Mongolia, in a wide array of different areas like pollution, feminism, LGBT rights, and journalism.
    In this interview, we discuss several of the activists profiled in her book, as well as discuss the development of Mongolia's democracy. We talk about whether we can think about young Mongolians as a "generation", and whether the country's experience supports or challenges normal democratic theory. We also touch base on what's been happening in Mongolia since she published her book.
    Aubrey Menard is an expert on political transitions, elections and democracy, working on democracy and governance issues in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Central America and the United States. She lived in Mongolia as a Luce Scholar from 2015 to 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @AubreyMenard.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, where you can find its review of Young Mongols. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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  • “Imagine you live in a freewheeling city like New York or London – one of the world’s leading financial, educational, and cultural centres. Then imagine that one of the world’s most infamous authoritarian regimes makes direct control over your city, introducing secret police, warrant less surveillance and searches, massive repression and the arrest of protestors, and aggressive prosecution… This is what just happened in Hong Kong”
    --Michael C. Davis
    It is difficult to understand the pace or extent of the changes in Hong Kong since the protests began in June 2019, however in his latest book, Michael C. Davis breaks down for both the uninitiated and expert alike, the political, legal and informal events that have shaped Hong Kong under China’s ever expanding controls. In recent years, Beijing’s increasing interference with Hong Kong’s autonomy has begun to erode the promised “one country, two systems” model. The tension between one country and two systems came to a head in 2019; the world watched Hong Kong’s widespread protests demanding the maintenance of Hong Kong’s autonomy, rule of law and basic freedoms. In an attempt to quell the resistance movement, in 2020 Beijing introduced a National Security Law which has had a chilling effect on society. In Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law (Columbia UP, 2020), Professor Davis contextualizes these events in Hong Kong’s political history, giving the reader unique understandings about the events of 2019 and 2020.
    Professor Michael C. Davis has taught human rights and constitutional law in Hong Kong for over three decades. Through that time, he has witnessed first-hand the changes from the period before the handover in 1997 under British Colonial Rule, including the events after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. He was instrumental in the organisation of the massive 2003 and 2004 protests, and witnessed first-hand the protests of the 2014 Occupy Central movement. He brings his unique insights to this book. Davis is the author of a number of books and his scholarship engages a wide range of issues relating to human rights, the rule of law and constitutionalism in emerging states. He is widely published in both academic circles and also popular news media. In 2014 he was awarded the 2014 Human Rights Press Award for his commentary by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club.
    Jane Richards is a doctoral candidate in Human Rights Law at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include disability, equality, criminal law and civil disobedience. You can find her on twitter @JaneRichardsHK where she avidly follows the Hong Kong’s protests and its politics.
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  • The Art of Persistence: Akamatsu Toshiko and the Visual Cultures of Transwar Japan (U Hawaii Press, 2019) examines the relations between art and politics in transwar Japan, exploring these via a microhistory of the artist, memoirist, and activist Akamatsu Toshiko (also known as Maruki Toshi, 1912–2000). Scaling up from the details of Akamatsu’s lived experience, the book addresses major events in modern Japanese history, including colonization and empire, war, the nuclear bombings, and the transwar proletarian movement. More broadly, it outlines an ethical position known as persistence, which occupies the grey area between complicity and resistance: Like resilience, persistence signals a commitment to not disappearing—a fierce act of taking up space but often from a position of privilege, among the classes and people in power. Akamatsu grew up in a settler-colonial family in rural Hokkaido before attending arts college in Tokyo and becoming one of the first women to receive formal training as an oil painter in Japan. She later worked as a governess in the home of a Moscow diplomat and traveled to the Japanese Mandate in Micronesia before returning home to write and illustrate children’s books set in the Pacific. She married the surrealist poet and painter Maruki Iri (1901–1995), and together in 1948—and in defiance of Occupation censorship—they began creating and exhibiting the Nuclear Series, some of the most influential and powerful artwork depicting the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. For the next forty or more years, the couple toured the world to protest war and nuclear proliferation and were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.
    With abundant excerpts and drawings from Akamatsu’s journals and sketchbooks, The Art of Persistence offers a bridge between scholarship on imperial Japan and postwar memory cultures, arguing for the importance of each individual’s historical agency. While uncovering the longue durée of Japan’s visual cultures of war, it charts the development of the national(ist) “literature for little citizens” movement and Japan’s postwar reorientation toward global multiculturalism. Finally, the work proposes ways to enlist artwork generally, and the museum specifically, as a site of ethical engagement.
    Charlotte Eubanks is associate professor of comparative literature, Japanese and Asian Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. She studies the material culture of books and word/image relations, with a focus on Japanese literature from the medieval period to the present. Her articles have appeared in Ars Orientalis, Book History, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, PMLA, Symposium, Word &Image, and a range of other venues. She is associate editor at the journal Verge: Studies in Global Asias.
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  • We think of blue and white porcelain as the ultimate global commodity: throughout East and Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean including the African coasts, the Americas and Europe, consumers desired Chinese porcelains. Many of these were made in the kilns in and surrounding Jingdezhen. Found in almost every part of the world, Jingdezhen's porcelains had a far-reaching impact on global consumption, which in turn shaped the local manufacturing processes. The imperial kilns of Jingdezhen produced ceramics for the court, while nearby private kilns manufactured for the global market. 
    In The City of Blue and White: Chinese Porcelain and the Early Modern World (Cambridge UP, 2020), Anne Gerritsen asks how this kiln complex could manufacture such quality, quantity and variety. She explores how objects tell the story of the past, connecting texts with objects, objects with natural resources, and skilled hands with the shapes and designs they produced. Through the manufacture and consumption of Jingdezhen's porcelains, she argues, China participated in the early modern world.
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  • From glove puppets of Chinese origin and Hakka religious processions, to wartime political theatre and contemporary choirs and dance groups, the diverse performance practices of ethnic Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia highlight the complexity of minority self-representation and sense of identity of a community that is often considered solely in socioeconomic terms. Each performance form is placed in its social and historical context, highlighting how Sino-Southeast Asian groups and individuals have represented themselves locally and nationally to the region's majority populations as well as to state power.
    In this episode, Dr Josh Stenberg talks to Dr Natali Pearson about Sino-Southeast Asian self-representation in performance arts, and challenges essentialist readings of ethnicity or minority. In showing the fluidity and adaptability of Sino-Southeast Asian identities as expressed in performance and public display, Dr Stenberg enriches our understanding of Southeast Asian cultures and art forms, Southeast Asian Chinese identities, and transnational cultural exchanges.
    Dr Josh Stenberg is a Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney. A scholar of Sino-Southeast Asian performance and literature, he examines the intersection of ethnic and political identity through the cultural performance of minority ethnic communities. He is the author of Minority Stages: Sino-Indonesian Performance and Public Display (University of Hawaii Press, 2019). In 2020, Dr Stenberg was awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) to conduct further research into the reception of China's state-funded cultural diplomacy initiatives among Overseas Chinese communities in multicultural societies.
    For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website here.
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  • “To mother, from Tsuneno (confidential). I’m writing with spring greetings. I went to Kanda Minagawa-chō in Edo—quite unexpectedly—and I ended up in so much trouble!”
    This letter, hidden in an archive in Niigata Prefecture, inspired Professor Amy Stanley to write her latest work: Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Scribner, 2020). She traces Tsuneno’s life, from growing up in a rural community through her escape to the city of Edo, where she lives in the final decades of the Tokugawa Shogunate. 
    In this interview with Professor Stanley, we discuss her book: the life of its main character and its historical setting. We touch on how Tsuneno's life tells us more about life, especially the life of women, during this period of Japanese history. We also talk about what inspired her to write about this ordinary woman, and what the research process was like.
    Amy Stanley is a Professor of History at Northwestern University, where she is a historian of early and modern Japan, with special interest in women's history. You can follow her on Twitter at @astanley711.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Stranger in the Shogun's City. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
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  • In 1702, the second emperor of the Qing dynasty ordered construction of a new summer palace in Rehe (now Chengde, Hebei) to support his annual tours north among the court’s Inner Mongolian allies. The Mountain Estate to Escape the Heat (Bishu Shanzhuang) was strategically located at the node of mountain “veins” through which the Qing empire’s geomantic energy was said to flow. At this site, from late spring through early autumn, the Kangxi emperor presided over rituals of intimacy and exchange that celebrated his rule: garden tours, banquets, entertainments, and gift giving. 
    Stephen Whiteman's book, Where Dragon Veins Meet: The Kangxi Emperor and His Estate at Rehe (University of Washington Press in 2020) draws on resources and methods from art and architectural history, garden and landscape history, early modern global history, and historical geography to reconstruct the Mountain Estate as it evolved under Kangxi, illustrating the importance of landscape as a medium for ideological expression during the early Qing and in the early modern world more broadly. Examination of paintings, prints, historical maps, newly created maps informed by GIS-based research, and personal accounts reveals the significance of geographic space and its representation in the negotiation of Qing imperial ideology. The first monograph in any language to focus solely on the art and architecture of the Kangxi court, Where Dragon Veins Meet illuminates the court’s production and deployment of landscape as a reflection of contemporary concerns and offers new insight into the sources and forms of Qing power through material expressions.
    Suvi Rautio is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki. As an anthropologist, her interests delve into themes, such as Chinese state-society relations, space and memory, to deconstruct the social orderings of marginalized populations living in China and reveal the layers of social difference that characterize the nation today. suvi.rautio@helsinki.fi
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  • Abe Shinzō is seen today through many lenses: as the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Japan; as a pragmatic leader with a consistent policy vision and a commitment to the art of statecraft; as a nationalist whose strong historical revisionist beliefs led him to make inflammatory moves that opened old wounds and antagonized Japan’s neighbors. In his new biography, The Iconoclast: Shinzō Abe and the New Japan (Hurst, 2020), Tobias Harris presents a painstakingly researched, engagingly written, and fair assessment of Abe’s political career and legacy.
    Beginning with Abe’s familial connection to the leaders of the Meiji Restoration, Harris show how the political dynasty linking Abe to his father Abe Shintarō and his grandfather Kishi Nobusuke played significant—and often controversial—roles in the political history of Japan dating back to the 1930s. Readers will witness Abe’s gradual rise through the ranks of the Liberal Democratic Party and his complex relationships with leading figures in both Japanese and US political circles. Harris skillfully analyzes the failure of Abe’s first premiership, the lessons he learned during his time in the political wilderness, and his path to reelection in 2012, which marked the beginning of his historic second administration.
    Harris’s balanced discussion of the Abe administration’s accomplishments and failures leaves no stone unturned, providing insight into everything from the Abenomics program and Abe’s efforts to revise the postwar constitution to an insider’s view of his diplomatic engagement with the Obama and Trump administrations and his attempts to improve Japan’s international relations. Readers predisposed to dislike Abe because of his revisionist perspective on Japanese history will be challenged to see him in a wider context, and Harris raises poignant questions about Abe’s missed opportunities for his champions to consider.
    Steve Wills is Associate Professor of History at Nebraska Wesleyan University and one of the hosts of the New Books in East Asian Studies series.
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  • Shinra Myojin and Buddhist Networks of the East Asian “Mediterranean” (University of Hawaii Press, 2020) is a fascinating study of the transcultural underpinnings of Medieval East Asian Buddhist traditions with an emphasis on Shinra Myōjin, a deity integral to the institutional development of the Medieval Japanese Tendai faction, the Jimon. It demonstrates the linkage between continental Buddhist Culture and Buddhism in Medieval Japan through the intersectionality of various subjective and objective actors such as, traveling monks from Japan bound for China, merchants and other immigrants from the Korean peninsula, archetypal old man and pestilence deities, as medieval Japanese aristocrats and Shungendō practitioners in the theoretical space of the East Asian Mediterranean. For those interested in transcultural Buddhist studies, Tendai Buddhism, and the diffusion of Buddhism in East Asia, more broadly this interview with Sujung Kim, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at DePauw University, should be an enjoyable and insightful listen.
    Trevor McManis is a novice monk in a branch of the Vietnamese, Línjǐ school at Phước Sơn temple in Modesto, California.
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  • In 1990, the Japanese government introduced the Nikkei-jin (Japanese descendant) visa and since then it has attracted more than 190,000 Nikkei Brazilian nationals to Japan. In Jesus Loves Japan: Return Migration and Global Pentecostalism in a Brazilian Diaspora (Stanford UP, 2019), Dr. Ikeuchi points out that “Unlike Japanese migrants in early twentieth-century Brazil, Brazilian migrants in twenty-first-century Japan lack solid governmental support from their home country, sufficient socioeconomic capital, and birthright citizenship.” Trapped in a suspended time and space of the precariousness of unskilled labor, Dr. Ikeuchi argues that many Brazilian migrants turned to Pentecostalism, a religion that allowed these people who have been “putting aside living” and feeling “neither here nor there” in Japan to find temporal and cultural belonging.
    Suma Ikeuchi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.
    Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational and transregional Buddhist networks connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and the Japanese Empire.
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  • In the past decade alone, more than ten million corpses have been exhumed and reburied across the Chinese landscape. The campaign has transformed China's graveyards into sites of acute personal, social, political, and economic contestation.
    In The Chinese Deathscape. Grave Reform in Modern China, three historians of China, Jeffrey Snyder-Reinke, Christian Henriot, and Thomas S. Mullaney, chart out the history of China's rapidly shifting deathscape. Each essay grapples with a different dimension of grave relocation and burial reform in China over the past three centuries: from the phenomenon of "baby towers" in the Lower Yangzi region of late imperial China, to the histories of death in the city of Shanghai, and finally to the history of grave relocation during the contemporary period, examined by Mullaney, when both its scale and tempo increased dramatically. Rounding off these historical analyses, a colophon by platform developers David McClure and Glen Worthey speaks to new reading methodologies emerging from a format in which text and map move in concert to advance historical argumentation.
    The Chinese Deathscape is published as part of Stanford University Press’ digital project series which aims to confer the same level of academic credibility on digital projects as academic print books receive. Innovative yet unostentatious, this platform sets new standards for combining interactive, scalable spatial exhibits with academic long-form narrative.
    Thomas S. Mullaney is Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Among many other projects, he runs his own Youtube channel.
    Luca Scholz is Lecturer in Digital Humanities at the University of Manchester (UK). His research focuses on European and spatial history. He tweets at @DrLucaScholz.
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  • Studies on marriage migration often portray marriage migrants as victims of globalization and patriarchy. Although there are intersecting oppressions among female migrant workers, the tendency to conflate marriage migration with sex trafficking among humanitarian organizations and scholars lead to erasure of divergent experiences.
    In her book, Elusive Belonging: Marriage Immigrants and "Multiculturalism" in Rural South Korea (University of Hawai’i Press, 2018), Minjeong Kim challenges this narrative by showing how the feeling of belonging eludes a simple binary between authenticity of love [read as inclusion] and exclusion. Through in-depth interviews with thirty-five Filipinas, twenty-five Korean husbands, and eight Korean community members, Kim explores emotional citizenship created between couples, in-law families, as well as the transnational network of Filipina migrants. As scholarship on citizenship and migration highlights the importance of emotions in creating communities and identities for migrants in their host countries, Kim shows how Filipina’s social identities, along with their locations, intersect with multiplicity of emotions to shape their belonging within diverse national, familial, and co-ethnic spaces. Through her rich ethnography of international marriage couples in rural South Korea, Kim reminds us of the danger of victim narrative that can flatten marriage migrants’ experiences, and offers us a new way of thinking about citizenship that is shaped by migrants themselves through a multiplicity of emotions.
    Minjeong Kim is Associate Professor and Department Chair of Sociology at San Diego State University. Her research areas include gender, family and international migration, as well as Asian American studies and the media.
    Da In Choi is a PhD student at UCLA in the Gender Studies department. Her research interests include reproductive justice movement, care labor and migration, affect theory, citizenship, and critical empire studies. She can be reached at dainachoi@g.ucla.edu.
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  • The breathless pace of China’s economic reform has brought about deep ruptures in socioeconomic structures and people’s inner landscape. Faced with increasing market-driven competition and profound social changes, more and more middle-class urbanites are turning to Western-style psychological counseling to grapple with their mental distress. Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy (University of California Press, 2020) offers an in-depth ethnographic account of how an unfolding “inner revolution” is reconfiguring selfhood, psyche, family dynamics, sociality, and the mode of governing in post-socialist times. Li Zhang shows that anxiety—broadly construed in both medical and social terms—has become a powerful indicator for the general pulse of contemporary Chinese society. It is in this particular context that Zhang traces how a new psychotherapeutic culture takes root, thrives, and transforms itself across a wide range of personal, social, and political domains.
    Suvi Rautio is a Course Lecturer at the University of Helsinki. As an anthropologist, her research seeks to deconstruct the social orderings of marginalized populations living in China to reveal the layers of social difference that characterize the nation today. She can be reached at suviprautio@gmail.com
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  • When you mention Japanese War crimes in World War Two, you’ll often get different responses from different generations. The oldest among us will talk about the Bataan Death March. Younger people, coming of age in the 1990s, will mention the Rape of Nanking or the comfort women forced into service by the Japanese army. Occasionally, someone will mention biological warfare.
    Frank Jacob has offered a valuable service by surveying Japanese mistreatment of civilians and soldiers comprehensively. His book, Japanese War Crimes during World War II: Atrocity and the Psychology of Collective Violence (Praeger, 2018), is short and doesn’t treat any event or issue in depth. But he offers a lucid and thorough evaluation of the literature and nuggets of additional insight. And he frames it with a thoughtful attempt to explain the conduct about which he is writing.
    If you’re looking for a deep dive into a particular topic, you’re not the audience Jacob had in mind. But this is a good place to come to grips with the broad picture of Japanese misconduct during the war.
    Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.
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  • Ye Shitao was a Taiwanese public intellectual who rose to prominence in the second half of the twentieth century. His encyclopedic A History of Taiwan Literature was published in 1987, the same year that the island’s decades-long period of martial law came to an end. The book provides a thorough overview of the major themes and representative works of each stage in the development of Taiwanese literature from the days of the Qing Dynasty through the Japanese colonial period and the postwar era up to the 1980s.
    Each chapter of the book discusses the historical context necessary to understand the concerns and influences shared by writers in each period, and Ye comments on both major and less prominent writers. Rather than a critical study driven by a particular theoretical approach or a central argument, the book is structured as a comprehensive reference work designed to be inclusive and accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike.
    Thanks to the skillful translation work of Christopher Lupke (Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies, University of Alberta) this valuable resource is now available in English for the first time. In addition to the main text, Lupke also includes voluminous footnotes contributed by two Japanese scholars who specialized in Ye Shitao’s work. Lupke’s introduction adds contextual information about Ye Shitao himself, and the translator’s epilogue traces developments in the literature of Taiwan from the time of the book’s publication in 1987 to the present.
    A History of Taiwan Literature (Cambria Press, 2020) is an important resource for anyone interested in the intellectual, cultural, and political history of East Asia.
    Steve Wills is Associate Professor of History at Nebraska Wesleyan University and one of the hosts of the New Books in East Asia series.
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  • Political scientists Alan Chong and Quang Min Pham bring with their edited volume, Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020), originality as well as dimensions and perspectives to the discussion about the Belt and Road that are highly relevant but often either unrecognized or underemphasized.
    The book is about much more than the material aspects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, various chapter authors use the Belt and Road to look at perhaps the most fundamental issue of our times: how does one build a global world order and societies that are inclusive, cohesive and capable of managing interests of all stakeholders as well as political, cultural, ethnic and religious differences in ways that all are recognized without prejudice and/or discrimination?
    In doing so, the book introduces a moral category into policy and policy analysis. That is an important and commendable effort even if it may be a hard sell in an increasingly polarized world in which prejudice and bias and policies that flow from it have gained new legitimacy and become mainstream in various parts of the world.
    Nonetheless, it allows for the introduction of considerations that are fundamental to managing multiple current crises.
    One just has to look at the pandemic the world is trying to come to grips with, the need for a global health care governance that can confront future pandemics, and the world’s environmental crisis to realize the relevance of former Singaporean diplomat and public intellectual Kishore Mahbubani’s description of the nation state system as a boat with 193 cabins and cabin administrators but no captain at the helm.
    In his contributions to the book, Chong looks for answers in the experience of ancient Silk Road travellers. That may be a standard that a Belt and Road managed by an autocratic Chinese leadership that is anything but inclusive would at best struggle to meet.
    That does not detract from the book being an invaluable and unique contribution to a vast literature on the Belt and Road.
    Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. He is also a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, a globally syndicated column and blog.
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  • On July 1, 2020, China introduced a National Security Law into Hong Kong partly in an attempt to quell months of civil unrest, as a mechanism to safeguard China’s security. In this new book, China’s National Security: Endangering Hong Kong’s Rule of Law? (Hart, 2020), Cora Chan and Fiona de Londras bring together a host of internationally renowned authors who question whether a national security law will challenge Hong Kong’s rule of law, and the liberal ideals safeguarded in its legal system, which have become a mark of national identity and pride for many Hong Kongers.
    The book examines the question in three parts. Firstly, it considers whether national security poses a threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law, in particular, under the unique ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model. In the second part of the book, there is an examination of the sources of resilience in Hong Kong’s politico-legal culture, which may provide resistance to the erosion of the rule of law. In particular, authors examine administrative law, the judiciary, the legislature, and civil society. In the final section of the book, authors examine the limits and scope of national security legislation in Hong Kong, and consider how it should be interpreted in line with Hong Kong’s common law traditions.
    To understand the current political unrest in Hong Kong, this book is a must read. It is also essential for understanding China’s security concerns, and what this means for the rest of the world.
    Jane Richards is a doctoral candidate in Human Rights Law at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include disability, equality, criminal law and civil disobedience. You can find her on twitter @JaneRichardsHK where she avidly follows the Hong Kong’s protests and its politics.
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  • John W. Traphagan’s Cosmopolitan Rurality, Depopulation, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in 21st-Century Japan (Cambria Press, 2020) presents a series of deeply contextualized ethnographies of small-business entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of contemporary rural Japan.
    Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Japan has been experiencing an unprecedented decline in population that is expected to accelerate over the coming decades. Rural areas, in particular, have been at the cutting edge of this demographic transition as young people often out-migrate to urban areas to pursue education and career opportunities and to explore spaces and lifeways viewed as cosmopolitan and international. At the same time, some urbanites have decided to either return to the rural climes of their upbringing or move there for the first time to start small businesses. And rural communities have attempted to attract large projects, such as the International Linear Collider, that it is hoped will draw in new people, prevent younger people from out-migrating, and bolster local economies. A combination of individual and institutional entrepreneurial activities is changing the social and geographical landscape of rural Japan and reinventing that space as one that blends perceptions and experiences of the urban and rural, cosmopolitan and rustic.
    While there has been considerable research on rural Japan and numerous studies that focus on entrepreneurs, only limited attention has been paid to the intersection of entrepreneurial activities in rural Japan and the ways in which entrepreneurs more generally are contributing to the re-formation of rural space and place. This ethnographic study develops the concept of cosmopolitan rurality as a social and geographical space that cannot be characterized as either urban or rural nor as specifically cosmopolitan or rustic. In the "rural" Japan of the early twenty-first, as in many other parts of the industrial world, we see the emergence of a new type of social context forming a hybrid space of neo-rurality that brings together people and ideas reflecting local, national, and global frames of experience. One of the key drivers behind this hybrid space is expressed in entrepreneurial activities by locals to generate an entrepreneurial ecosystem that it is hoped can attract new people and ideas while retaining ideational and geographical elements associated with traditional values and spaces.
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