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Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies

About Asia Experts Forum and International Journalism Lab

Thanks to a generous gift from Robert Y.C. Ho ’81, the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College launched an International Journalism Lab in the fall of 2015. The Asia Experts Forum is the web publication of the lab. The mission of this innovative project is to train student journalists in basic reporting and interviewing skills and provide a better understanding of important contemporary Asia-related geopolitical, economic, and cultural issues in depth through interviews with leading experts, practitioners, and scholars on Asia. Each year the lab recruits eight student journalists who take a course in international journalism and work with two faculty advisers in identifying newsworthy topics and potential interviewees, preparing for the interviews, and producing high-quality transcripts. The faculty director of the lab is Professor Minxin Pei. The associate faculty director is Professor Hilary Appel. The instructor of the international journalism course is Terril Jones, a graduate of Pomona College with more than three decades of professional experience with leading U.S. news organizations. Two previous student journalists participating in the lab later interned at the Wall Street Journal and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong in the summer of 2016.

Yunxiang Yan on familialism and individualization in China

Headshot of Yunxiang Yan​Yunxiang Yan is professor of anthropology and the director of the Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. He earned his B.A. in Chinese Literature from Peking University in 1982 and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 1993. He is the author of The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village (Stanford University Press, 1996), Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999 (Stanford University Press, 2003), and The Individualization of Chinese Society (Berg publishers, 2009). His research interests include family and kinship, social change, the individual and individualization, and moral changes in post-Mao China. On October 7, 2016, he spoke to Erica Rawles CMC ‘17.

What made you interested in the structure of the family specifically in rural China, as opposed to urban China? How does the transformation of rural families due to individualization differ from that of urban families?

First of all, I am not a political scientist. I was trained as an anthropologist and in my field, family kinship is very important. We pay a lot of attention to how people as individuals relate to each other to make sense of their life. Relationships thrive in the institution of the family. Studying a family gives me the advantage of closely observing individual life. 

Normally the trend of individualization starts in urban areas due to better access to information about the outside world and due to urban people’s higher degree of mobility. With all these factors together one can easily predict that individualization occurs to a higher degree in cities. Therefore, if I go to the countryside and study the same trend and the findings are similar, I can demonstrate that what is happening in Chinese cities is also happening in the countryside.

In your 2011 article, “The Individualization of the Family in Rural China,” you speak about the changes of traditional values specifically within rural families due to the trend of individualization. What additional changes do you predict the rural family in China will undergo assuming that individualization continues to grow in the future?

​Jean Oi on China's fiscal dilemma: finding balance between centralization and decentralization

Photograph of Jean Oi

Jean C. Oi is the William Haas Professor in Chinese Politics in the department of political science and a Senior Fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. She is the founding director of the Stanford China Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. Professor Oi also is the founding Lee Shau Kee Director of the Stanford Center at Peking University.

A PhD in political science from the University of Michigan, Oi first taught at Lehigh University and later in the department of government at Harvard University before joining the Stanford faculty in 1997. On October 8, she spoke with Aaron Yang CMC '17.

The amount of debt borrowed by local governments in China has skyrocketed in recent years. What are the effects of the continued accumulation of debt at the local level in China?

Anne Henochowicz on Chinese social media and censorship

Headshot of Anne HenochowiczAnne Henochowicz was the Translations Editor at China Digital Times from 2011 to 2016. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Postcolonialist, and Foreign Policy. She is an alumna of the Penn Kemble Democracy Forum Fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy. Before tracking Chinese social media, Anne studied Inner Mongolian folk music at the University of Cambridge and The Ohio State University. On September 19, 2016, she spoke with Caroline Willian CMC ’17.

Photograph and biography courtesy of Anne Henochowicz

What have the most notable developments in Chinese social media been since Xi Jinping came into office in late 2012? How would you evaluate the efforts of Xi’s government in controlling the social media space in China?

Right before Xi Jinping came into office, there was this “golden age” of social media in China. There was a lot of hope that social media could be used for people to have a voice where traditional media in China would not let them. That includes a lot of journalists who could use social media platforms, like Weibo, which was the most popular at the time, to report on things that their company or their paper wouldn’t let them.

The U.S.-China Olympic rivalry? Not what you think! with George Vecsey

Photo of George Vecsey

George Vecsey has been a journalist for over fifty years. From 1982 to 2011, he wrote the sports column for The New York Times, and he has written over a dozen books, including five best-sellers. He specialized in international sports and covered seven Summer Olympics, from Los Angeles in 1984 to Beijing in 2008. Vecsey graduated from Hofstra College in 1960 with a degree in English. During his work for Newsday from 1960 to 1968 and later at the Times, Vecsey has covered sports, Appalachian news, religion, and other topics. Vecsey is married to his co-editor of the Hofstra yearbook, Marianne Graham, an artist and teacher. They live in Port Washington, Long Island, New York, and have three children and five grandchildren. On September 12th, 2016, he spoke with Bryn Miller CMC ‘19.

In the Cold War period, the tone of Olympic competition between America and its greatest global competitor, the Soviet Union, reflected the tense geopolitical environment. Today, Olympic matchups between the United States and China, the current rising global power, do not have a similar tone. George Vecsey, who covered the Olympics for the New York Times during the Cold War era, explains why.

Before China became a major competitor for the top position on the medal table, what characterized U.S-China relations at the Olympics?

In the Olympics as well as in the broader picture, China was the emerging giant throughout the past decades. In sports terms, they were to be feared more in future terms.  Additionally, only specific Chinese teams were competitive opponents. From the American point of view, the Soviet Union was the main opponent for geopolitical and sporting reasons. China had great individual athletes and certain great teams, but was not America’s main preoccupation.

Are there any sports in which the U.S.-China matchup has been constantly competitive over the past 20 or 30 years? Are there any sports the Chinese have traditionally dominated?

Richard Bush on Hong Kong's 2016 elections

Richard Bush is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, holds the Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, and is director of its Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP). He also holds a joint appointment as a senior fellow in the Brookings John L. Thornton China Center. CEAP is a center for research, analysis, and debate to enhance policy development on the pressing political, economic, and security issues facing East Asia and U.S. interests in the region. He spoke to Aaron Yang CMC ‘17 on Sept. 19, 2016.

Photo and bio source: "Richard C. Bush III." Brookings. The Brookings Institution, 2016. Web.

The September 4, 2016 Legislative Council Elections in Hong Kong resulted in a record turnout of voters. How did the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 2015 Fishball Protests affect the election and the election results?

There are a lot of factors that led to the results and the turnout. It is hard to disaggregate those factors and measure their individual effect. Certainly, the Umbrella Movement and the Fishball Protests had some impact, but there were other things as well. There was the detention of a bookseller, Mr. Lee Bo, in late December 2015 and the removal of him to China. That created a great degree of concern in Hong Kong because if somebody like that can be picked up by people from across the border, then anybody can be picked up. It was a manifest violation of Hong Kong law. A lot of different things mattered, including the way that people draw conclusions about China and its allies from those individual episodes and events. But certainly, the results of the election were an endorsement of the democratic camp. If Beijing was hoping that the public was frustrated by the Umbrella Movement and the failure of democratic members of the Legislative Council to accept the proposal that was on offer, Beijing was sorely disappointed.

Uncritical thinking in China? Think again! with Scott Rozelle

Headshot of Scott RozelleScott Rozelle holds the Helen Farnsworth Endowed Professorship at Stanford University and is Senior Fellow in the Food Security and Environment Program and the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) for International Studies. For the past 30 years, he has worked on the economics of poverty reduction. Currently, his work on poverty has its full focus on human capital, including issues of rural health, nutrition and education. For the past 20 years, Rozelle has been the chair of the International Advisory Board of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). In recent years Rozelle spends most of his time co-directing the Rural Education Action Project (REAP). In recognition of this work, Dr. Rozelle has received numerous honors and awards. Among them, he became a Yangtse Scholar (Changjiang Xuezhe) in Renmin University of China in 2008. In 2008 he also was awarded the Friendship Award by Premiere Wen Jiabao, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a foreigner. On September 7, 2016, he spoke to Erica Rawles CMC ’17.

Photograph and biography courtesy of Dr. Scott Rozelle.

What prompted you and your colleagues to conduct this research on critical thinking in China and the U.S.?

I’m a development economist interested in the long-run growth of China. When countries are poor and try to become middle income, like China did from the 1980s and 1990s, there are lots of sources of growth: you can build roads, you can change incentives, you can invest, and in turn you can grow very fast. China grew 10 percent every year for 30 years in a row. After a country becomes middle income and tries to move to high income, and after it is high income and tries to maintain growth, the source of long-run growth is different. For the past 50 years, the U.S. has grown at 2-3% per year. We’ve grown on the basis of innovation, which is based on human capital. Countries that are middle income or high income need to have labor forces that are endowed with human capital if they want to grow. 

Phelim Kine on President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs in the Philippines

Headshot of Phelim Kine​Phelim Kine is a deputy director in Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. Mr. Kine worked as a journalist for more than a decade in China, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Taiwan prior to joining Human Rights Watch in April 2007. He has written extensively on human rights issues including military impunity, corruption, child sex tourism, religious intolerance, and illegal land confiscation. Mr. Kine’s opinion pieces on human rights challenges in Asia have appeared in media including the New York Times, Asian Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, The Guardian, and Foreign Policy. Mr. Kine has spoken publicly on Asia’s human rights challenges at venues ranging from the European Parliament and the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong to the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC). On September 9, 2016, he spoke with Chuyi Sheng CMC ’17.

Photograph and biography courtesy of Mr. Phelim Kine.

In his presidential campaign video, President Duterte warned the voters that the Philippines would become a “narco-state” if no politician addressed the illegal drug problem. In your opinion, how serious is the drug problem in the Philippines? Is there a real crisis that calls for a draconian response from the government?

Every country in the world has a problem with drugs and criminality. Credible statistics suggest the Philippines’s incidence of violent crime and drug use is roughly equivalent to that of the United Kingdom, and less serious than that of Australia.  The campaign launched by President Rodrigo Duterte, declaring the use and sale of drugs as a “national emergency,” is completely unjustified, given the scale of drug problem in the Philippines. It is particularly unjustified given that the president has completely trashed the concept of the rule of law and basic universal human rights standards which protect criminal suspects from arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions or killings. 

Aseema Sinha on whither the Indian economy after Raghuram Rajan leaves India’s central bank

Photograph of Professor Aseema SinhaDr. Aseema Sinha is the Wagener Chair of South Asian Politics and George R. Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College’s Government department. She was previously an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Professor Sinha received her B.A. from Lady Shri Ram College. Dr. Sinha received her M.A. and M.Phil. from Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India). She received an M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. Her research interests relate to political economy of India, India-China comparisons, international Organizations, and the rise of India as an emerging power. She spoke to Shivani Pandya CMC ‘18 on June 29, 2016.


In your opinion, what has Governor Raghuram Rajan accomplished since assuming office in 2013? Are there any critical issues he would have wished to address more?

Governor Rajan’s achievements are clear in controlling inflation and in managing India’s foreign exchange flows with great skill. When Rajan became Governor in 2013, inflation was very high, around 9.8% in 2013, and the currency was very volatile. Growth was very low. Rajan kept inflation low by keeping interests rates high. Rajan also started using Consumer Price index (CPI) as the key indicator of inflation, which is the international norm, although the government was not too keen to do so. Also, under Rajan, India’s foreign exchange reserves have rebounded to reach $380 billion. Now, maintaining growth cannot only be attributed to Rajan because there are many factors that go into growth. That said, Rajan has certainly stabilized the fiscal and monetary policy of India. So, he has had a very significant policy impact, and he has done so in the face of criticism and some challenge to his position. In effect, he has used his credibility to shape monetary policy. 

Richard Bush on the impact of Taiwan’s new president on cross-strait relations

Richard Bush is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, holds the Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, and is director of its Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP). He also holds a joint appointment as a senior fellow in the Brookings John L. Thornton China Center. CEAP is a center for research, analysis, and debate to enhance policy development on the pressing political, economic, and security issues facing East Asia and U.S. interests in the region. He spoke to Christina Yoh CMC ‘18 on May 27, 2016.

Photo and bio source: "Richard C. Bush III." Brookings. The Brookings Institution, 2016. Web.


Aman Aggarwal on the Indian economy

Photograph of Aman AggarwalProfessor Aman Aggarwal is currently Professor of Finance and Vice-Chairman at the Indian Institute of Finance. He is also Associate Editor of the quarterly journal of finance - Finance India. His special interests are international finance, corporate finance and derivatives. Professor Aggarwal has published over 40 research papers in highly technical journals about these economic areas and speaks frequently at financial conferences. He spoke with Shivani Pandya CMC ‘18 on March 31, 2016.

Photograph Source: Indian Institute of Finance, Web.

Why does India continue to thrive economically while its economic counterparts – China, Brazil, and Russia – are slowing down?

The Indian economic growth is driven more by domestic than external factors.  This is probably the most important reason why India is doing well.  When I meet CEOs from all around the world, they are amazed at how India’s corporations are able to continue to grow and make money with the economic environment in India. The reason is simple: Indian companies are more domestically oriented than their counterparts elsewhere. 

In India, we opened up in 1991. We had a mixed economic system before; the difference between our mixed economic system today and then is that in the past it was more socialist prior to 1991. However, in 1991, there were a lot of changes made because of the financial crunch India found itself in. We never were in an economic crisis, as defined by the IMP; we never defaulted on any payments. We certainly were in a financial crunch, which is why we opened up the economy.The economic framework we have post -1991 is a mix of more capitalist-oriented structures than socialist or communist ones. We still have certain socialist elements, like the railway system, which is a public good. India is a democracy with over 660 parties that participate in elections and almost 68-70% of the population (roughly over 700 million people) participate in elections. This is favorably unique – there is no other part of the world that has this dynamic. 


Keck Center for International & Strategic Studies

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