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A Brief History of the North Korean-Myanmar Friendship

By Maria Rosaria Coduti “Dangerous bedfellows,” “rogue brothers in arms,” and “friends in need” are some of the expressions experts and journalists have used to describe North Korea-Myanmar [Burma] relations in the past. In 2005, then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labeled Myanmar an “outpost of tyranny,” a feature that saw the country enter the club of the “pariah states” along with Cuba, Iran, Belarus, Zimbabwe, and North Korea. However, just four years later, the newly elected Obama administration reviewed American policy toward Myanmar and shifted to one based on the pragmatic engagement of Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, which inaugurated a new era of the Southeast Asian country’s relations with the U.S. and with both Western and Asian actors as a consequence. According to some political analysts, this new policy was either a tile of a broader U.S. rebalancing strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region, the so-called ...

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What I Did on My Summer “Vacation” Photo Sweepstakes

As summertime gets underway here in the Northern Hemisphere, the routines of the academic year fall away—but calling this a summer “vacation” is misleading for most of us. Despite the notion that academics have summers off, we know that AAS members are plenty occupied during these lazy, hazy, crazy days. What do the next months hold in store for you: research, writing, relocation, summer courses, reading, travel, attending AAS-in-ASIA? (All of the above?) Snap a photo that represents your summer and submit it to #AsiaNow—it could be our photo of the week! Every week between June and September, we’ll select one photo to feature at #AsiaNow and on the AAS social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). Everyone who submits a photo will be entered into a sweepstakes drawing at the end of the summer; one (1) grand prize winner will receive three titles of his or her choice from our Key Issues in Asian Studies (KIAS) series (total value $30), while two (2) runners-up will ea ...

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The Past, Present, and Future of AAS-in-ASIA

Because our AAS-in-ASIA conferences are so new, I would like to use my first presidential column to highlight their past, present, and future. The brainchild of my presidential predecessors, AAS-in-ASIA began in 2014 as an experiment. The vision was for AAS to work with a host institution in Asia to facilitate participation amongst AAS members and Asian scholars across Asia. By bringing Asian specialists from abroad together with scholars in Asia—who were not necessarily members of AAS and perhaps not able to attend the annual conferences held in North America—the conference originators hoped to spark new and fruitful areas of collaboration. The original idea was that AAS-in-ASIA would be smaller-sized conferences providing the opportunity to participate on panel sessions and network with colleagues in a more intimate setting. The conference has been extraordinarily successful and has been mushrooming in size. I invite everyone to consider participating in these conferences and to submit your sugg ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Christopher Rea

Christopher Rea is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature at the University of British Columbia and author of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China, published by University of California Press and winner of the 2017 AAS Joseph Levenson Book Prize (Post-1900 China). To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book’s about how Chinese humor changed (and how it didn’t) in the modern age. It reconstructs the emergence of several comic cultures over about forty years, from the 1890s to 1933, the “Year of Humor.” Part of the story is about language, about how people started talking about what’s funny in new ways. It tries to convey how you can be funny in Chinese—and how people were, using modern technologies like cinema. Another part of the story is about cultural values, about how people in a tumultuous age used laughter as a barometer for what matters to the individual, to the group, and to humanity at large. I argue that irrev ...

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Shaken Authority: An Interview with Christian Sorace

In the early afternoon of May 12, 2008, a devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake ruptured the countryside of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province. More than 85,000 people died, including at least 5,000 children killed when their schools collapsed—victims of corruption on the part of local officials and building contractors, who had skimmed from the top of building funds and erected shoddy “tofu-dregs schoolhouses” that stood no chance against the earthquake’s might. In the first weeks following the quake, parents staged protests and called on the government to punish those deemed responsible for their children’s deaths. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quickly moved to silence the outcries and control the narrative about the earthquake. Government propaganda and news stories steered attention away from the manmade disaster (renhuo) caused by corruption and focused instead on the natural disaster (tianzai) of the earthquake and the CCP’s leadership in rescue and recon ...

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