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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Benazir Bhutto’s mixed legacy

By T.V. Paul
Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been prime minister of Pakistan twice: first in December 1988, and a second time in October 1993 after the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) managed to win two elections under her leadership. Both times the presidents (heads of state) dismissed Bhutto before she completed her full term.

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Q&A with T.V. Paul on the 25th anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s election

Twenty-five years ago today, Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first female head of government in a Muslim country. T.V. Paul, author of The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, joins us to discuss her legacy, the role of women in Pakistani politics today, and the changing shape of political parties in Pakistan.

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An interview with Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid is the author of the novels Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. His award-winning fiction has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into over 30 languages.

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Why is Gandhi relevant to the problem of violence against Indian women?

By Judith M. Brown
The global media has, in recent months, brought to the attention of a world audience the prevalence of violence against women in India. The horrific rape of a woman student, returning home after watching an early evening showing of The Life of Pi, in Delhi in December 2012, and the subsequent trial and conviction of her drunken and violent attackers, has led to considerable comment about violence against women.

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Korea remembered

It is sixty years since the Korean War came to a messy end at an ill-tempered armistice ceremony in Panmunjom’s new “peace” pagoda. That night, President Dwight Eisenhower made a brief and somber speech to the nation. What the U.S. negotiators had signed, he explained to his compatriots, was merely “an armistice on a single battleground—not peace in the world.”

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The History of the World: North Korea invades South Korea

In 1945 Korea had been divided along the 38th parallel, its industrial north being occupied by the Soviets and the agricultural south by the Americans. Korean leaders wanted a quick reunification, but only on their own terms, and the Communists taking power in the north did not see eye to eye with the nationalists whom the Americans supported in the south.

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The reign of Alexander the Great

The relatively short reign of Alexander (336 to 323 BC) marked one of the major turning-points in world history. The Greek city states continued to function after his death, but the world order had changed and a new era began, which came to be labelled the Hellenistic period. For Alexander, like many an autocrat, departed without leaving a viable succession plan.

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Antiquity and perceptions of Chinese culture

What role does antiquity play in defining popular perceptions of Chinese culture? Kenneth W. Holloway confronted this issue recently with a set of bamboo manuscripts featured in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Confucians have claimed these manuscripts while denying its relevance to the rest of early China. Excavated texts have the potential to transform our understanding of history, but we cannot force them to conform to long held intellectual frameworks.

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State and private in China’s economy

By Tim Wright
The central story of China’s economic reforms and the resulting economic miracle has been the move from a centrally planned to a largely market economy, and the emergence of a market-based and mainly private sector alongside the old state-owned sector. Most quantitative trends are still in that direction, and legal and institutional reforms, notably stronger property rights within a situation of limited rule of law, have provided some support.

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North Korea and the bomb

By Joseph M. Siracusa
It is vital to begin any discussion of North Korea’s nuclear program with an understanding of the limits on available information regarding its development. North Korea has been very effective in denying the outside world any significant information on its nuclear program. As a result, the outside world has had little direct evidence of the North Korean efforts and has mainly relied on indirect inferences, leaving substantial uncertainties.

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Ordering off the menu in China debates

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Growing up with no special interest in China, one of the few things I associated with the country was mix and match meal creation. On airplanes and school cafeterias, you just have “chicken or beef” choices, but Chinese restaurants were “1 from Column A, 1 from Column B” domains. If only in recent China debates, a similar readiness to think beyond either/or options prevailed!

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Even more facts about the Silk Road

By Valerie Hansen
The “Silk Road” was a stretch of shifting, unmarked paths across massive expanses of deserts and mountains — not a real road at any point or time. I previously examined the historical documents and evidence of the silk road, but here are a few more facts from camels to Marco Polo on this mysterious route. The peak years of the Silk Road trade were between 500 and 800 C.E., after the fall of the Han dynasty and Constantinople replaced Rome as the center of the Roman empire.

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Facts about the Silk Road

The “Silk Road” was a stretch of shifting, unmarked paths across massive expanses of deserts and mountains — not a real road at any point or time. Archeologists have found few ancient Silk Road bridges, gates, or paving stones like those along Rome’s Appian Way.

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History lessons from Beijing taxi drivers

By Valerie Hansen
“You have made a grave error in deciding to focus on the history of the Silk Road. The most important, and the most interesting, period in all of Chinese history is the third century, after the overthrow of the Han dynasty, when China was divided into three major kingdoms.” The Beijing taxi driver was dead earnest. Like many other drivers he listened regularly to radio broadcasts about Chinese history.

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Olympic confusion in North and South Korea flag mix-up

By Jasper Becker
Do North and South Korea belong to the same country? Are they the same race sharing the same history and language? The answers to these questions are far from clear even to the Koreans themselves. It depends on the day really or the Olympics. In the 2000, 2004, and 2006 Olympics the two countries joined together at the games’ opening ceremonies and marched in matching uniforms behind the Korean Unification Flag.

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The sleeping giant wakes

By David Armstrong
Napoleon’s famous remark about China — “There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes he will move the world” — has achieved a new lease of life in the context of China’s remarkable growth since the death of Mao in 1976. Since then, China has registered a real GDP growth of more than twenty times, it has some $2 trillion in foreign reserves, a million Chinese emigrants now work in Africa on behalf of Chinese economic interests there, China’s military power (land, sea, and air) is growing at around 12% annually, and its non-financial overseas direct investment is currently in excess of $330 billion, to mention just a few of the statistics that usually appear on this topic.

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