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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. Archaeologists have found few ancient Silk Road bridges, gates, or paving stones like those along Rome’s Appian Way. They are best seen from the air…
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.
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.
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.
On 21st June 1900, the Dowager Empress of China declared war on all foreigners. The conflict had been decades in building. Throughout the 19th century, foreign powers had carved up China, creating their own zones where they effectively ruled and where their nationals enjoyed privileged status.
This Day in World History
After months of standoff between India’s government and Sikh dissidents, the Indian army attacked those dissidents who had taken refuge in the holiest Sikh shrine — the Golden Temple, in Amritsar, India — on June 6, 1984. The fighting left hundreds dead and more captured. The attack also enraged many Sikhs across India, which would have fatal consequences for Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, who had ordered the assault.
This Day in World History
On May 29, 1953, at about 11:30 a.m., New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tibetan Tenzing Norgay stood on top of the world. They had spent more than two hours straining every muscle against ice, snow, rock, and low oxygen to reach this point. But they were atop Mount Everest, more than 29,000 feet above sea level, the highest peak in the world.
By Alexander Cooley
As NATO leaders gather in Chicago to garner international support for an Afghanistan drawdown and stabilization strategy, they should also consider the overlooked toll that the campaign has taken on the adjacent Central Asian states. Western security assistance has made the Central Asian states more authoritarian and more corrupt, while these trends are only likely to deteriorate as the drawdown of US and ISAF forces accelerates.