Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Rising powers, rising rivals in East Asia?

By Rana Mitter
This week, the foreign ministers of Japan and China shook hands in public in Beijing, pledging better relations in the years to come. It was a reminder to westerners that we still don’t know nearly enough about the relationship between the world’s second and third biggest economies (Japan and China having recently switched places, so that Beijing now holds the no. 2 spot, riding hard on the heels of the US).

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Mao’s (red) star is on the rise

What kinds of historical echoes sound loudest in today’s China? And which past leaders deserve the most credit — and blame — for setting the country on its current trajectory? These are timely questions as the Chinese Communist Party celebrates it’s 90th birthday today. For in China, as elsewhere, milestone moments are fitting times for backward glances and often accompanied by symbolic gestures that invite scrutiny.

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Lead pollution and industrial opportunism in China

By Tee L. Guidotti

Mengxi Village, in Zhejiang province, in eastern coastal China, is an obscure rural hamlet not far geographically but far removed socially from the beauty, history, and glory of Hangzhou, the capital. Now it is the unlikely center of a an environmental health awakening in which citizens took direct action by storming the gates of a lead battery recycling plant that has caused lead poisoning among both children and adults in the village.

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Orwell and Huxley at the Shanghai World’s Fair

Tweet Who, we sometimes ask, at the dinners and debates of the intelligentsia, was the 20th century’s more insightful prophet — Aldous Huxley or George Orwell? Each is best known for his dystopian fantasy — Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984 — and both feared where modern technology might lead, for authorities and individuals alike. […]

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“Our Severest Crisis since World War II”: the earthquake and tsunami of 2011

By Andrew Gordon

On the afternoon of March 11, 2011, people in Japan experienced the most powerful earthquake in the recorded history of the archipelago, and the fifth most powerful ever recorded. Measured at magnitude 9, with an epicenter just off the coast of Miyagi prefecture in northeast Japan, this earthquake unleashed one hundred times the destructive force of the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923, which took well over one hundred thousand lives. Thanks in large part to strict building codes and technologies designed to allow high-rise buildings to absorb the shocks, the destruction of homes and offices was relatively modest in proportion to the immensity of the earthquake.

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Five lessons from Japan

By Anthony Scioli

Recently Japan’s 77 year old Emperor Akihito implored his people “not to abandon hope”. This may have struck some Westerners as odd since Japan is an Eastern country largely dominated by Buddhism and Shinto, faith traditions that many associate with mindfulness, acceptance and renunciation rather than hope for the future, transformation, or worldly pursuits. In fact, it is not uncommon to find Westerners who believe that “hope” does not even exist in the East. For many American intellectuals, particularly

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Hachi the Dog, Debt, and Japanese Language

By Lisa Shoreland
Despite its reputation for outlandish costumes and outrageous practical jokes, traditional Japanese culture is one of nearly unmatched gravity and obsession with honor. Although tourists can easily learn simple phrases like “Thank you” (arigatō) and “Excuse me” (sumimasen), serious Japanese language learners benefit from understanding the history of the nation’s shame culture.

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Dispatch from Tokyo

Last week we received a message from Miki Matoba, Director of Global Academic Business at OUP Tokyo, confirming that her staff is safe and well. This was a relief to hear, and also a reminder that although many of us are tied to the people of Japan in some way, our perspective of the human impact is relatively small. So I asked Miki if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her experiences, and she kindly agreed.

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Linked Up: on Japan

Those of us with family and friends in Japan feel quite helpless right now. Yesterday, the Guardian reported:

The Japanese government revised the estimated disaster death toll up from 10,000 to 15,000. It confirmed that 5,178 people had died and 2,285 were injured. The number of missing was increased to 8,913 from 7,844. Almost 200,000 households regained electricity, but this left more than 450,000 without power. Approximately 2.5m households still do not have access to water.

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Japan’s earthquake could shake public trust in the safety of nuclear power

By Charles D. Ferguson
Is nuclear power too risky in earthquake-prone countries such as Japan? On March 11, a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake shook Japan and caused widespread damage especially in the northeastern region of Honshu, the largest Japanese island. Nuclear power plants throughout that region automatically shut down when the plants’ seismometers registered ground accelerations above safety thresholds.

But all the shutdowns did not go perfectly.

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How to donate to Japan

Just look at the photos. Friday’s magnitude 9.0 earthquake generated a tsunami that has all but destroyed much of eastern Honshu, the largest island of Japan. This is the biggest recorded quake to hit Japan since records dating back to the 1800s. Today the National Police Agency reports that the disaster has claimed 3,373 lives and left 6,746 others unaccounted for, and those numbers are on the rise.

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The Difficulty of Being Good

Gurcharan Das is the author of several books, including the much-acclaimed India Unbound (which has been translated into many languages and filmed by the BBC) and most recently The Difficulty of Being Good: On The Subtle Art of Dharma. He writes a regular column for six Indian newspapers, including the Times of India, and also contributes to Newsweek, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs.

In the two-part podcast below, Das talks with none other than the brilliant Kamla Bhatt.

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Translating Gulag Boss

Unfortunately, there’s no doubting the fact that oppression and cruelty has existed and will indeed continue to remain in society. The question that does need to be asked, however, is how ordinary people can commit these extreme and vicious acts of evil upon their fellow man? In Gulag Boss: A Soviet Memoir by Fyodor Vasilevich Mochulsky, and translated by Deborah Kaple, that question is explored through the lens of one normal man who eventually ran one of Stalin’s most notorious prison camps.

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This Day in History: Burmese Independence

By David A. Steinberg
London essentially determined Burmese independence, although the cry for an independent Burma by the Burmese was long, loud, and clear. Following World War II, there were thousands of Burmese with arms who might have made retention of British control very tenuous. Winston Churchill said he was not about to see the dissolution of the British Empire, but the Labour Party won the postwar elections. India was bound to become independent, and Burma would certainly follow. England was exhausted by the war; holding onto their colonies in the face of rising nationalism seemed impossible. Inevitable independence, then, should be gracefully granted. What kind of independence, and whether independent Burma would be divided between Burma Proper and a separate minority area was unclear. Some in England wanted to try Aung San as a traitor because he backed the Japanese before and during most of the war,

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