Sovereign Women in a Muslim Kingdom

Sovereign Women in a Muslim KingdomGiven the generally subservient position of women in most Muslim societies, unsurprisingly it is barely known that there have been occasions when women have been rulers in their own right, and effective ones at that. It is a particular surprise for those unfamiliar with the details of Southeast Asian history to find that Aceh, traditionally…

Book Review: China at War

Book Review: China at WarHistory, whether written by academics or popular writers, is usually delivered in easily recognizable chunks with familiar faces – the Pacific War, the Korean War, the Chinese Revolution, etc. But it is often the links between events that tell a more coherent story. Hans van de Ven, professor of Modern Chinese History at Cambridge University,…

Book Review: The General vs. The President

Book Review: The General vs. The PresidentHarry S Truman ascended to the presidency of the United States on April 12, 1945, a plain-spoken career politician and product of the political machine of Boss Tom Pendergast in Kansas City. It is clear that Douglas MacArthur, regarded arguably as the greatest American general of World War II, regarded him as little more than…

Book Review: Islands and Rocks in the South China Sea: Post-Hague Ruling

Book Review: Islands and Rocks in the South China Sea: Post-Hague RulingThe 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China on Beijing’s maritime claims to almost the entire South China Sea should have been a seminal event in east Asian history. Here was an international body rejecting China’s “historic” claims to almost the whole sea and supporting the Exclusive Economic Zone claims of Vietnam,…

Book Review: The Dictator’s Dilemma

Book Review: The Dictator’s DilemmaIn 1993, there were about 8,700 “mass group incidents” in China over a wide variety of grievances ranging from corruption to forced evictions to human rights abuses to ethnic protests to environmental disaster to unpaid wages as well as nationalist protests against foreign countries engineered by the government. In 2015, according to the Chinese Academy…

Book Review: Saving China’s Banking System

Book Review: Saving China’s Banking SystemIn the middle of the first decade of this century, Chinese officials led by then-Prime Minister Zhu Rongji set out to clean up one of the world’s biggest financial messes, the state-run banking system. It is estimated that just the amount poured into the four biggest banks alone was RMB2.4 trillion (US$348.7 billion at current…

Book Review: A Swiss Myth’s Pinoy incarnation

Book Review: A Swiss Myth’s Pinoy incarnationIt is an unfamiliar bond, but the largely hidden one between the Philippines and Switzerland is being celebrated anew. The Philippine national hero paid a compliment to the, albeit mythical, Swiss one. Now the compliment has been returned with a prize-winning novel by a Swiss about the Philippine hero. Jose Rizal is primarily remembered as…

Book Review: Trickle-Down Censorship

Book Review: Trickle-Down CensorshipAs we enter a post-truth world – or so we are told -- there’s probably no better time than to curl up with JFK Miller’s Trickle-Down Censorship: An Outsider’s Account of Working Inside China’s Censorship Regime. It serves well as a timely reminder of the dangers in the other direction – state control of truth…

Book Review: A Great Place to Have a War

Book Review: A Great Place to Have a WarWhen John F. Kennedy won the election to become the 35th President of the United States, he met with his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who repeatedly warned him that the tiny, poverty-stricken country of Laos was the “cork in the bottle. If Laos fell, then Thailand, the Philippines, and of course Chiang Kai-shek [Taiwan] would…

Book Review: Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century

Book Review: Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian CenturyA few months after Britain announced a US$40 billion nuclear power deal involving China, hailed as giving the UK a special place in its dealings, Beijing is threatening major damage to relations should Britain’s new prime minister Teresa May put the project permanently on hold. After Brexit, the Brits are into another bungled situation.  Then-finance…
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