RSIS Seminar by Dr Kent Calder, S. Rajaratnam Professor of Strategic Studies, RSIS; and Director, Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Asia in Washington: Comparative Perspectives
Washington as a socio-political community beyond the US government is changing rapidly, in important ways. Yet the changes are subtle, and not well-perceived by either the American public or most foreign observers. The Washington “knowledge industry” – mass media, think tank, public-relations conglomerates – is growing more consequential, even as it grows less objective in its analysis. Issue cycles are growing shorter, and nation-to-nation competition for US public attention is intensifying. At the same time, the policy agenda that Washington deliberates is broadening far beyond the direct concerns of US foreign policy, into a host of new cultural and ethnical realms.
Asian nations have historically forged deep ties with Washington, even predating the US global preeminence of the post-World War II years. In a global system with the industrialized West traditionally at its core, in which major European powers were traditionally imperialist and often mercantilist, the United States, with fewer colonies and more of a free-trade orientation, was often a priority partner, on both economic and political-military questions. And informal Washington – the world of lobbyists, think tanks, policy intellectuals, and mass media – was, and is, for Asia a relatively open and non-judgmental access point.
Despite their common interest in influencing Washington, the nations of Asia have approached America’s capital city in very different ways, with varying levels of success that the author catalogues in some detail. Size has by no means been the key ingredient for success, especially in the fluid, fast-moving Internet age now emerging. Smaller nations with clear strategies, strong local representatives in DC, and the ability to move quickly have often done very well.
About the Speaker:
Kent Calder is currently Director of the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, D.C. He also serves as Director of Japan Studies. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon in the Fall of 2014. Before arriving at Johns Hopkins SAIS in 2003, he taught for twenty years at Princeton University, was a Visiting Professor at Seoul National University, and Lecturer on Government at Harvard University. Calder has served as Special Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1997-2001), Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (1989-1993 and 1996); and as the first Executive Director of Harvard University’s Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, during 1979-1980. Calder received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1979, where he worked under the direction of Edwin O. Reischauer.
A specialist in East Asian political economy, Calder has spent eleven years living and researching in Japan, and four years elsewhere in East Asia. His most recent works include The US, Japan, and the Gulf Region (August 2015), Asia in Washington (Brookings 2014) and The New Continentalism: Energy and Twenty-First Century Eurasian Geopolitics (Yale, 2012). He has also authored Embattled Garrisons: Comparative Base Politics and American Globalism (Princeton, 2007), co-authored The Making of Northeast Asia (Stanford, 2010), and co-edited East Asian Multilateralism, with Francis Fukuyama. Among Calder’s major works on Japanese politics and public policy are Crisis and Compensation (Princeton, 1988); and Strategic Capitalism (Princeton, 1993). He has also written extensively on Asian energy geopolitics and U.S.-Japan relations, including Pacific Alliance (Yale, 2009); and Pacific Defense (William Morrow, 1996). Calder’s first book, The East Asia Edge, co-authored with Roy Hofheinz, Jr., (Basic Books, 1982), was one of the early studies of comparative East Asian public policy, based on a seminar first co-taught with Hofheinz at Harvard in the fall of 1979.