Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared that the United States is executing a “pivot” toward Asia to inaugurate America’s “Pacific Century,” thereby giving Asia its due as the world’s most dynamic region. But this vast continent displays astounding variety, from wealthy, ultra-modern places such as Japan, Singapore, and coastal China to the impoverished backwaters of Myanmar (Burma) and India’s northeast. We shall therefore take a twofold approach to Asian Politics. We focus first on the internal politics of selected countries (mainly those we will visit) and their historical connections with one another. In the forefront of our inquiry is the question of whether there really are “Asian values” that distinguish at least East Asia from other parts of the world and account for both its economic success and authoritarian tendencies. We shall also highlight the ways in which Asian countries have adapted Western “imports” such as political democracy and human rights to their own indigenous traditions. Then we survey the geopolitics of East and South Asia, hoping to identify the security concerns that affect relations among these countries as well as with the United States and assess the likelihood and potential causes of future conflicts among Asian nations. We will bear in mind—and try to test—the argument of Samuel Huntington that Asia is one of the theaters in which a “clash of civilizations” is most likely to occur. We will also not neglect Asian countries’ resolve to secure sufficient resources (e.g., petroleum, coal, food, metals) to keep their economic growth going.
Field WorkCountry: India
Day: 6 - Cochin - 14 March
For our field lab in Asian Politics we will travel to a site chosen by the Centre for Public Policy Research, an NGO prominent in the state of Kerala for its contributions to more effective governance and sustainable development. Staff members from the CPPR will offer lectures and question-and-answer sessions on a variety of topics concerning Kerala’s unusual model of development, one that emphasizes social justice, harmony among ethnic groups, empowerment of women, political involvement of all citizens, and the attainment of a higher quality of life for everyone. Later in the day we will visit the Corporation of Cochin, as the municipal government is called there. We will learn how a major Indian city (pop. of over 600,000) is run, with subjects ranging from budgeting and social services, to education, water, etc. Academic Objectives Students will gain a clearer understanding of the inner workings of an unusual and in many ways highly progressive Indian state: Kerala. They will first hear from experts in public policy who will depict the history and current policies of the state, especially its successful efforts to prevent “communal violence” (violent conflict among different religious and ethnic groups), a problem that has plagued many other cities in India. They will also have an opportunity to compare the policies adopted by Kerala with those in other Asian nations we have already visited, such as China, Myanmar, and Singapore. Later in the day, they will have a chance to see how Indian citizens receive basic services, such as water, sanitation, education, etc., and how these are paid for. Students will undoubtedly notice the enormous gap between the resources available to a major city such as Cochin and American cities of comparable size such as San Francisco or Boston. Yet, despite its far more meager resources, the Cochin Municipal Corporation manages to deliver services and keep the city going. We will find out how.