Amb. Chas W. Freeman indicates some Chinese second thoughts about Pyongyang
Just back in Washington, DC after a ten-day visit to China, Amb. Chas W. Freeman, Jr., author of Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige, told JWB owner Helena Cobban in a podcast interview that, “There are people in China now who… are starting to think about alternative approaches in Korea that would sideline Pyongyang.” During his 30-year career in the U.S. government Freeman served both as an ambassador (to Saudi Arabia) and as Assistant Secretary of Defense. Back near the beginning of his long career as a China-watcher, he even served as Pres. Nixon’s interpreter when Nixon made his breakthrough 1972 visit to meet Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing!
Amb. Freeman prefaced the podcast discussion by noting that during his visit to China, he had held discussions with “old friends— Chinese officials, military officers, diplomats, and the like.” During the podcast, he described and assessed what he had heard from these people on the Korean crisis; on the many rivalries that China, Japan, and other East Asian countries have over maritime borders in the East China and South China Sea; and on the whole broader question of how the Chinese leaders hope to work closely with the United States and other world powers to build what Chinese President Xi Jinping has described as “a new type of great power relationship.”
This kind of relationship would, Freeman indicated, need to involve the numerous centers of power now arising in the world, including India, South Africa, and Brazil, as well as the three existing “P-5” members, the United States, China, and Russia. (And, he said, “If Europe can ever get its act together, a united Europe should be part of this as well.”)
Regarding Korea, he underlined that, “Everyone in the region, including the Chinese, sees this as a very dangerous situation.” North Korea’s youthful leader Kim Jong-Eun is, he said, “creating the circumstances in which a war could easily happen by misjudgment or some sort of mishap.” Chinese officials, he said, “are not very optimistic about their ability to do anything with North Korea. There are people in China now who say that its far more trouble than it’s worth and are starting to think about alternative approaches that sideline Pyongyang.”
He noted that the Korean question is particularly precarious because there is currently no form of hotline or other communication system that could defuse crises or clear up misunderstandings— and no credible forum in which all concerned powers can discuss a diplomatic way forward.
Regarding the much-touted “pivot toward Asia” that Pres. Obama announced in November 2011, Freeman noted wryly that the pivot “might be part of the problem from the Chinese point of view.”
You can listen to the whole 24-minute podcast here. And you can buy Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige here. To see the praise that the book has won from practitioners and luminaries such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezisnki, and the Financial Times’s Ed Luce, go to this page on our website.
April 12, 2013
Chas Freeman’s ‘Interesting Times’ Offers Insights on U.S.-China Relations
Just World Books celebrates the release of Chas Freeman’s Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige. The book, which draws on Ambassador Freeman’s extensive experience in the history and analysis of U.S.-China relations over the past four decades, received enthusiastic support during its launch at Washington, D.C.’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on March 28. Freeman offered a presentation and discussion of the book during this luncheon reception, which was moderated by Carnegie’s Michael Swaine.
As a career Foreign Service officer for 30 years and a China affairs specialist, Freeman is among the most informed observers of China and its relations with the U.S. He was present in 1972 as President Richard Nixon’s principal interpreter during Nixon’s breakthrough meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing. In 1979, he was appointed Director of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, and in 1981 he was appointed as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Even after retiring from public service, Freeman has continued to offer his critical, independent insight and analysis on issues of international relations, geopolitics, and U.S. foreign policy.
During the launch presentation, Swaine suggested that Freeman, along with Stapleton Roy, “personified the history of [the U.S.’s] complex and challenging relationship [with China] over the past 40-plus years since the opening to China.” In Interesting Times, Ambassador Freeman reflects on this history as one who helped shape the current Sino-American relationship, offering insights that challenge America’s conventional wisdom about the People’s Republic.
Interesting Times has received well-deserved praise from a number of distinguished diplomats and regional experts. Former Secretary of State and foreign policy expert Henry Kissinger, for example, said Interesting Times “deserves to have an important place in defining our future strategic relationship with China.” And Chan Heng Chee, former Ambassador of Singapore to the United States, said “Interesting Times is an honest, balanced, and thought-provoking analysis of the coming process of adjustment that will take place between the United States and China as the latter leaves its poverty and powerlessness behind to become the largest economy in the world.”
As a special service, Just World Books provides additional online content as a supplement to Interesting Times. Freeman is also the author of America’s Misadventures in the Middle East, a Just World Books publication. For information about Chas Freeman or to purchase either of his books, please contact us here.
April 3, 2013
Dr. William Quandt Tracks News on Turkish-Israeli Relations from Istanbul
Dr. William Quandt, editor of Troubled Triangle: The United States, Turkey, and Israel in the New Middle East, recently sent us an audio report from Istanbul concerning the latest breakthrough in Turkish-Israeli relations. This report provides a summary of the background concerning Turkey and Israel’s relationship, including the height of tensions in May 2010 when the Gaza flotilla incident occurred as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent apology to Turkey for the consequences of this incident (which included the death of eight Turks and one Turkish-American on board the Mavi Marmara). Taking advantage of his location in Turkey, Dr. Quandt caught up with Dr. Sebnem Gumuscu from Sabanci University and Dr. Soli Özel from Istanbul Bilgi University to discuss the reasons and timing behind this rapprochement as well as the obstacles that it might face.
These discussions follow up on the issues Troubled Triangle addresses concerning the tangle of accusations, fears, and misunderstandings that have arisen among policymakers in the U.S., Israel, and Turkey—all of which have led to a sharp cooling in Turkish-Israeli relations since early 2009. The podcast and book also recognize the inseparable connections between Turkish-Israeli relations and what is going on domestically in each country as well as in Syria, Iran, and the West Bank and Gaza. If you are interested in reading more about the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations based on the perspectives of sixteen experts from Israel, Turkey, and the U.S., then please consider purchasing a paperback or ebook copy of Troubled Triangle, and of course please listen to the full podcast here!
April 3, 2013
Gaza Kitchen Duo Take the Culinary World by Storm!
Maggie and Laila at NYU. Photo by Juan Alcon
Good press is pouring in for Just World Books authors Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt and their new cookbook The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey. And it’s more than just good reviews! The leading culinary magazine Bon Appetít, recently featured a conversation between the authors and London-based Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi, with not one but two posts on their popular blog. National Public Radio’s food blog The Salt featured a story on the Palestinian culinary traditions—including recipes—described in The Gaza Kitchen. Diaa Hadid’s Associated Press article about the book was carried by a number of leading news outlets, including the New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and ABC News. Even the New York Daily News featured The Gaza Kitchen in a post to their books blog. Nearly all this coverage takes good note of the interviews and short reports that spice up the pages of The Gaza Kitchen, that introduce readers to the life stories of the women and men of Gaza and the many constraints facing the area’s food system today.
People unable to get to any of the duo’s Spring Tour events can now also enjoy a number of video clips of varying lengths generated at various of the events. New York’s Grit TV featured Laila and Maggie preparing dagga salad, one of The Gaza Kitchen’s 130 recipes,in this video segment:
March 25, 2013
Matt Zeller Discusses Key U.S. Lessons from the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
The latest Just World Books podcast features Matt Zeller, author of Watches Without Time: An American Soldier in Afghanistan, who stopped by JWB headquarters last week to discuss the main lessons he learned from the war in Afghanistan—based on his gripping personal experiences—as well as that war’s relationship with the war in Iraq on its 10th anniversary. Matt was in Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book and has recently wrapped up a nationwide college speaking tour where he made stops at Harvard, UCLA, and Columbia, among others.
Matt discussed part of his compelling and honest journey in Afghanistan (read the book, Watches Without Time, for the whole story!) and how he came to realize the importance of literacy among Afghani boys and girls in defeating groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Matt recounts the moment his interpreter in Afghanistan told him that he could not have joined the Taliban, even if he wanted to, since his mother had not given him permission because she had read the Quran and she knew that what the Taliban preached was not Islam. This casual remark, along with the flocks of children who would greet Matt and his fellow soldiers begging for pens, pushed him to deeply consider the impact of having a mostly illiterate populace in Afghanistan, and how this situation enables the Taliban to take advantage of people’s inability to access the world of ideas and to persuade them to adopt their extreme ideology.
March 18, 2013
Two JWB authors at Virginia Festival of the Book this week
We’re delighted that both Matt Zeller and Miko Peled will be coming to the Virginia Festival of the Book in our historic hometown, Charlottesville, this week. Zeller, the author of Watches Without Time: An American Soldier in Afghanistan, is speaking in a VaBook panel at 4pm on Thursday, and Peled, the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, will speak in a VaBook panel at noon on Friday. Peled will also be speaking in a community event at the University of Virginia at 7pm on Thursday— just to keep us on our toes! Full details of all these events can be found here. Books will be available for purchase and signing at all these events.
March 14, 2013
Gaza Cuisine Discovery Tour Begins in NYC
Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt (and their entourage) have been zipping from event to event in New York City this week to launch their new cookbook The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey. From there, the authors will head to Washington, DC and then Boston to continue promoting the book, and in May they will launch Gaza Kitchen in London. To keep up with their plans, be sure to visit the events calendar here frequently!
Audiences across NYC have been super enthusiastic about Gaza Kitchen. Starting off the tour on Sunday, the authors visited Brooklyn’s renowned BookCourt for a discussion and demo of dagga salad. On Day Two, the East Village restaurant Porsena hosted an absolutely fabulous dinner event: Chef/owner Sara Jenkins and her team cooked a menu for all patrons that was exclusively from Gaza Kitchen recipes! There were four courses including eight dishes, and it was delicious from start to finish. That night it was proved beyond a doubt that Laila and Maggie have written a cookbook that is accessible around the world: even in the heart of NYC, we got a little taste of Gazan cuisine!
On Tuesday, Day Three of the NYC tour, the ladies had a particularly busy day, visiting both the All Souls Unitarian Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the NYU Food Studies Center to deliver talks to their respective audiences. The ladies presented together spectacularly, answering questions on anything from the politics of food to the minute subtleties of Gazan cuisine. Sad you missed out on any of these? No worries, there’s more to come! Maggie and Laila will be giving another talk this Friday night, 7pm, at CUNY Grad Center. (Details here.) And on Saturday, the Bay Ridge restaurant Tanoreen is offering another Gaza Kitchen-themed meal (a brunch), 12:30-3:00 pm. The authors will be there— along with their babies!— at both events. So will copies of The Gaza Kitchen, and Laila’s previous book, Gaza Mom, for purchase and signing.