Publications Program

The Asia Center Publications Program is one of the world’s most widely respected publishers of scholarly books in East Asian Studies, publishing about 15 new titles per year. The program has published nearly 500 titles since its founding in the 1950s; it became part of the Asia Center in 1998. In the past decade, books published by the Asia Center have won more than a dozen major awards in their respective fields.

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List of Publications

Publications

Opportunity in Crisis: Cantonese Migrants and the State in Late Qing China

Steven B. Miles
Opportunity in Crisis explores the history of late Qing Cantonese migration along the West River basin during war and reconstruction and the impact of those developments on the relationship between state and local elites on the Guangxi frontier. By situating Cantonese upriver and overseas migration within the same framework, Steven Miles reconceives the late Qing as an age of Cantonese diasporic expansion rather than one of state decline.The book opens with crisis: rising levels of violence targeting Cantonese riverine commerce, much of it fomented by a geographically mobile Cantonese underclass. Miles then narrates the ensuing history of a Cantonese rebel regime established in Guangxi in the wake of the Taiping uprising. Subsequent chapters discuss opportunities created by this crisis and its aftermath and demonstrate important continuities and changes across the mid-century divide. With the reassertion of Qing control, Cantonese commercial networks in Guangxi expanded dramatically and became an increasingly important source of state revenue. Through its reliance on Hunanese and Cantonese to reconquer Guangxi, the Qing state allowed these diasporic cohorts more flexibility in colonizing the provincial administration and examination apparatus, helping to recreate a single polity on the eve of China’s transition from empire to nation-state.

Structures of the Earth: Metageographies of Early Medieval China

D. Jonathan Felt
The traditional Chinese notion of itself as the “middle kingdom”—literally the cultural and political center of the world—remains vital to its own self-perceptions and became foundational to Western understandings of China. This worldview was primarily constructed during the earliest imperial unification of China during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BCE–220 CE). But the fragmentation of empire and subsequent “Age of Disunion” (220–589 CE) that followed undermined imperial orthodoxies of unity, centrality, and universality. In response, geographical writing proliferated, exploring greater spatial complexities and alternative worldviews.This book is the first study of the emergent genre of geographical writing and the metageographies that structured its spatial thought during that period. Early medieval geographies highlighted spatial units and structures that the Qin–Han empire had intentionally sought to obscure—including those of regional, natural, and foreign spaces. Instead, these postimperial metageographies reveal a polycentric China in a polycentric world. Sui–Tang (581–906 CE) officials reasserted the imperial model as spatial orthodoxy. But since that time these alternative frameworks have persisted in geographical thought, continuing to illuminate spatial complexities that have been incompatible with the imperial and nationalist ideal of a monolithic China at the center of the world.

Testing the Literary: Prose and the Aesthetic in Early Modern China

Alexander Des Forges
The civil service examination essay known as shiwen (modern or contemporary prose) or bagu wen (eight-legged essay) for its complex structure was the most widely read and written literary genre in early modern China (1450–1850). As the primary mode of expression in which educated individuals were schooled, shiwen epitomized the literary enterprise even beyond the walls of the examination compound. But shiwen suffered condemnation in the shift in discourse on literary writing that followed the fall of the Ming dynasty, and were thoroughly rejected in the May Fourth iconoclasm of the early twentieth century.Challenging conventional disregard for the genre, Alexander Des Forges reads the examination essay from a literary perspective, showing how shiwen redefined prose aesthetics and transformed the work of writing. A new approach to subjectivity took shape: the question “who is speaking?” resonated through the essays’ involuted prose style, foregrounding issues of agency and control. At the same time, the anonymity of the bureaucratic evaluation process highlighted originality as a literary value. Finally, an emphasis on questions of form marked the aesthetic as a key arena for contestation of authority as candidates, examiners, and critics joined to form a dominant social class of literary producers.

Financial Liberalization and Economic Development in Korea, 1980–2020

Joon Kyung Kim and Yung Chul Park and Hail Park
Since the early 1980s, Korea’s financial development has been a tale of liberalization and opening. After the 1997 financial crisis, great strides were made in building a market-oriented financial system through sweeping reforms for deregulation and the opening of financial markets. However, the new system failed to steer the country away from a credit card boom and bust in 2003, a liquidity crisis in 2008, and a run on its savings banks in 2011, and has been severely tested again by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Financial liberalization, clearly, has been no panacea.This study analyzes the deepening of and structural changes in Korea’s financial system since the early 1980s and presents the empirical results of the effects of financial development on economic growth, stability, and the distribution of income. It finds that, contrary to conventional wisdom, financial liberalization has contributed little to fostering the growth and stability of the Korean economy and has exacerbated income distribution problems. Are there any merits in financial liberalization? The authors answer this query through empirical examinations of the theories of finance and growth. They point to a clear need to further improve the efficiency, soundness, and stability of Korean financial institutions and markets.

Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance: Essays on the Shishuo xinyu

Jack W. Chen
Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance is a study of the Shishuo xinyu, the most important anecdotal collection of medieval China—and arguably of the entire traditional era. In a set of interconnected essays, Jack W. Chen offers new readings of the Shishuo xinyu that draw upon social network analysis, performance studies, theories of ritual and mourning, and concepts of gossip and reputation to illuminate how the anecdotes of the collection imagine and represent a political and cultural elite. Whereas most accounts of the Shishuo have taken a historical approach, Chen argues that the work should be understood in literary terms.At its center, Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance is an extended meditation on the very nature of the anecdote form, both what the anecdote affords in terms of representing a social community and how it provides a space for the rehearsal of certain longstanding philosophical and cultural arguments. Although each of the chapters may be read separately as an essay in its own right, when taken together, they present a comprehensive account of the Shishuo in all of its literary complexity.

Evolutionary Governance in China: State-Society Relations under Authoritarianism

Kellee S. Tsai and Chun-chih Chang and Szu-chien Hsu
The People’s Republic of China has experienced numerous challenges and undergone tremendous structural changes over the past four decades. The party-state now faces a fundamental tension in its pursuit of social stability and regime durability. Repressive state strategies enable the Chinese Communist Party to maintain its monopoly on political power, yet the quality of governance and regime legitimacy are enhanced when the state adopts more inclusive modes of engagement with society.Based on a dynamic typology of state–society relations, this volume adopts an evolutionary framework to examine how the Chinese state relates with non-state actors across several fields of governance. Drawing on original fieldwork, the authors identify areas in which state–society interactions have shifted over time, ranging from more constructive engagement to protracted conflict. This evolutionary approach provides nuanced insight into the circumstances wherein the party-state exerts its coercive power versus engaging in more flexible responses or policy adaptations.

A Third Way: The Origins of China’s Current Economic Development Strategy

Lawrence C. Reardon
From 1949 to 1978, communist elites held clashing visions of China’s economic development. Mao Zedong advocated the “first way” of semi-autarchy characteristic of revolutionary Stalinism (1929–34), while Zhou Enlai adapted bureaucratic Stalinism (1934–53) to promote the “second way” of import substitution industrialization. A Third Way tells the story of Deng Xiaoping’s experimentation with export-led development inspired by Lenin’s New Economic Policy and the economic reforms of Eastern Europe and Asia. Having uncovered an extraordinary collection of internal party and government documents, Lawrence Reardon meticulously traces the evolution of the coastal development strategy, starting with special economic zones in 1979 and evolving into the fourteen open coastal cities, the Hainan SEZ, and eventual accession to the global trade regime in 2001. Reardon details how Deng and Zhao Ziyang tackled large-scale smuggling operations, compromised with Chen Yun’s conservative views, and overcame Deng Liqun’s ideological opposition. Although Zhao Ziyang was airbrushed out of official Chinese history after June 4, 1989, Reardon argues that Zhao was the true architect of China’s opening strategy. A Third Way provides important new insights about the crucial period of the 1980s and how it paved the way for China’s transformation into a global economic superpower.

The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE – 800 CE

Robert Ford Campany
Dreaming is a near-universal human experience. But there is no consensus on why we dream, or how we should approach dreaming. This book investigates what dreams meant to people in late classical and early medieval China. It maps a common dreamscape—an array of divergent ideas about what dreams are, and how they should be responded to—that underlies texts of diverse persuasions and genres over several centuries. These include manuals of dream interpretation, scriptural instructions, essays, treatises, classics, poems, recovered manuscripts, histories, and anecdotes of successful dream-based predictions.What was thought to happen when we dream? Do dreams foretell future events? If so, how might their imagistic code be unlocked to yield predictions? Could dreams enable direct communication between the living and the dead, or between humans and animals? By answering these questions, The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE sheds light on how people in a distant age negotiated dream experiences. Yet it also brings Chinese notions of dreaming into conversation with studies of dreams in other cultures ancient and contemporary. Ultimately this book investigates how Chinese people wrestled with—and celebrated—the strangeness of dreams, and reflects on how we might reconsider our own notions of dreaming. This book is also available in paperback.

One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World

Eyck Freymann
From Tanzania to Malaysia, Russia to Iran, author Eyck Freymann takes you inside Chinese President Xi Jinping’s legacy project—One Belt One Road—the largest global infrastructure development program in history. In this authoritative and accessible book, Freymann argues that OBOR is not the centralized and systematic investment policy that many commentators have made it out to be. In fact, it is a largely aspirational, bottom-up campaign to export an ancient Chinese model of patronage and tribute. Inside China, OBOR propaganda depicts Xi Jinping restoring the nation’s lost imperial glory. Overseas, China uses massive investments to cultivate relationships with willing politicians and political parties. Freymann finds that this strategy is working. Even in countries where OBOR megaprojects fail, political leaders are still excited about what partnership with China can provide. Written for policymakers, scholars, and lay readers alike, One Belt One Road is a call to action and a roadmap for understanding China’s burgeoning commercial empire. Drawing on primary documents in five languages, interviews with many senior officials, and on-the-ground case studies from the salt flats of Sri Lanka to the shipyards of Greece, Freymann tells the monumental story of the world’s latest encounter with Chinese power.This book is also available in paperback.

Varieties of State Regulation: How China Regulates Its Socialist Market Economy

Yukyung Yeo
In Varieties of State Regulation, Yukyung Yeo explores how, despite China’s increasing integration into the global market, the Chinese central party-state continues to oversee the most strategic sectors of its economy. Since the 1990s, as major state firms were spun off from the ministries that managed them under the central planning system, the nature of the state in governing the economy has been remarkably transformed into that of a regulator.Based on over 100 interviews conducted with Chinese central and local officials, firms, scholars, journalists, and consultants, the book demonstrates that the form of central state control varies considerably across leading industrial sectors, depending on the dominant mode of state ownership, conception of control, and governing structure. By analyzing and comparing institutional dynamics across various sectors, Yeo explains variations in the pattern of China’s regulation of its economy. She contrasts the regulation of the automobile industry, a relatively decentralized sector, with the highly-centralized telecommunications industry, and demonstrates how China’s central party-state maintains regulatory authority over key local state-owned enterprises. Placing these findings in historical and comparative contexts, the book presents the evolution and current practice of state regulation in China and examines its compatibility with other contemporary government practices. This book is also available in paperback.

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