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[ 2 ] asia policy The Need for Policy-Relevant Asia Studies Richard J. Ellings & Robert M. Hathaway Asia’s resurgence marks a turning point in world history. In the decades ahead, many of our country’s greatest interests overseas—entailing opportunities as well as challenges—will be in Asia. Accordingly, the United States must be better prepared to understand the implications of developments in the region, whether they involve our nation’s economic vitality, diplomacy, natural environment, or security. While Asia studies scholars have long anticipated Asia’s return to the world stage, the policy community has been somewhat less attuned to these developments until recently. For a variety of reasons, the ties between these two communities have weakened over the last two decades in ways that are potentially detrimental to U.S. policy toward Asia. The following analysis will explore the evolution of the relationship between the U.S. academic community and the U.S. policymaking community and its implications for U.S. policy toward Asia. The essay will conclude by outlining a new national research and conference initiative called the National Asia Research Program (NARP), which is designed to build stronger bridges between Asia studies scholars and policymakers. Initiatives such as the NARP will help the field of contemporary Asia studies attract more support both to boost its strength and to assemble its most capable minds on a regular basis to work on policy-relevant issues in the region. It is of vital importance to U.S. interests for Asia studies scholars to play a stronger role in shaping U.S. policy. A Brief History of Asia Studies Programs As with area studies in general, support and funding for Asia studies programs has waned since the 1990s, and funding is now even more tenuous due to the recent financial crisis. This development has significant albeit often underappreciated implications for U.S. policy, especially as it inversely richard j. ellings is President and Co-founder of The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). He is also Affiliate Professor of International Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. He can be reached at . robert m. hathawayis Director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at . noteu The authors would like to thank Stephanie Renzi and Melissa Colonno for their assistance in the preparation of this essay. [ 3 ] roundtable • training the next generation corresponds to the increasing importance of the Asia-Pacific. If a decline in funding for Asia studies continues unabated, the likelihood that U.S. policymakers will lack sufficient specialized knowledge to craft effective policies toward the region will increase. A brief history of the evolution of area studies provides important context for understanding the present state of Asia studies programs and the direct impact on U.S. policy. Early efforts to promote the study of Asia date back one hundred years. During the first decades of the twentieth century, universities across the United States enhanced their offerings in international studies as a response to the nation’s growing role in world affairs. Columbia University founded its Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures in 1901.1 In 1909, the University of Washington established the Department of Oriental History, Literature, and Institutions, which would ultimately become the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. On the west coast, institutions were particularly attuned to events in Asia, specifically Japan.2 However universities in all parts of the country were engaged in the study of Asia, and Asian studies course offerings expanded each year. The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago was founded in 1919.3 Princeton University established a Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures in 1927,4 and the following year the Harvard-Yenching Institute was founded.5 Several universities began developing area studies programs in the 1920s and 30s. In the 1930s, the Luce Foundation began giving small grants to promote the study of Asian affairs. While such initiatives are notable, it was only as a consequence of fighting Japan in World War II and then the onset of the Cold War that area studies gained prominence...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
pp. 2-11
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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