Cover image for Parallax visions : making sense of American-East Asian relations at the end of the century
Parallax visions : making sense of American-East Asian relations at the end of the century
Cumings, Bruce, 1943-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Durham : Duke University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
280 pages ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1600 Lexile.
Format :


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DS518.8 .C76 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In a work that synthesizes crucial developments in international relations at the close of the twentieth century, Bruce Cumings--a leading historian of contemporary East Asia--provides a nuanced understanding of how the United States has loomed over the modern history and culture of East Asia. By offering correctives to widely held yet largely inaccurate assessments of the affairs of this region, Parallax Visions shows how relations between the United States, Japan, Vietnam, North and South Korea, China, and Taiwan have been structured by their perceptions and misperceptions of each other.

Using information based on thirty years of research, Cumings offers a new perspective on a wide range of issues that originated with the cold war--with particular focus on the possibly inappropriate collaboration between universities, foundations, and intelligence agencies. Seeking to explode the presuppositions that Americans usually bring to the understanding of our relations with East Asia, the study ranges over much of the history of the twentieth century in East Asian-American relations--Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Korean War, and more recent difficulties in U.S. relations with China and Japan. Cumings also rebuts U.S. media coverage of North Korea's nuclear diplomacy in the 1990s and examines how experiences of colonialism and postcolonialism have had varying effects on economic development in each of these countries. Positing that the central defining experience of twentieth-century East Asia has been its entanglement first with British and Japanese imperialism, and then with the United States, Cumings ends with a discussion of how the situation could change over the next century as the economic and political global clout of the United States declines.

Illuminating the sometimes self-deluded ideology of cold war America, Parallax Visions will engage historians, political scientists, and students and scholars of comparative politics and social theory, as well as readers interested in questions of modernity and the role of the United States in shaping the destinies of modernizing societies in Asia.

Author Notes

Bruce Cumings is a writer, educator, and expert on Asian history and international relations. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1975.

Cumings taught history and politics at Northwestern University and served as director of Northwestern's Center for International and Comparative Studies. His studies of Korea resulted in several books, including Korea's Place in the Sun and a two-volume set, The Origins of the Korean War. Cumings served as a historical consultant to a Thames Television production, Korea: The Unknown War. He recounted censorship problems the production faced from the Public Broadcasting System upon its release in the book War and Television. Cumings is the Norman and Edna Freehling Professor of History at the University of Chicago.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Cumings seeks to provide a new look at American-East Asian relations in the 20th century, especially in regard to China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. He argues that US preconceptions and altered views of Asia have distorted American visions of the area, and that this has led to counterproductive American diplomatic efforts, including the use of academics and students by government agencies. Cumings does make a significant point that given this distorted perception and the "erratic" US behavior toward North Korea, Korean leaders have reacted in a reasonable and logical manner that should not be considered as a bizarre leftover from the Cold War. Aside from the North Korean example, however, none of this is very new. Many commentators have argued that all too often Americans see Asia through a Western lens, and involvement of US universities with the CIA and other organizations is well known. Where Cumings excels is in offering new perspectives on the American vision. His ideas are engaging but require a familiarity with Northeast Asian affairs. Graduate, faculty. A. Wittenborn San Diego State University

Table of Contents

1 Archaeology, Descent, Emergence: American Mythology and East Asian Reality
2 East Wind, Rain Red Wind Black Rain: The United States-Japan War, Beginning and End
3 Colonial Formations and Deformations: Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam
4 Civil Society and Democracy in the United States and East Asia
5 Nuclear Imbalance of Terror: The American Surveillance Regime and North Korea's Nuclear Program
6 The World Shakes China
7 Boundary Displacement: The State, the Foundations, and International and Area Studies during and after the Cold War
8 East Asia and the United States: Double Vision and Hegemonic Emergence