Asian politics specialist Robert A. Scalapino dies at 92


Robert A. Scalapino, a prominent Asian political scholar who rose to prominence during the Vietnam War for his strong defense of American policy as opposition to it grew, died on November 1 in Oakland, in California. He was 92 years old.

The cause was complications from a respiratory infection, the University of California, Berkeley said. Professor Scalapino taught there from 1949 to 1990 and founded his Institute of East Asian Studies in 1978.

Author of 39 books on Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan, Professor Scalapino has also been editor of Asian survey, a scholarly publication, from 1962 to 1996 and advised the State Department and other government agencies.

In 1965, he ended up making the case for the Johnson administration for escalating war in what was billed as a national teaching in Vietnamese politics. The event was a panel debate before an audience of 5,000 in Washington and over 100,000 people on more than 100 campuses who gathered to hear the debate over radio links.

McGeorge Bundy, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s national security adviser, was due to attend, and many attendees had hoped to hear his pro-war views and confront him. When he canceled at the last minute, it fell to Professor Scalapino, who had also been invited to join the panel, to take the lead in defending White House policy. He argued that the United States was fighting communism, not Asian nationalism, and that China would see the United States as a “paper tiger” if it gave up the war.

He continued to make this point the following year in a lengthy New York Times Magazine article. He wrote that the war has tested “America’s ability to respond to a threat that is important but not terminal.”

His pro-war views have been contested by some academics. In 1967, after helping to write a report with 13 other academics claiming that war pursuits were a “moderate” course, four professors at the University of Pennsylvania wrote a letter to The Times saying that “destroying a small country” was immoral.

Robert Anthony Scalapino was born October 19, 1919 in Leavenworth, Kan., And spent his teenage years in Santa Barbara, California, where his father taught. He studied politics, focusing on relations between the United States and Europe, at what is now the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he graduated in 1940. He obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate. from Harvard. His interest in Asia was sparked when he was trained in the Japanese language as a naval officer during World War II.

Professor Scalapino has become an influential analyst of the Japanese political system. He called it a “one-and-a-half” system in which the dominant Liberal Democrats maneuvered with minority parties to rule. His description of today’s China as an “authoritarian-pluralist society,” a society that allows limited rights but not democracy, has been widely cited.

In the mid-1970s, John K. Fairbank, the eminent Sinologist, called Professor Scalapino “the leader of the Asian revolution in American thought”.

Professor Scalapino advised Secretaries of State, urging closer relations with China years before President Richard M. Nixon’s historic visit in 1972 and condemning the “gross” human rights violations in Taiwan in the United States. 1960s. In 2002, he worked behind the scenes to organize a visit to North Korea by a group of American experts on Korea. The trip was canceled after President George W. Bush included North Korea in what he called the “axis of evil”.

Last year the National Asian Research Office and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Researchers created the Scalapino Prize, which will be awarded to an outstanding American researcher on Asia.

His 64-year-old wife, ex Dee Jessen, passed away in 2005, and their daughter Leslie Scalapino passed away last year. He is survived by his daughters Diane Jablon and Lynne Scalapino; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Professor Scalapino has visited the People’s Republic of China 62 times, the last at the age of 88. He went to Tibet and, using an oxygen tank, rode a yak up a mountain to a Buddhist monastery.


Lyle L. Maltby

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