MIT professor to lecture on Japan-China-US relations

Dr. Richard Samuels, professor of Political Science and director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will visit PSU on Thursday, May 12.

Dr. Richard Samuels, professor of Political Science and director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will visit PSU on Thursday, May 12. In a free lecture that will take place at 6 p.m. in the PSU Native American Center, Dr. Samuels will discuss the significance of relationships between Japan, China and the United States.

Dr. Ken Ruoff, PSU faculty and director of the Center for Japanese Studies, explained the significance of the lecture, which was organized by PSU’s CJS and the Confucius Institute.

“Here’s a talk about the worlds largest, second-largest and third-largest economies,” Dr. Ruoff said. “It’s a talk about the United States relations with the two most important powers in Northeast Asia.”

Dr. Samuels’s one-and-a-half hour lecture will deal with the political, economic, cultural and security issues that shape relations between Japan, China and the U.S. Dr. Ruoff, however, is quick to add that the lecture will be accessible to anyone, regardless of academic experience.

“We ask these speakers to prepare a lecture that’s accessible to academics and non-academics alike,” Dr. Ruoff said. “Richard Samuels is the foremost interpreter of the political situation in Japan working in the U.S. today. Recently, he’s turned his attention to Japan, China and U.S. relations. These countries all share relationships with one another that are both deeply beneficial and deeply contentious.”

Though the U.S. has an excellent relationship with Japan, and a strong relationship with China, these two powerful Northeast Asian nations have had a complex and adversarial relationship throughout history.

“China and Japan are making a fortune off of each other,” said Dr. Ruoff. “But on another level, their relations can be downright nasty. They are also both hugely important trade partners for the U.S., and if the Japan-China relationship went down the tube, it would take the U.S. with it.”

The relationship between Japan and China has been further complicated by China’s increased militarism, while Japan remains constrained by the ghosts of its militaristic past. Neighboring nations, many of which bore the brunt of Japan’s militarism in the past, remain vigilant and outspoken about any increase in their military presence.

The lecture will mark the third time that Dr. Samuels has visited PSU, and Dr. Ruoff said that the CJS has been pleased with each lecture the MIT professor has given.

“Few people are as qualified as Rick Samuels to speak on this subject,” Dr. Ruoff said. “Anyone walking into the room will be able to understand.”

In addition to political, economic and cultural relations, Dr. Samuels is likely to speak about security issues between Japan, China and the U.S. In his most recent book, “Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy & the Future of East Asia,” Dr. Samuels examined the important role that a strategic alliance with Japan plays in the U.S. presence in the region. The combination of diminished U.S. military presence in East Asia, rapidly increasing militarism in China and the proliferation of North Korea’s nuclear program has led to an increased reliance on U.S. relations with Japan.

While the expertise of lecturers like Dr. Samuels can benefit business, economics and political science majors equally, Dr. Ruoff believes that all PSU students can benefit from these cultural and international events that take place outside of the classroom.

“If you start when you’re a freshman and attend just a few outside events each term, in a sense, you’ve exposed yourself to three extra classes worth of material, for free,” Dr. Ruoff said. “Events like these are also great social events, and a good way to meet people and make connections.”

Dr. Samuels unique expertise will help both academics and non-academics to make their own connection to the complexities of international power dynamics between these three powerful and influential nations.

Dr. Richard Samuels lectures on Japan, China and U.S. relations, at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 12 at the PSU Native American Center at 710 SW Jackson Street. The one-and-a-half hour lecture is free of charge, courtesy of sponsorship by the PSU Center for Japanese Studies, Confucius Institute of PSU and the Mark Spencer Hotel. ?