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The Power of Words

Freedom of the press lies at the very core of Wars Within: The Story of Tempo, an Independent Magazine in Suharto’s Indonesia (Equinox Publishing, 2005), by Janet Steele, associate professor of media and public affairs. Tempo magazine was Indonesia’s most important news weekly for 23 years before it was banned in June 1994 after an inflammatory article enraged authoritarian President Suharto’s feuding inner circle. Refusing to accept defeat, the magazine’s passionate staff waged an “underground” revolt, culminating in an online version of the magazine highly critical of the now-deposed regime, which fell in 1998.

Steele tells the story of Tempo from the news magazine’s founding in 1971, through its fall and subsequent rebirth, as well as the publication’s relationship to the politics, culture, and social development of modern Indonesian society. In so doing, she sheds light on broader questions concerning the role of the press in developing countries. Wars Within includes more than 100 interviews with Tempo’s founders, writers, and contributors, in addition to previously unpublished archival material.

Currently in Indonesia on a Fulbright senior scholar grant, Steele is spending the year teaching working journalists at the Dr. Soetomo Press Institute in Jakarta and conducting trainings throughout the region. In 2003, she was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in communication and journalism at Jakarta’s Institute for the Study of the Free Flow of Information. She has published articles on media history and criticism in journals such as Indonesia, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Columbia Journalism Review, and The American Journalism Review.

Modern Jewish History

The achievements and afflictions of the Jewish people across six continents during the past 400 years are chronicled in the epic saga, A History of the Jews in the Modern World (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), by Howard M. Sachar, professor emeritus of modern history at GW.

A renowned scholar of Jewish history, Sachar tracks the fate and fortune of the Jews from Western Europe’s age of mercantilism in the 17th century to the post-Soviet and post-Imperialist Islamic upheavals of the 21st century. The 831-page volume recounts the emergence of Jews as key players in commerce, science, politics, mass communication, and entertainment worldwide, as well as their dark days as victims of horrific anti-Semitism.

“Notwithstanding their modest demography, the Jews have functioned not simply as the anvil for the hammers of other, larger and more powerful nations,” he states. “They have generated a formidable musculature in their own right. Whether in economics, politics, culture, diplomacy, or even warfare, their role over the past several centuries looms strikingly out of proportion to their attenuated critical mass.”

In his easy-to-read style, Sachar transports readers to major centers of Jewish life around the globe over the years, focusing primarily on the Jews of the United States and Western and Central Europe, while also telling the story of lesser-known Jewish communities in the Muslim world and Africa. Adding to the richness of the volume, the author presents Jewish history in the context of complex political developments affecting the various nations where Jews lived. “Possibly more than any other people in history, the fate and fortune of the Jews prefigured the fate and fortune of the nations among whom they lived and interacted,” Sachar says. Throughout, the author’s lifetime of scholarly research shines through, painting a sweeping portrait of a people.

Sachar is the author of 15 previous books and the editor of the 39-volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History.

Asia’s Changing Face

China’s expanding influence as a major power in Asia takes center stage in Power Shift (University of California Press, 2005), edited by David Shambaugh, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Elliott School of International Affairs China Policy Program.

A collection of essays by 17 leading China scholars around the globe, Power Shift examines China’s growing economic and military power, rising political and diplomatic influence, and increasing involvement in regional multilateral institutions, as well as the impact of that rise on international relations in Asia. In the book’s introduction, Shambaugh states that since the late 1990s, “China is no longer out of the mainstream, but is repositioning itself as a (and some believe the) central actor in the region and as a responsible power seeking to enhance the stability and security of the area.”

The volume is an outgrowth of the December 2003 GW conference “China and Asia: Toward a New Regional Order,” where experts spent two days brainstorming and debating the parameters and implications of China’s rise in the region. Many of the top scholars in the field who attended the conference share their interpretive insights and expertise in the chapters of Power Shift.

Divided into six sections, the book examines the changing Asian landscape, China’s economic impact on Asia, political and diplomatic ties with its neighbors, regional security strategy and military posture, the potential impacts of China’s increased centrality in Asia on U.S.-China relations, and the broader implications of China’s growing power and influence for the regional order.

A widely published author, Shambaugh specializes in China’s domestic policies, foreign relations, and military affairs, as well as international politics and security in Asia.