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Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center

February 15, 2013
Gi-Wook Shin

In May 2013, the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) will celebrate its 30th anniversary. OIA met with Professor Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Shorenstein APARC, to hear about the center’s unremitting efforts to resolve various issues in Asia and to strengthen U.S.-Asia relations over the last three decades.

Q. Asia is thought to be one of the most dynamic regions in the world that have gone and will go through radical changes in economics, culture, and politics. As a leading research center promoting a deeper understanding of Asia, how does the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) keep up with academic research and policy issues in the region?

GS: Shorenstein APARC is privileged to have several key programs that help keep it updated on regional issues and academically vibrant. Our visiting scholars program is one of them. We bring visiting scholars from China, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. By inviting leading scholars and experts from Asia, we actively tackle ongoing social and political issues in the region.

We also increasingly convene leading minds in Asia. The Stanford Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue, for example, takes place each year at the Kyoto International Community House. It brings together scholars and subject experts from Asian countries and the United States to exchange views on critical issues, such as energy, the environment, economic growth, higher education, and regional integration. We conclude each Dialogue with a lively public symposium, which offers Kyoto residents the opportunity to meet with and ask the experts questions.

We also promote interdisciplinary research in Asia by actively collaborating with other organizations on campus, including the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS), the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and the School of Medicine. For instance, we have worked with the School of Medicine to conduct research on tuberculosis-related issues in Asia, and regularly co-sponsor Stanford student summer internships in Asia with CEAS.

In terms of outside partners, we work with several world-renowned research institutions and think tanks, including the Brookings Institution and the Sejong Institute of Korea. We have also co-hosted major conferences with China’s National Development and Reform Commission. Finally, our Corporate Affiliates Program, which was founded at the same time as our center, has provided the opportunity for Asian business and government professionals to conduct and contribute to research at Stanford. We have a growing roster of several hundred alumni visiting fellows in Asia.

Q. Shorenstein APARC and FSI recently hosted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's talk about the UN’s role in creating opportunities in today’s rapidly changing world. In the speech, he mentioned three tasks that the UN is focusing on: sustainable development, pursuing dignity and democracy, and empowering women and young people. How do they intersect with Shorenstein APARC's mission?

GS: In terms of sustainable development, one of the center’s research initiatives focuses on the demographic transition that is taking place in Asia. Our Comparative Policy Responses to Demographic Change in East Asia project looks at this widespread transition coupled with policy, health care, economics, education, social issues, and many other factors in the region.

We cannot discuss democracy without bringing up security issues in Asia, viewed through the lens of the region’s dynamic history of politics and international relations. Thus, we regularly collaborate on research and events with FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and the Center for International Security and Corporation.

"Asia is one of the most dynamic world regions where a great amount of unforeseeable circumstances lie; however, it will definitely be a powerhouse of economic development in the next decade."

Q. The talk, part of the Asia-Pacific Leaders Forum, kicked off Shorenstein APARC’s thirtieth anniversary. I assume that it has been a very long and exciting journey with contributions from many. What are some of the most noticeable changes and its consequences in terms of the programs or structure of the center?

GS: The center was established in 1983, and it was endowed as the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center in 2005. It was originally in Galvez House until it moved to its current home in Encina Hall in the late 1990s.

Besides its new location, there have been some significant changes over the decades. We have grown into a robust, diverse center with five research-focused programs: the Asia Health Policy Program, Japan Studies Program, Korean Studies Program, Southeast Asia Forum, and Stanford China Program. In addition, we have a South Asia Initiative. We encourage each program to pursue its own agenda with great autonomy. I try to keep logistical barriers as low as possible when it comes to collaboration among programs within the center. My goal as a director is to foster an open and flexible environment so that each program can take advantage of the center’s tremendous resources.

Q. “Old Tensions and New Transformations” was the title of Shorenstein APARC’s recent annual report. As the director of the center, what major transformations do you anticipate in the Asia-Pacific region in the next decade and what would be the center’s role to support the University’s presence in Asia?

GS: Asia is one of the most dynamic world regions where a great amount of unforeseeable circumstances lie; however, it will definitely be a powerhouse of economic development in the next decade. Although it is not entirely clear what role China will play in the region, it will undoubtedly be an important stakeholder. Shorenstein APARC will continue to engage with leading scholars and policymakers on this question, both from China and from other Asian countries. One way we are doing this is through the China and the World research initiative, which is exploring China’s interactions in the various regions of Asia.

Shorenstein APARC plays an important role in connecting Asia with the University in so many innovative ways. There are the in-Asia activities, such as the Stanford Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue, I mentioned earlier, and countless activities at Stanford. For instance, the Korean Studies Program was recently awarded with a major gift from Hana Financial Group and a grant from the Korea Foundation, which will provide a major boost to strengthen K-12 outreach education offerings on Korea at Stanford.

I invite your readers to learn about our latest research, publications, events, and other resources on the Shorenstein APARC website

Read more about the U.N. Secretary-General’s speech at Stanford

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