Understanding the Rising Power of China

Professor Thomas J. Christensen

Professor Thomas J. Christensen

In a world where “Made in China” is more familiar than the Pledge of Allegiance, it seems that China is gaining a stronger foothold in American culture. To many, this rise in power poses a dangerous threat to American influence in Asia and beyond.

Professor Thomas J. Christensen takes issue with the view of China as a rival to the United States. In his new book, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power, he argues that Chinese leadership faces countless internal issues — especially the threat of domestic instability — which prevent the country from being considered a global “peer competitor.” Christensen is the William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics and director of the China and the World Program at Princeton. Continue reading

#ThrowbackThursday: Reunion Hall

(PAW, Sept. 21, 1965)

(PAW, Sept. 21, 1965)

This summer — like most — is a busy season for construction and maintenance across campus, stretching from the Arts and Transit Project to the Lake Carnegie dam. Fifty years ago, one building’s demolition was the “principal event” of the summer, at least in PAW’s telling. Reunion Hall, a 95-year-old former dormitory used for administrative offices, was torn down. Alan Richards captured this cover image of the work in progress, including a “Funeral, No Parking” sign in the foreground.

Built in 1870 and named to commemorate the reunion of the Old and New Schools of the Presbyterian Church, the dormitory was situated between Nassau Hall and Alexander Hall. While one University official quipped that its passing “would not leave a wet eye in the house,” the building had one claim to fame: In the fall of 1935, it was home to freshman John Fitzgerald Kennedy during his lone semester at Princeton.

Faculty Members Assess the Iran Nuclear Deal

On July 14, the United States and five other nations announced an agreement with Iran to limit Iran’s development of nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting international sanctions. The agreement has already generated considerable controversy. Israel and some in the United States have been sharply critical, while President Obama and others have defended it. Congress has until mid-September to review the agreement.

PAW asked several faculty members for their assessments of the agreement. Is this a good deal? A bad deal? A missed opportunity? The best that could be hoped for under the circumstances? We present their conclusions below.

Daniel Kurtzer (Frank Wojciechowski)

Daniel Kurtzer (Frank Wojciechowski)

Daniel Kurtzer, S. Daniel Abraham Visiting Professor in Middle East Policy Studies and former U.S. ambassador to Egypt (1997-2001) and Israel (2001-2005)

As a nonproliferation agreement, the agreement is quite strong. It blocks several pathways Iran had been employing to potentially reach a nuclear capability. It sets a severe limit on the amount of enriched uranium that can remain in the country. And it limits the number of centrifuges Iran is permitted to keep.

There are three issues that matter most. One, to what extent can inspectors catch Iran should it cheat? That is an open question. Two, what happens if we catch them cheating? This goes to the will of the administration to take action. Will the president of the United States hold Iran to a very high standard, or will he accept some ambiguity in their behavior? Third, will Iran come clean on its previous nuclear program? This is part of a separate agreement Iran has made with the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Iran doesn’t report things that we know they have been doing, that would be another violation.

Would we have been better off holding on to sanctions and squeezing Iran harder until it capitulated and abandoned its nuclear program altogether? That is unrealistic. Most experts believe that the sanctions were not going to be effective for much longer. Russia and China certainly would have backed away from them if the United States had walked away from negotiations.

Some have asked why we did not include all of Iran’s other bad behavior in the deal. The explanation comes down to tactics. The administration made a choice to isolate the nuclear issue from all the others. We know Iran is doing other bad things in the region, such as backing Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, but the administration believes that we are in a stronger position to address those problems if Iran is not also developing a nuclear capability.

David Menashri, visiting fellow at Princeton; founding director of the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University

The Iranians made a pragmatic decision to make some concessions on the nuclear issue in order to get relief from the sanctions. The end result is that those who wanted just to delay the Iranian nuclear program can be satisfied.

Still, I would say the Iranians won. Two years ago, the Iranians were desperate. The international sanctions were ruining their economy, and the currency lost much of its value. Unemployment was high and so was inflation. Their regional allies (Syria, Hizballah, Iraqi government) were in trouble. Disillusionment and disenchantment were mounting. So the Iranian government realized that they needed to make some concessions on the nuclear front to achieve their other interests. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Geneticist Leonid Kruglyak ’87

Leonid Kruglyak ’87 (UCLA)

Leonid Kruglyak ’87 (UCLA)

When PAW’s pages last featured Leonid Kruglyak ’87, the Princeton ecology and evolutionary biology professor had developed a new way to understand the genetic basis of complex traits influenced by multiple genes. This method, published in Nature, examined chemical resistance and mitochondrial function in a study of millions of yeast cells.

Five years later, Kruglyak is being honored for his contributions to the fields of genetics and genomics. Now a professor of human genetics and biological chemistry at UCLA, Kruglyak will receive the Curt Stern Award from the American Society of Human Genetics Oct. 9, which recognizes outstanding scientific achievements in human genetics.

His UCLA lab currently conducts experiments aimed at understanding how changes at the level of DNA are shaped by molecular and evolutionary forces and how those changes lead to the observable differences among individuals within a species.

Kruglyak told The New York Times in 2012 that geneticists had long recognized that mutations could “throw sand in the gears of the brain” and that complex traits arose in complicated ways.

“Talking about a ‘a gene for a trait’ is a shorthand at best,” he said, “and a well-known fallacy at worst.” Continue reading

Princeton Books Quiz: Opening Lines

Test your literary knowledge by identifying the Princetonians who wrote these opening lines. Three prize-winners will be selected at random from the entries with the most correct responses.

  • Let us know. We’ll post a selection when we announce the contest winners next month.

#ThrowbackThursday: Princeton From the Air, 1928

Click to enlarge. (From the PAW Archives, Oct. 5, 1928)

Click to enlarge. (From the PAW Archives, Oct. 5, 1928)

From PAW’s Oct. 5, 1928, issue:

“An arresting view of the University campus, showing the handsome group of newer dormitories which have sprung up during the past decade at its southwest corner — Lockhart, 1905-Foulke, 1904-Henry, Laughlin, 1901, and Pyne Halls.”

Can any alumni spot their old rooms?