Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chalmers Johnson Obituaries

Following up my post, "Chalmers Johnson, 1931-2010."

WaPo published an obituary yesterday, "
Renowned Asia Scholar Chalmers Johnson Dies at 79."
Dr. Johnson's interest in Asia began in 1953, after he graduated with an economics degree from the University of California at Berkeley and became an officer in the Navy aboard a landing ship tank, a shallow-bottomed cargo vessel.

During his wartime service, Dr. Johnson's ship ferried North Korean prisoners back across the demarcation line but often experienced mechanical trouble and was sent to Yokohama, Japan, for repairs.

While waiting for the vessel to be fixed, Dr. Johnson bided his time by learning Japanese and examining the country's culture, economy and longtime turbulent relationship with China.

When he returned to Berkeley in 1955, Dr. Johnson began studying political science and immersed himself in texts related to Asia. For his doctoral thesis, Dr. Johnson explored the rise of the Communist party in China, which he claimed was rooted in a contagious zeitgeist of nationalism shared among much of the country's poor.

To illustrate his point, he compared the rise of Communism in China to that of Yugoslavia shortly after the Germans invaded that eastern European country in World War II, where many peasants became fervently nationalistic and mobilized under the Yugoslav Communist party leadership.

He received a doctorate in 1961 and embarked on a year-long Ford Foundation fellowship in Tokyo. During that time, he revised his thesis and in 1962 it was released as a book - "Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1937-1945," - the same year he joined the Berkeley political science faculty.

In 1982, Dr. Johnson released "MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925-1975," where he reported on the Japanese government's control over the country's capitalistic market.

It was in the research to that book that Dr. Johnson said he initially became disillusioned with what he would later term "American imperialism" abroad and would lead him "to see clearly for the first time the shape of the empire that I had so long uncritically supported."
The full obituary at the link.

UC San Diego has a feature as well, "
Leading Scholar on Japan - Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010) - Left Lasting Legacy at UC San Diego."