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Focus Asia 2008

8-9 May & 25 November

Moral and Political Leadership in Asia 

The overall theme for the Focus Asia lectures in spring 2008 was moral and political leadership in Asia. After the tsunami catastrophe in 2004 religious leadership became pivotal and for many individual survivors religion became their lifeline. Two lectures addressed Buddhist leadership in the aftermath of the tsunami in Thailand and in Sri Lanka. In Burma, the ongoing struggle for democracy is personalized and founded in Buddhist ethics. Two lectures addressed charisma, power, notions of moral and leadership in Burma and Thailand. The lectures presented ethnic minorities, case studies of Burmese Buddhist monks, kings and politicians. Buddhist leadership is a central issue in the relationship between China and Tibet. One lecture focused on the Dalai Lama.

In post-war Japan, an effective political leadership depended on how effectively a person could operate their environment. The new generation of Japanese leaders today meet the challenges of a more individualistic leadership where personal appeal is of increasing importance. The lectures on aspects of leadership in Japan addressed symbolic leadership, political leadership and generational change. The concept of leadership as an academic discipline in cultural contexts was elaborated in one lecture.

Focus Asia also showed three documentaries, two about the invited Buddhist monk Phrakhru Suwatthithammarat, and the third about Tibet.


(In)security in Asia: Land, Energy & Food

In our ninth event, we examined the inter-relationships between the environment and security. The endless and increasingly competitive search for resources, be they food, water, or energy related, is proving to be a potent cause of divisions and conflicts.

Our first lecture looked at a region that has been the focus of much international scrutiny of late: the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. This case neatly demonstrated the relationship between land and water management issues and security in a region plagued by conflict.

Our second lecture movesd onto the issue of energy security; another hot topic in Asia. An emergent China with expanding energy needs illustrates the importance of a coherent energy policy. This lecture examined the impact of these energy policies on regional security and the reduction of conflict.

In addition, we were excited to be able to offer, in conjunction with The Rural Development Group (RuDe), an open lecture by Dr. Peter Timmer of Stanford University on food security in Asia.