A visionary group of Stanford scholars established a pioneering organization three decades ago to address the need for research on Asia that — rather than being siloed by discipline and by country — reached across departments, from sociology to engineering, and looked at Asia in a regional context. The Center’s work was imbued with the desire to promote cooperation rather than the distrust of the Cold War. We take great pride in our contribution to the growing understanding of Asia’s global significance, and to the improvement in U.S.-Asia relationships developing today.
Asia's Emergence, 1983–1989
The Center began its work in the last decade of the Cold War, focusing on Northeast Asia, the region of greatest strategic significance. Through the efforts of John W. Lewis and Daniel I. Okimoto, who served as its first co-directors, the Northeast Asia–United States Forum on International Policy was founded at Stanford University in 1979. The Forum brought together existing research programs focusing on U.S.-Japan and U.S.-China relations, ones that provided a critical link between faculty members who had little prior knowledge of the countries to area specialists at Stanford and to Chinese and Japanese specialists with similar interests.
In 1983 both the Forum and the Center for International Security and Arms Control were brought under the administration of the International Strategic Institute at Stanford, a single independent administrative unit that would later become the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
The Forum addressed the need for collaboration between U.S. and Asian specialists, using interdisciplinary and regional approaches to security and economic issues.
Against the backdrop of a budding partnership with China forged to balance the Soviet Union and of increasing trade tensions with Japan, America’s most valuable ally in East Asia, early Forum research focused on arms control, high-tech industry competition, and reform in China.
Asia After the Cold War, 1990–1996
In the early nineties, the Forum underwent a change of name and an expansion of its research focus and expertise. As a prelude to this growth, in 1990 the Forum moved from its original home in Galvez House to a cluster of temporary buildings while it awaited the renovation of Encina Hall, a former men’s dormitory.
In 1992 the Forum was rechristened as the Asia/Pacific Research Center, broadening its scope to include Southeast Asia (with the arrival of then-visiting professor Donald K. Emmerson in 1994) and to examine trends cutting across the entire Asia-Pacific region during a time when Asia had become the fastest-growing area in the world. Key projects on comparative health issues also got under way during this period, laying the foundation for today’s Asia Health Policy Program.
In 1994, Walter H. Shorenstein, already a sort of “patron saint” at A/PARC, pledged $1.5 million, enabling the commencement of key initiatives that today form the basis of many of the Center’s activities. One was a program to bring distinguished practitioners to the Center; the inaugural fellow was former U.S. ambassador to the Philippines and Japan, Michael H. Armacost, who remains an essential leader at the Center to this day. Another initiative was the funding of the Distinguished Lecture Series (later called the Shorenstein Forum), which hosted an array of distinguished speakers over the years, including renowned China historian Jonathan Spence and former U.S. secretary of state George P. Schultz.
Asian Financial Crisis/The War on Terror, 1997–2005
While Asia entered an uncertain period due to financial crisis and the United States was launched into a series of conflicts following the 9/11 attacks, these years represented a time of great growth for the Center, which in 2005 was renamed the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center in recognition of its greatest benefactor. The Center developed a depth of expertise in studies of China and Korea, but also broadened its interdisciplinary and comparative work on Asia’s political economy and development.
For the first time the Center occupied a single floor in the remodeled Encina Hall; core faculty expanded with the appointments of sociologist Andrew G. Walder and political economist Jean C. Oi, as well as Korean Studies Program (KSP) founding director Gi-Wook Shin. The Center’s great loss during this period was beloved China scholar Michel Oksenberg, whose life was honored by the inaugural Oksenberg Lecture, presented by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. The Center also launched its annual Shorenstein Journalism Award in 2002, naming its first recipient as Stanley Karnow, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author and journalist.
Other significant hires were Donald Emmerson, director of the Southeast Asia Forum, and Rafiq Dossani, who led the newly established South Asia Initiative. The Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, co-directed by Henry S. Rowen and William F. Miller, released its book The Silicon Valley Edgeto great acclaim.
China’s Rise/Crisis in Korea, 2006–present
Since the middle of the last decade, Shorenstein APARC has become the premier research center for understanding North and South Korea, the rise of China as a global power, and the tensions between growing regional integration and rising nationalism in Asia, its research mission propelled by the addition of significant programs and personnel. Three new programs — on health policy in Asia, China studies, and Japan studies — were formally established; new faculty included Xueguang Zhou, Karen Eggleston, Phillip Lipscy, and Takeo Hoshi; and Masahiko Aoki and Thomas Fingar — both long associated with research at the Center — returned as Fellows. Former Pantech Fellows Daniel C. Sneider and David Straub took on new roles as associate directors of research and of KSP, respectively.
A host of new research initiatives included the New Beginnings policy study group and the West Coast Strategic Forum, which promote greater policy-oriented engagement between South Korea and the United States; the Divided Memories project, which explores national reconciliation in World War Two countries; and significant work, including a major comparative research project and a session of the annual Stanford-Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue, was accomplished on Asia’s unprecedented demographic changes.
Sadly, in 2010 the Center lost its longtime friend, advisor, and benefactor, Walter H. Shorenstein. His generosity, however, has ensured that his legacy will live on as the Center continues to thrive and fulfill its mission.
Snapshots of Shorenstein APARC's history