Greetings, and welcome to my new and improved site.
It’s here in this space that I plan to post regular blog entries — ramblings, musings, commentaries, opinions on whatever happens to be fresh in the news, or on my mind. You might find my take on a particular news development inside China one week, or I might weigh in on an interesting current debate about, say, the efficacy of the one-child policy or whether Xi Jinping is actually producing real change.
Of course our musings here will not be restricted to China; I may be writing on occasion about events in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe or even right here in the U.S. The only connecting thread will be the topics and places I’ve long covered and cared about over three decades as a correspondent for The Washington Post.
Those of you who know me, or have followed my work just recently or over the years, know that my interests are fairly broad, and the topics I’ve covered have been many and varied. In addition to being a foreign correspondent — most recently in Beijing, and before that in Paris, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Nairobi and Manila — I also covered national education issues for the Post, and was the New York Bureau Chief from late 2007 until the end of 2009.
From New York, I helped cover the 2008 financial crisis; the Bernie Madoff scandal; the resignation of Eliot Spitzer and the epic 2008 Democratic presidential primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I also covered the gay marriage issue, as more and more states joined the movement for marriage equality, and I wrote several pieces about criminal justice, including looking at issues of prison overcrowding, and how the U.S. Census is skewed by counting prison populations housed in rural upstate New York districts. And like many an old education reporter, I continue to be perplexed as to why America has not yet figured out how to fix its ailing public education system, despite mountains of evidence showing what does and doesn’t work.
And overseas, while my primary focus recently has been China’s rise — and that’s the theme of a study group I’m now leading for this semester at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics — I remain keenly interested in Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia. In Africa, I’m anxious to see the results of Kenya’s election, and whether the country can avoid the tribal bloodletting that marred the last contest. I want to see what happens to Ethiopia’s political and economic development following last year’s death of longtime strongman Meles Zenawi. And I remain fascinated by whether Somalia will ever be able to form a stable government and once again become a functioning nation-state.
France, like much of Western Europe, continues to grapple with questions of immigration and assimilation, race and identity — all topics I covered closely as the Post’s Paris correspondent from 2000 until 2005, and will continue to watch today. And of course the European Union itself is facing a crucial test of its ability to remain a united entity. I remember covering the Treaty of Nice (the government heads kept us waiting well past midnight before they cobbled together the accord) and also various referenda on the EU held during my time on the continent. I always suspected that the lack of popular “buy in” for further institutional integration — the so-called “democratic deficit” that marked the increasing consolidation of power in Brussels — was the ticking time bomb that would one day come back to haunt European policymakers. It seems that day may have arrived sooner than I suspected.
And as for Southeast Asia, I’ll be closely following the democratization process in Burma (now called Myanmar); the red shirt-yellow shirt divisions that have characterized Thailand’s politics for the last decade; and Indonesia, which remains still a promising if unfilled experiment in whether democracy and Islam can really be compatible. And Vietnam continues to fascinate, as it, like China, attempts to continue economic reforms without giving an inch on more political openness.
My goal is to keep this space as current as possible — even while juggling my study group teaching at Harvard, monitoring some courses, and delving into freelance writing and developing a new book project. If I go dark for a few days, check back again later for a new posting. And you can always keep up with me on Twitter, by finding and following me at @keithrichburg.
Welcome, and I hope you enjoy the ride.