The Mail

This article originally appeared on this site.

Age of Empires

Ian Buruma, in his review of recent books on China, considers the country’s military might but neglects its most daunting challenge to American global dominance: its growing economic influence (Books, June 19th). In 2013, President Xi Jinping unveiled an initiative to build a vast trade network of road, rail, and sea routes that will span four continents. The following year, he launched the Asian Infrastructure Investments Bank to challenge the power of the World Bank and the I.M.F.; the A.I.I.B. is now backed by more than fifty shareholding members, including Germany, France, the U.K., and Israel. The dollar remains the world’s leading reserve currency, partially because oil and other major commodities are still traded in dollars. But last year, the I.M.F. made the Chinese yuan one of its five official currencies, and Iran and Russia now conduct some oil exchanges in yuan. If more countries follow suit, it could spell the end of America’s economic preëminence. Buruma is wise to recommend a balance of concessions and coördination in order to avoid war.

Renate Bridenthal

Professor of History (Emerita)

Brooklyn College

New York City

Buruma rightly assails Donald Trump’s ignorance of Asian history, but it is not unprecedented. In April, 1962, Pearl S. Buck, a writer and East Asia specialist, attended a dinner for American Nobel laureates hosted by President John F. Kennedy. The Korean War had been over for a decade, but American troops remained stationed in South Korea to help police its border with the North. During the dinner, Kennedy turned to Buck and asked, “What shall we do about Korea?” Before she could reply, he answered his own question: “I think we’ll have to get out of there. It’s too expensive, and we’ll have to involve the Japanese to play their part.” Buck was astonished. From 1910 to 1945, Japan had imposed a brutal occupation of the Korean Peninsula, and relations between the countries remained bitter. In two sentences, the President had revealed that he was making sensitive foreign-policy decisions about nations of which he knew little.

Peter Conn

Vartan Gregorian Professor of English (Emeritus), University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pa.

Watching the Watchmen

Jennifer Gonnerman’s piece about Brooklyn’s Little Pakistan explains that in the year after 9/11, federal agencies arrested more than two hundred Pakistani immigrants living in New York City (“Neighborhood Watched,” June 26th). The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General later released a report on the so-called September 11 Detainees, showing that agents had failed to distinguish between suspected terrorists and people who had only overstayed their visas. This failure to distinguish was no accident. In 2003, an F.B.I. special agent named Coleen Rowley wrote a letter to the director of the Bureau, Robert Mueller, pointing out that “after 9/11, Headquarters encouraged more and more detentions for what seem to be essentially P.R. purposes. Field offices were required to report daily the number of detentions in order to supply grist for statements on our progress in fighting terrorism.” The abuse of immigration law enforcement has obvious relevance today, as the Trump Administration attempts to ban Muslim refugees and to tear communities apart through deportation.

Mark Dow

Brooklyn, N.Y.