Sociologist, internationalist and analyst, Ezra F. Vogel died on December 20, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the age of 90. This extraordinary communicator of his knowledge, born July 11, 1930 in Delaware (Ohio), has a career that symbolizes the changes in China, Asia and their relations with the United States.
Much more an observer than a theoretician, he walked his mirror along his paths, and had the gift of drawing clear and practical conclusions. They have marked their time on several occasions, since Japan as Number one. Lessons for America (Harvard University, 1979, untranslated) to the monumental Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (Harvard University, 2011, untranslated): two publishing successes above all in Japan and China. Beyond his writings, he has been the mentor of successive generations of American and foreign sinologists – before becoming the confidant of the many Chinese students and scholars visiting Harvard University, including the children of top leaders.
After two years in the US Army, he had earned a PhD in Family Sociology (1958) from Harvard, and he never left the Cambridge campus from 1961 until his retirement, in 2012 – and even beyond. : in his modest wooden house two streets away from the campus, he has welcomed and lodged countless visitors linked to East Asia. He was also (1993-1995) the National Intelligence Officer for Asia to the Clinton administration, and has kept an informal advisory role to the Democratic administrations.
His active role as a mentor makes him one of the great sponsors of American sinology. Its influence also comes from inseparable qualities of listening and communication. This makes it extremely difficult to find a fierce opponent of Ezra Vogel. He was greeted on his death as well by the spokesperson for Chinese foreign affairs, who awarded him the designation of “Great friend of China”, as by Wang Dan, the student leader of the Tiananmen events, who recalls their disagreements, but calls him “Magnanimous giant”.
Ezra Vogel was therefore a politician in his own way, engaged in Sino-American relations, and sometimes criticized for his indulgence towards the Chinese regime. Official organizer of the visit to Harvard of Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1998, he actively advocated in his last years the resumption of the policy of engagement with China.
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