About this site

This website is dedicated to promoting ideas, policies, and organizations that seek to advance international understanding and the quality of life, especially for the largely impoverished global majority and disempowered citizens everywhere. The blog and accompanying materials seek to speak to the human interest, guided by principles of social justice, environmental stewardship, protection and promotion of human rights, and peace rather than by the interests of governments or corporations. Greed, injustice, and violence are my targets; and diplomacy focused on engagement is my preferred strategy for transcending differences. Einstein once said that “those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.”  I am dedicated to that ideal and sense of responsibility.

About me


I am Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University (Oregon) and Senior Editor of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly, which from 1994 to 2017 I served as Editor-in-Chief. I have published thirty books on the international politics of East Asia, US foreign policy, and human-security issues. My latest book is Engaging China: Rebuilding Sino-American Relations (Rowman & Littlefield, coming in October 2022). Other recent books are America in Retreat: Foreign Policy Under Donald Trump (2020) and Engaging Adversaries: Peacemaking and Diplomacy in the Human Interest (2018).

I live in Deadwood, a very small community in western Oregon, where I help my wife in the beautiful Heirloom apple orchard and vegetable garden she has created.


  1. I love your piece today on “The Smirking Chimp”.I live in a small narrow-mined community in Ohio and am always seeking out kindred souls in this a most dark period in the history of this country.Thank-you for brightening my day.

  2. Your class in the MIM program at PSU was my number 1 favorite class in the entire program. My interests in international affair started after taking your class. I immediately thought of your lecture on North Korea when the North and South Koreas’ leaders met two days ago. What you said in the lecture about North Korea was right although many American students strongly disagreed with you during the lecture. I happened to bump into you one time at PDX airport while waiting for TSA bag checks few years after graduation. Pardon me for forgetting your full name at that time but I always remember your awesome lectures. By the way, your knowledge of the Chinese language was truly impressive, even better than mine. Cheers to you Professor Gurtov!

  3. I’m signed up for “follow by email.” BTW, Ming Tan’s “your knowledge of the Chinese language was truly impressive, even better than mine. Cheers to you Professor Gurtov!” only echoes what I experienced in the past, in the old days at U.C. Riverside. I won’t forget that time in San Berdoo at the Chinese joint featuring one of the Kuomintang’s/ Chiang Kai Shek’s personal chefs (I think!).

  4. Interesting article in Counterpunch, Mel, on Trump’s post-election strategy. In the large, I agree.
    Just looking at your site for first time; read most of Charles Freeman’s thoughtful article on China and the US.
    I tend to agree with most of it. Meanwhile, reading between the lines a bit here, I wonder:
    1) Are you against strong US support for Taiwanese sovereignty? I can understand some of China’s claims, and a global war to defend Taiwan would be, umm, unfortunate, and yet my gut tells me that, dominated or not by the losing faction in the Chinese civil war, this island has the right to continued self-determination. And I think that most people there would bitterly fight mainland takeover.
    2) Do you follow Freeman in what I understand would be his skepticism toward a ‘nationalist’ restructuring of US-Chinese trade? My axiom is, you can’t have free trade with countries that aren’t free, thus de-industrialization of the US, decline of the working middle class – and the victory of Trump. Of course, by forbidding indep. labor unions, and minimizing environmental protection, China cuts costs even more and the US can’t compete. Might you say, if the Democratic and Republican leadership had structured our trade policies with this in mind from the beginning, things might be better now for American workers, but now, in effect, it’s too late – we either have to invest, innovate, and compete, or continue to decline? I’m sure you are conversant with arguments against neoliberalism, the WTO, etc.
    3) Springing from the critique of ‘unfree’ China – and no, I don’t support US direct or covert operations of any kind to subvert CCP control, let the people of China decide – do you think PSU should host a Confucius Institute? I don’t. Although it risks hypocrisy for Americans to puff out our chests toward any country as far as our human rights record here and abroad.
    Anyways, just curious. Perhaps you won’t want to ‘publicly’ comment on some of that. I have no ulterior agenda, I am just ordinary PCC math instructor, and occasional history student at PSU.
    With respect,
    Marc Rose, Portland

    1. Thanks, Marc, for your excellent questions. I’ll be brief with my answers. (1) I do believe in self-determination for the Taiwanese. Unifying with the mainland should only come by the will of Taiwan’s people. At the same time, I don’t support major arms sales to Taiwan, which antagonize the PRC without really adding to Taiwan’s deterrence capability. A PRC invasion is extremely unlikely; a cyber attack is more conceivable. (2) I agree that the keys to trade are competitiveness and innovation, not a trade war, and that means strong USG support for R&D, unions, and multinational investments at home. The US should also recommit to multilateral trade agreements so long as they provide for worker and environmental protection. (3) I do support Confucius Institutes, at PSU and elsewhere, although they are becoming a dying breed. Please see my blog #279. I just completed a report with 3 colleagues on CIs in the US (including PSU’s). We found not a sngle instance in which they pushed the party’s line or tried in any way to undermine academic freedom. But they have become caught up in the current anti-China wave, and half of them have closed.

      1. Thanks so much for quick and interesting answers, Mel.
        1) Makes a lot of sense. At the same time, ‘behind the scenes’ there is the ability of China to gradually interpenetrate (is that a word?) the economy — and therefore, the society — of a given nation. As they continue to do with the Hong Kong entity. Oh wait, and with the US too! In any case that phenomena would seem to be largely up to the people of Taiwan to deal with.

        2) Yes, but of course the problem is that enforcing decent labor and envir. standards here makes it harder to compete with Chinese practices across the sea. And in the end you make or at least imply my point – that int’l trade agreements should attempt to enforce a level playing field in terms of labor and envir. protection, among other things. Thus, whatever trade agreements shape our trade relations with China are rather worthless because they are toothless in this regard.

        3) Very interesting. I might recall a certain bias of PSU CI special events away from some of the most sensitive phenomena, e.g. Tibet, the Uighurs, … But at the same time some events did reflect criticism – e.g. a film on a certain famous and rather dissident artist – and I don’t recall ever feeling that we were getting a pro-CCP messages aggressively foisted upon us. (Of course, that would not be consistent with soft power). In the end, I must admit, in spite of my opposition, I’m a bit sad to hear that so many CI’s have closed. Wait, I’m saying PSU should not host a CI – but I attended many of their events? Ouch!

        Your post on the CI’s makes a lot of good points. Perhaps a small dialectic. i) One can still object that by most objective standards, China is a dictatorship – witness their purging of the HK parliament – and so hosting a Chinese institute on a public campus is inappropriate. ii) And yet, as you so well point out, it’s a great way to teach Americans about Chinese language and culture, thus improving mutual understanding between two ideologically different regimes. iii) But on the third hand, put this against the larger background of bipartisan US leadership’s construction of an increasingly neoliberal international order – and thus ‘free trade with countries that aren’t free’, and our resulting de-industrialization. Then these ‘programs for mutual understanding,’ ‘increase of student body diversity via PRC student representation,’ ‘enhancement of PSU business school experience through partnership with Chinese entities’ – etc. etc. etc. – well, they can be viewed in a much harsher light.

        To put it another way, I have valued my interactions with individual Chinese at the PSU Confucius institute and other contexts. But, to speak only of environmental affairs, the US and China are leading in the global rape of the environment while covering it over – and the Democratic party has excelled at this — with pleasant sounding discourse about ‘globalization’ and ‘diversity.’

        If only a lot of the people, like Trump, who criticize Chinese practices actually talked more about the lack of workers’ and environmental rights there, and how it relates to similar struggles in our country. But that would not be consistent with Trump’s ideology, which is mostly neoliberal. So he yells a lot about intellectual property rights, and stays quiet about most other things.

        Thanks again for your comments – Marc

  5. Hi,

    I have just read your article in this morning’s Counterpunch “Getting back to basics in policy on Israel” . While I agree with your overall sentiments I find it hard to agree with your solutions.

    My main objections are twofold. The first is the idea of having two states as per the 1967 green line. The Israelis never intended a two state solution – not since the first Zionists viewed Palestine (Weismann, Herzl, Zabotinsky) nor since the practices of Ben Gurion and Sharon – but were aware that an ethnic cleansing would be required for a Jewish national state. The Oslo accords (see Seth Anziska, Preventing Palestine, Princeton, Oxford, 2018) provided a great cover to continue with the building of settlements while constantly annexing land and destroying Palestinian infrastructure, making it into a non-contiguous territory. Israel will never go along with a two state solution without enormous outside pressure – negotiations are fruitless for the Palestinians as their are no negotiators of good faith from Israel or the U.S.

    Which brings up the second point: “with a US-led multinational presence to oversee mutual security;”. Really? For all the problems created by the U.S. and its various “coalitions” you still think they coud oversee mutual security as a neutral party?: Have Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq not meant anything about how the U.S. conducts its diplomatic initiatives?

    The current present best answer is a one state solution with democracy for all – Israel at the moment is not a democracy regardless of all its claims otherwise. That in itself will not come about without significant changes to the current international geopolitical status. It is a highly militarized theocratic state wishing to ethnically cleanse as much of Palestine as possible so that it can be the regional hegemon, supported by the wannabe global hegemon, the U.S.

    Jim Miles
    Vernon, B.C.

  6. Make foreign policy a local issue
    Nuclear Freeze in the 1980s is the only citizens group to ever change the direction of US foreign policy. It successfully pushed Washington into a series of treaties with the Soviets to reduce the nuclear programs of both nations by putting propositions on the ballots of 100-plus cities around the county.

    The Foreign Policy Alliance is working to revive the Freeze with 21st century tools. Interested persons are invited to look at the Take Action page of our website: foreignpolicyalliance.org.

    1. The 1980s freeze and comparable citizens movements in Europe were indeed effective. I’m glad to know that the freeze idea is being revived by FPA.

  7. Thanks for your contribution to the Siuslaw News.

    I’m a friend of Nora K.’s

    You and I probably share some of the same beefs. I’ve been an anti-war activist for over 60 years. I was extremely involved in the Viet Nam war resistance.

    I had a very different perspective on 9/11, and felt it was a product of Bush’s failure to pay attention to the recommendations of an airline safety commission chaired by Al Gore in 1999/2000. He had paid the Taliban over $40 million for opium suppression in the first eight months of his term, so I figured he should have tried to deal with them over surrendering bin Laden.

    I thought the invasion and occupation of Iraq was completely unjustified and Colin Powell, etc, knowingly lied about it. I was extremely close to the Pentagon when it got hit and it was quite an amazing experience. I damn well knew who did it and how, the instant the first plane hit.

    I’d visited the Twin Towers in 1993 to see a friend at the Commodity Futures Exchange Commission just a few months after it had been bombed, and was painfully aware of the Bojinka plot, the gross shortcomings in airline security, and the U.S.S. Cole, the Kenya and Tanzania, bombings, etc.

    I got to have a half hour conversation with Scott Ritter in August 2002, after watching his documentary. I was by chance literally with Tom Daschle just a moment after he got the news that summoned him to the White House about the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

  8. https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/02/25/putins-war/
    Hi Mel – just a quick note to let you know your head is way up your ass regarding the Ukraine war. You blame Russia for what’s happening in Ukraine!? “Putin’s war!?” As if the USA hasn’t been instigating this conflict and doing everything it can to provoke Russia, including the 2014 Maidan coup….training and arming the Azov battalion of neo-nazis….selling millions of dollars of tanks, guns, howitzers, javelin tank missiles, etc to the radicalized Ukrainian army? I don’t know how people like you actually teach others. Maybe because you’re just another “anti-Russia asshat”, safely in the USA media’s “hate Russia, demonize Russia” echo chamber.

    Leaving you with your head up your ass,
    Deschutes Maple

    1. YOUR head is way up YOUR ass. I’ve known Mel for over forty-five plus years; and he’s a damned good Prof; although we’ve disagreed—sometimes whole heartedly—through the years.

  9. Just discovered your blog…..my mind goes back 50 years…..its as if I can hear your writing as a lecture in Watkins Hall as a lost sophomore ball player at UCR attempting to learn Political Science……please continue your writing and continue to educate…….I am sorry that our nation lacks the lively and divergent exchange of ideas that you so often encouraged in your classes

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