For a Chinese scholar, the Far East is never far

During her more than four decades at the University of Miami, political scientist June Teufel Dreyer has earned her place as the world authority on communist power.

With tensions between China and Taiwan escalating, June Teufel Dryer, the renowned Chinese scholar and University of Miami defense expert, doubts she can return to the increasingly authoritarian nation she started. to study, almost by default, more than half a century ago.

“I haven’t been to China for three years – mainly because of the pandemic – and I’m afraid that if I go now, I will be arrested because I don’t say what the government wants me to say.” said Dreyer, president of the American Association of Chinese Studies and a fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies who once started out as a chemist. “They take away human rights and their prisons are very, very cruel places. “

There is no doubt that during President Xi Jinping’s iron rule, China’s vast censorship and surveillance forces know that Dreyer attended the historic inauguration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, after the island that China claims as its own elected its first female president. And they vehemently reject Dreyer’s position that Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the People’s Republic of China, is a sovereign state and should be unambiguously recognized as such by the United States.

But Dreyer has no problem keeping tabs on China from her office in the Campo Sano building on the Coral Gables campus, where she maintains an extensive reference library of government reports, global newspaper articles and more. open source documents on the Communist Central. and the rest of East Asia. Known for her original scholarship, prolific writings, and lectures on China, U.S. defense policy, and international relations, the political science professor is there seven days a week, writing articles, browsing global journals. online, working on the 11th edition of “Chinese Political System: Modernization and Tradition” – which is taught at universities around the world – and juggles demands for expertise.

Fluent in her parents’ Chinese, Japanese and native German, she is quoted almost weekly by world media – from the BBC to Al Jazeera – and is often sought after by government agencies, the military, police groups. thinking and diplomats. In October, the Congressional Research Service cited the article she wrote on “Global Warming and Heated Arctic Politics” for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, where she is a senior fellow. Last month, Japan’s new Consul General in Miami visited him, five years after his 2016 book, “Middle Kingdom and Empire of the Rising Sun: Sino-Japanese Relations Past and Present, ” was named best book in Japan by a leading think tank.

And last Tuesday, she participated in a private roundtable on the future of Indo-Pacific geopolitics hosted by the Wilson Center, a key non-partisan political forum. The panel focused on Taiwan, the subject of her most recent book, “Taiwan in the Era of Tsai Ing-wen: Changes and Challenges”, which she edited with the director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China. from the University of Pennsylvania. Casey Law School. Published in April, as Beijing launched its unprecedented military forays into the Taipei air defense zone, the book assesses the forces that led to the 2016 election and the 2020 re-election of Tsai, whom Dreyer has known for years and admire deeply.

“She has a very calm demeanor which was seen as a drawback during the election campaign because people want to see politicians shell the office and promise this or that,” said Dreyer, who was an election observer in Democracy. prosperous that she has. started visiting in the 1980s. “But she directs with a cool skill. And feminists take note: she surrounds herself with equally competent women. Her ambassadorial equivalent to the United States and her digital minister, who represented Taiwan last week at President Biden’s democracy summit, are both women.

The daughter of a surgical instrument maker and disgruntled housewife, Dreyer grew up on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn at a time when women in the workforce, let alone politicians, raised eyebrows. “You were expected to get married, have children and follow your husband everywhere and, if you worked, it was assumed that your husband could not provide for you,” Dreyer said, recalling that his mother had eventually took a job at a nearby sweatshop. his father’s objections.

But Dreyer had bigger dreams and was quick to shy away from society’s expectations. In 1958, she went to Wellesley College to study chemistry, thinking she would work in industry. But that plan was derailed by an affliction she shared with her father: in cold weather, their fingers would crack and bleed. “It really ruined all of my experiences,” she recalls. “They were cracking and bleeding in all of my titrations, so I thought I would never be a chemist.”

After taking a course on China, Japan and India, she thought about becoming an expert on India, until “someone pointed out that India has about 248 languages. So I was like, ‘Well, it’s not right. I’m just going to study China, ‘thinking everyone speaks Mandarin.’ ‘

This decision would prove to be auspicious because, at the time, the United States Department of Defense offered language scholarships to study Chinese and Japanese. So, Dreyer went to Harvard University, where her doctorate. dissertation on China’s ethnic minorities would become her first book, “China’s 40 Million,” and where she met her husband, Edward Dreyer, at the Harvard-Yenching Library. He would become a renowned historian of military and Chinese history and, by the time of his death in 2007, one of the most esteemed professors at the University of Miami.

Before joining the University’s faculty in 1970, Edward Dreyer accompanied his wife to Japan, where she studied Japanese and conducted research, but was not taken seriously. “When I started, the men were incredibly chauvinistic,” she said. “I had to take my husband with me to ask the questions. They wouldn’t answer a woman because what could I know?

Eager to establish her expertise, she waited nine years to follow her husband to the United States. Through the birth of their two children and her first three jobs, including two teaching positions elsewhere, they maintained a suburban marriage. When her husband convinced her that it was time for their family to live together, she reluctantly left her post as Senior Far Eastern Specialist at the Library of Congress, but not before carving out a place for herself as as a defense specialist, which she did under duress. .

She still remembers her fear when, on her first day on the job in Washington, DC, she was told that she would also be serving as the China Defense Analyst at the library. She walked over to a dark office filled with books on the uniforms, ranks, badges, and military weapons of the world. Borrowing each volume on China, she studied them in the subway on the way home every night. “Too bad I was already married,” she joked. “It was a great way to meet guys.”

It wasn’t long before those in power sought his expertise. After joining her husband at the Faculty of the University of Miami in 1979, she served as an Asia Advisor to the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations and began visiting 14 Asia-Pacific states as a lecturer on the US defense policy and security commitments for the US News Agency. She was also an assistant professor of Asia-Pacific studies at the US Air Force Special Operations School and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission established by Congress.

Now, more than four decades later, the pandemic has curtailed his travel, but not his joy in teaching. “I love children,” she says. “They’re the ones who make teaching fun. “

And his students love him too. “Without a doubt, she has been my favorite teacher,” said Andres Torres, a political science student taking Dreyer’s China course this fall. “A lot of people know a lot about something, but she knows something about everything. My Christmas reading is going to be awesome. I intend to read everything she wrote.

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