Ezra Vogel, renowned Asia scholar and biographer, dies at 90

National News
Ezra Vogel, EZRA VOGEL

FILE – In this June 17, 1999, file photo, Harvard professor Ezra Vogel gestures while speaking during his luncheon speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. Vogel, a leading U.S. scholar on East Asia whose biography of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping won acclaim and awards, died Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Cambridge, Mass. Vogel was 90. (AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara, FIle)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A leading U.S. scholar on East Asia whose biography of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping won acclaim and awards has died. Ezra F. Vogel was 90.

Vogel died Sunday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from complications after surgery, said his son, Steven Vogel.

A longtime professor at Harvard, Vogel’s “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China,” published in 2011, won the 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, among other honors.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday called Vogel “an old friend of the Chinese people.”

“Professor Ezra Vogel has made unremitting efforts to promote communication and exchanges between China and the United States and enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples. We will always remember his contributions to the development of China-US relations,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

A son of Jewish immigrants, Vogel grew up in Delaware, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1950. After two years of Army service, he studied sociology at Harvard, earning a doctorate there. He taught briefly at Yale University before returning to Harvard to study Chinese language and history, and served as a professor from 1967 until his retirement from teaching in 2000.

At Harvard, Vogel directed the East Asian Research Center, chaired the Council for East Asian Studies and co-founded the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at the Center for International Affairs.

Fluent in Japanese and Chinese, he visited East Asia every year since 1958, interviewing refugees in Hong Kong who had escaped the Guangzhou region for his first book on China. The Japanese edition of his 1979 book, “Japan as Number One: Lessons for America,” was a bestseller in that country.

He received the Japan Foundation Prize in 1996 and the Japan Society Prize in 1998. Last year, at 89, he published “China and Japan: Facing History,” which examined the two nations’ political and cultural ties over 1,500 years.

Vogel is survived by his wife of 41 years, Charlotte Ikels; son David Vogel of Cambridge; son Steven Vogel of Berkeley, California; daughter Eve Vogel of Amherst, Massachusetts; a sister, Fay Bussgang, of Dedham, Massachusetts; and five grandchildren.

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