William Ratliff


William Ratliff was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Independent Institute. His BA is from Oberlin College; his PhD in Chinese/Latin American histories is from the University of Washington. He passed away April 11, 2014.

He wrote and lectured on the history and politics of Asia and Latin America and how traditional cultures and institutions influence modern conditions and prospects for political and economic development. He also wrote on Chinese relations with Latin America and on US foreign policy.

Ratliff’s studies include "Development with Chinese Characteristics: Asia’s Sinic Revolutions in Global Historical Perspective," in P. Caringella, ed., Revolutions: Finished and Unfinished (2012), chapters for B. Creutzfeldt, ed., China en América Latina (2012) and M. Nilsson, ed., Latin American Responses to Globalization (2012). He also wrote Vietnam Rising: Culture and Change in Asia’s Tiger Cub (2008), Doing It Wrong and Doing It Right: Education in Latin America and Asia (2003), and Law and Economics in Developing Countries (2000) with E. Buscaglia. He has coauthored studies of US policy toward Cuba and Latin America with R. Fontaine and on Juan Peron with S. Amaral. He is coauthor of The Civil War in Nicaragua (1993) with R. Miranda and Inside the Cuban Interior Ministry (1994) with Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier.

Ratliff lived and traveled widely in Asia and Latin America, published commentaries in all major US and many foreign newspapers and been interviewed on CNN, NPR, PBS, BBC, Voice of America, and China Radio International. On the Internet, he has written for "The Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and MSNBC’s "Opinion" section. He taught and lectured for nongovernmental organizations and at Stanford University, Tunghai University (Taiwan), the Austrian Defense Academy (Vienna), and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing). For two decades he wrote classical music reviews and features for the Los Angeles Times and the Metropolitan Opera's Opera News.

His research papers (collection 1, collection 2, and collection 3) are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

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Recent Commentary

A Dangerous Precedent

by William Ratliff, David Oppenheimervia Hoover Digest
Friday, July 30, 1999

Hoover fellow William Ratliff and David Oppenheimer explore the real lessons of the Kosovo conflict.

The Politics of Human Rights

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Friday, April 30, 1999

Why do human rights organizations so rarely focus their ire on leftist regimes? By Hoover fellow William Ratliff.

New Thoughts about Fidel

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, January 30, 1999

Three former secretaries of state, including Hoover fellow George P. Shultz, recently called for a commission to rethink American policy toward Cuba. Hoover fellow William Ratliff greets the idea with three cheers—and a first order of business: lifting the embargo.

SEMPER FIDEL? The Cuban Embargo

with William Ratliff, Jose Sorzanovia Uncommon Knowledge
Thursday, July 23, 1998

The Clinton Administration argues that isolating Castro is the best way to make him democratize, adopt market reforms and compensate Americans for property seized during the revolution. Is it? William Ratliff, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Jose Sorzano, Former President of the Cuban-American National Foundation, discuss whether isolating Castro is still effective.

Il Papa and El Jefe

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, April 30, 1998

In one of the more astonishing encounters of the post–Cold War era, the unrepentantly communist Fidel Castro invited the immovably anticommunist John Paul II to Cuba. Did the pope's visit have any effect? Hoover fellow William Ratliff offers an assessment.

Evita Calendar

The Man Who Made Evita Famous

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, April 30, 1998

While his wife sang "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" (well, at least she sang it in the movie), Juan Perón ran the country, becoming one of the most important figures in the history of Latin America. Where is the best collection of materials on Perón? (Hint: It's not Buenos Aires.) Hoover fellow William Ratliff, the curator of the Americas Collection, provides a tour of one of Hoover's most fascinating holdings.

What Should Be Done

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 30, 1998

Throughout Latin America, free market reforms are in peril. Hoover fellow William Ratliff explains how reformers can nevertheless prevail--and why they must.

Lead or Move Over

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, October 30, 1997

Hoover fellow William Ratliff argues that President Clinton's interest in Latin America has proved wayward at best. If the president were serious about the region, here's what he would do.

A Complicated Peace

by William Ratliff, Edgardo Buscagliavia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, April 30, 1997

Late last year President Alvaro Arzu of Guatemala, the biggest country in Central America, signed a peace accord with guerrilla insurgents, ending the country's thirty-six-year civil war. How will Arzu bring economic growth to agricultural regions that don't even have clear land titles? Or political stability to a country in which 70 percent of the people see the legal system as a mere device of the white elite? Hoover fellows Edgardo Buscaglia Jr. and William Ratliff explain why negotiating the peace accord may have been the easy part

Fujimori Speaks

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, April 30, 1996

Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori almost never grants interviews to Americans. For Hoover fellow William Ratliff, he made an exception. How one man is attempting a revolution--and how his critics are responding.