Development of Nationalism in East and Southeast Asia


Nationalism is an expression, which is used to define and identify a particular group of people on basis of a mutual political standards and belief. That is, politics is the binding factor, which binds the individuals of the same nation.  In terms of East and Southeast Asia, critics assert that nationalism is the process that gave rise to different nationalist movements in the region in the twentieth century.  The aim and objective of these movements was to rebel against the colonial ideologies of the West. This paper aims to analyze the development of nationalism as well as communism in East and Southeast Asia in the lights of broad and diverse academic resources.

Nationalism is considered to be a process, which develops with respect to time; it does not emerge abruptly or unexpectedly. “It is not a phenomenon that appears suddenly. It is the result of a process by which a people become conscious of themselves as a separate national entity in the modern world, a process by which they become willing to transfer their primary loyalty from the village, or the region, or the monarch, to the nation-state” 1.   It is this perspective, which can be found in East and Southeast Asia.  In order to integrate nationalism, several steps and measures have been adopted by the government. These measures include the suppression of opposition, the selection of a mutual language and the concentrate on economic growth in order to sustain and maintain liberty.

Nationalism and Communism in Southeast Asia is the product of colonisation. The vast majority of the East and Southeast Asian countries were “controlled either by the British, French, Dutch, Americans or Portuguese, who sought to control unnatural boundaries and had no regard for the natives of those areas” 2.   After the end of World War II, majority of the East and Southeast Asian countries declared independence from the Western imperialist. For instance, Indonesian nationalists fought with the Dutch in order to get their independence. Philippine got it independence from United States; Vietnam got its independence from France after the Indochina war. In Vietnam, the French did not have the ability to withstand Vietnamese nationalism and thus, they adopted repressive strategies in order to control it. Majority of the Vietnamese nationalist’s politic leaders and activists were jailed. Furthermore, opposition from Vietnamese nationalists made the French to remove them from government positions and to create hurdles and obstacles in their education.

Communism is considered to be movement, which concentrates on changing the social and political structure of the society. The change is brought by creating a society in which there is no class difference among the citizens, they can freely access the goods they need and wage labour and private property concepts are disregarded1.  Frequently, nationalism and communism have crossed path. For instance, the civil war in China was between these two beliefs, which concentrated on controlling China. The Chinese Civil War started in 1947 and lasted for a period of three years. China was divided into two parts; Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China.  The fifties witnessed Communist China, which had gained full control of mainland China.

During the struggle for independence in Vietnam, Vietnamese nationalists fled to China, where they were ignored. However, they provided assistance to them once they realized the advantage of Vietnamese nationalists; they could be used to spy the Japanese military activities in Vietnam.  In the year 1945, “the Emperor Bao Dai abdicated to Ho.  Ho Chi Minh then formed a provisional government with himself as its president and Vietnam declared independence on 2nd of September, in the year 1945”1.  During this time, the Americans feared the expansion of communism and thus, provided military assistance to French in Vietnam. However, in 1954, the French lost and they had to come to terms with the communists. Indonesia is another country, which fought for its national identity. From history, it is evident that “Western powers were not willing to provide much opportunity to these returning scholars. So, instead of working within the colonial structure to buttress the status quo, these revolutionaries worked to undermine it” .

From history, it is evident that nationalism is the product of colonization of the East and Southeast Asian countries.  Countries such as Vietnam, China, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, etc  are some of the countries, which have been controlled and suppressed by western imperialists. Colonization gave rise to nationalism and communism. However, it should be noted that communism had failed to spread in this region. The reason for its failure is because of its strict and rigid ideology, which does not allow economic freedom.

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