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Pan-Asianism (also known as Asianism or Greater Asianism) is an ideology that promotes the unity of Asian peoples.


  • Japanese Asianism 1
  • New Greater Asianism from Modern China 2
    • Chinese Communist Asianism 2.1
  • Pan-Southeast Asianism 3
  • "Third Way" from the Postcolonial World 4
  • Asian Unionism 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Further reading 9

Japanese Asianism

Pre-World War II, Japanese Pan-Asianism was, at its core, the idea that Asia should unite against European imperialism.

Before and during World War II, this was a major element in Japanese propaganda to justify Japanese external invasions. The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was an example of this propaganda.

Japanese Asianism developed in intertwining among debates on solidarity with Asian nations who were under pressure of the West and on aggressive expansion to the Asian continent. The former debates originated from liberalism. Their ideologues were Tokichi Tarui (1850–1922) who argued for equal Japan-Korea unionization for cooperative defence against the Western powers,[1] and Kentaro Oi (1843–1922) who attempted domestic constitutional government in Japan and reforms of Korea.[2] Pan-Asian thought in Japan began to develop in the late 19th century and was spurred on particularly following the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). This created interest from Rabindranath Tagore, Sun Yat-sen and Sri Aurobindo.

The growing official interest in broader Asian concerns was shown in the establishment of facilities for Indian Studies. In 1899, Tokyo Imperial University set up a chair in Sanskrit and Kawi, with a further chair in comparative religion being set up in 1903. In this environment, a number of Indian students came to Japan in the early twentieth century, founding the Oriental Youngmen's Association in 1900. Their anti-British political activity caused consternation to the Indian Government, following a report in the London Spectator.

However, Japanese society had been strongly inclined to ultranationalism from the Freedom and People's Rights Movement. The latter debates on aggressive expansionism to Asia became clearly apparent. Their representatives were the Black Ocean Society and the Black Dragon Society. The Black Dragon Society (1933) argued for Japanese imperialism and expansionism, and they led to a debate on securing the Asian continent under Japanese control. Exceptionally, Ryōhei Uchida (1874–1937), who was a member of the Black Dragon Society, was a Japan-Korea unionist and activist of Philippines and Chinese revolutions.

Tōten Miyazaki (1870–1922) consistently supported a Chinese revolution of Sun Yat-sen with spiritual sacrifice and sympathy under imperial Japan. Okakura Kakuzō (1862–1913) criticized Western imperialism as a destroyer of human beauty, and argued for romantic solidarity with diverse "Asia as one" against Western civilization.

ASIA is one. The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal, which is the common thought-inheritance of every Asiatic race, enabling them to produce all the great religions of the world, and distinguishing them from those maritime peoples of the Mediterranean and the Baltic, who love to dwell on the Particular, and to search out the means, not the end, of life.[3]

In this Okakura was utilising the Japanese concept of sangoku, which existed in Japanese culture before the concept of Asia became popularised. Sangoku literally means the "three countries": Honshu (the largest island of Japan), Kara (China) and Tenjiku (India).[4]

However, most Asianists were ideology such as a "new order" of East Asia and "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" based on Japanese supremacy.

New Greater Asianism from Modern China

In a Chinese perspective, Japanese Asianism was interpreted as a rationalized ideology for Japanese military aggression and political absorption (cf. Twenty-One Demands). In 1917, Li Dazhao (1889–1927) argued for liberation of Asian nations and equal greater Asian union. In 1924, Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925) stated that the West was hegemonic and the East was Confucian, and he argued for full independence by resisting colonialism with "Greater Asianism" which unified Asian nations.[5]

Chinese Communist Asianism

After the success of the communist revolution, the then-national leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) and the rest of the national leadership sought to actively and aggressive pursue a foreign policy in which all communist revolutions occurring in China's neighbors (apparently all of East, and parts of South Asia) are to be promoted and supported,[6] suggestively meaning those nations, after which they became Chinese-supported communist states, be included under the yoke of Chinese communism.

Pan-Southeast Asianism

After Indonesian National Revolution against Dutch colonialism, Sukarno's vision of Majapahit revival was to abolish the western colonial hegemony in Southeast Asia, especially in Malay Archipelago. His goal was to abolish all western imperialism and vanquish neocolonialism, and opposed the British formation of the Malay federation in 1962 calling it a neo-colonialist puppet state and established by the former colonial government, formed as a threat to other sovereign Asian nations, and thus was not allowed to exist. In 1960 President Sukarno, Philippines president Diosdado Macapagal, and Yang di-Pertuan Negara Singaporean Yusof bin Ishak secretly met and agrees on the formation of Maphilindo a confederate union between Malaya, Philippines, Indonesia, and agreed that Sarawak in Borneo was not to join Malaysia but to be incorporated into Indonesia, and Sabah was to be incorporated into the Sulu Archipelago as it was in pre-colonial mapping. The Indonesian opposition against the formation of Malaysia led to a confrontation between the two countries. Britain retaliated and launched full-scale assaults against the Indonesian forces (TNI). The confrontation was declared in 1962 but abruptly ended in 1965 due to the political crisis caused by the failed coup d'etat by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) where six generals were abducted and brutally murdered, causing the fall of Sukarno and the Konfrontasi ended. Over 100.000 mobilized troops and over 2 million volunteers disengaged all aggression and disbanded, with the fall of Sukarno ended the vision of Pan-Southeast Asianism.

The Southeast Asian region was profoundly affected by the Cold War during the Vietnam War. Moving beyond the regional rivalry, five Southeast Asian states Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand,[7] responded to the threat by forming regional alliance by forming ASEAN in 1967. It was probably originally formed to prevent the expansion of communism in Southeast Asia as it happened in Vietnam. However, its membership was expanded later to all Southeast Asian nations including the socialist-communist states such as Vietnam and Laos. Today, ASEAN provides a framework for cooperation in Southeast Asia, aspiring to form a Southeast Asian Community, an ideal of Pan-Southeast Asianism.

"Third Way" from the Postcolonial World

After the World War II, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964) of India argued for neutral Third Way during the Cold War. His assertion was: Asian nations should be fair to both American and Soviet sides, and the United Nations should be strong and independent who played a role to balance the world power politics. However, the North–South divide show that the postcolonial world has been confronted with economic independence and development.

During the Cold War, Pan-Asianism took a back seat. Several parts of Asia, particularly the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam, were torn-apart between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.

Several countries like India, Cambodia and Indonesia advocated for greater ties with the rest of the developing world within and beyond Asia, while others were economically and politically more orientated towards either one of the superpowers.

Asian Unionism

Political leaders from Sun Yat-sen in the 1910s and 20s to Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s argue that the political models and ideologies of Europe lack values and concepts found in Asian societies and philosophies. Some proponents argue that these values are better for all human societies. Some would argue that they are better or more suited for Asian societies. European values such as individual rights and freedoms would not be suited for Asian societies in this extreme formulation of Pan-Asianism.

The idea of Asian values is somewhat of a resurgence of Pan-Asianism. One foremost enthusiast of the idea was the former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. In India, Rammanohar Lohia dreamed of a united socialist Asia.

In 2002, a new type of continent-wide "Asian Union" in the form of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) emerged, similar to European Union.

See also


  1. ^ Tarui, Tokichi (1893) Daito Gappo-ron
  2. ^ See Osaka Incident of 1885.
  3. ^ Okakura, Tenshin (1904) Ideal of the East
  4. ^ Bialock, David T. Eccentric Spaces, Hidden Histories: Narrative, Ritual, and Royal Authority from The Chronicles of Japan to The Tale of the Heike. Stanford University Press. p. 186.  
  5. ^ 1924 speech on Greater Asianism
  6. ^ Chen 1994, pp. 25–26, 93.
  7. ^ Bangkok Declaration. Wikisource. Retrieved 14 March 2007.
  • Chen, Jian (1994). China's Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation. New York: Columbia University Press.  


Further reading

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