This is an important topic. It is very easy to be divided and conquered. Here is a great post from Asian Identity on Reddit.
I notice this a lot. Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Vietnamese in particular like to emphasize how different and how much conflict they’ve had with each other. But just a cursory glance at an Asian history book will tell you that east Asian relations have been relatively benign compared to European relations. The most common east Asian conflict was between China and vietnam, but even so China tried to protect Vietnam from the French during the sino-french wars. Between the tang Korean wars and the Korean war there were more than 1000 years of peace between China and Korea. China has was forced to help the Mongols invade Japan once. Even when Ming was militarily dominant during the zhang he era all they basically did was take some tribute. This did not mean that they were militarily incapable since the treasure fleet was able to project force as far away as Sri Lanka. Not once China tried to militarily settle a colony across the seas. As for Japan yes they did invade Korea twice and try to conquer China but on the grand scale of things these have been relatively brief and infrequent events. Up until the 16th century Japan mostly stuck to themselves. Compare this to Britain and France, who have been invading each other since their inception. The more accurate historical truth is that inter-asian cooperation is just as common as Asian rivalries.
Now compare this to the west. European forces invaded and subjugated all of India, forced Japan to whatever agreements they wanted through gunboat diplomacy, colonized the Philippines, colonized Malaysia, colonized Indonesia, colonized all of Indochina, and colonized most of China’s ports. Today it’s not Chinese soldiers occupying and raping Korean and Japanese women, it’s Americans. When was the last time China invaded Okinawa? So who is really the aggressor?
Explanation from user taizong14
I’ve talked a lot about how the Europeans were basically murdering each other from the fall of the Roman Empire to WW2 yet today, barring a few regional rivalries like Bavarians vs. every other German state, for the most part everyone there is united under whiteness. I might have a theory regarding that and why Asians still hold on to their own ethnic rivalries, that may or may not be completely bullshit, but I’ll let the people on this thread be the judge. (If they actually bother to read the whole thing, which is often the case with me)
First of the realization of pan-Europeanism after WW2, how did it come about? Well what were the power dynamics in Europe on the eve of WW2? Nearly all of the participants were advanced industrialized societies, maybe not equal in power but certainly close. Everybody likes to joke about how quickly the French were overwhelmed by the Germans during WW2, but with France being the second largest colonial empire at the time, they were hardly some third world country that the Germans just walked into.
Now compare this to the power dynamics of Asia during the 20th Century. For China, the glory days of the Han, Tang, Song, and Ming Dynasties were long gone, with Sun Yat-sen’s attempts to turn the country into Western style parliamentary system resulting in a corrupt cesspool run by warlords. Myanmar, Malaysia, and Hong Kong belonged to the British. The Dutch owned Indonesia, and the French had Indochina. Thailand, thanks to adroit diplomacy and limited concessions, managed to retain its sovereignty throughout the age of colonialism, but the Japanese of course were wise enough to industrialize and created undeniably the dominant military power in the Asia Pacific.
When WW2 ended I think I could pinpoint for Europe several factors that lead to the Pax-Europa. For one, the war completely leveled the continent’s cities and depleted their economies. Another significant factor, the Europeans obsession with seeing themselves as cultured and civilized. Now to people like us of course, we call bullshit on that notion of civility considering what they did to us. But its one thing to perpetrate atrocities on dark skin people or slant eyed people, its completely another thing to perform them upon innocent, white blue eyed people who could very well have been your brother or your mother. If atrocities like the Namibian Genocide, Belgian Congo, Boxer Rebellion, Amritsar Massacre, and Opium Wars weren’t enough to show the hypocrisy of the morals that Europeans held on to, the deaths of 6,000,000 white Jews and cities like Berlin being reduced to rubble certainly was was enough a shock to the senses to force them to reconsider the notion of European civility. It forced the continent and the Western World to re-evaluate the supposed military glory that defined the Age of Empires and the engendering the term I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard in middle school, “Never Again.”
But the Europeans at the time were at a similar technological level and hailing from a common civilization. Compared to Asia, simply put the power dynamics were such that the various countries of the region were in no position to be writing their own destinies after the war in any kumbaya manner. Japan had lost and its future was dictated by the victorious Americans. Meanwhile, the various countries of Asia had found themselves in the predicament they were in during WW2 not because of any holes in civilized morality, but because their glory days had gone and as a result their societies were at the mercy of the more technologically superior civilizations. So rather than the Europeans who used the war as a means of self-reflection and moral amelioration the countries of Asia had one goal in mind after the war, national rejuvenation. The rise of Communism in China and Korea, the Indochina Wars, all set to reclaim their sovereignty and pride after being dominated by technologically superior civilizations. And for any of these movements aimed at national rejuvenation, they are most effective when you have a boogeyman to point your finger at. In the case of Japan, lets be honest their crimes to the Chinese and Koreans were far worse than anything the Europeans did, Koreans also have double the reason to be pissed at Japan because of the Imjin Wars. The Cambodians have had bad blood with the Vietnamese and Laotians since the days of the Khmer Empire, likewise the Vietnamese despise the Chinese because of the various Chinese Dynasties that ruled their Empire.
Now, why focus on these Ancient Rivalries? Well I often balk at how Westerners diminish the length and breath of Chinese History by focusing exclusively on the Mongol Conquests. Even though the Mongols only ruled China for 90 years, a drop in the bucket for a country with such almost 5000 years of history. That’s the case I think here with the ethnic rivalries in Asia, the European Empire’s conquest may have been more recent, the independence movements may have started to win back their sovereignty from the European Empires, but these blood rivalries are for more ancient and unfortunately when you create narratives to spur Nationalism, its the ancient conflicts that often serve as juicier source material rather than European rule, which when you put it in the context of the histories of many of these nations is much like Mongol rule in China, a drop in the bucket. And unfortunately recent events have only reinforced those narratives, Vietnam’s treatment of Cambodia during the Indochina Wars and most recently the South China Sea disputes.
That’s another point I want to make with why Pax-Europa worked, besides the Post-WW2 moral reflection another significant factor is undeniably the fact that their security concerns are largely taken care of by the Americans. If the EU and NATO were to collapse and the nations of Europe had to rebuild their militaries, there’s no doubt in my mind, especially with the current trend of nationalism, we would be seeing the fracturing of Western solidarity. Not necessarily outright war since Britain and France are nuclear armed countries, but definitely the return of tensions.
That’s the sad thing for me, the fact that we would have to take the ugly side of human nature when assessing the tangibility of Pan-Asianism. For all the educating we could do with regards to White Supremacy the fact remains that the right on the doorstep of many Asian nations is a giant, nuclear armed, economic superpower, overall great power, with a chip on its shoulder over the loss of its prestige due to European colonialism. So maybe Pan-Asianism is possible in the region, but its going to have to exclude one or two of the countries. Who knows, maybe if Japan really does remilitarize and go nuclear, China could bring up the country’s past war crimes and unite Asia around that. So then Pan-Asianism would revolve around hating White Supremacy and hating Japan once again. Its a shitty scenario, but with the history of colonialism and the realities of Human Beings, it might be the best we could achieve.