Pan-Asianism Movement and Geopolitics

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Pan-Asianism represents a movement with aim of liberating Asia from foreign occupation. The main phase of cooperation was for a longer time represented by Japan and China, but currently involved also other Asian countries. The main idea of Pan-Asianism was based on cooperation, partnership and integral leadership. However, the Greater East-Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, an idea from the Japanese government during the World War II was not considered as part of Pan-Asianism based on its insistence on leadership. Based on several aspects and facts and principles of operation, Pan-Asianism can be compared with Pan-Germanism and Pan-Europeanism. Initial sentiments on Pan-Asianism came in the 20th century from Japanese art historian who championed for formation of a single web amongst the Asiatic races. There was need for Japanese and other Asians to recognize their cultural values (Beasley, 1987).

Early Pan-Asianism was viewed as a vague concept with Romanticism kind of inspiration not based on pragmatic governance. This led to emergence of political fonts with sense of opposition towards Western influence hence formation of aggressive nationalism. Japanese adopted the Pan-Asian ideas due to several reasons leading to its fusion with revolutionary nationalism. The established links with Chinese revolutionary nationalism led to formation of Pan-Asian dimension resulting into revolutionary idealism and imperialist pragmatism. This made it clear that political cynicism could be developed based on materialism and idealism. Good example of the new geopolitical approach was the establishment of independent state of Manchukuo where the existence of annexation was ignored (Miwa, 1990).

The struggle in Asia is based on the fact that majority wanted the creation of regional system as opposed to the neo-liberal imperialism. A section of Asians proposed the need of other system of governance other than nationalism which would create fresh Asian identitydevoid of western influence. Asia has felt the need of creating regional institutions capable of competing evenly the power of the United States based on liberal globalization(He, 2004).This was considered achievable through bringing together military unions, establishment of collaborative economic institutions and international political institutions. This would ultimately lead to global order with central command in politics, culture, military and economy. Regionalism has played an important role in the protection of European societies. The same aspect became major debate in Asia with China suggesting on the new formation of South-east Asian Nations Association (ASEAN), the same idea was shared by Japan and South Korea (He, 2004).

Different forms of Asianism emerged since 19th century based on different forms of nationalism. However, the current proposition on Asian nationalism was driven by either Japanese or social concept. The idea of Asia is believed to have been a European invention in the 18th and 19th centuries. This was developed from the perspective of natural and social sciences with the creation of new world map which integrated the concept of Europe and Asia within the world history. The idea of Asia was constructed by a group of Europeans with aim of contrasting the region with Europe resulting into fierce opposition between Asian culture and European sovereignty based on political and economic systems. There was also pronounced differences in the European urban life and trade and the Asian agrarian mode of production since capitalists considered to have superiority over the inferior historical systems within Asia. Asia was viewed as a civilization with contrary political form opposed to that of European nation-state and also having social form instead of capitalism supported by the Europeans.

However, the Asian ideas of Asia resulted into modern forms of nationalism which resulted into various Asian nationalist discourses such as Japanese nationalism and Pan-Asianism of Chinese revolutionaries. These emerged as a result of the differences between those supporting nation-state and those in support of empire. Japan’s idea of joining Europe was based on their determination to abandon China-centered world, since the country supported the Europeans nation-state idea. During the Russian revolution, national liberation movements ensured the creation of a new imagination on Asia based on the socialist idea. This led to the socialist movement and the formation of anti-capitalist movements aimed at fighting the idea of nation-state. The current world has been shaped by integration and communication amongst multiple spheres. This could further be explained by modern global relations not resulting from one particular society but considered as agglomeration of civilizations from different regions and cultures. This helps in the creation of new ideas of Asia without basing the facts upon Europe’s self-image (Kennedy, 1960). Definition of Asia originated from Europe hence closely related to nation-state idea ignoring the vision of empire. This is considered geographic category established on the basis of geo-political relations. Exploration of the current Asian cultural, economic and political independence should be explored based on true facts from the various derivatives used.

Western influence on Japanese was countered with the emergence of Asianism. This was as a result of prevalent worship for the west in Japan which made the country be ignored by other Asian countries during Meiji period. During this period Asia was in worse state making Asianism movements to implore people to stand to reason and embark on restoration of Asian virtues and values. One of the artists, Okakura Tenshin, refused to adhere to Meiji government’s instructions on teaching western art to Japanese. Instead he preferred the application of oriental art than imitation of Western art. However, the Japanese recovered its pride and self-confidence with the Imperial victory over Russia in 1904. This weakened the rationale for Asianism within Japan since Tokyo became the Centre of power making Japan to stand on its own. Such positioning made Japan to wallow between the options of either helping the region embrace Western and Eastern civilization or assist Asia develop by discouraging imperialism as well as colonialism within the region. The former idea, focused on integrating Eastern and Western technologies hence making Japan steer developments in Asia without imperialistic and colonialist influence. While the other option related to legitimization of the Asian exploitation despite scarcity in resources (Kennedy, 1960).

Influence of Asianism in the New East-West Relationship

The great challenges in Asia were based on the possibility of rectifying the harm of the crude western capitalism and promote economic development in Asia based on Asian principles. Asian culture believed on the virtues of an ideal society where the strong are meant to assist the weak and refrain from overexploitation of available resources. According to Asians activities taking place within the society should be infused with dynamism, technology and geared towards social development based on the principle of competition as defined from the Western perspective. However, for this objective to succeed, Japan was required to develop and adopt a modified capitalist model limiting overexploitation of other countries. Other Asian countries shared on this view and objectively decided to pursue the necessary prescriptions. The so called Japanese ‘cultural soldiers’ sought to develop solutions to the problems without incorporating the perverse Western methods (Mitter, 2004).

The revolutionary group resolved to rectify the political upheaval since capitalism had brought social unrest in the entire Asian region. Japanese admitted on the contribution of capitalism towards social inequalities. One of the Cosmopolitan, Yoshino Sakuzo, supported Japan in its endeavor of being cultural leader in Asia. Such a move called for the yellow people to gang against the white oppression of which clash of civilization was a possibility (Maruyama, 1963). Therefore, any principle of Asianism was to have the capability of solidifying Asian race and have broad hospitality accommodating western relationship. Hence, Yoshino resolved that cultural development was inevitable for Japanese quest to lead Asia. The East Asia community was steered by Miki Kiyoshi, who viewed capitalism as western element and also dismissed communism due to its characteristic class warfare and extensive bureaucracy. Open regionalism was preferred since it allowed for recognition and respect of individuals and their races. Regionalism also championed for universal values and consideration of public interest. There was also the idea on how Japan could be realigned with China in the process of alleviating suspicions about Asian regionalism in the West (Noguchi, 1990).

All the ideas presented by various groups including the Cosmopolitan camps were discussed and issues on Japan cooperation and economic integration became eminent. Blueprint for Japanese capitalism was thence developed granting the state a more positive role towards resource-distribution and providing efficient network within the social system capable of assisting the poor. This led to initiation of programs by the government capable of encouraging savings and harmonious relations on capital and labor. There was also the necessity of increasing the percentage of skilled laborers for the purposes of establishing flexible and effective labor market. Such achievement was possible through stabilization on the jobs and lives of farmers and the intended laborers. All worker categories were to be granted insurance policy plus other benefit to avoid reflection on frequent strikes experienced in Japan(Noguchi, 1990).

The role of the Western countries in foreign affairs

Western involvement in the world affairs could be traced from its possession of a number of regions which stretched from Caribbean to the Pacific. American and European foreign policies were ushered into a period of Isolationism by America signing of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. However isolationism became impossible owing to the war which broke out in Europe in the year 1939. United States cooperated with other international agencies in the 1920’s and 1930’s especially on matters of trade. The country was involved in talks of conflict resolution with other nations of the world, these involved diplomatic talks on war debts, limited disarmament, reparations and international peace. This made United States to get deeply involved in the Western issues hence making American foreign policy far from being considered isolationist (Millett and Maslowski, 1994).

On realization of the consequent results caused by wars on humanity, especially World War II, Europe together with America presented a request to all nations on the reduction of military use. Other methods were invented as substitution to conflict resolution through arms. Military strength of Japan become America’s concern since it presented a barrier for their interests within the region, hence the need to limit Japan’s military capabilities. The Washington Armaments Conference held in 1921 and 1922 saw the signing of a treaty amongst five countries namely; the Unites States, Japan, Great Britain, France and Italy. The treaty known as Five-Power Treaty, limited the tonnage of each country’s navies hence restrictions on the manufacture of aircraft carriers and battleships. However, the treaty placed no restrictions on the manufacture of non-capital ships. This was followed by diplomatic agreements on the preservation of Asia. The countries involved in the scramble for Asia i.e. United States, Japan, Great Britain, France and the United States agreed on terms and conditions of settling disputes amongst themselves concerning their possessions in Asia. Consequently, Nine-power treaty was signed involving circle of nations which all supported the Open Door Policy leading to respect to territorial Integrity of other nations (Millett and Maslowski, 1994).

From the Western perspective, they view war as being tactically and operationally superb ignoring the strategic concept. Victory in war according to the US military is defined based on assessment of various factors and conditions which is contrary to Asian view. The victory might not be defined based on casualties; territory ceased or lost, hence what is considered most revolves around the final perceptions of the situation. Such concept makes victory to be defined based on individual sensitivity and perspective to the level of war engaged. Victory in military terms can be defined from three perspectives; tactical, operational and strategic. The American-Mexican war was considered victory for the Americans since it involved sound military strategy consisting of offensive tactics, defined goals, aggressive combat and increased number of troops. The victory was attributed to clear and excellent communication of America’s strategic goals as well as political forces (Millett and Maslowski, 1994).

Historically, winning conflicts through force was always preferred by most regions. This was based on the concept of paralyzing enemy’s defensive means together with its economic sources. This was done in a way that rendered the enemy totally ineffective, hence making the enemy incapable of resistance. This idea was applies in Asia by the Western countries, whereby they imposed their economic system into the Asian culture which was previously under communist system. On the other hand they used limited wars which required one to only overcome the will of the government based on the assumption that the government enjoys superiority in enforcing decisions. There is also the will-oriented approach which focuses on the psychological aspect. The will-power according to Europeans can be attacked through information operations. However, definition of victory as an assessment includes the inclusion of information operations in deciding strategically the winner (Millett and Maslowski, 1994).


According to Pan-Asianism victory could well be described as the process and act of breaking the Western influence in Asia. The aspect of eliminating means of resistance can at times prove difficult because there still remains the will to create within the enemy. Destroying only the means and ignoring theenemy’s ability to create leads to ultimate hostility. Both the Asian and Western civilizations should learn the art of partnership based on respect to one’s culture and political domain which leads towards the possibility of achieving economic goals as well as political supremacy.

Reference List

Beasley, W.G 1987, Japan and Pan-Asianism: Problems of Definition, in Janet Hunter (ed.), Aspects of Pan-Asianism, London: London School of Economics.

He, B 2004, “East Asian Ideas of Regionalism: A Normative Critique”, Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 58 no. 2, pp. 105–125.

Kennedy, J 1960, Asian Nationalism in the Twentieth Century, London, Melbourne: Macmillan.

Maruyama, M 1963,Thought and Behaviour Patterns of Japan’s Wartime Leaders [1949], Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Millett, A & Maslowski, P 1994, For the Common Defense, New York, NY: TheFree Press.

Mitter, R 2004, A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Miwa K 1990, Japanese Policies and Concepts for a Regional Order in Asia1938-1940, Tokyo: Chuokoron.

Noguchi, Y 1990,The Spirit of Japanese Art: The Spirit of Japanese Poetry, London: Dutton.

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