Thursday, July 04, 2013

Pan-Asianism All Over Again

For the academic with tenure: the long essay comparing the tone of 1920s and 1930s Japanese Pan-Asianist writings with very kind, well-meaning predictions like this:
Asia will develop a greater sense of regional awareness and cohesion. The region is still compartmentalised into Northeast, Southeast, South, Central and West Asia. But the region’s current collaborative efforts — such as the ASEAN-Plus formula, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation — will gradually lead it towards a greater level of pan-Asian cooperation.

Eeek! I certainly hope not. I have seen this movie before and the ending is a downer.

Dr. Yang must be negotiating complex  intellectual mine fields. It must be exhausting to try to at once offer a positive message and stay within the boundaries of what is acceptable to the Beijing regime and its self-proclaimed defenders. The essay must be understood in those terms, as a chip tossed into an ocean of loaded code words and approvable poses, rather that just a justification for Chinese disruption of international institutions and norms behind a false front of making the global commons more fair and reflective of cultural difference.

Perhaps forgiveness can be extended in two directions: to Chinese intellectuals in this era of expansion who labor under the thumb of capricious, self-serving authoritarianism and to Japanese intellectuals of the pre-defeat era who faced a parallel situation.

No comments: