chapter  8
35 Pages

East Asia: general crisis, collapse and national development

European traders entered the Sino-centric world in the sixteenth century at fi rst as one more minor group of traders, later as powerful actors and eventually, through a mixture of treaties, alliances, opportunism and war, as an improbable ruling clique. Later they were joined by their American and Japanese counterparts. These colonial territories fl ourished but they were quite distinct forms-of-life: ethnic/ economic hierarchies, spatial segregation, complex economic role differentiation, elaborate patterns of status distinctions within and between elites and subaltern groups and in total a multiplicity of cross-cutting identities. In brief, these colonial territories evidenced the usual mixture of exploitation and development, where ruling groups offered familiar justifi cations for foreign rule, 1 small groups of nationalists offered now familiar criticisms and most people went about their diverse, intermingled ordinary lives. However, the system was unstable as the component state-empires were intrinsically competitive/exclusionary and proved unable to accommodate demands of change: fi rst the emergence of new powerful metropolitan states; and second the slower emergence of effective responses/ resistance within the peripheries – economic (networks of local business), social (new social groups) and political (progressive critics in the peripheral territories (those who learned the lessons of the proponents of the modern world and turned some of these explanatory/justifi catory arguments back against the metropolitan holders of power)). In the early twentieth century the system fell into general crisis. And it was this period with its confusions of sweeping change in economic, social and political structures, which was to provide the environment within which local nationalist groups could launch their calls for independence, make bids for statehood and assert the real or putative existence of nations. It was in this tangled, shifting contingent fashion that the experience of colonial rule generated movements for its removal in favour of an ideal of independence within the modern world.