chapter  2
18 Pages

The scale and pace of change recalled

The polities which make up the European Union and which constitute the familiarly described region of East Asia have an intermingled history of some two or three hundred years;1 in Europe, the shift to the modern world remade existing societies; in East Asia, imperial expansion and colonial rule reordered long established civilizations; and both regions were changed irrevocably. Yet in recent decades this common history has been lost to view; it has been obscured, in Europe, by an inward focused preoccupation with the pursuit of an elite-sponsored unifi - cation, now, in outline, accomplished, and in East Asia, by the concerns of postcolonial elites for the unequivocal delineation of state borders, the creation of nations and the pursuit of development, all matters now more or less successfully accomplished. The tasks pursued by the elites of the polities of the two regions were given shape and impetus by the events of the early part of the twentieth century, a period for both regions of extraordinary violence, dislocation and loss (problems additionally infl ected by the subsequent cold war). It is to this period that elites have made reference in their distinctive political projects, and events in this period have provided multiple reference points for the construction of distinctive national identities; in these polities, in diverse ways, remembered war has contributed to the construction of national pasts.