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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pan-Asianism (also known as Asianism or Greater Asianism) is an ideology or a movement that Asian nations unite and solidify & create a continental identity to defeat the designs of the Western nations to perpetuate hegemony.


Japanese Asianism

Pre-World War II Japanese Pan-Asianism was, at its core, the idea that Asia should unite against European imperialism.

Before and during World War II, this was a major element in Japanese propaganda to justify Japanese external invasions. The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was an example of this propaganda.

Japanese Asianism developed in intertwining among debates on solidarity with Asian nations who were under pressure of the West and on aggressive expansion to the Asian continent. The former debates originated from leftist liberalism. Their ideologues were Tokichi Tarui (1850-1922) who argued for equal Japan-Korea unionization for cooperative defence against the Western powers[1], and Kentaro Oi (1843-1922) who attempted domestic constitutional government in Japan and reforms of Korea[2]. Pan-Asian thought in Japan began to develop in the late nineteenth century and was spurred on particularly following the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904 - 1905). This created interest from Rabindranath Tagore, Sun Wen and Sri Aurobindo.

However, Japanese society had been strongly inclined to ultranationalism from the Freedom and People's Rights Movement. The latter debates on aggressive expansionism to Asia became clearly apparent. Their representatives were the Black Ocean Society and the Black Dragon Society. The Black Dragon Society (1933) argued for Japanese imperialism and expansionism, and they led to a debate on securing Asian continent under Japanese control. Exceptionally, Ryohei Uchida (1874-1937), who was a member of the Black Dragon Society, was a Japan-Korea unionist and activist of Philippine and Chinese revolutions.

Toten Miyazaki (1870-1922) consistently supported a Chinese revolution of Sun Wen with spiritual sacrifice and sympathy under imperial Japan. Tenshin Okakura (1862-1913) criticized Western imperialism as a destroyer of human beauty, and argued for romantic solidarity with diverse "Asia as one" against Western civilization.

ASIA is one. The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal, which is the common thought-inheritance of every Asiatic race, enabling them to produce all the great religions of the world, and distinguishing them from those maritime peoples of the Mediterranean and the Baltic, who love to dwell on the Particular, and to search out the means, not the end, of life.[3]

In this Okakura was utilising the Japanese concept of sangoku, which existed in Japanese culture before the concept of Asia became popularised. Sangoku literally means the "three countries": Honshū (the largest island of Japan), Kara (China) and Tenjiku (India).

However, most Asianists were nationalistic and imperialistic and were connected with rightist organizations. They discussed self-righteous solidarity which led to ideology such as a "new order" of East Asia and "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" based on Japanese supremacy.

New Greater Asianism from Modern China

In a Chinese perspective, Japanese Asianism was interpreted as a rationalized ideology for Japanese military aggression and political absorption (cf. Twenty-One Demands). In 1917, Li Dazhao (1889-1927) argued for liberation of Asian nations and equal greater Asian union. In 1924, Sun Wen (1866-1925) stated that the West was hegemonic and the East was Confucian, and he argued for full independence by resisting colonialism with "Greater Asianism" which unionizes Asian nations[4].

"Third Way" from the Postcolonial World

After the World War II, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) of India argued for neutral third way under the cold war. His assertion was: Asian nations should be fair to both American and Soviet sides, and the United Nations should be strong and independent who played a role to balance the world power politics. However, the North-South divide show that the postcolonial world has been confronted with economic independence and development.

The growing official interest in broader Asian concerns was shown in the establishment of facilities for Indian Studies. In 1899 Tokyo Imperial University set up a chair in Sanskrit and Pali, with a further chair in Comparative religion being set up in 1903. In this environment, a number of Indian students came to Japan in the early twentieth century, founding the Oriental Youngmen's Association in 1900. Their anti-British political activity caused consternation to the Indian Government, following a report in the London Spectator.

Political leaders from Sun Yat-Sen in the 1910s and 20s to Lee Kuan Yew in the 1990s argue that the political models and ideologies of Europe lack values and concepts found in Asian societies and philosophies. Some proponents argue that these values are better for all human societies. Some would argue that they are better or more suited for Asian societies. European values such as individual rights and freedoms would not be suited for Asian societies in this extreme formulation of Pan-Asianism.

In the 1930s and 1940s this ideology was used by the Japanese government as part of a propaganda campaign against European (and U.S.) imperialism in support of its rival imperialist Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

During the Cold War Pan-Asianism took a back seat. Several countries like India, Cambodia and Indonesia advocated for greater ties with the rest of the developing world within and beyond Asia, while others were economically and politically more orientated towards either one of the superpowers. However ASEAN emerged in 1967, providing a framework for cooperation in South-East Asia.

The idea of Asian values is somewhat of a resurgence of Pan-Asianism. One foremost enthusiast of the idea of Asian values is the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. In India, Rammanohar Lohia dreamt of a united socialist Asia.

See also


  1. ^ Tarui, Tokichi (1893) Daito Gappo-ron
  2. ^ See Osaka Incident of 1885.
  3. ^ Okakura, Tenshin (1904) Ideal of the East
  4. ^ 1924 speech on Greater Asianism


Further reading

  • Kamal, Niraj (2002) Arise Asia: Respond to White Peril. New Delhi: Wordsmith ISBN 8187412089.
  • Starrs, Roy (2001) Asian Nationalism in an Age of Globalization. London: RoutledgeCurzon ISBN 1903350034.
  • Starrs, Roy (2002) Nations under Siege: Globalization and Nationalism in Asia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan ISBN 0312294107.

External links



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