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Decolonization and Nationalism in Afro-Asia

Term Paper Contents:

  1. Term Paper on the Rise of Japan and China as Great Powers
  2. Term Paper on the Growth of New Centers of Conflict Affected International Relation in the 1930s
  3. Term Paper on the Emergence of the Third World
  4. Term Paper on the Growth of New Centres of Conflict away from Europe

Term Paper # 1. The Rise of Japan and China as Great Powers:



Rejuvenated and modernised Japan began to develop an assertive foreign policy in order to take her due place among the progressive nations of the world. China was a lucrative field of economic exploitation for both Western and Japanese investments and business enterprises. Among the most promising eco­nomic area of China was Manchuria. The World Slump of 1929 cut the value of Japan’s foreign trade almost in half. This threatened serious internal disturbances in Japan. In 1931 Japan had a population of almost 70 million people.

Japan realised from her previous experience that colonial expansion would not attract the people of Japan for migration. Even when Manchuria was brought under Japanese control attempts at colonization of the settlement type had almost invariably been a failure. Thus the Japanese authorities understood that industrialization was the solution of Japan’s population explosion. But Japan lacked natural resources and vast markets where her excess industrial goods could be sold. Vinacke points out “Both markets and access to resources, when they lie outside the State, are precarious, which means that the livelihood of the people dependent on industry is precarious.”

Japan’s expansionist attitude in the twentieth century is to be understood in the light of industrialisation. Japan, in this century was a “Fairly unified and socially homogeneous country.” Japan’s attention was drawn to Manchuria for her natural resources and vast markets where Japanese goods could be sold. The Chinese population in Manchuria had been increasing rapidly during the decade 1921 to 1931 by migration from the Northern provinces of China proper. There­fore, the Kuomintang government in China regarded Manchuria as their special sphere of influence.


In addition to Japan and China, Soviet Union also felt that she had special right in Manchuria. In Japan, military departments were virtually independent of the civil authorities. The military authorities were interested in ameliorating the condition of the farming and labouring classes, from which came most of their recruits. They believed that the nation’s economy could be allevi­ated by the conversion of Manchuria into a great agricultural and industrial colony. The bankers and industrial groups who had financial stakes in Manchuria are believed to be hand in hand with the army.

Unfortunately for China, in 1931 two incidents took place in Manchuria which provoked Japan to enter into Manchuria with army. The first incident was the destruction by bomb explosion of a portion of one of the rails of the South Manchurian Railway line owned by Japan and the other was the murder of a Japanese army captain in Inner’ Mongolia. Immediately Japanese military machine was set in motion and a vast area of Manchuria was occupied. Gradual liquidation of Chinese military and civil authorities took place. China immediately appealed to the League of Nations “under Article 11 of the Covenant — the Article under which decisions could be taken only by a unanimous vote ….”

The Japanese delegate in the League, however, discarded the view that Japan had any intention of occupying Chinese territory but only attempting to protect Japanese lives and property from ‘Chinese bandits’. Japan in the meantime ex­tended her area of control in Manchuria and encouraged local separatism. In February 1932 some Manchurian leaders at Mukden under Japanese control declared their independence of China and the new State was named Manchukuo. The newly instituted government was patently under Japanese tutelage.

Japan set about developing Manchuria economically and her capital invest­ments began to increase. In 1932 Japan officially recognised Munchuko as an independent State and formed with it a close alliance. The League appointed a commission under Lord Lytton to investigate the entire Sino-Japanese situation and to make recommendations. The Commission suggested that Manchuria be made an autonomous province under Chinese Suzerainty. Japan disregarded the settlement suggested by the Commission, continued her control over Manchukuo and withdrew from the League in 1938.


The United States declined to recognise any agreement concluded between Japan and China, which would impair her treaty rights. The Japanese followed up their success in Manchuria by conquering the rich province of Jehol and annexing it to Manchukuo. Disgruntled Nationalist Government of China had nothing to do but accept Japan’s over lordship on Manchuria and consented to a truce with Japan.

Renewed friction meanwhile had developed between Japan and other States over the institution of monopolies, such as that of oil, which had the effect of virtually pushing foreign companies out of Manchuria on ‘forced sale’ terms. The assignment of a Manchukuo oil sales monopoly to a firm under Japanese control was taken very seriously by the United States, Britain and Netherlands.

They protested this action as a violation of the Open Door Policy guaranteed in the Washington Conference and previously confirmed by the puppet government of Manchukuo. Tokyo replied by saying that Open Door was not violated and, since the Manchukuo Government was an independent State, Japan had nothing to do. Finally, Japan alleged that independence of Manchukuo was not recognised by the complaining powers and, therefore, Manchukuo Government’s promise could not be invoked.

The big Powers’ failure in thwarting Japan’s intrusion in China whetted her appetite. Henceforth she became increasingly emphatic in asserting her special interests in China and posed herself as the guardian of the Peace in the Far East and the defender of the integrity of China. In 1934 the Tokyo Foreign Office warned the Great Powers to keep their hands off China. The spokesman of the Foreign Office further declared that if China was to receive any foreign grant that must come from Japan and from none else.

This policy of Japan has been de­scribed as Japanese “Monroe Doctrine”. It was ostensibly designed to protect China against the imperialism of the Western Powers. But its real object was to prevent China from receiving any help from the League of Nations which had taken up the question of giving assistance to China and of studying the problem of her internal reconstruction. The militarists in Japan were dreaming of a Far East dominated by their country. In 1938, Japan specifically enunciated the doctrine of a ‘New Order’ in eastern Asia.

Japan, by her Manchukuo adventure, brought a hornet’s nest about her ears. It embittered her relations with China and roused the enmity of most of the Great Powers. Besides, it threatened Russian position in North Manchuria and so repeated clashes occurred along the boundary between Manchukuo and the Russian protected areas in the region of the Amur River and Outer Mongolia.

Japan’s doctrine of ‘New Order’ which she wanted to set up was further developed in her later scheme known as the “Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

Japan began her full scale invasion of China in 1937. When the Second World War broke out and the hold of Britain, France and Holland on their colonial possessions in Eastern Asia became shaky, Japan found a good opportunity of building a “Co-Prosperity Sphere” in East Asia. She had already strengthened her position by joining Germany and Italy in the anti-Communist Pact and to this she now added in 1940 a treaty of military alliance with those two powers. By it they promised total aid — both military and economic — to one another if one of them were attacked by a power not yet involved in the European War or the Sino- Japanese conflict.

The treaty was a clear warning to the United States to remain neutral. On 7th December 1941 Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbour and inflicted serious loss on the American fleet. This attack precipitated the United States into active belligerency and thus inaugurated the Pacific phase of the Second World War. This also prompted the United States to crush Japan’s military might by dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. On the following day Japanese Government sued for peace and Emperor Hirohito acquiesced in unconditional surrender on 14th August 1945.


Towards the end of the nineteenth century China was forced to open her door for England, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, United States and Japan. “Cutting the Chinese melon” was their aim. The international scramble for concessions in China and for Chinese territory led to new developments which, in the long run, saved the “Celestial Empire” from impending dissolution.

The protest against foreign enrichment and exploitation also came from within. A secret society called the “Righteous Fraternity of Fist-fighters” — better known as the ‘Boxers” — launched violent anti-foreign movement (1899-1900). Although a failure, the Boxer movement sent a danger signal to the Western Powers in China. Thus the Boxer movement set in motion inaugurated “an era of conservative reform in the endeavour to strengthen China and preserve the dynasty, and of producing a significant redirection of the European impact on the Celestial Empire.”

The next development which prevented the break-up of China was the Anglo- Japanese Alliance of 1902. The Alliance emboldened Japan to attack Russia in 1904 to drive her out of Manchuria and this defeat had checked Russian advance in the Far East. The reform movement in China began after her defeat in the Sino- Japanese war in 1894-1895. She realised the necessity of remodeling her institu­tions on Western lines, and there grew up a powerful “Young China” movement directed towards reform and westernization.

An important figure in this reform movement was K’ang yu-wei, known at that time as the ‘modern sage”. The entire period of reform extended over just one hundred days and came to be known as the “Hundred Days” of reform. These reforms also included military reforms. Until after 1895 China had no real modern national army. But these reforms were not radical enough to satisfy people’s desire and Young China Party.

In 1908, immediately after the death of the remarkable lady, the Dowager Em­press, China did not have any able leader and, at this stage, Sun-Yat-Sen, a doctor of medicine and Christian Cantonese skillfully turned the movement into a repub­lican movement. In 1911 the followers of Sun-Yat-Sen took up arms against the Manhus, captured Nanking and made it the capital of the provisional republic which they set up, with Sun-Yat-Sen as President. In 1912 the whole China came under the republican government.

In 1914 when First World War broke out China had no direct interest in the war. But her participation in the war brought her tangible advantages. When at the close of the war the Peace Conference met in Paris, Sino-Japanese disagreement reached an acute stage. Japan claimed all former German rights and concessions in Shantung and she was given these because of secret treaties concluded during the war between Japan and the Allies. China, in protest, refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles and concluded a separate treaty with Germany and also signed the Treaty of St. Germain with Austria and thereby became a member of the League of Nations against the wishes of Japan.

Sun-Yat-Sen died in Peking in March 1925. On Dr. Sen’s death, Chiang Kai-Shek succeeded him as the leader of the Kuomintang Party. Chiang was committed to the principle and programme of Sun-Yat-Sen and he reorganised the government according to the pattern bequeathed by him.

The political trans­formation of China was envisaged by Dr. Sen, with the promulgation of organic Law for the National Government. The stage was set for political tutelage under a single party. The highest administrative organ was to be a State Council whose chairman was to be the head of the state. By 1926 the promising progress was for a time checked by a split in the ranks of the Kuomintang Party.

The right wing of the party fell out with the Communist left wing. The pro-Communist section of the nationalist army set up something like a parallel government at Hankow. Next they captured Nanking, roughly handled the foreigners and plundered their property. Their object was to discredit Chiang by the commission of excesses and thereby to embroil him with foreign powers. A’s the Communists of China were helped by Soviet Union, Chiang severed relations with that country in 1927. He recaptured Hankow, Nanking and suppressed Communist activities and set up a nationalist government at Nanking.

The Communists, led by Mao Ze Dong and Chu-Teh, set up Communist government in southern Kiangsi and western Fukien provinces. Realising the danger lurking in the growth of communism in the sovietised areas of Kiangsi and the neighbouring, provinces, vigorous steps were taken to exterminate the Communists and so reoccupy the areas held by them. By 1933 four major campaigns had been carried on to dislodge the Communists but without any appreciable effect.

Finding the situation in China favourable to them Japan invaded China. But this produced a result quite unexpected to them. It brought about a rapproche­ment between the Chinese Communists and the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai shek. The pressure of common danger stimulated the national spirit of the Chinese people and presented a united front when the full-scale Japanese inva­sion came in 1937.

The Kuomintang leaders were suspicious of the Communists and sought to limit their effective participation in the war only to the north­western area. This ensued local fighting between the parties and, after the submission of Japan in 1945, the battle between them gradually became vigorous. The quarrel between the Communists and the Kuomintang came to a head. After about two years’ fighting with occasional breaks the Communist military ascendancy became clear.

They captured Mukden, the Key of Manchu­ria, and then, by 1949, captured in quick succession Peping (Beijing), Tientsin, Nanking and Shanghai. Despite substantial help received from the United States, the Nationalists suffered a succession of military defeats and this sealed the fate of Chiang Kaishek government in China.

At last the Nationalists had to leave the mainland of China and took refuge in Formosa where they were protected by the United States. The victorious Communists next proclaimed the People’s Re­public of China on October 1, 1949, with Mao Ze Dong as chairman and Chou En-lai as Premier. The Soviet Union promptly recognised the new govern­ment of China followed by India.

Term Paper # 2. The Growth of New Centers of Conflict Affected International Relation in the 1930s:

The growth of new centres of conflict outside Europe that affected interna­tional relations after the First World War took place in Asia, and in the Far East in particular, where Japanese imperialistic expansion threatened not only China’s integrity and sovereignty but also international peace and security.

The phase of consolidation of peace of the period of ‘pacification’, as termed by E. H. Carr, came to an end in 1930 and then started the new phase of crisis or of ‘collapse of peace’ as told by G. M. Gathorne Hardy. Henceforth, the trend of ‘return to power politics’ witnessed its irresistible growth.

The coming events in the form of great economic crisis followed by failure of the efforts for disarma­ment, Japan’s rape of Manchuria in the Far East, Italy’s aggression over Ethiopia in Africa and Germany’s conquest of Austria coupled with the dismemberment at her hands, of the state of Czechoslovakia, the murder of democracy in Spain as a result of the successful revolt of Gen.

Franco with the ostensible support of Mussolini and Hitler and, finally, Germany’s unprovoked invasion of Poland were the great events demonstrating in bold terms that the peace settlement made after the First World War and the mechanism — which the authors of peace devised for the elimination of war — “lay in irretrievable ruin”, as G. Hardy remarks.

To the astonishment of all serious observers, British Prime Minister Ramsay Mac Donald’s optimistic note that the risk of war was “practically nil” in 1930 was contradicted by the fact that the shadows of another holocaust had started darkening the globe. The imminence of another grim fight now became a stable subject of conversation. Gathorne Hardy hints at three important developments in this regard.

The first word of developments could be traced in 1929, with the financial crash in the United States; the second in September 1931, with the fail­ure to curb Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and the last in January 1933, with the accession of Hitler to Chancellorship of the German Reich.

The first important episode that led to the inauguration of a series of aggres­sion and thereby disintegration of the League of Nations was the Manchurian Crisis of 1931-32. The upper hand of the military leaders in the State structure of Japan brought about a fundamental change in the course of her diplomacy.

It is rightly said that while the civilian leaders in the State structure of Japan achieved the goal of making Japan great by following the co-operation of the West, the militarists pinned their faith on the course of armed conquest. They well knew that the public opinion of their country had been desperate because of the eco­nomic depression and also grown furious by the recurrence of Chinese boycotts and that they needed some space in a neighbouring area to export their excess population that had crossed the alarming point of 70 million by that time.

Then there was the railway politics. The report of the Lytton Commission frankly affirmed in 1931 that in the outskirts of Mukden a bomb explosion caused a slight damage to a small portion of the Japanese-owned South Manchu­rian railway line. The Japanese, with conclusive evidence, held the Chinese responsible for the explosion and struck at once.

The attack was obviously unprovoked and came as a “complete surprise”. The Lytton Commis­sion suggested that Manchuria be made an autonomous province under Chi­nese Suzerainty. Japan disregarded the settlement suggested by the Commission, continued her control over Manchukuo, and withdrew from the League.

Term Paper # 3. The Emergence of the Third World:

The Third World has been identi­fied by Carr as the Non-European world. But the Balkan countries, though situated in Europe, were as weak as the Asian and African countries. Some of the Asian countries like India, China etc. are more developed and powerful than that of many European counties. Nevertheless, the tendency of the American and European historians is to identify United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada etc. as the countries belonging to the First World.

Other Euro­pean countries belonged to the Second World and India and others belonged to the Third World. However, one thing is crystal clear — the emergence of the Third World introduced decolonization. After the Second World War the emer­gence of Cold War resulted in bi-polar system and the Third World emerged as a balance between the two — one led by the United States and the other by Soviet Union.

The idea of the Third World was introduced by Frantz Fanon, an Algerian writer. According to him, Afro-Asian countries which had gained independence after the Second World War are in between bi-polar world and have formed a separate identity as the Third World, Irving Louis Horowitz points out that the newly independent countries have neither followed capitalism nor socialism but adopted mixed economy, are the Third World countries. Mao Ze Dong has almost accepted the theory of Horowitz, but regards China is not a Third World country.

There are three characteristics of these Third World countries:

(i) They are anti-imperialists;

(ii) Undeveloped socio-economic condition and low living standard;

(iii) They are not interested in joining any power bloc.


The millions of people of Asia were not affected by the military as­pects of the First World War, at least in their course of life. Even India was af­fected only slightly. Indian leaders thought that India would be rewarded for helping the war efforts of the British with political autonomy after the conflict but disap­pointment made them bitter enemies of the British. During the war, however, India’s iron and steel industries were stimulated.

The political condition of India between the two wars was one of irresistible struggle — both violent and non­violent. On 15 August 1947 the “two Dominions of India and Pakistan were formally instituted. After a year of independence both new States settled down to constructive work under able statesmen and the century-old process of achieving national statehood was completed with much less violence than might have been expected.” During the struggle nationalism in India was stimulated. But it was ‘limited nationalism’.


Indonesia is one of the world’s richest regions. It was the lure of the lucrative trade in spices that attracted the Europeans to set up colony there. The Portuguese were the first to occupy some parts of this country followed by the English. But by the first quarter of the seventeenth century the Dutch ousted both the Portuguese and the English and established their political hegemony on the region.

Thenceforward, for a little over three centuries, the Dutch maintained their undisputed control over Indonesia. During the Second World War, when Germany overran Holland, her effective link with Indonesia was broken. The Japanese invasion came in 1941 and with an incredible speed Japan conquered Indonesia.

But the system of forced labour, forced military service coupled with the economic exploitation of the country revealed the true character of Japan. Indonesian nationalism as stimulated by the war was thus as much anti- Dutch as anti-Japanese. On the eve of the Japanese surrender the Indonesian nationalists — encouraged by the Japanese — proclaimed the independence of their country and established the Indonesian Republic on August 17, 1945.


In the First World War Great Britain freed Egypt from Ottoman suzerainty and made the country a British Protectorate. Though the Egyptians accepted this removal of Turkish over lordship, they did not take kindly to the increase of British influence. Zaghlul Pasha, the leader of National Party (Wafd), demanded that Egypt should be allowed to represent at the Peace Conference of Paris as an independent country. But Zaghlul was arrested and then deported to Malta. This precipitated a serious insurrection.

To quell the insurrection an army detachment had to be employed. Eventually Britain had to grant independence to Egypt in 1922 subject to a number of restrictions and to the supervisory authority of the British High Commissioner. The National Party rejected this arrangement and again the country was in turmoil. A new constitution was promulgated in 1923.

In the newly created Egyptian Parliament the National Party secured an overwhelming majority. Zaghlul was recalled and made Premier of the country. But with the murder of Sir Lee Stack, the British Governor-General of Sudan, in 1924, another crisis occurred. The British served an ultimatum, “demanded offi­cial apology, the punishment of the criminals, the suppression of political demon­strations, a cash indemnity, and the immediate withdrawal of all Egyptian soldiers from the Sudan.”

Zaghlul was ready to accept all the terms except those relating to the Sudan. But the British authorities did not yield to compassion, and, on the contrary, to exert pressure upon the Egyptians, occupied the customs house at Alexandria. Zaghlul resigned in protest. His mantle fell upon Nahas Pasha, a more tractable premier, who “agreed to the British demands”. But the people became restless and the Parliament was suspended.

Thereupon Ismail Sidky Pasha became “dictator” and promulgated a new constitution in 1930. He tried his best to suppress both the Nationalists and the Communists but without success. He resigned in 1933 and the new election held in 1936 brought the Wafdists to power and Nahas Pasha again became Premier. He was a man of independent political views. He persuaded the king “to abolish the undemocratic constitution of 1930.” In 1936 King Faud died and his son Farouk I succeeded him.

At this stage Italy’s Ethiopian venture had alarmed both Britain and Egypt. Hence the two nations came to terms and concluded Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Alliance of 1936. It provided for reciprocal help in case of war. By the treaty Britain agreed to recognise the independence of Egypt, to an exchange of ambassadors, and promised to withdraw all British troops from Egypt except a small force for guarding the Suez Canal. Joint rule would be established over the Sudan with the right of unrestricted immigration of Egyptians. With the help of Great Britain, Egypt became a member of the League of Nations in 1937.

On the outbreak of the Second World War “Egypt, though in name neutral, became in fact a battlefield.” During the war the Egyptians were bitterly offended by the highhanded conduct of the Britishers. Hence after the close of the war their dormant anti-British feeling flared up. They were determined to remove all traces of the British from their country. They felt bitterly aggrieved by the presence of British troops on Egyptian soil. Besides, the question of future status of the Sudan greatly embittered their relations.

In 1947 Egypt placed the question of the removal of British troops from the Canal zone before the U.N. Security Council but it proved abortive. Therefore, Nahas Pasha enacted laws in the Parliament abrogating the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936. British Government did not acknowledge the unilateral decision. The mounting tension on both sides led to armed conflicts in the Canal area followed by a terrible out­burst of mob violence in Cairo in January. Foreigners were the worst sufferers and King Farouk I dismissed Nahas Pasha.

Term Paper # 4. Growth of New Centres of Conflict away from Europe:

The inter-war period introduced certain elements in world politics which caused the growth of new centres of conflict away from Europe. Since the First World War was over the politico-military influence of Europe began to be ramshackle. The First World War gave birth to two extra-European superpowers, namely, the United States and Soviet Union. In addition to these two the instance of the rise of Japan in Asia should not be overlooked. After successful overthrow of the giant Russia in the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 Japan became gruesome in military strength so long she was not crippled by the United States in 1945.

After the Second World War, China witnessed incessant warfare between the Communists and the Nationalists. The new Central Peoples’ government of the Chinese People’s Republic set up by the Communist already had most of China under its jurisdiction when it was installed formally at Beijing on October 1, 1949. The Nationalists withdrew their government to Taiwan (Formosa) in December 1949. The Communist era in China had begun. But the tension between Com­munist China and Taiwan is still now without cessation.

Palestine had long been an Arab country but contained a sprinkling of Jews. It had been assigned to Great Britain as a mandated province. During a critical stage of the First World War, Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Minister, asking money from the Jews assured them in 1917 that after the war the Jews, would be given a national home in Palestine. Hence, after the war, a wave of Jewish immi­gration set in. But the Jews were not alien to Palestine.

“The Jewish people had not only maintained their spiritual contact with Palestine throughout the centuries in the Golut but also that Jews have been continuously an indigenous, though a minority, population of Palestine.” This turn of events highly irritated the Arabs and since then Arab-Israel warfare is continuing.

In Korea and Vietnam the United States scents Communist menace in every political convulsion, no matter whatever occurs and seeks to avert it. Hence her interference in Korea and Vietnam, her action as well that of Soviet Union and Communist China has often produced Cold War and kept the world on tenterhooks. The decline of military dictatorship, the national struggle for independence in Afro-Asian countries and the Cold War were found to be the new features of modern political environment.

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