A Foreign Affairs Book of the Year A Spectator Book of the Year
“Insightful…a deft, textured work of intellectual history.” —Foreign Affairs
“A timely insight into how memories and ideas about the second world war play a hugely important role in conceptualizations about the past and the present in contemporary China.” —Peter Frankopan, The Spectator
For most of its history, China frowned on public discussion of the war against Japan. But as the country has grown more powerful, a wide-ranging reassessment of the war years has been central to new confidence abroad and mounting nationalism at home.
Encouraged by reforms under Deng Xiaoping, Chinese scholars began to examine the long-taboo Guomindang war effort, and to investigate collaboration with the Japanese and China’s role in the post-war global order. Today museums, television shows, magazines, and social media present the war as a founding myth for an ascendant China that emerges as victor rather than victim. One narrative positions Beijing as creator and protector of the international order—a virtuous system that many in China now believe to be under threat from the United States. China’s radical reassessment of its own past is a new founding myth for a nation that sees itself as destined to shape the world.
“A detailed and fascinating account of how the Chinese leadership’s strategy has evolved across eras…At its most interesting when probing Beijing’s motives for undertaking such an ambitious retooling of its past.” —Wall Street Journal
“The range of evidence that Mitter marshals is impressive. The argument he makes about war, memory, and the international order is…original.” —The Economist
Makers of Modern Asia
Ramachandra Guha Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress DS35.2.M36 2014 | Dewey Decimal 950.420922
Hardly more than a decade old, the twenty-first century has already been dubbed the Asian Century in recognition of China and India’s increasing importance in world affairs. Yet discussions of Asia seem fixated on economic indicators—gross national product, per capita income, share of global trade. Makers of Modern Asia reorients our understanding of contemporary Asia by highlighting the political leaders, not billionaire businessmen, who helped launch the Asian Century.
The nationalists who crafted modern Asia were as much thinkers as activists, men and women who theorized and organized anticolonial movements, strategized and directed military campaigns, and designed and implemented political systems. The eleven thinker-politicians whose portraits are presented here were a mix of communists, capitalists, liberals, authoritarians, and proto-theocrats—a group as diverse as the countries they represent.
From China, the world’s most populous country, come four: Mao Zedong, leader of the Communist Revolution; Zhou Enlai, his close confidant; Deng Xiaoping, purged by Mao but rehabilitated to play a critical role in Chinese politics in later years; and Chiang Kai-shek, whose Kuomintang party formed the basis of modern Taiwan. From India, the world’s largest democracy, come three: Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Indira Gandhi, all of whom played crucial roles in guiding India toward independence and prosperity. Other exemplary nationalists include Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, Indonesia’s Sukarno, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, and Pakistan’s Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. With contributions from leading scholars, Makers of Modern Asia illuminates the intellectual and ideological foundations of Asia’s spectacular rise to global prominence.
What has the end of the Cold War meant for East Asia, and for how its people understand their recent history? These thought-provoking essays explore a vigorously contested area in public culture, the wars of the modern era.
All the major East Asian states have undergone a profound reassessment of their experiences from World War II to Vietnam. New and at times aggressive forms of nationalism in Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan have affected American security policy in the Pacific and posed a challenge to the post-communist world order. Japan has met fervent opposition to its premiers’ visits to the Yasukuni shrine honoring the wartime dead. China has reclaimed a forgotten war history, such as the positive contributions of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists. South Korea has embraced an interpretation of the Korean War that is hostile to the United States and sympathetic to its North Korean adversaries.
This volume not only illuminates regional and global changes in East Asia today, but also underscores the need for rethinking the Cold War language that continues to inform U.S.–East Asian relations.