Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations since World War II

Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations since World War II

Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations since World War II

Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations since World War II


At the conclusion of World War II, Asia was hardly more than a geographic expression. Yet today we recognize Asia as a vibrant and assertive region, fully transformed from the vulnerable nation-states that emerged following the Second World War. The transformation was by no means an inevitable one, but the product of two key themes that have dominated Asia's international relations since 1945: the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to enlist the region's states as assets in the Cold War, and the struggle of nationalistic Asian leaders to develop the domestic support to maintain power and independence in a dangerous international context.

Becoming Asia provides a comprehensive, systemic account of how these themes played out in Asian affairs during the postwar years, covering not only East Asia, but South and Central Asia as well. In addition to exploring the interplay between nationalism and Cold War bipolarity during the first postwar decades, authors Alice Lyman Miller and Richard Wich chart the rise of largely export-led economies that are increasingly making the region the global center of gravity, and document efforts in the ongoing search for regional integration.

The book also traces the origins and evolution of deep-rooted issues that remain high on the international agenda, such as the Taiwan question, the division of Korea and the threat of nuclear proliferation, the Kashmir issue, and the nuclearized Indian-Pakistani conflict, and offers an account of the rise of China and its implications for regional and global security and prosperity. Primary documents excerpted throughout the text- such as leaders' talks and speeches, international agreements, secret policy assessments- enrich accounts of events, offering readers insight into policymakers' assumptions and perceptions at the time.


The authors were prompted to undertake this work by their experience in teaching courses on Asian international relations since World War II. We found that the literature lacked a single, comprehensive, systemic account of this complex subject. For teaching purposes we improvised by splicing together selections from books and other sources, but this still left a need for an integrated approach to the subject. We hope that the result of our approach will serve the interests of various readerships, scholars and students, diplomats, journalists, military and intelligence personnel, members of international organizations and businesses, and others interested in how Asia became what it is today, playing an increasingly consequential role in global political, economic, and security affairs.

Our discussion of Asia is to be understood in a geopolitical sense, not including the Middle East. One of our objectives has been to integrate developments in South and Central Asia along with East Asia into the story of how the region developed from extensive colonial dependence into the vibrant, assertive Asia that it had become by the turn of the new millennium. Another objective was to provide perspective on one of the topics of compelling interest today: the rise of China. Because of China's central place in the international relations of Asia, from the time when it represented a power vacuum in the early postwar years, to its turbulent role during the Cold War, and now to its position as a major geopolitical and economic force, we devote a full chapter to the remarkable trajectory of the People's Republic.

As reflected in our subtitle, we address elements of both change and continuity in the period since the watershed events of World War II. There have been transformative events such as decolonization, the end of the Cold War (in which Asia played a crucial role), and the increasing salience of transnational issues such as terrorism. At the same time, many deeply rooted issues have persisted in the most militarized region of the world. Issues such as the division of Korea and its implications for nuclear proliferation, the Taiwan issue and its potential for catastrophic regional conflict, and the Indian-Pakistani dispute and other sources of instability in South Asia figure in our story from the early postwar years to the present.

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