Wronged by Empire: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China

Wronged by Empire: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China

Wronged by Empire: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China

Wronged by Empire: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China


Although India and China have very different experiences of colonialism, they respond to that history in a similar way-by treating it as a collective trauma. As a result they have a strong sense of victimization that affects their foreign policy decisions even today.

Wronged by Empire breaks new ground by blending this historical phenomenon, colonialism, with mixed methods-including archival research, newspaper data mining, and a new statistical method of content analysis-to explain the foreign policy choices of India and China: two countries that are continuously discussed but very rarely rigorously compared. By reference to their colonial past, Manjari Chatterjee Miller explains their puzzling behavior today. More broadly, she argues that the transformative historical experience of a large category of actors-ex-colonies, who have previously been neglected in the study of international relations-can be used as a method to categorize states in the international system. In the process Miller offers a more inclusive way to analyze states than do traditional theories of international relations.


We are often told “Colonialism is dead.” Let us not be deceived or even soothed by that. I say
to you, colonialism is not yet dead. How can we say it is dead, so long as vast areas of Asia and
Africa are unfree?

And, I beg of you do not think of colonialism only in the classic form which we of Indonesia,
and our brothers in different parts of Asia and Africa, knew. Colonialism has also its modern
dress, in the form of economic control, intellectual control, actual physical control by a small but
alien community within a nation. It is a skillful and determined enemy, and it appears in many
guises. It does not give up its loot easily. Wherever, whenever and however it appears colonialism
is an evil thing, and one which must be eradicated from the earth

President Sukarno, Speech at the Opening of the Bandung Conference, April 18, 1955

The phenomenon of colonial empires encompassing far-flung territorial possessions ended more than half a century ago with the decolonization of large numbers of states, and the carving out of entirely new countries. But the legacy of colonialism endures in cultural, economic, and political ways. Extractive colonialism cut a deep and bloody path through the history of the erstwhile colonies, leaving behind disputed borders, territorial conflicts, and lasting economic inequities.

If the practice of colonialism altered the political, economic, cultural and historical trajectory of the colonized countries, then its dissolution arguably created an ideational shift in the international system. Owning colonies had been an unquestionable “right” that over a few decades became an indisputable “wrong.” the end of colonialism was not just a mere redistribution of power in the international system. Colonizers became unable to hold on to their colonies because the very idea of colonies became morally unacceptable. As a result, countries that had experienced colonialism burst on the international scene in a new avatar, with leaders who had strong anti-colonial nationalist credentials, contested and often blood-soaked, political boundaries, a desire to create a new international order, and a very strong sense of personal and collective suffering under colonial domination.

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