Southeast Asia and the World Today

Southeast Asia and the World Today

Southeast Asia and the World Today

Southeast Asia and the World Today

Excerpt

Southeast Asians are part of our world; we must discover theirs. From Canton to Calcutta has been an American no-man's land, as unknown as Africa. For centuries the British concerned themselves with India, Burma, and Malaya; the French with Indochina; and the Dutch with the Indies--but the first real sparks of American interest in the region were generated by the Spanish-American War. At that time President McKinley confessed that he could not have told within a thousand miles where the Philippines were located.

Interest in Southeast Asia grew with the automobile industry and its insatiable demand for tires. Canning companies needed Southeast Asian tin. American dollars paid for much of the prewar wealth of the Indies--but too often the dollars continued in transit to European investors or imperial governments without bringing adequate development or reasonable happiness to neglected peoples of Southeast Asia.

It is not that the masses were entirely neglected or that the record of imperialism was all bad. Each power-- Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain--considered primarily its own interests, and only secondarily the welfare of its distant subjects. The Europeans prided themselves on their record; the Asians became more impatient for a greater share of the profits and for more political rights. Asians resented the difference between their poverty and European wealth, between western democracy at home and imperialism overseas.

Dreams of economic prosperity and social justice fired Asian souls. Cautious agitation for small benefits grew into great campaigns for self-government and independence. Adjustments in the policies of mother countries were unhurried and inadequate. Martyrs and heroes were born because of firing squads, scaffolds, islands of exile, and prison cells--the traditional instruments for the preservation of colonial law and order. Asians found inspiration . . .

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