- Year of publication: 2002
- Source: Show
- Pages: 3-6
- DOI Address: -
SOUTHEAST ASIA AS A REGIONAL COMMUNITY – ITS HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CHARACTERISTICS (PART I)
The author outlines the principal geographical and climatic features of the region and against this background he indicates its cultural characteristics. High differentiation constitutes its main feature. During the last two millennia the local cultures and states have been shaped by all major civilisations: Chinese (Vietnam and some ethnic groups on the mainland), Indian (Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Champa, island empires), Islamic (Malay Peninsula and the islands), the Western (in its Spanish, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and American versions). There were present all colonial European powers, and in addition to them the USA and Japan. One may also fi nd there all major world religions. Two countries are in practice Catholic (Philippines and East Timor), whereas in Vietnam Catholic presence is very strong. In both respects, cultural and religious, the native heritage also remains vivid.
One of the particular features of the region is the division into two “worlds”: of the mountains/hills and of the lowlands/valleys/deltas. In the symbolic sphere the fi rst was identifi ed with fi re, whereas the second with water (or with birds and dragons/snakes). The presence of water was also a real phenomenon of a great signifi cance: it determined the style of life, production of food, types of houses and of dress, even customs and mentality. Mountains offered entirely different conditions that determined another style of life. The relations between societies of “water” and of “mountains” were very complex: determined by mutual fears and attraction; they could consider themselves “brothers”, and fi ght one with another. Their separation, notwithstanding various bounds, is remarkable. Hills played an important role in local religious life and in images of political power (the fi gure of the Mountain-King, lingas, stupas, etc.).
Enormous ethnic and linguistic differentiation was related to various types of production practised there side by side. One can fi nd there food gatherers, primitiveshifting and sedentary cultivators (now new industrial and post-industrial sectors have been added). Each of these essential economies determined density of population per square km, types of social organisation, and the level of “openness” of individual cultures and their capacity to absorb alien groups. Thus we fi nd there national or semi-national communities numbering millions, ethnic groups that could be counted by thousands, and other counted by dozens. Particular geographic conditions allowed them to co-exist in separation, although sometimes at a close distance. This resulted in a particular mosaic of languages divided into several major groups, although the borders of the region in this respect, to the north and to the west are unclear. Therefore, on the one hand, we fi nd there enormous differentiation of individual groups and almost extreme isolation of many of them, and on the other – an exceptional range of inter-regional trade and communication by the sea (involving the coast and islands). One could even state that the Southeast Asia was a pioneer of globalisation and of pluralistic societies.
ETHNICITY AND NATIONALISM IN THE POLICY OF NATION-BUILDING IN MALAYSIA
The question of nation-building has always been a central issue in Malaysian politics. Whilst the country enjoyed a relative political stability after the traumatic events of 1969, and spawn a rapid socio-economic development (at least until the 1997 Asian economic crisis), the project of nation-building remained the principal national aim. The paper investigates the delicate process of nation-building in Malaysia since the 1970’s, especially the vision of the Bangsa Malaysia or the “united Malaysian nation”, promoted by Mahathir’s Vision 2020 project, announced in 1991. The paper highlights the underlying socio-political parameters that shaped and infl uenced the policy of nation -building in the country, and explores the viability of the project of Bangsa Malaysia in the context of the daunting challenges involved in the process of nation -building. The authors maintain that the Malaysian experience illustrates the interplay between the great forces of ethnicity and nationalism which constitutes the crux of the problem in the policy of nationbuilding in this country.
This interplay stems from the prevalence of the various forms of ‘nationalism’ that grow within individual ethnic groups and across their boundaries. In the last decades these particular “nationalisms” not only shaped the political mobilisation among individual ethnic groups and in the country in general, but also laid the most complex set of obstacles on the path of the nation-building project. Therefore, the paper indicates that the project of the Bangsa Malaysia can be interpreted as a state effort to reconcile the competing ‘nationalisms’. It can also be considered an attempt to consolidate Malay nationalism within a broader framework of cultural pluralism based on the development of “civic nationalism”. Thus it aims at the creation of a particular “supra-ethnic” national identity. The “nation”, therefore, is depicted there as a “mosaic of cultures”, but with a strong element of Malay nationalism.
However, the viability of the envisaged project is yet to be proved. The concept itself is rather vague and the challenges ahead are enormous. They involve various political, economic, social, cultural and religious issues. The project appears to be the last form of the competing notions of “nation-of-intent” that circulated in Malaysia since the 1970’s. The paper concludes that notwithstanding rapid social and political changes in Malaysia, in particular during the past eighteen years of Mahathir’s rule, ethnicity still pervades political life of this country. Numerous earlier studies on nation- building in Malaysia mainly focused on the historical dimension, or examined the changing national policy and its results. This paper aims at broadening of the analysis of the ethnic relations and nation-building in Malaysia.
VIETNAM’S FOREIGN POLICY IN THE DOI MOI PERIOD: ITS ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION, 1986–2000
It is a summary of author’s Ph. D. thesis in political sciences prepared and presented at the Center of East Asian Studies, Institute of Political Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, in April 2002. The author, a young Vietnamese scholar, analyses two fundamental questions: what the origins of Vietnam’s new foreign policy are and how it evolved from 1986 to 2000.
At the beginning the author presents a general outline of Vietnam’s foreign policy after the reunifi cation of the country, from 1976 to 1986. As he indicates, the military intervention in Cambodia and the short border war with China drained Vietnam’s scarce resources, material and human. The co-operation with Moscow became a cornerstone of its policy, but this resulted in a growing isolation of Vietnam, in particular in Asia.
There were two main factors leading to the political shift in 1986. The fi rst constituted a turbulent domestic situation that resulted from a serious social and economic crisis. The infl ation rocketed, and reached 774.7% in 1986. People’s living standard sharply declined and thousands of workers lost their jobs, whereas tens of thousands of teachers and other state employees gave up their profession. First dissidents emerged in the party circles, etc. The second factor constituted dramatic political and economic changes in the world, in particular the growing political crisis in the Soviet bloc, the reforms in China, economic successes of ASEAN countries, etc. Vietnam found itself in a “political vacuum” and faced a risk of an almost total international isolation, whereas the hopes for a “fraternal help” almost disappeared.
Under such circumstances the doi moi policy was initiated at the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party. It declared the need of an emphasis on economic development and allowed the development of free market and private initiatives. Vietnam also modifi ed its foreign policy, initiated “opening” to the outside world and diversifi cation of its foreign relations. It was declared that the over-riding task in foreign relations was maintenance of peace and establishing of friendship and cooperation with other countries in order to create a favourable international environment for “the socialist construction and the defence of the homeland”. In practice, this meant the normalisation of relations with China and with the ASEAN countries, improvement of relations with the Western powers and with “friendly countries”, and integration of Vietnam into regional and world organisations such as AFTA, APEC, and WTO.
The improvement in relations with neighbouring countries was considered the most important and urgent task. So, Vietnam put an end to its involvement in Cambodia, and this facilitated warming up the Sino-Vietnamese relations, although the two sides repeatedly declared that there should be no return to the close alliance of the 1950’s and the 1960’s. This resulted in the development of economic ties with China. Annual average increase in bilateral trade reached the level of 20%, and in 2000 it amounted to almost US$ 3 billion. Although PRC’s role in foreign investments is insignifi cant, the investments of Greater China accounted for 22.8% of the total FDI in the period 1988–1997 (the Taiwanese investments constitute the largest part). There remained, however, the two unsolved problems: of the ethnic Chinese who fl ed to China at the end of the 1970’s and now intend to return, and the borders on the South China Sea. The ASEAN states are no less important. From 1988 to 1998 their investments in Vietnam amounted to almost 30% of Vietnam’s total FDI. The author also analyses Vietnam’s relations with other major powers, with the USA, EU, Russia, and Japan.
The author concludes that since 1986 Vietnam’s foreign policy underwent profound transformations: 1) the strategy of peaceful co-operation was adopted and that of the “revolutionary war against imperialism” abandoned; 2) the signifi cance of the ideological factor was reduced and a pragmatic course introduced instead; 3) a new concept of a “comprehensive security” was introduced that put an emphasis on the economic security and peaceful means; 4) economic issues became crucial for foreign policy in general. This new policy produced remarkable results and contributed signifi cantly to the success of the doi moi policy.
Now Vietnam is a respectable member of the international community, maintains good relations with all neighbours and with the great powers. It has diplomatic relations with 167 states. Vietnam’s foreign trade turnover of 2000 was 7 times higher than that of 1991. From 1988 to 2000 the total registered operational capital of FDI reached US$ 36.3 billion. By October 2000 Vietnam signed agreements on receiving US$ 12.41 billion in ODA. Average annual GDP growth from 1991 to 2000 was 7.58%. Once beset with serious scarcity of consumer goods, now Vietnam produces enough to meet the essential needs of the population and of its economy. The full normalisation of the relations with the overseas Vietnamese community was also achieved and this community plays an increasing role in the development of the country.
Notwithstanding such great achievements, some experts indicate certain weak points in Vietnam’s foreign policy: “shallowness” of its foreign relations, a need of a new “strategic vision” and of a “more scientifi c way of thinking”. The author concludes that at this moment the Vietnamese leaders, as it appears, not to intend to introduce major political changes, but prefer to maintain stability, to press ahead with economic development.
THE DIFFICULT PATH TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE: POLITICAL SITUATION IN VIETNAM IN THE YEARS 1945–1946
The World War II and the new political situation at its end offered to Vietnam real chances for independence. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and some of his advisers, supported Vietnamese aspirations, being deeply convinced that Indochina should no longer belong to France. Although these ideas were never included into the official documents, and his successor, president Harry Truman, did not promote them, they undoubtedly facilitated negotiations between France and Viet Minh leaded by Ho Chi Minh, and changed entire French policy towards Indochina. Such American statements strengthened Ho Chi Minh’s position in his struggle for independence.
The Vietnamese leaders adopted a strategy of fait accompli: they initiated to build an independent state. On September 2nd, 1945 the Proclamation of the Independence was announced. It was followed by the decree on the parliamentary elections (September 8th, 1945), the elections themselves (January 6th, 1946), the establishment of the government (March 2nd, 1946), and the adoption of the Constitution (November 8th, 1946). They served as the proofs of the strength and stability of the new authorities.
Under such conditions they initiated a diplomatic struggle for an international recognition, first of all by France. Ho Chi Minh himself sent numerous notes and letters to the governments of the USA, the USSR and Great Britain with requests for their support. However, immediately after the war the great powers, for various reasons, did not intend to initiate confrontation with France nor promote the anticolonial movements. The USSR and the USA adopted a policy of “neutrality” in this respect. Even China was interested first of all in strengthening of her own international position and in gaining some economic privileges from France. When the Guomindang forces (under General Lu Han) occupied Vietnam (in 1945–1946) they were perceived by the Vietnamese leaders rather as a threat to independence than an ally.
On February 28th, 1946, an agreement was signed by two sides: France and Ho Chi Minh. It faced, however, highly critical reactions on the Vietnamese side, since it opened to France the way of return to Indochina. Ho Chi Minh himself also signed the agreement, and on this basis the French forces entered Haiphong on the March 6th, 1946, and Hanoi on March 9th. Further talks between Ho Chi Minh and the French authorities failed to produce a political agreement. Eventually on March 10th, 1946, the occupation of Indochina by all allied forces (introduced there to disarm the Japanese troops) ended, and the French army started to control all the major cities. Since this period Ho Chi Minh became the symbol of freedom and independence of Vietnam.
POLITICAL TRANSFORMATIONS IN INDONESIA AT THE TURN OF 20TH CENTURY: FROM AN AUTOCRATIC SYSTEM TO A SEMI-DEMOCRACY
The very end of the 20th century in Indonesia was marked by a series of significant events: the Asian economical crisis, the collapse of Suharto’s regime, the first free elections, secession of East Timor and separatist movements and riots in various provinces. Within several years three presidents assumed power one after another, with the Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Sukarno, as the last. These events changed not only political class of the country but also its political structures and mentality.
The author indicates various factors that led to these political changes, especially religion, ethnic diversity and social contradictions. The attention was paid in particular to the ethnical confl icts, to their cultural background and their course, since they resulted in an erosion of the former Indonesia’s integrity determined by the theory of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika.
Now Indonesia has a new, democratically elected president, a multiparty system, and a free press; dissidents have been released from jail, and long-suffering East Timor achieved independence. But this does not mean that this most populous Muslim country in the world reached already a Western-style multi-party democracy. Its present political system could be defined as a semi-democracy which corresponds to local conditions of today. Numerous social and political problems still awaits there for solutions.
POLISH-THAI HISTORICAL RELATIONS: SOME REMARKS AT THE OCCASION OF THIRTY YEARS OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
The earliest Pole known to have visited Ayutthaya in 1658 was Father Michal Boym, a Jesuit, who left a sketch written in Latin of his stay in the capital of the Thais (recently found in the Vatican archives).
In 1888 Polish-born Joseph Conrad (Korzeniowski) commanded, as a British merchant marine captain, the Otago carrying her cargo from Bangkok to Singapore, the voyage later described in his „Shadow Line” and filmed by Andrzej Wajda in 1977.
In 1897 King Chulalongkorn visited Warsaw and shared his impressions with his wife in 3 letters (then she served as a regent in Bangkok). His stay on the banks of Vistula was given an outstanding coverage in the Warsaw press of the day. His son, Crown Prince Vajiravudh, later to become Rama VI, in 1901 wrote an essay in Oxford „The War of the Polish Succession, 1731–1733”. As a playwright he also added some Polish accents to his scenic pieces. This confirms some interest for Poland (at that time partitioned between the three powers) at the Thai court. On the other hand, several Polish aristocrats, linked to the courts of St. Petersburg and Vienna, travelled to Bangkok to attend the coronation ceremonies of Rama VI in 1911, some of them coming later to Siam on their private visits.
In 1930s there was interest in the Warsaw Ministry of Foreign Affairs to seek official contacts with Bangkok. Thai missions in Paris and London carried out some consultations on this issue with their Polish counterparts there while the Polish diplomats stationed in Asian capitals visited Bangkok and wrote reports suggesting to their superiors that Thailand deserves more attention.
In the late 1930’s Minister Pridi Banomyong stopped in Warsaw in his European trip. King Rama VII, after abdication and settlement in England, planned a trip to Poland, but for various reasons could not arrive.
Efforts at establishment of diplomatic relations made mutually in Nanking and Moscow in late 1940s early 1950s were brought to fruition only in 1972. At this time international tensions, notably those linked to Vietnam war, ceased to weigh adversely in Warsaw and Bangkok. An agreement to establish ambassadorial level relations was signed in the UN Headquarters in New York. Ever since the political dialogue and co-operation have continued friendly and unmarred by significant controversies.
Commercial representation was established in Thailand in 1962, while the Polish embassy there came into being only in 1974, to be followed shortly by the presence of the Thai embassy in Warsaw.
High ranking government officials visited mutually, if unofficially, the two capitals ever since 1950s. The highest ranking exchanges culminated in 1990s, with the President of Poland visiting Bangkok and HRH Princess Sirindhorn returning it in Warsaw.
Trade relations had been established even much earlier. The Polish shipping line made calls in the Chaophraya ever since early 1950s, and the volume of trade gradually grew to a significant level. The national flag-carrier, LOT started operating at the Warsaw – Bangkok line in 1977. Exchanges in many fields – culture, science etc. – have been growing in areas, volume and intensity and now are auguring well for the future.
THE PACIFIC ASIA AND THE WORLD SYSTEM: REMARKS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW CENTURY
Five years after the end of the Cold War, a great debate erupted about the prospects of liberal democracy, and about the universal applicability of the Western patterns of the organisation of state and society. “Asia” and “the West” were widely perceived as antagonist entities in this debate. Sweeping generalisations abounded. “Western” individualism was pitted against “Asian” statism, corporatism, networks, “web societies”, Confucianism, collectivism and author itarianism.
With this discussion somewhere in the background, essentially three points of view emerged on the bilateral Asian-Western relations, and on the real location of the “East” in the international system:
All these concepts are deeply rooted in the belief that the culture and politics are interdependent, and constitute the basic factors that determine the world system. Such theories put an emphasis on the principal differences between “civilisations”, ignoring points of similarity between the situation of the West and of the East. This paper aims at broadening this perspective and indicates another approach essentially based on Wallerstein’s world system theory.
THE ASEAN COUNTRIES AND EUROPEAN UNION: TOWARDS CLOSER CO-OPERATION
The paper outlines institutionalized co-operation of EU with ASEAN and in general relationships between Europe and East Asia. Both parties are aware of their signifi cance in the economy as well as in politics. Europe competes in this respect with the US.
The author presents the evolution of ASEAN and its activity, its internal relations and co-operation with EU. Its economic and political links with the USA, Japan and the PRC are also discussed. The author indicates ASEM as the main institutional framework of the inter-regional co-operation of Europe with East Asia.
The development of ASEM is analysed, beginning with its fi rst meeting in Bangkok in 1996, and the results achieved so far. The institutional structure and functioning of ASEM is also presented, as well as the increasing scope of co-operation.
These problems are discussed at the meetings on different levels. Apart from political dialogue those meetings concern economic and social issues. Nevertheless there are still a few problems concerning the internal collaboration.
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