Asia – The Ancient and the Modernby Rit Nosotro
Describe and contrast western "Spheres of Influence" in Asia. What role does the west play today?
China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia, the Philippines, India, – these are just some of the countries that make up the continent of Asia. Stereotypes of Asian traditions, clothing styles, and food tend to blend the region together in the minds of the west. But these are not backwards countries that have rats running in hamster wheels in the back yard to generate enough electricity for a light bulb. Travelers to many of the Asian counties are surprised at the difference between common misconception and reality.
This essay looks at western countries that continue to play a role in ‘modernizing’ Asia through undefined spheres of influence.
“The sun never sets on the British Empire” was often repeated by the mid-19th century. The British had colonized countries from India, to the Southeastern countries of Singapore and Burma (Myanmar). Portugal had been the first to accomplish a sea route to India. The Dutch and Spanish followed, but it was the British East Indian Company that triumphed in the quest for India's tea and spices. India was drug into the industrial age as the British Empire dissolved the private company and built railroads, schools, and hospitals across India. After such a strong influence it is no surprise to hear modern American or British pop music pouring out of the different stores. Since English became so widespread during colonization, even the lyrics of rap, heavy metal and rock music are understood by a delighted younger generation. However, western music is popular even where English is not widespread.
In Iraq, for example, one journalist for World Magazine commented that “There were people selling heavy artillery with a portable radio blaring out Brittany Spears and Backstreet Boys!” In China, you will often see teen and college-age people walking around in what is portrayed as the modern fashion of clothing in America and Britain. America and Europe are the main western spheres of influence in Asia. Being the two largest popular societies, they have a lot of things about their culture that inspires others to try and match.
European nations explored and colonized new lands for over three centuries. They started with the intention to civilize and educate the “heathen” masses. Since Portugal and Spain were Catholic, that is what they taught, and sometimes forced, many of their colonies to believe.
Just about every major country in Europe had a share of the Asian continent.
The British were in the southern port of Canton and the island of Hong Kong,
which was returned to the Chinese in 1997. The Germans had the northeastern
port of Kiachow, the Japanese were in Taiwan and the Portuguese ruled Macao.
The French had a share of the pie in Vietnam, and had control of Guangzhou.
Further south, the Dutch had established control over Indonesia and, after 400
years of Spanish dictatorship, the Philippines came under American colonial
Just what exactly began the colonization period? Some say that it was power hungry rulers who just wanted more land. Others say it could have been that the economy was down, so they wanted to establish trade with other countries. America’s Open Door Policy forced Europe away from monopolized economic spheres of influence.
"The Open Door Policy in China was an American idea. It was set up in contrast to the "spheres of influence" policy practiced by other nations. Sphere Of Influence was really a euphemism for the "partition of China". The "Open Door" is one of the most creditable episodes in American diplomacy, an example of benevolent impulse accompanied by shrewd skill in negotiation. Hay's vision and idealism were the more remarkable since he was going against the current of the age..."
--Mark Sullivan, "Our Times," 1900-1925
In 1899, America suggested an “Open Door Policy” for China. In this policy;
(1) spheres of influence would be accepted formally by all powers,
(2) all nations all would be treated equally within each sphere of influence,
(3) all nations would receive tariff extensions from China, and
(4) China’s sovereignty would be preserved.
The European powers rejected Secretary of State John Hay’s proposal, but the U.S. declared the Open Door Policy to be in effect, anyway. This resulted in chaos for a while, but in the end, it did open China up for trade and ended the policy of spheres of influence allowing competition. While some people thought it was a good idea, others didn’t. There were mixed feelings about it, even in America.
“There has been a vast amount of misunderstanding concerning the Open Door. In popular phrase it meant equal commercial opportunity in China...The Open Door was designed basically for America's trade rather than China's rights. It did not become legally binding upon the powers because they did not all accept it.”
--Thomas A. Bailey, "A Diplomatic History of the American People," 1964
America tries influencing other countries and often go in with good intentions, but it seldom has turned out as planned. The Open Door Policy eventually ended Spheres of Influence in China but allowed the Communists to rise against the corrupt, foreign backed Nationalist Party. In Japan, Commodore Matthew Perry forced open trade but awoke a profound sense of national inferiority that led to attacks on Russia, China, and Pearl Harbor. Americans did an excellent job of defending Korea from a communist aggressor but too far and suffered defeat back to the current militarized zone. Vietnam was a failed action from the start by backing French colonialism resulting in the horrific Vietnam War.
As Western nations stepped (by invitation) to stop the Taiping rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion, China lost prestige. The Opium wars resulted in British acquisition of Hong Kong but the means to that end were a national embarrassment. Europe focused on trade and the British and American Protestants sent evangelical missionaries. Buddhism and other eastern religions did not easily accept the Christian roots in Russia, China, Japan, the Philippines, and many other countries. Never-the-less, the globalization of western culture holds enormous influence over Asia's younger generation. The west still feeds off of inexpensive goods manufactured in Asia, but Asia feeds off the culture and ideals of the west.
1. What popular singers are often heard in shops?
a. N*SYNC and West Life
b. Brittany Spears and Backstreet Boys
c. P.O.D. and Evanescence
d. Weird Al Yankovich and Jars of Clay
2. Who was it that agreed with the Open Door Policy?
a. Mark Sullivan
b. Thomas A. Bailey
c. King George III
d. John Hay
3. Who didn’t agree with America forcing the Open Door Policy?
a. John Hay
b. Mark Twain
c. Mark Sullivan
d. President Roosevelt
4. About how long did Spain occupy the Philippines before America took over?
a. 200 years
b. 300 years
c. 400 years
d. 500 years
3. Millennium 2000 World Book Encyclopedia
Book 1, Volume A
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