THE JOURNAL FEATURES A ROUNDTABLE REVIEW, RESEARCH articles, commentaries and book reviews by distinguished scholars based at universities and research institutions in Australia, Canada, China, India, and Singapore. We present a Roundtable on Ang Cheng Guan’s new book,Southeast Asia’s Cold War: An Interpretive History (published by the University of Hawai’i Press this year). The author corrects a significant imbalance in the historical literature on the Cold War that had long been dominated by American motivations and concerns, while confining Southeast Asian perspectives largely to the Indochina wars and Indonesia under Sukarno. Associate Professor Ang, the Head of Graduate Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, rectifies the one-sidedness by focusing on the international politics of the region from within. He provides an up-to-date narrative of the Cold War as it played out in Southeast Asia against a backdrop of superpower rivalry.
The three participants in the discussion on Ang’s book are: S.R. Joey Long (Associate Professor of History at the National University of Singapore), Ngoei Wen-Qin (Assistant Professor of History at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore), and Andrea Benvenuti (Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of New South Wales in Sydney). The three scholars critique Ang’s timely historical study of the region’s engagement with the Cold War that had till now remained neglected in the scholarly literature.
The journal presents two research articles examining the enduring impact of Karl Marx in Asia on the occasion of the theorist’s 200th birth anniversary. Nath Aldalala’a, Associate Professor of International Relations at Shandong University, examines Marx’s theory of the Asiatic Mode of Production in a novel way. He explores a new dimension within the concept of the “Asiatic” in order to highlight its concern with China, and how Chinese reformist intellectuals from the early twentieth century on down to the present sought benefit in the concept as a route to self-examination and self-strengthening. Nath explains that the term “Asiatic” is viewed in positive light as it had brought Asia to an equal theoretical and practical standing with Europe at the time of its introduction.
In the second article on Marxism, the scholar of twentieth century Chinese history, Harish C. Mehta, provides a new framework—of “post-postsocialism”—to understand China’s continuing reforms which, he argues, is a more precise signifier than the outmoded conception of “postsocialism” that attempted to explain the entire post-Deng period of reforms under a common label. The author argues that when Mao Zedong adapted and translated Marxism to China’s peculiar conditions, the stage of postsocialism was—at once—reached because Mao’s policies became less and less like Marx, and fell into a postsocialist mould. To call that period “socialist” would be inaccurate. There are, moreover, the degrees of postsocialism that are determined by the extent or magnitude of society’s adherence to an ideology, such as partial-postsocialism or total-postsocialism.
Lt.-Gen. John Ranjan Mukherjee, who has spent several decades working in, and studying and analysing, India’s North East Region during his military career, explains India’s major infrastructure projects in Myanmar to implement its Act East Policy. The author argues that whether these projects will become catalysts for change or not will be determined by the main political players involved. He highlights both problem areas that need resolution and positive developments that need to be further improved upon in order for the construction process to move ahead.
The Indian-Canadian performer, Lata Pada, who has been honoured with the title of Order of Canada by the Canadian government, writes about the formation of a diasporic identity by examining the impetus for inter-cultural collaboration in performance, and the impact on society of the Canadian government’s official multicultural policy. The author explains the need for exploring the notion of inter-culturalism in artistic practice as a tool for understanding the ‘other.’ She argues that interculturalism in dance has to be investigated through the lens of the policy of multiculturalism. While the policy has promoted a celebration of a smorgasbord display of cultures, it has also unwittingly led to the ghettoizing of culturally-specific artistic practice.
In our Books section the poet and novelist, Anjana Basu, reviews two recent books. Basu explains that the author, Syeda Hameed, in her political biography of the former prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, cannot help but admire Bhutto. Hameed praises Bhutto’s rant against India at the United Nations, and while being intensely aware that Bhutto triggered the 1965 India-Pakistan War with his machinations, the author glosses over his responsibility for unleashing the brutality of the Pakistani army on East Pakistan and his refusal to accept the fact of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s and his party’s majority in the elections.
In the second book by Pav Singh on the 1984 massacre of Sikhs following the assassination of the prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, Basu argues that owing to the memories of his family’s experiences in 1984, Singh allows his feelings to override journalistic detachment. Singh also does not manage to prove his point that the massacre was a long-planned conspiracy. The author is, however, direct and does not beat about the bush. India has mauled its minorities time and again and something needs to be done to stem the flow so that such incidents do not recur.
The journal welcomes articles on Asia in general, on India (as well as India’s North East), and India’s role in world affairs; South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia (Japan, the Koreas, Taiwan, and China); and the policy towards Asia pursued by the United States, Russia and the West, as well as West Asia, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. The journal’s focus is on diplomacy, conduct of foreign policy, international relations, soft power (use of film and the arts as tools of diplomacy), diplomatic history, war and peace, defence issues, geo-strategy, national and global economic issues, peace studies, informal diplomacy and Track Two diplomacy, revolution and counterrevolution, terrorism and counterterrorism, colonialism and decolonisation, and hegemony and resistance. The journal carries articles on contemporary world affairs, and major events and policies of the twentieth century that are still shaping the world today and are being revisited in light of the new historical material that is declassified and becomes available from time to time.