How has the Chinese population changed the demographics in Asia?

Chinese culture
[1] The Chinese always had a migration to other Asian countries, but for what exact reasons?

Have you ever encountered a time when someone asked you where you were from, and they told you you were from a different country? For example, you would say you were from Shanghai, China and someone would mutter, Is that in Japan? Certainly, when you are not accustomed to a set of people you would mistaken them easily. Bringing this into context, how and why exactly do the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysians and Singaporeans look so similar? In this article, I hope to explore the impetuses and effects of Chinese migration throughout Asia, namely countries like 1) Japan, 2) Vietnam, 3) Malaysia and Singapore.

1) Japan
Map of Japan - Ryukyu Islands
[2] A map of the Ryukyu Islands, Japan.

One of the earliest migration of the Chinese people was to Japan. As Chinese legend has it, a sorcerer named Xu Fu was sent abroad by the stern Emperor Qing Shi Huang to Mount Fuji. Xu’s mission was to retrieve an elixir of life for His Majesty. [3] However, despite his efforts, the sorcerer was unable to find anything and was reluctant to return, as execution would await him. Eventually, Xu stayed in Japan and began a new wave of Chinese migration to Japan. [3]

The Ryukyuan Islands was believed to have remained undeveloped until around the 12th century. It was not until after many Chinese Civil Wars under the Chinese Emperor Taizu (1368-1398) that there was a change in the demographics of the Japanese island. [4] It has to be noted that the Taizu’s legacy, or indeed, the Ming Dynasty, was to rule for three centuries. Keeping in mind that China was deemed as the middle country or 中國 then, the powerful Chinese ruler called all barbarian states in the region to submit to China, prohibiting the free sea navigation and trade routes within the region. This was key, as according to Belgian historian Katrien Hendrickx, it could be seen as a civilising and diplomatic mission. [4]

In Okinawa, one of the main islands, it was divided into three main principalities – Hokuzan (北山), Chuzan (中山) and Nanzan (南山). [4] These would translate directly from Chinese or Japanese as North, Middle and South Mountain or constituencies. China’s diplomatic prestige in the South Seas were key, as Satto gave an oath of allegiance, offering gifts and in return, was offered the title of King of Chuzan, or the Middle Mountain region of the Okinawa Islands. Moreover, in 1392, the Ming Emperor had sent 36 families, as a symbol to imply many people for colonisation in the region. [4] These families were key, as they were to administer the Nahan border within the Ryukyuan Islands. Eventually, this opened the door for increasingly more seamen and merchants, who travelled to and fro, finding entrepreneurial routes between the islands and China. From then onwards, this developed a strong Chinese community, one that maintained their own modes of life, customs and dresses. [4]

2) Vietnam
Map of Southern Chinese territories
[5] The highlighted region showing the Nanyue colony, comprising of south Chinese regions (Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan) and north Vietnam.

In 207 BCE, under the Chinese general Zhao Tuo, the southern Chinese regions of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan, together with northern Vietnam was conquered and administered principally by himself. [6, 7] This was named, according to American academic Walker, Au-lac, signifying a pacified southern region. We have to be vigilant here though, as there were many names given to this region – for example Nanyue as well.

Vietnam was split into two main ethnic constituencies – Lac Viet and Au Viet. [7] This colony was to be a centre of refugees, convicts and officers of the Han Dynasty for a full 1,000 years, of which most were men. This was significant, as men married Viet local women, and their offspring became part of the local population. Throughout the Han rule, the Vietnamese rose up through Ngo Quyen in 939 A.D. and Nguyen Trai, as part of a political struggle to gain full sovereignty for their nation. [7] This was key, as until 1829, the Vietnamese people wanted to establish a distinct Vietnamese identity amongst the Ming-Huong or Sino-Vietnamese people. Moreover, they were allowed local political rights, and assimilate to their local culture, customs and etiquette, only if they did not return to China. [6]

3) Malaysia/Singapore

[8] Map of Malaysia and Singapore.

Malaysia and Singapore have been grouped as they were both common destinations for employment in the Asian continent by the Chinese. The Malaysian Peninsula’s demographics divided into the Chinese North, Indian West, and the Dutch East Indian or Indonesian South. Since the 14th century, there has been immigration to Temaisik or Old Singapore. [9] Eventually, the Chinese diaspora expanded to Penang, Malacca and Singapore. Under British, Portuguese and Dutch rule in each of these areas, compounded with the aftermath of the Great Depression in 1929 and the outbreak of World War Two in the Asian theatre (1941-1945), the Chinese travelled from their native Guangdong and Fukien provinces for employment, family visits and retirement purposes. [9] This was fundamental, as there were kheh thaws who were professional recruiters, and the sin khah who were the new recruits or contracters.

Under the Chinese Immigration and Alien Ordinances inaugurated in 1887 and 1933 respectively, this was to limit the outflow of Chinese male immigrants to the Malaysian Peninsula. However, this was key again, as the Indian community, being part of the British royal subjects were not affected. [8] This problem prolonged until the independence of Singapore in 1966 under Lee Kwan Yew and the People’s Action Party (PAP) for Chinese sovereignty over the other Indian and Malayan inhabitants.

The Chinese diaspora to various countries namely Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore were down to colonisation, imperialism and in search of employment. In Japan and Vietnam alike, we have seen two examples of how the Ming and Han Dynasties have sent merchants, civilians or armies to spread their sphere of influence within the region. In turn, these Sino-Japanese and Sino-Vietnamese families blended together as one distinct culture, both of which were free to practise their own type of religion and customs. With Malaysia and Singapore, there has not been as significant of a population exodus by the Chinese community until the aftermath and outbreak of the Great Depression and the Second World War, in search of employment, family visits and retirement. Similar to their early Sino-Japanese and Sino-Vietnamese counterparts in Okinawa and northern Vietnam, the Chinese migrants in Malaysia struggled to find their equality amongst the locals, which caused a lot of politico-social struggles, and the eventual Singaporean independence in 1965 by Lee Kwan Yew and the PAP.

In my personal opinion, I think that through many modes of colonisation and employment opportunities, the Chinese were able to achieve their own sphere of influence within the Asian continent. Obviously, when we speak of colonial powers, we tend to get winded up in the great maritime powers – Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Holland. China can be regarded differently with their impetus of spreading their cultural and economical influences across others, so that trade can flow readily back to the mainland. This is key, as this could be applied to the modern globalised world, where China is an imperial power, in the sense of being an economic and imposing country on weaker and considerably poorer countries found in Africa, South America and Asia. That might be a pointer for how to understand the notion behind encouraging the diaspora of the Chinese communities abroad not only in Asia, but perhaps in another article, to other continents and countries like America, Europe and Canada. I do not want to be far-fetched in my article, but many questions arise from this and we, particularly, as the global audience, could question the effects of these mixed societies that the Chinese bring in abundance to their adopted countries.

Right that is it from me for now, as the university year is fast approaching. I really hope you have enjoyed all my reads so far, despite it being difficult to find a suitable and encapsulating enough of a topic to analyse. If there are any comments you like to say, do not forget to write them below. Thanks a lot and bye for now! 🙂

Signed from your respective blogger,

-Seb

References
[1] http://www.travelblat.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/chinese-new-year.jpg
[2] http://www.cv14.com/cic/ryukyu2.jpg
[3] Lee, C. K., Japan: Between Myth and Reality, (London, World Scientific Publishing Ltd., 1995), Pages 7-8, http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=77ZqNbU_Y74C&pg=PA8&dq=xu+fu&hl=en&sa=X&ei=i8c7Uq-sGKLniAeCv4DIBw&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=xu%20fu&f=false, date of access: 20/9/2013
[4] Hendrickx, K., The Origins of Banana-Fibre Cloth in the Ryukyus: Japan, (Leuven, Leuven University Press, 2007), Pages 38-41, http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=ULyu8dNqS1sC&pg=PA39&dq=kumemura+people&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FL47UsaNNcOOigeu7YDQAw&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=kumemura%20people&f=false, date of access: 20/9/2013
[5] http://www.waa.ox.ac.uk/XDB/images/world/tours/china-728px-Nam-Viet_200bc.jpg
[6] Phuong, H. T., “Chapter 8: Ethnic Chinese in Vietnam and Their Identity”, in Suryadinata, L., Ethnic Chinese as South-East Asians, (ed.), (Singapore, South East Asian Studies, 1997), Pages 267-272, http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=qv-4ScjTO-AC&pg=PA273&dq=chinese+migration+to+vietnam&hl=en&sa=X&ei=S8k7Ut3rJsS0iQfBxICgBA&ved=0CEkQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=chinese%20migration%20to%20vietnam&f=false, date of access: 20/9/2013
[7] Walker, D. H., East Asia: A New History, (Bloomington, Author House Ltd., 2012), Page 107, http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=GBvRs-za0CIC&pg=PA107&dq=zhao+tuo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6tA7Uv_BA8qviQf654GYDw&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=zhao%20tuo&f=false, date of access: 20/9/2013
[8] http://www.malaysia-maps.com/images/map-malaysia600.gif
[9] Saw, H-S., The Population of Peninsular Malaysia, 2nd ed., (Singapore, ISEAS Publishing, 2007), Pages 10-18, http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=e4Yp2QJNVWgC&pg=PA11&dq=chinese+migration+to+malaysia&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xMk7UqEV5IiJB5SZgLgD&ved=0CEoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=chinese%20migration%20to%20malaysia&f=false, date of access: 20/9/2013

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Why did many ancient civilisations falter?

[1] A map showing the once great and ancient civilisations of the world – amongst them the Meso-American tribes in Central and South America, modern day Egypt, India and China

 

It has been some time since my last post and I do wish this article is worth the wait. In this edition, I will be discussing why the once great and ancient civilisations vanish from the world’s dominance and remembrance. In a world where a lot of things are occurring, amongst them being revolutions and pain-staking political transitions in countries looking into the future, I thought I would look explore the past and answer a question that has popped up in many family discussions. I dedicate this article to my sister, who has posed a very interesting question I wanted to set out and answer. Anyway, I will use a few countries from each region so that we get an overview about the topic itself – the Mayans in Central America, the Egyptians in Africa, Greece in Europe, India in Asia. Constructive comments are appreciated below.

 

1) Central America – Mayans 

The Mayan civilisation dominated Central America for 1200 years, with 900 A.D. as their golden age. Their cities glimmered with 2,000 people per square mile, almost the entire size of Los Angeles County. [2] The Mayans’ demise came to a self-inflicted tragedy that came from the aftermath of deforestation. It was believed that the Mayans used an equivalent of 20 trees so that they could accumulate enough fuel to heat up limestone, an essential component to build many structures like temples and monuments. However, 20 trees only equated to 1 square metre of lime plaster. [2] This was significant, as deforestation was detrimental to the over atmosphere, despite its agricultural (forests were cleared to plant maize) and construction properties. This was signfiicant, as according to PhD student Robert Griffin, this increased temperatures to 3 to 5 degrees higher than normal, and 20 to 30 per cent less chance of rainfall. This was also key, as this dramatically increased droughts and therefore famines. As you will see in other civilisations, many of their falterings were down to self-inflicted, man-made reasons. [2]

 

2) Africa 

2.1) Egyptians

One of the main reasons why Egypt is believed to have faltered is due to the demise and result of Pharaoh Pepy II’s long reign. After his 90 years of reign as a monarch, the whole Egyptian administration or Old Kingdom had altered drastically. [3] This was significant, as the administration became increasingly more decentralised, and thus more inclined to overthrow the monarchy. This was because the government had forbid the general public to practise key social and religious rights – namely, practise Islam and Christianity simultaneously. [3]

 

Another major reason why the Old Kingdom had vanished was down to the destruction that the River Nile brought with its flooding, due to climate changes. [3] It must be remembered that the Nile was and still is a source of income, commerce and trade for the Egyptians. Without it, this was significant, as this caused radical famine problems and brought key political institutions at a standstill. Consequently, there were many cases of cannibalism within the community and a less efficient way to control the people. [3]

 

3) Europe – Greece 

Like the Roman Empire, the height of the Greek civilisation eventually took its toll as a superpower. Greece had many city-states that participated in many activities that favoured their own self-existence. Despite having united as one collective force to defeat the common enemy in Persia, greed, corruption and conflict was tragic and saw Greece falter as a civilisation. [4] This can be highlighted through the Peloponnesian War. This was significant, as it has to be noted that with the riches of the empire, Greece was able to accommodate great philosophers, artists, mathematicians to the world. [4] However, with such high achievements, Greece became too arrogant for their own good. This was important, as this meant that a lot of soldiers became mercenaries rather than being protectors of their land as part of their civic duties. Ultimately, they fought against each other, rather than for each other. [4] 

Furthermore, since the death of Alexander the Great as a conqueror, the Greek Empire went down in decline. After the general’s death, the conquered regions were divided amongst Alexander’s generals. This was key, as this meant a lot of background conflict amongst themselves, disputing area for area. [4] Consequently, this ended as a civil war. On the one hand, the Ptolemy dynasty ruled in Alexandria in Egpyt, and on the other hand, the Seleucid dynasty ruled Persia, Mesopotamia and parts of Eurasia. However, with so many incentives to emigrate to these new lands, this prevented Greece from increasing in population and protecting herself properly. [4] 

 

4) Asia – India 

Let us move eastwards to India as an ancient civilisation. Certainly, you, as the reader, may disagree and contest my decision to have selected India especially when it is currently one of the more successful countries due to their potent textile industry found primarily in the Bengal region, that is still very much flourishing to this date. In the same light, one may also argue that China at one point, did disintegrate as a great civilisation and why it has not been included, having excelled in many arts, including literature, astronomy, inventions and mathematics.

 

However, I do think India gives a fine example of resurrecting a civilisation, despite struggling through various internal and external hiccups throughout the course of history. Personally, I feel it is more complex, and thus more interesting to discuss. For example, under Ashoka and the Mauryan dynasty, India was economically weak as they were conquered by a Greek faction state called Bactria. [5] Despite having been replaced by the Mauryan as the dominant dynasty, the Gupta’s were not as politically apt – in the sense that it was not a centralised governmental administration. This was significant, as this meant local politicians locked horns for their self-interests. [5] This was key, as this meant socially speaking, Hinduism and the caste system were favoured as a religion and form of social policy, favouring the elites particularly in the nobility or Nawabs.

 

This continued to the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese East India Companies, all competing to achieve alliances with the Nawabs, Confederacies and factions in exchange of trade and military training by these foreign powers. [6] This was significant, as this was an example of colonisation and imperialism by many countries – particularly through Orientalism and Anglicisation – which transformed the very social, political and economic climate of India, like a pendulum swinging to and fro in favour of traditional and Oriental, or modern and British methods.

 

Effectively, many of the ancient civilisations faltered due to many natural disasters and man-related reasons. In the case of the Mayans, the monumental effort to use as much wood taken from deforestation for construction building, meant that there were not enough trees to prevent any flood and in turn, increased the overall climate of the region and famines. Similarly, we have the Egyptians and the Old Kingdom, who collapsed mainly due to a decentralised government and the aftermath due to floodings from the River Nile, an important financial source for the country.

 

With natural disasters aside, Greece poses a man-related demise to the civilisation. After their golden years as an imperial power under Alexander the Great and their numerous artists, including Plato and Aristotle to name but a few, the generals became greedy amongst themselves for status and prestige, forcing the Peloponnesian War and factions within their ever-diminishing empire. Finally, we have the Indians, who faltered down to their bankruptcy and internal problems due to alteration and colonisation, brought up by the imperial powers and more importantly, through Orientalism and Anglicisation. Perhaps more importantly, these factors can definitely be considered by future leaders in their diplomacy-making, and hopefully be fundamental reminders on how to avoid further wars, conflicts and possible demise of the world. Right, I hope you enjoyed your read, and I shall join you next time on Speaking Seb – till then! Bye for now! 🙂

 

References 

[1] http://anthro.palomar.edu/political/images/map_of_ancient_civilizations.gif

[2] http://phys.org/news174152911.html

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/apocalypse_egypt_01.shtml

[4] http://www.squidoo.com/fall_ancient_greece

[5] http://www.historyhaven.com/APWH/Decline_of_%20classical_civilizations.htm

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/east_india_01.shtml

Book Profile: 1984, by George Orwell (Revised Version)

George Orwell
[1] George Orwell, the famous writer of 1984 and Animal Farm.

Welcome back. As you may know already, I write Food Profiles, mainly about different ingredients with their special properties and recipes to come with. In this latest edition, I hope to return, in a Book Profile, with my simple take on the famous book 1984 by George Orwell, a highly influential and at times challenging read. I wanted to use this opportunity to analyse a few pointers in understanding this great book, especially as a passionate student in history and politics. In case you are yet to read the book, please refrain from continuing – this is a spoiler warning to it all. Otherwise, do continue and at the end of the analysis, tell me what you think can be improved or whether you want a discussion of it. My analysis will consist of George Orwell’s angle, thoughts on the book itself and the elements that I find the most intriguing.

Background – George Orwell’s angle
George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, was a basic critique on the ideology and functioning of Communism as a socio-political way of rule. His main point, where he drew major significance in the last scene, describing the pigs to be seen by Napoleon, the main character, to enjoy themselves in the house. This was significant, as this shows that some pigs were fairer than others. Continuing with this theme, 1984 is more of the totalitarian rule that is used by dictators, who are occasionally Communist, throughout the course of history. Orwell is believed to be a Leftist politician, supporting the British Labour Party. Interestingly, Orwell is supportive of socialism, as an ideology and way of rule against capitalism. [2] However, he criticised the Far Left of being radically self-interested for their rise to power and control over the masses. This is key, as this is illustrated through references of gulags and extermination campaigns that were used extensively under the ruthless reigns of Nazi Germany under Hitler, and Stalinist Russia. The “key elements and themes” section will explain this notion further.

Personal thoughts
I will next give my personal thoughts on the book itself. Personally, I felt the book was draggy and repetitive at times, particularly with the explanation that was written by O’Brien and the re-education or torture process taken on Winston. Certainly, Orwell wanted to give his views on the world government under a Big Brother perspective, symbolised through O’Brien’s articulation and a common, revolutionary stance taken by Winston, the main protagonist of the novel. For me, the most important element is that some parts were rushed and some were seriously prolonged and unnecessary. How did Winston so easily renounce himself to O’Brien and the Brotherhood so easily? How can you trust anyone, including O’Brien, in such a dangerous world? The transition from a personal life of a radical, to the shared romantic life with Julia, to the emptiness and helplessness of a political dissident is an intelligent way to show key themes under this categories and stages.

Key elements and themes
Firstly, it is fundamental to consider the key elements or themes within the story. I picked up four main ones that kept reoccurring throughout the novella: how history can be changed through brainwashing, what is absolute truth, the notion of double-think and the use and loyalty towards Big Brother.

The first main theme is how what is the absolute truth. Throughout Winston’s elaborate re-education by O’Brien as part of the Big Brother and Ministry of Love, the reader sees a challenge of facts between the mediator, seductor and destroyer found in O’Brien’s character and the revolutionary himself, Winston. For example, one recurring line that Orwell uses to illustrate the protestation of absolute truth is through the line “two plus two equals four”, or the eventual acceptance that it can easily be three or five for that matter.This is, personally, a fair example, as this challenges an axiomatic fact that was always accepted in ontological theory, epitomised under the Enlightenment period in the mathematics and sciences. Coming to think of it, how do you distinguish between an absolute and relative truth? Is ontology and epistemology enough to achieve it? Do we not, as modern population of global democracy have natural rights to freedom of speech, expression and information? How far does and should this freedom go?

This idea of the absolute truth can be expanded widely to the theme of controlling history and knowledge. As Winston worked in the Ministry of Truth under the watchful eye of the Brotherhood, he would destroy certain evidence in official history. For example, there would be certain words that the Brotherhood would decipher to refine the dictionary. I felt the dialogue between Winston and the old man in the pub on page 113, where the rhyme, “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement’s, You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St Martin’s” is used. The fact that it is remembered is of high importance, as the use of sophisticated language and culture is completely hindered by the Party. Another example, would be on page 182, where there is a use of “unperson”, or the dead and abolished person found in Syme. This is significant, as these twists of simpler words, limits the boundary in which the general public are allowed to fully lament the legitimacy of the party itself.

A major theme is how history can be altered through brainwashing or double-think, an invented and shortened artificial language. This is vividly illustrated through the gradual loyalty that Winston had given to Big Brother at the end of the book. At first, Winston had a strong psychological blockade against the idea of committing oneself to the divine political figure, as he frequently questioned the feasibility of the truths given by the Brotherhood and the writings by Emanuel Goldstein on page 213 onwards, a Trotsky-like figure who was responsible in constructing the ideology behind the government. [2] For example, the three short phrases “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength”, as the reader discovers, are all reversible, where slavery can easily be freedom, as this is a sense of self-fulfillment, stripping of the normal human-being of all basic desires and needs that we would want to the dead core: from love, lust, intelligence, curiosity, leisure, to simply leisure and acceptance. This is key, because Orwell shows that if a dissident is cruelly punished and showed to his deepest fears, he is a weak and helpless figure, accepting many contested truths amongst society and by the government itself. If this was expanded within history itself, Hitler’s Nazi Germany or Maoist China would be prime examples, as the young students at the Hitler Youth, together with the peasants were the main targets. When someone has little knowledge or exposure of the outside world intellectually and politically, they are easily manipulated and converted on who is the public political enemy and be despised, increasing the incentives to be exterminated as the outsiders found in the Jewish community and intelligentsia.

Finally and perhaps most significantly, one key theme is how can Big Brother be related in reality terms. Big Brother, as previously mentioned, can be a totalitarian and authoritarian figure, who can control different relative truths in order to indoctrinate the masses – be it any dictators throughout history: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco, Mao… In relative terms, Big Brother can really be any dominant country in the world, but instead of doing a tireless point of using the US or China, or indeed the British and French Empires, or any of the G8 or G20 countries nowadays, exploiting one another for resources. Drawing from recent affairs, Snowden challenging the whole American set-up in the world or the WikiLeaks mastermind found in Julian Assange. Who are we, the general population to trust who in the absolute truth? Who governs the true information? Why should we accept what we are given in a society, or should we simply not intervene in our opinions and become a robot, loyal and periodic?

Ultimately, this really depends on two factors – whether the country is in an external force, in a power struggle for world dominance or hegemony as a world police, or internally, as a totalitarian and dictatorship rule to control the masses, as a collective cause to satisfy the leader in rule. Sure, I could give the Arab Spring, the Eastern Bloc, the South American countries as examples to emphasise my point, but what I want to propose is the imprint the idea of how exactly this book is definitely relevant to many cases throughout history, or indeed the present current affairs, in understanding how many thought perceptions and de-education, is tend to be perceived or manipulated. So I end this complicated book with an open-ended answer, and leave you, the reader to draw possible connections with these rules and hegemonic powers. This book was truly an eye-opener, and did make me understand better the darker side of totalitarian rule that was once used under Maoist rule in China. Anyway, till next time – as I will soon be starting my summer job. I will try my best to update my blog in the near future – if you have not already read my other articles, do check it out on the navigation boxes on the left. Cheers and hope you liked your read once again! 🙂

References
[1] http://www.whale.to/a/orwellaaaa.jpeg
[2] Orwell, G., “Introduction”, 1984, (1954, London, Penguin Books)

Has decolonisation positively impacted former colonies in the present times?

 

[1] Franz Fanon, a renowned anti-colonial Franco-Algerian political activist and philosopher. 

Many countries across the world has been under some type of formal or informal colonial rule at one point in their history. Whether it has been a British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, German, Russian colony, a country has always been affected positively or negatively. In this article, I wish to use the three main global empires and their colonies – 1) British, 2) French and 3) Spain, as a medium to analyse the whether decolonisation process has been positive or negative within the overall economic, political and social situation. This will be discussed in each of the three respective colonies: 1) South Africa and Hong Kong, 2) Vietnam and New Caledonia and 3) Cuba. Again, I do appreciate your support and any comments for improvement with this very article is more than welcome.

Like always, before we begin the analysis, it is always important to comprehend the definition of decolonisation itself.  According to Oxford Dictionary, it is “when a state withdraws from a colony, thus leaving it independent” [2]. Furthermore, it is paramount to consider the level of improvement or faltering in a decolonised country. As you may know by now, I do always like to write controversial articles by mainly  posing many key questions to myself and to you, the reader. There are a web of questions that branch out: are the colonies still pretty much the same as it was during colonial times? Should we return to colonialism? Why should these countries stay as they are, as decolonised states? What positive or negative impacts have further emphasised this idea?

Franz Fanon 

As you may know, Franz Fanon was a political activist and philosopher of Franco-Algerian descent, who was dogmatic about the elements within anti-colonialism. Having been born and raised in the French colony of Martinique, together with the fact that Fanon had participated in the Second World War and Algerian War in 1958, this had greatly influenced Fanon’s ideals when writing his critique of racism and colonisation in Black Skin, White Masks [3].

Certainly, the title itself poses much significance in understanding Fanon’s stance. He argues that there is a relationship between the coloniser and the colonised, or indeed the black man in a ruling white class, is to be deemed as a norm. Despite initially considering himself French, the French racism had made Fanon disappointed, believing that this was detrimental to many Africans’ psychological health and well-being [3].  With this in mind, Fanon also argues that speaking French makes the colonised community more immersed into the colonisers’ culture, or indeed in the imagery, wears a “white mask” to conceal its own native opinions, almost blocking its projection of traditional opinions [3]. This is significant as by doing so, this is a negative impact of decolonisation, and prohibits the black man from having his own subjective views, as it has been already heavily influenced by the white and racist perspectives.

So how useful is Fanon’s argument in understanding the impact of decolonisation? Personally, I feel that Fanon definitely has a point, but having written his work as a manifesto, there has been some limitations into its feasibility. The colonised people who live in France and its colonies can still project its own ideas in French about its own native country. Simply because speaking a foreign and adopted language does not necessarily mean to conceal one’s identity or freedom of opinion. It is true that there are customs and traditions that the colonised subjects are to conform to within society, as the mask imagery suggested earlier.

However, this definitely depends on the period and the level of force used by the colonists. This is significant, as this is another example of negative impact within decolonisation, as illustrated through the film Entre les Murs or The Class. It shows that it can be a difficult situation with cultural identity in many adopted countries, where the colonised population or immigrants feel detached from the roots, unsure of their original footprint within the society. If you have not watched the movie itself, I do recommend you watching it to further understand my point. 

 

1) British colonies

[4] South African apartheid: the division between native blacks and the Afrikaans population caused major uproar throughout the continent and the world. 

South Africa

South Africa – imagine a bottle of old red wine, the residue never quite leaving the bottom of its container. Same can be said about what was left of the Anglo-Dutch colonialism in South Africa, and its overall negative remains of decolonisation. After many transitions in and out of decolonisation, firstly in 1934 from British rule, South Africa was finally decolonised in 1994 [5]. However, the remnants during the colonial times continued to stain the country socially and politically. This was and is still one of the richest and most powerful African countries, and yet frequent problems of corruption, racism, trailing towards extremist ideals of apartheid result in killings across the black and white population.

Decolonisation has definitely had a positive impact on South Africa, as it drove out the repressive white colonial rule by the Afrikaans and British governors. This was significant, as this meant white domination rather than having a more equal society. Despite the fact that not all racism and forms of decolonisation is eradicated, Nelson Mandela has improved the situation dramatically. Mandela was heavily involved with the African National Congress (ACN), as he fought for a multi-racial society in South Africa. This was significant, as this effort was repressed by the National Party and apartheid effort, forcing Mandela to trial and his eventual imprisonment in Robben Island prison and Pollsmoor prison during the early 1960’s onwards until his release in 1990 [6].

With such a recent process of decolonisation, South Africa has indeed come a long way in its rehabilitation. With the introduction of being included in the BRICS summit, the football World Cup of 2010 and more policies under Jacob Zuma, this is significant, as this is indeed an example of positive impact in the decolonisation process, meaning that the country is able to compete on a global scale economically and politically, whilst still fighting for more equality amongst the various races in the country.

Hong Kong 

With Hong Kong, the decolonisation process is interesting in its own right. Since the handover to China in 1997 and one of the latest British colonies to decolonise, there has been and still an ongoing identity crisis amongst the Cantonese local population – whether to return to the more stable, but regulated British government, or the more authoritarian and Communist rule of the mainland as a Chinese province.

The population has replicated many Western styles and attitudes in all three of social, political and economic areas from the British rule. For example, under the Basic Law, China has recognised the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, allowing Hong Kong to freely improve or alter any rule of law independently for 50 years since its handover to China from Britain in 1997 [7].  This is significant, as this shows a positive impact that Hong Kong is able to govern itself with its own ideals and incentives, despite having the mainland Chinese government imposing increasingly more restrictions on its freedom of speech and policy-making. This is a complicated situation, where again, many citizens are divided on the loyalty of either the British or the Chinese mainland. For more information, do check out my previous post about Hong Kong and its identity during and post-colonialism

2) French colonies

[8] Many French architectural buildings show remnants of its colonial past in Vietnam – but how does it compare now? 

Vietnam 

Since the Vietnamese victory in Franco-Vietnamese War, the country has been able to reestablish itself to secure a better politico-economic situation. It must be considered that with the combined Vietnamese effort from the Vietminh and Vietcong, this successfully defeated the French colonists in 1954 and the American effort to prevent another domino from falling, at the end of another proxy war in 1973. This was key, as Vietnam was left heavily crippled economically as a heavy consequence of the war effort [9].

However, since the late 1980s, the Vietnamese government has introduced more free-market reforms and Western styles of economy and policy, attracting more foreign investment. This has made many Vietnamese nouveau riche population confident in spending their money, particularly in big-name brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry [10]. This is significant, as putting problems of democracy, capitalism and inequality aside, this does show a positive impact of decolonisation, where the Vietnamese economy has been running more smoothly with higher expenditure from the general population.

New Caledonia 

New Caledonia is a more recent international and political affair that has caused extreme controversy within the French overseas government and the UN. Since the late 19th century, New Caledonia became an important French outpost in the Polynesian Islands, primarily to raise competition within the region against the British colony in New Zealand. There has been a divided opinion between self-independence and loyalty since the 1970s, the UN has heavily suggested a referendum by the natives of the Pacific island, offering ideals of “sovereignty, freedom and greater autonomy from France” [11]. This is another example of negative process of decolonisation, where the country is again tied between freeing itself from a patriarchal colonial power or whether to retain its much sought-after independence. As shown, many countries are too anxious about not having the protection of an overlying power, as it has become to dependent on its resources and aid to function stably and effectively. 

The French government responded with a very protective stance and argued it was a central part of its republic, much like the Netherland Antilles or the British Caribbean Commonwealth territories. There has been a complicated and prolonged process and impact of decolonisation, where many leaders within the region particularly New Zealand Prime Minister Malielegaoi, has demanded the Pacific Island to find the most suitable way to solve the problem of independence in the country [11]. The question still remains, will the island ever become independent? If so, will there be or is it necessary to have another revolution to topple the government? Only time will tell…

3) Spanish colonies  

[12] The Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898) posed another historical that weighs the feasibility of colonialism. 

Cuba 

Cuba is a negative case of the decolonising period under the American intervention in the Cuban War of Independence and Spanish-American War. With the Spanish being increasingly more aggressive in their pursuit of riches in Cuba, this had significantly handicapped the autonomy of the nation. At this particular time, the US were aiming to achieve a proper overseas empire particularly within the US Frontier and the Mexican-American War [13]. Having gotten defeated in the Ten Years’ War against the Spanish, the Cubans’ incentive for independence did not die out – instead it persevered, where it had become more and more dependent on American economic wealth and aid for their lucrative business in cane sugar production. This was significant, as this meant a rather controversial situation, where Cuba, like many South American countries was swinging from a ruling country to another, dictatorship and authoritarian rule, ultimately not retaining its independence [13].

Sure, America’s intervention and political aid had been crucial in maintaining a stable country in Cuba through the Platt Amendment. Yes, under Batitsa and Castro, there were more acts to draw foreign influence within the country particularly from America and the sugar production, aiming towards a nationalist and sovereign country [13]. However, by leaving colonial rule and foreign aid, Cuba has struggled immensely, even more so under the allegiance towards the USSR during the Cold War, for purchasing its 5 million of its sugar and subsidising the country $100 million worth of Russian technology [13]. Was the USSR not another country hovering above Cuba, not allowing itself from independence? By now, Cuba was far too reliant on USSR, a subordinate to her Cold War capitalist rival in the US, to successfully survive industrially and economically, where self-determination was still questioned until late into the 20th century [13].

In summary, many countries have been under colonial and foreign rule. I have used the British, French and Spanish empires to discuss the level of impact in their respective colonies. On the one hand, countries like Cuba and New Caledonia have been ruled so much that it has become over-reliant on its patriarchal country, thus a prolonged struggle and anxious approach towards its self-autonomy and independence once and for all. This is further hardened by many years of dictatorship driving out many intellectuals to make it consistently competitive and stable as a country socially, politically and economically. On the flip side, Hong Kong and Vietnam have been increasingly more competitive and successful, despite having driven out their respective British and French colonists. They are able to shoulder the burden many economic issues themselves, with many encouragement of the free-market and capitalist policies in the nouveau riche or the practise of the Basic Law, in Vietnam and Hong Kong’s case. This could perhaps be a showdown between the true controversial debate of the effectiveness within capitalism and socialism themselves, but that is for another day’s worth of discussion. Finally, in South Africa’s case, many social problems, unfortunately, still continue to linger on, as there are many cases of cross-racial murders every year. Certainly, the sooner this problem is completely rectified, the better. However, that being said, South Africa has seen many positive outcomes of the decolonisation process. This is highlighted in the battle for racial equality against apartheid mainly by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, which has transformed a country to become more economically and politically powerful on the global stage, particularly with its recent inclusion into the BRICS summit. Thank you for your support and do comment for anything you find needs to be improved. Till next time and all the best! 🙂

References
[1] http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_meiqlbph2G1qh48heo1_400.jpg
[2] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/decolonize
[3] http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/frantz-fanon/
[4] http://espressostalinist.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/apartheid-signs-in-south-africa-1956_jpg.jpg
[5] http://africanhistory.about.com/library/bl/bl-Independence-SA2.htm
[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/nelson_mandela
[7] http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/facts.htm
[8] http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000elVmJj0McKI/s/900/900/Woman-way-market-selling-banana-Hoi-An-Vietnam-Francis-Roux-NOI-Pictures-4141.jpg
[9] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/asia_pac/05/vietnam_war/html/introduction.stm
[10] http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=3640240&page=1#.UcMUa_k3uSo
[11] http://inside.org.au/highjacking-decolonisation-french-polynesia-at-the-united-nations/
[12] http://www.spanishwars.net/img/spanish-american-war.jpg
[13] Williamson, E., The Penguin History of Latin America, (Penguin Books Ltd., London, 2009)

 

To what extent is La Francophonie a neo-colonial institution?

[1] Map of the La Francophonie – current and former participatory states.

Before I leave for Germany tomorrow on a trip, I thought I would return with a blog post about something historical and political again. This time, as you can see, I am going to be analysing how La Francophonie could be considered as a neo-colonial institution. I must note that I am not here to glorify this institution in its prestige, but I am here to discover and learn something and hopefully, by doing so, help you understand something as well. I hope you like my post and have fun reading – as usual any comments for improvement is much appreciated 🙂

I have already mentioned my love for empires before, and this is like no other topic for me. It is needless to say that when you look at the map covering the countries within this organisation, you basically see the remnants of the former ‘First’ and Second French Empires. Under La Francophonie, we have 77 participatory countries respectively, spanning from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The main idea of these institutions are primarily to connect Francophone people together, tackling economic, social, political and environmental problems on a bigger, more globalised scale, promoting notions of democracy, free trade and justice. Recently, there has been a polemic about the abuse of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, thus challenging the liability of its membership in the Francophonie. [2]

Firstly, we could say that La Francophonie is purely an exmaple of neo-colonialism, as it tries to assert power over former territories. For example, the French Empire used to rule over Pondicherry in India. This is significant, as the Indian government are seriously considering to be part of the French institution, but with Canada in a similar situation of having a dual identity tugging between the Anglo-French influences, does this not equate to more competition for sphere of influence and eventual internal conflict? Would Pondicherry prosper better, because of its relatively small size, as a condominium or another federal state, sharing power ‘equally’ and constitutionally in theory, amongst national government and La Francophonie itself? If we shift our attention to another European power in India, namely Goa under Portuguese rule, has the Indian Prime Minister at its helm, but it does retain some form of Portuguese law and autonomy, within it since its decolonisation campaign around the 1960s [2].

At first, La Francophonie was once built around the idea of promoting cultural and educational similarities, say through cultural and sport competitions like Jeux de la Francophonie, where the countries would be administered by Paris. However, in recent summits amongst the Francophone countries, Guinea-Bassau, Mali, Madagascar have left the institution, feeling it was becoming too political and influential in its domestic affairs [4]. This is significant, as we could say La Francophonie is a neo-colonial institution, where France sees the importance of retaining its African members, as there are many foreseen statistics that by 2050, approximately 85% of the 750 million Francophone speakers will be of African origin [3]. With many civil and political unrest in the aforementioned colonies, this perhaps explains the tightening of foreign affairs in establishing socio-political order against the Malian rebels recently?


An example of La Francophonie not being a neo-colonial insitution could be explained through the observatory states. There are many observatory states in Balkans and from other empires – Spanish and Portuguese in Uruguay and Mozambique respectively. In these countries, poverty and post-colonial effects whether it was under the imperial powers or under the Communist sphere of influence, has drastically struck the economy. This is significant, as in Mozambique, we have an example of a country being tormented under civil war and only its recent democratic turn of government in 1994. There are many more investors from Brazil and China, who are injecting billions of dollars in its rich coal and gold resources [4]. However, with France and Britain under their respective institutions, the question remains of who is the dominant and most influential politico-economic power in the south-east African country itself.

Another example of La Francophonie not being purely a neo-colonial institution can be shown through its administration. Unlike its British counterpart which has the Queen has its main figurehead, La Francophonie has Abdou Diouf as Executive Secretary, former Senegalese president as the head, whilst Jacques Legendre is at its General Secretary. This is significant, as with the different styles of government amongst the British and French, the former having a monarchical and the latter having semi-presidential elements, this shows more equality and shift of being a neo-colonial administration.

In conclusion, La Francophonie, like other colonial powers, say the Portuguese under the Communities of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) and the British under the Commonwealth of Nations, is trying to preserve its former French colonial interests and entities around the world. It has to be remembered that French, despite being overshadowed by English, Mandarin and Arabic as the three most dominant languages in the world, remains as one of the most important countries in Europe, if not the globe itself. There were recent politico-economic alliances with some Francophone countries or regions like Québec, and at times, a more isolationist role in other former colonies, but it cannot be mistaken that France’s main political influence and area stays in the African continent due to its ever increasing French-speaking population. However, until the French government has realised to carefully divide the social and political benefits and interests for its participatory countries, there might be even more states deciding to disband from La Francophonie. Does this potentially mean a return for any of the three countries (Guinea-Bassau, Mali, Madagascar) who left the institution in the next summit in Dakar 2014? Will another civil war stir up in preventing the togetherness of the organisation itself or will stability be maintained properly and fairly? Hopefully, time will tell. Hope you had a knowledgeable read here, till next time and see you soon! Have a good easter 🙂 Peace!

References 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map-Francophonie_organisation_2012-fr.svg

[2] http://www.thelondoneveningpost.com/africa/harper-wants-francophonie-summits-held-in-democratic-countries/3/

[3] http://mmascgoa.tripod.com/id12.html

[4] http://www.fides.org/en/news/32434?idnews=32434&lan=eng#.UU8fmRzwmSo

[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/27/mozambique-africa-energy-resources-bonanza

Are socio-political revolutions the best way to shape a country?


[1] Vive la France! Vive la patrie! We have seen many revolutions in the world, but is it really the best way to shape a country?
Welcome back, I really hope you enjoyed my last read. I have now reached a bit more than 600 views in around a year, and I am hoping to continue that to even more due to your support. Here is a word of gratitude from your respective blogger.

Look at the French flag. Look at the American flag. It is painted blue, white and red. The true colours that connotes symbols of liberty and the nation itself. Here stands the people, the toppled monarchy and the blood we have spilled to reach here… Throughout history, there has always been a revolution that shaped the country both positively and negatively. I will use many different types of revolutions throughout history to analyse this subject; the American Revolution of 1775-83, the French Revolution of 1789-99,the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1949 and more recent revolutions especially those of the Eastern Bloc under Gorbachev’s democratic reforms. Apart from more socio-political sense of revolution, it is fundamental to consider Marxist revolution as well. As usual, any comments for improvement are welcome.

Before we commence with the analysis of various revolutions, it is important to understand the term revolution itself. There are two senses of the word itself, and according to the Oxford Dictionary, it is either “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system”, or rather in Marxist terms, “the class struggle which is expected to lead to political change and the triumph of Communism”. [2]

Now that we have briefly comprehended the term itself, let us ease into the revolutions themselves. I have dissected the revolutions into specific sections – ideological early modern and modern to make my point easier to understand. I have also tried to go all around the world to try and emphasise my point further. Let us start with the nucleus of the revolutionary idea within Marx and Engel’s ideological philosophy.

1) Ideological


[3] The Marxist theory envisioned by Marx and Engels revolutionised the way society is and was structured.
1.1) Proletariat revolution – Marxist

Apart from discussing socio-political factors of revolutions throughout history, it is also important to consider the ideological side of revolution itself under the guidance of the two German greats – Marx and Engels. On the basis of Marxist theory, social revolution will take place, where the dictatorship or dominace of the proletariat will rise up against the bourgeoisie, essentially transforming society, forcing the elites to fuse into the working class as well [4]. There is an argument that a social class is necessary, as once the elites are eradicated, another one would take its place. This is key, as this would mean a pendulum swinging between a centralised or decentralised government on who and which class is the dominant force, ultimately in socialism or democracy [4]. Moreover, this would question the social relationship between us human together, as it is difficult to achieve democracy and equality together as you could see in my previous post about whether celebrities deserve to have astronomical amounts of salary.

2) Early Modern


[5] One of the most iconic paintings depicting the American Revolution with Washington at the Americans’ command.

2.1) The American Revolution

With the American Revolution, this was essentially a battle internally and externally – one amongst the Loyalists and the Revolutionaries, and the other against the British Crown under King George III. There were different motives, but perhaps the nationalist sentiment was overwhelming under the tutelage of the Founding Fathers of the United States – John and Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Under George III’s reign of the Thirteen Colonies, there was much debate over his reliability as ruler. Many politicians locally in Britain were concerned with George III’s relaxed and nonchalant attitude, who lacked the political shrewdness that his predecessors left the sub-continent. [6] This was significant, as this meant major policies were out of his control and left to his advisors – namely Lord North. This was significant, many strict policies, for example the Stamp Act, Boston Massacre, Tea Party, Coercive Acts, were all “touched off [with] a heavy flurry of pamphleteering” [7]. This discussed many Anglo-American differences in vain and anger, which encouraged for a reconstruction of a new government.

More importantly still, however, the Americans were helped politically and militarily aided by the French government under Louis XVI and Marquis de Lafayette. With the defeat at the Seven Years’ War, France wanted to revenge against Britain for the losses in colonies and in prestige. This was significant, as this meant a heavy collaboration amongst the Franco-American forces, effectively to weaken the British influence in North America. After allying themselves together, the Franco-American forces under General Washington and Comte de Rochambeau agreed to collaborate in Chesapeake Bay against the British forces under Lord Cornwallis’ command. With heavy bombardment and stranding of the British commander, this was significant, as the British government hesitantly signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, effectively granting independence to the Americans [8].

Despite the fact that America was now independent, it was still very much under political turmoil particularly under the Article of Confederation. There was a key divide within the American government over the problem of slavery. On the one hand, the Quakers were favouring a more sympathetic role and acted decisively to abolish the commerce altogether in areas like Rhode Island and Vermont. This anti-slavery sentiment was fundamental, as it encouraged the establishment of the Anti-Slavery Society later in 1831. [9] Nevertheless, this did split the northern and southern states even more, as the north required increasingly more people to work in newly industrialised areas, whereas the south was far more reliant on agricultural production. [9,10] This conflict over slavery continued under Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army against the Confederacy army was significant, as this implies how revolution could be hapless and a long process of struggle on a country showed in a country. However, it must be noted that despite the act of slavery, the black population continued to struggle socially and politically until the 1960’s, in acts of equal human rights in the South. Thus, this questions the true significance of a revolution and its positive impact within a country, particularly if it leaves a nation in an eternal struggle as shown here and in many cases hereafter.

2.2) The French Revolution

Despite the success that France had brought to the United States in making it an independent country, this greatly affected itself economically and socially. Tables were turned – from success plunging into failure. According to many sources, the French government was now heavily bankrupt. This was significant, as King Louis XVI and his advisor Necker continued to tax the peasants, and favoured the aristocracy within the social and political domains. Consequently, this ended in social unrest and a lot of revolts throughout the nation. For example, one of the first and most significant revolts against the Bourbon monarchy was the Women’s Revolt to Versailles. The women demanded the “Baker, the Baker’s wife and the Baker’s son”, as an attempt to protest for more bread or food from the monarchy. This was key, as this meant that showed the discontentment from the local people, and the ineffectiveness of the government. This social chaos did force the King to be evacuated with his family, and to have the National Guard to try and repress the peasants. [11]

The political situation intensified under the role of Robespierre and the Great Fear. Robespierre had a prominent role within the National Convention, prompting the execution of the Bourbon monarchy under Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. This was significant, as in spite of the eradication of tyranny and a declaration of France as a republic, Robespierre and the Jacobins became the dominant forces in France [12]. Unfortunately, however, Robespierre abused that power and became the tyrant himself, spreading the ‘Reign of Terror’, essentially putting any anti-revolutions like Danton at the expense of the guillotine. This was key, as there were increasingly more conspiracies to assassinate Robespierre, where on 27 July 1794, after a struggle, the mastermind himself was critically injured by a gunshot and was executed subsequently [12].

This revolutionary sentiment found in a nucleus exploded throughout Europe, primarily under Napoleon’s influence and the Napoleonic Wars. Throughout Europe, there were countless political and military battles between pro-monarchy and anti-monarchy countries (which were few and far between)! This included Prussia, Austria, Russia and Great Britain all favouring their monarchical forms of government, whilst the likes of France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands were on the opposing side. Despite Napoleon Bonaparte’s best efforts to restore a competitive stance against Great Britain, the Wars of the Sixth and Seventh Coalitions proved to be overwhelming. This was significant, as the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium had shown the grandeur of Europe against Napoleon himself, forcing him to surrendering on 15th July, 1815 [13]. Thus, Napoleon was exiled in Saint Helena as we know, and the Bourbon Monarchy under Louis-Philippe or Louis XVIII was restored, despite parity in France and further revolutions in the 1830 Revolution to again overthrow the monarchy. This was key, as this shows the instability and chaos that revolutions can cause to a country and with many conflicts internally and externally within France, due to colonial and governmental problems. It was not until after the Bonaparte legacy after Napoleon III was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, that Adolphe Thiers was the first statesman to take over the socio-political scene in France, and restore relative stability over the French people [14].

3) Modern


[15] The rapprochement between then US president Reagan and Russian president Gorbachev, was another significant event in history.
3.1) Communist China

We now turn our attention to Asia, where a fundamental revolution can be found in the Cultural Revolution of 1949 in China. After the victory against the Nationalists or the Guomintang (GMT) in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the Communists gained control of the entire Chinese country, forcing the GMT to reside in Taiwan. As a result, China was renamed as the People’s Republic of China or PRC. [16] This was significant, as the Communists had a lot of control and influence from the peasants across the country, which previously was corrupt with bribery under the reign of the Chinese Generalisimo or Chiang Kai-shek.

With this monumental support from the peasants, the Communists started to capitalise on this domain – reshaping the Chinese social and political fronts. For example, under the Cultural Revolution, Mao had introduced what was known as re-education, where many people, including “counter-revolutionaries” and the bourgeoisie were sent to the countryside to be “de-educated” or publicly humiliated by the general public. This was significant, as this was paradoxical because it destroyed the intelligentsia as the main social class, so critical in any country’s development socially, politically and economically. [17] Consequently, the country stagnated in effective economic policies, as the Great Leap Forward clearly showed. Certainly, Mao wanted his people to be industrially self-sufficient against the rising powers in the United States and Germany at the time, but without true expertise to guide the peasants to find and manufacture key resources, the whole process was a failure.

3.2) Eastern Bloc – glasnost and perestroika
After succeeding Khruschev, Gorbachev was a far more liberal leader in the Russian Communist Party. Compared to the iron fist that was imposed by Khruschev and Stalin, Gorbachev worked more freely and cooperatively with his American counterpart, Ronald Reagan, in what was called the rapprochement process. Gorbachev realised, unlike his predecessors, that if the USSR were to compete against the US and the world, it must go through the ‘democratisation’ transition. [18] This was significant, as through the two main policies – perestroika and glasnost, the main problems of poor standard of living and lack of freedom from a strict centralised government were to be rectified. Perestroika was to restructure the economic issues and to rely more on market forces, whilst glasnost was to enforce a more decentralised forms of government and higher ‘democratisation’ within the USSR and beyond in the Soviet controlled Eastern Europe [18]. For this reason, this time of ideological change or revolution introduced by Gorbachev can be seen as positive, as it made the Soviet people freer and more inclusive and aware within the society as a whole, striving towards a more democratic rather than Communist ideal that was previously championed by Khruschev and more predominantly by Stalin himself.

Therefore and in conclusion, if we apply the Marxist idea of a controversial replacement of the ruling class or elites within society as part of answering the question, let us break down each of the revolutions individually. Essentially, there has been a recurring pattern throughout all the revolutions – they were all against the elite class or patriarchical figure in a dictator, tyrannical or monarchical rule.

Thus, this was significant, as there were more incentives to struggle for the national independence, striving towards autonomy, self-determination. This was key, as this could be seen as a positive effect in a revolution, where take the US as an example, allowed it to have more freedom and more inclined in its national and foreign policy since the Independence Wars against Great Britain. In the same positive light, Gorbachev had introduced two main policies – perestroika and glasnost, as a form of socio-political revolution. This was significant, as it enforced and reformed a more democratic, individualist, liberal society for the Russian and former Soviet republics, effectively allowing it to fit more appropriately in the global scale against its American and Western counterparts.

However, a revolution could also leave a country continuingly in socio-political chaos, unrest and instability, as France had shown with many transitions between a Republic and a monarchical rule, throughout its history with the French Revolution and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. This was key, as without time as a factor, the country could still be in a negative transition and to be an adult country by itself. Similarly, in the case of China and the Cultural Revolution, this completely altered and left a legacy in which the way people are behaving, as there was an incentive to ‘de-educate’ the intelligentsia or the ruling bourgeois class by public humiliation or by re-educating fields. This was significant, as this shows how revolution is not effective, as it forced the Chinese nation to struggle when Mao introduced the Great Leap Forward, lacking critical expertise to successfully compete against the industrial superpowers found in the US and Germany.

Effectively and what must be noted, is that every country, be it young or old, will go through this transition of revolution if needed to struggle for more autonomy and self-determination from the general public. However, to effectively function on a global scale, it needs time to recover and to restabilise itself. For example, the West has reasonable amount of time with around 150 to 200 years since its last major revolution, whereas younger countries found in the Arab, African or Eastern European countries do not have time on their side as they are recently struggling or in transition of a revolution. Consequently, these types of countries need it to grow and recuperate from the effects of revolution itself. That is it from me, and I sincerely hope you enjoyed your read again. Thank you very much for your support! Bye now 🙂

References
[1] http://smlxtralarge.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/pillar10-history-french-revolution-delacroix.jpg
[2] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/revolution
[3] http://catholicexchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Marx-and-Engels.jpg
[4] http://marxisttheory.org/the-capitalist-state-workers-state-socialism-and-communism-the-riddle-of-history-solved/
[5] http://www.aljazeera.com/mritems/Images/2011/3/7/20113714026398876_20.jpg
[6] http://www.usahistory.info/American-Revolution/King-George-III.html
[7] http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=EjJHUVVzDR8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=american+revolution&ots=5jByu9dkTA&sig=U7cqyThLjWE7jMwW7jVMYgOaBB0#v=onepage&q=american%20revolution&f=false
[8] http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/yorktown.htm
[9] http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAcivilwar.htm
[10] http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USACWarmyU.htm
[11] http://www.historywiz.com/womensmarch.htm
[12] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/robespierre_maximilien.shtml
[13] http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/napoleonicwars/p/Napoleonic-Wars-Battle-Of-Waterloo.htm
[14] http://www.nndb.com/people/550/000101247/
[15] http://www.jimhuntshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Gorbachev_Reagan_GenevaSummit_1985.jpg
[16] http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/ChineseRev
[17] http://asianhistory.about.com/od/modernchina/f/What-Was-The-Cultural-Revolution.htm
[18] http://www.history.com/topics/perestroika-and-glasnost

Should celebrities get paid astronomical amounts for their talent?

[1] Gerard Depardieu, a recent example of how great amounts of money might not be the best idea…

Welcome back – if you are still to have exams, I wish you luck, otherwise be happy it is finally over. Let the euphoria begin…soon enough! In this edition, I will cover many aspects to analyse whether celebrities should get paid astronomical amounts for their talent. To do so, the importance of celebrities as a mode of meritocracy, the aspects of democracy countered by the social democratic rule in France where celebrities are protesting against Hollande’s tax policies, and perhaps a question of moral when abusing the celebrity status.

It must be understood that traditionally speaking, classic democracy has always looked at the individual as being the centre for attention and consideration. The meritocratic approach is there to reward the best out of merit and talent, the term mainly introduced by Michael Young, a British sociologist. In summary, Young had two basic arguments: 1) the incentives approach – he believed that actions maybe rewarded for good they do, which theoretically, should result in good consequences to produce better society; 2) the actions propriety – Young believed that actions are judged by their propriety rather than their results in terms of quality. [2] Furthermore, many definitions of meritocracy is heavily linked with what a person “deserves”, as Sen points out. [2] A question that does grow of this, is whether all celebrities deserve their salaries – if so, why and why not? 

In many cases, celebrities are rewarded for their achievements within a society. Certainly, people have their own types of talent, and should be applauded within a society. Take Pablo Picasso or Niall Ferguson as an artist or scholar. They both got considerable amount of money for their drawing and sculpting, or analysis and research skills. Indeed, that is a stroke of genius that must be commended for, as some people do stick out of society more than others. However, take any star footballer playing in the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga, they are receiving great sums of money for essentially scoring goals for club and country, where many spectators across the world are appreciating the sport and are sponsored by big-named companies say Nike or Gilette.But it begs the question of who exactly comes up with these sums of money, and more importantly, why are some amounts more than others? Is it really only down to talent and/or sponsors? Why should a normal person gain considerably less for their own “talents” within a society, bearing in mind it is still a talent, after all?

It must be said, obviously, there are no easy answers, and is a very controversial topic. Shedding light from Marxist theories, it does criticise heavily on the ideals of capitalism and its wealth distribution across society and its social inequality. According to ‘utopian socialists’ across Europe, there was an incentive to bring both men and women to ‘perfect harmony’, regardless of their social and household roles during the early modern period [3]. There were various theories according to a wide spectrum of Marxist, anti-capitalist and anarchist philosophers across Germany and France, all having different ideal societies.

For example, during the 19th century, French political scientist Louis Blanc believed that there should be a “reorganisation of society itself”. [3] This was significant, as this would mean each citizen would be credited according to his ability as well as to their needs, ultimately increasing sense of equality and to make the weaker and poorer receive more. Moreover, there is the French anarchist Proudhon, who believed that society should be organised and according to the principles of anarchy, where Proudhon drew inspiration from the French Revolution of 1789, that “all property is theft”. [3] This was significant, as no one could have more power over anyone else, and that no one could be sovereign at the expense of others. Moreover, this was key, as every citizen can indeed be a politician, where the society should be making decisions through collective discussion, rather than to satisfy self-ambition or interests. [3]

Keeping this ideal society that the political scientists or philosophers in tact, we can now move onto the taxation policy introduced by the French president, Francois Hollande. Under Hollande, the main idea was to tax individuals who earn more than one million euros at 75 per cent. [4] This was significant, as this was to enforce redistribution of wealth, ultimately to persuade companies to lower executive pay and to restabilise France’s economy from further suffering and unemployment. 

However, France’s economy is still stagnate and unemployment rates is still rather high at 11 per cent. [4] It must be noted what works in theory, does not work in practise – many executives are not lowering pay in many sectors. For example, if we return to the footballers in France to teams like Paris Saint-Germain, it is understood that players are paid even higher wages so that it they get satisfied after tax payments. Equally, this has forced major French celebrities like Gerard Depardieu, decided to leave to settle in the cash-rich Russian area of Mordovia, in quest to have a ‘fairer’ level of income tax under Putin and by a foreign country [5]. Moreover, according to American political scientist Milton Friedman in his speech “Equality and Freedom”, there is an imbalance when society tries to achieve equality of opportunity and outcome at the time, as only one can be achieved as a consequence of the other [6]. So which type of equality should we take? Is democracy the better cause and equality of outcome more feasible? 

One way of looking at whether celebrities should be rewarded with monumental sums of money can be, in my opinion, perceived with morals. It can be argued that celebrities do take their time to invest in charities, therefore, with so much money in tact, it can be used effectively. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a celebrity is essentially “a famous person, especially in entertainment and sport.” [7] They receive different social status and are like every other human-being inclined in self-interest, which can easily result in turmoil and corruption. But why should a celebrity have a better social status than a normal working class person? How do the organisations pay? If it is from the government where the money originates, then why should they not regulate a more clear-cut allocation of the money. This would be key, as a lot more money could be effectively used in other social, economic or political sectors – helping the general public than attaining to essentially self-fulfillment and interests.

In conclusion and in my personal perspective, I believe celebrities should not be paid astronomical amounts, but equally, should not bring this case to an extreme. Essentially, I am arguing a balancing act of democracy and socialism. This is significant, as the individual should be credited for their talent, but perhaps regulate the amount of money for each class. However, this is far too idealist and confined, as if we find equality in as argued above, this is rather controversial and complicated of a situation. Is there really a way to classify a ‘better’ social class? If you achieve equality in society envisioned by Marxist political scientists in critique of industrialisation and society, this does not achieve the flip side of the coin, which is the continuity of capital flow and industrialisation. Do we end up with a world of equality or lack of economic success in markets encouraged by neo-liberalism? Will this not end as a crisis for some?

Ideally, the middle path of finding a way to satisfy the celebrities and working class is a difficult and perpetual process that neither democracy nor socialism has yet to figured out. Despite the fusion of both ideologies in social democracy that Hollande tried to introduce in his tax policies, this article’s topic and question begs to answered, and ultimately and unfortunately, until we find a legitimate ideology to satisfy democracy and socialism or anarchism effectively in both senses, this topic remains unanswered – no matter which way we take in an argument. Thanks for reading once again, and hopefully a second article to be published soon! Till next time, have a great week and all the best! 🙂

References 
[1] http://patrickschreiner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/gerard-depardieu-08172011-09-675×900.jpg
[2] http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=TOPoDud4WKQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=meritocracy&ots=GITB-o-LQq&sig=AmDuBwCnCc4EWuhhqiNlpk1OWjc
[3] http://marxisttheory.org/the-early-utopian-socialists/
[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/28/francois-hollande-tax-salaries
[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/24/gerard-depardieu-russian-resident-france
[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_mGlqyW_Zw
[7] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/celebrity

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