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Editor's Introduction: In mid-August 2015, Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo gave a high-profile speech looking back at the Japanese surrender of 1945. Three weeks later, also to mark the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia, China's Communist Party head and president Xi Jinping presided over a lavish parade in the heart of Beijing, which featured missiles and other Chinese military hardware as well as large contingents of People's Liberation Army soldiers and small contingents of troops from various other countries. Following up on a trio of essays in the August issue of the JAS, which looked ahead to events such as these, we now publish this special “Asia Beyond the Headlines” section made up of four essays that explore the meaning, for different individual or sets of countries, of Abe's speech and Xi's spectacle. This quartet of commentaries, by three political scientists and one historian, is designed to complement the last issue's contributions by historians Carol Gluck, Rana Mitter, and Charles Armstrong, as well as the historical photograph from seventy years ago that appears on the cover of this issue.
The set begins with an essay by historian John Delury, a scholar trained in Chinese history and currently teaching in Seoul, who has written on varied aspects of East Asian international relations and notes, among other things, the curious fact that the representative from South Korea rather than from North Korea got the warmer reception from Xi during the recent Beijing spectacle. Following this comes Sheila A. Smith, a scholar based at a Washington, D.C., think tank, reflecting on the current state of the complex bilateral relationship between Tokyo and Beijing. Appearing next is a commentary by Maria Repnikova, a specialist in both Chinese and Russian affairs who was trained in political science and holds a postdoctoral fellowship in a school of communications. She writes on the increasingly close ties yet lingering tensions between Beijing and Moscow, as well as the way that official media has celebrated, while some users of social media have mocked, the symbolism of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping presiding over recent victory day parades in their respective capitals. The series concludes with a commentary by Srinath Raghavan, a London-trained scholar now based at a New Delhi policy institute. He completes our survey of commemoration of the end of World War II with a look at the way recent parades revealed the Indian government's tricky position vis-à-vis Moscow and Beijing, as well as the relatively scant attention that India's significant contributions to World War II received, at home and internationally, during the season of commemorative speeches and displays.
A hundred years ago, on January 9, 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India after approximately two decades of living and working in South Africa. In 2003, the Government of India designated the day of Gandhi's return as official Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or Overseas Indian Day. The centenary of Gandhi's return was marked at this year's thirteenth annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas with appropriate official fanfare. The occasion was also observed in a wide variety of public celebrations, including a full-scale reenactment of the disembarkation from on board the S. S. Arabia of Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, at Apollo Bunder in the Bombay Harbor; and with rallies and functions held all across India (see NDTV 2015; Outlook 2015; see also Roy 2015). These centenary celebrations follow upon more than a decade-long shift in official Indian policy towards overseas Indians, or, in official parlance, Non-Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin (see Amrute 2010; Hercog and Siegel 2013; Upadhya 2013; Varadarajan 2014). The policy, at first, was directed mainly towards attracting the wealthy in such places as the United States and the United Kingdom. Even though it now extends to the much larger labor diaspora, both old and new, settled throughout the regions of the world, the focus remains on the rich, whose investments in India are greatly coveted. The embrace of a diasporic and deterritorialized Indian imaginary—anchored, ironically, in the commemorations of Gandhi as the poster boy for the global peripatetic Indian—is a symptom of the changes in the nation-state's relationship to global capitalism in these times of accelerated globalization.
Through the historicization of one episode, this essay addresses a variety of questions related to class, caste, gender, religion, and social life as well as cultural attitudes in Kumaon between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The politics of naming—who among the Christian converts of Almora changed their names and who retained their pre-conversion names—is central to this essay. Behind each name retained or changed was a story. The essay juxtaposes many different stories drawn from a variety of sources—missionary records, nationalist sources, fiction, and families' own archives. Rather than place these stories into the better-known master narratives of colonialism and nationalism or even of religion and conversion, this essay tries to highlight issues that are much more local and contextual yet resonate with concerns of other people and places. Through historicizing the local and the everyday, I argue for not conflating the ordinary and the mundane with the trivial or the unimportant. Touching on themes common to different parts of Asia, this essay highlights local histories of a region often neglected in the history of the subcontinent.
The parts of Asia we are looking at have more than half of the world's population, but the issue of how democratization occurs and why is even bigger than just an Asian matter. It is global, and at its heart is something that has been a controversial process in at least parts of the world for well over two centuries. The following papers show that the diversity of experiences within Asia itself—even within any of its major subregions, East, Southeast, and South Asia—is so great that it might seem foolhardy to claim that some common ideas transcend region and encompass not only Asia but all of humanity. But I want to try. In addition, I want to emphasize, as the other papers on democratization in this issue also demonstrate, particularly the one by Mark Thompson, that insisting on an “Asian” compared to a “Western” vision of what democracy means is drastically misleading. The struggle over conflicting ideas at the heart of the matter has taken place everywhere, and still does.
In the last three decades, a number of Asian thinkers supportive of, or opposed to, authoritarian rule have developed culture-based theories of democracy that challenge, or buttress, a liberal, “Western” understanding of democratic rule. The most famous expression was the “Asian values” discourse of government-linked intellectuals in Singapore and Malaysia, but there has also been a “political Confucianist” critique of “Western democracy” in China as well as claims that only “Thai-style democracy” is appropriate in Thailand. Less well known is a pro-democratic stance in Asia rooted in the region's major religious traditions. These apparently contradictory discourses have been dialectically related in the post–Cold War era: authoritarian rulers reacted to universalist claims about democracy with assertions of cultural particularism which, in turn, triggered a reaction by Asian democrats who pointed to the liberal character of world religions practiced in the region. While the civilizational critique of “Western” democracy (the origins of which can be traced to Imperial Germany and Meiji Japan) has contributed to democratic decline in the region, there has also been push back by offering an interpretation based on East Asia's major religious traditions to show that “Asian values” are not incompatible with democracy.
Indonesia stands out as one of the most successful cases of democratic transformation in Asia, a continent that has been, with several notable exceptions, generally resistant to democratic change over the last three decades. Taking its cue from other Asian democracies, this article considers the degree to which economic modernization and ethnic factors might account for Indonesia's relative democratic success. With regard to both, it is proposed that a key factor has been the failure of Indonesia's political cleavage structure to express social conflicts that might undermine democracy. Instead, Indonesia's democratic model has been based on an inclusionary elite settlement in which powerful political and economic actors have gained a stake in the system, largely through access to patronage. This settlement has consolidated Indonesian democracy, but it has also generated costs that have been borne by relatively disempowered groups, reflected in continuing economic and gender inequality.
Mainstream Chinese discussions of “democracy” have long betrayed a decidedly populist understanding of the concept. Xi Jinping draws freely on this tradition in formulating his China Dream. Xi's efforts are part of the Chinese Communist Party's “re-Orientation” of official propaganda to showcase the glories of the ancient civilization that it claims to represent and rejuvenate. The idea of “democracy” (minzhu 民主)—understood in populist rather than institutional terms—plays an important role in the process. This populist interpretation of “democracy” seeks to elide the fundamental contradiction between Enlightenment values and illiberal politics. Whether it will prove persuasive to contemporary Chinese intellectuals remains to be seen.
The essays in this symposium are longing for completion. A heavy Indian shadow hangs over them. Asian democracy is the overall theme of the symposium, but India, Asia's biggest “democratic behemoth,” to use Edward Aspinall's phrase, is more or less missing. Why is a discussion of Indian democracy necessary for this symposium? What would it add to the arguments made here and the themes discussed?
A common conceptualization of development as a binary relationship between trustees and target groups is inadequate. This article proposes the metaphor of development as an entangled cultural knot, constituted by multiple power relations. It uses this concept to analyze a recent slaughter renunciation movement, in which some leading Tibetan Nyingma masters from Larung Gar have suggested that Tibetan herders give up selling their livestock to the slaughter market for religious reasons. The movement reflects an alternative form of development articulated by several leading Tibetan Buddhist teachers, particularly Khenpo Tsultrim Lodroe, yet it goes against the state project of developing the yak meat industry. This movement has been criticized not only by state officials, but also by secular Tibetan intellectuals, as well as by herders. This article argues that the complex relationships among Tibetan Nyingma teachers, state officials, Tibetan secularists, and herders; their shared and competing interests; and the apparently contradictory positions they take on various issues require a much more sophisticated conceptual tool than the simple dichotomous conceptualization of development.
This article explores how Japanese comic artists represented the early years of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in popular print culture, especially lowbrow comic magazines. It posits that Japanese cartoonists in their role as both purveyors of everyday humor and keenly observant social commentators employed the imagery and rhetoric of the Red Guard movement to critique the conservative social and economic order of Japanese corporate culture during the late 1960s era of high-speed growth; moreover, it contends that there was a surprisingly receptive audience for such criticism among the rank-and-file “salarymen” of the urban Japanese middle class. Finally, the precisely informed humor found in these comics also suggests that their target audience possessed detailed familiarity with contemporary events on the continent and interpreted those events through a deeply embedded cultural framework of ambivalence concerning modern Chinese society.
To situate today's social assistance program conceptually and historically, this paper presents three ideal-typical stances states may adopt in welfare provision, especially for indigent populations: (1) extend assistance to accord with social citizenship rights—or to fulfill the Confucian concept of the rite of benevolence; (2) offer subsidies to attain support or to pacify anger and silence demands from the poor; or (3) grant benefits (education, health care) to enhance the nation's productivity. The intended beneficiaries of these projects are, respectively, individuals, society and the state, and politicians. This categorization can distinguish, in broad-brush fashion, official handouts at diverse historical moments; the models are meant not so much to characterize entire eras as to illustrate differential styles of allocation. Moreover, each era justifies its practice with reference to Confucian dicta. In this comparative context, today's political elite bestows financial aid—but just a conditional kind—mainly to preempt disturbances and prevent “instability,” in line with the third of the types.