Communist movements occurred in a wide range of South-East and North-East Asian countries. Among them, there was Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaya. Although the successful Communist revolutions happened only in Vietnam, China, and the Northern part of Korea. Generally, communist ideology and movements were rather strong and influential in that region for decades before and after the Second World War. The main cause of the success of communism in the area was the important role of anti-imperialistic moods, strengthened by the anti-Japanese nationalism (Maidment, Goldblatt, and Mitchell 31).
In the period before and during the Second World War, Japan used to occupy all of the countries mentioned above. One more very important factor providing national favor to communists was social inequality in the Asian countries, which occurred due to landlordism (Gray 180). The desperation for justice in the society oppressed by the huge inequalities in land ownership gradually led to the establishment of the egalitarian policies of communism. Finally, the leadership was represented by such charismatic individuals as Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Mao Zedong in China – they did provide not only strong ideological guidance but also an unbeatable military power (Maidment, Goldblatt and Mitchell 31).
Asian communist revolutions employed the strategy of guerilla warfare. This became one of the most important factors facilitating the success of the establishment of the communist regime due to the fact that the guerilla fighters were impossible to tell apart from ordinary citizens (Maidment, Goldblatt, and Mitchell 31). Overall, the understanding of the mechanisms of nationalism by the leaders of the communist parties of Asia lied at the root of the success of the campaigns and the future strength of the movements in the countries.
The Fight Against Capitalism
At the beginning of the 20th century, the countries of East Asia still continued to fight against their inclusion into global capitalism and its political-economic system. The opening of the market in the region facilitated the creation of trading connections and the transfer of Western values of social, ethical, cultural, and moral character (Robinson 77). In the case of China, the political control of the West was indirect, and in the case of Korea, the occupation by Japan was a very straightforward and forceful encouragement for transformation. Naturally, strong nationalist movements opposing the pressure of the West and Japan burst out across both countries.
Korea has always been a state unaccustomed to visitors from abroad. The Japanese occupation that lasted for three and a half decades helped the Korean society develop a strong cultural identity and a sense of homogeneity. As a result, Korean nationalism movements fighting against the Japanese occupation have never had to deal with separatism, as the unity of the country had always been of the core features of the Korean cultural identity. By 1937 the Korean communists gained the support of the Communist Party of China harassing the Japanese in Manchuria and Yenan using the guerrilla strategy (Robinson 86).
Overall, tens of thousands of guerillas fought during the liberation movement. The Korean Liberation came along with the big national tragedy when the homogenous nation was divided into the South and North (Seth 305). This happened due to such factors as the division of the Korean nationalist movement into moderate and radical groups, and the growing rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. As a result, the two newly established separate states – South and North Korea fell under the influence of the United States and the Soviet Union. In the North, the USSR provided very strict and distinct guidance and gradually put in place the Communist regime. In the South, a Democratic Council was created but was ruled by the conservatives and practically was powerless (Seth 315).
The leaders of both states deemed the division as temporary and called for unification. As a result, the clashes along the 38th parallel (which is the line of the division) appeared. The beginning of the Cold War made the struggle between the South and North Korea even more severe and soon resulted in the Korean War. The conflict led to a huge number of casualties from both sides. Till today, the historians debate whether that was is to be considered a civil war or an international conflict because the participation of the USA, the USSR, and China in it was very active.
Chinese Communist Party
The Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921. At first, its existence was secret, and the gatherings mainly happened “underground.” Just like in Korea, the communist presence in China was facilitated by the invasion of Japan. Before 1937 China was divided between the two major influential political forces – the Nationalist and the Communist Parties, and a lengthy and violent armed confrontation was taking place. In 1937 the two rivals decided to unite before the enemy from the outside – Japan (Holcombe 264).
The two sides staid allied throughout the course of the Second World War with only several occasional clashes. After Japan was defeated through the persistent and extremely aggressive attacks of the United States (two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and the Soviet Union (the invasion of Outer Manchuria), the USA made an effort to establish a coalition between the two rival parties of China. They never succeeded, and the Chinese Civil War burst out. The conflict lasted for three years, the Nationalist party was generally supported by the world’s community, but the Communists had significant strength in the north of the country. As a result, the two fighting sides of China had favors of the two of the world’s largest rivals – the Soviet Union and the United States. This way, the situation deteriorated rapidly due to the unraveling Cold War.
The overall failure of the Nationalist government to fix the falling apart economy of China forced many cities under control of the Communists. This advantage helped the Communists to gain more influence and defeat the Nationalists, as an outcome, the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. The United States, unsupportive of the Communist regime and the likelihood of the future Chinese alliance with the Soviet Union, prevented the new Republic from gaining China’s position in the United Nations.
In conclusion, the Communist revolutions in East Asia were different in various states, but they had a number of common causes. First of all, the rapid and forceful Westernization and the invasion by Japan created strong nationalist movements within the Asian states. Secondly, the lack of social equality made communist policies more attractive to citizens. Finally, after the end of the Second World War, the USSR positioned itself as a power opposing the West, which automatically made it friendlier towards the Asian nations. The revolutions and the engagement of the countries into the Cold War caused civil wars, ideological and political division, and resulted in multiple casualties.
Gray, Jack. Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to 2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.
Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.
Maidment, Richard A., David S. Goldblatt, Jeremy Mitchell. Governance in the Asia- Pacific. New York: Psychology Press, 2008. Web.
Robinson, Michael Edson. Korea’s Twentieth-Century Odyssey. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007. Print.
Seth, Michael J. A Concise History of Korea: From the Neolithic Period Through the Nineteenth Century. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Print.