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Asian Responses to Imperialism: Crash Course World History #213

Asian Responses to Imperialism: Crash Course World History #213


Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course World
History, and today we’re going to return to our old friend, the rise of the west. Ugh, Mr Green, we know. The west rose, we’ve
talked about this a million times. Yeah, me from the past, I’m sympathetic to
your position, but the thing is, this is a big deal in world history circles and today,
we are going to talk about the rise of the west from the perspective of people who don’t
live there. So today, we’re going to look at how some
people who experienced the rise of the West firsthand responded to it. We’re going to
focus on East Asia and also the Middle East, which is also Asia. Anyway, both of these
communities dealt with European imperialism in the 19th and early 20th centuries. So, just a quick note here, European imperialism
affected millions of people, including agricultural and industrial workers, very few of whom left
records of their experience. So we end up relying on the words of people who wrote things
down, intellectuals. Now, many of those people were European, but in this case, most of what
we’ll be examining today is covered by a fascinating book by Pankaj Mishra, called “The Ruins of
Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia.” Mishra’s book draws heavily
from the perspectives of three Asian thinkers, and I will remind you, mispronouncing things
is my thing. He looks at Middle Easterner Sayyid Jamal Ad-Din Al-Afghani, Liang Qichao
from China, and Rabindranath Tagore from India. Through their eyes we can see that Asians
did recognize the coming dominance of Europe, but they also developed ideas about imperialism
that provided a counterweight to Western dominance and gave them a way of imagining their role
in this new world. Alright, let’s go straight to the Thought
Bubble. Although we tend to equate European imperialism
with the late 19th century, especially the carving up of Africa after the Berlin Conference
of 1884, for many Asians, the disaster began earlier. In China, the Opium Wars began a
train of humiliations, most memorable of which occurred with the destructed of the Summer Palace
in 1860. And imperialism wasn’t great for the Muslim world either. By 1896, Al-Afghani described Muslims
under European imperialism this way: “The foreigners chain up Muslims, put around
their necks a yoke of servitude, debase them, humiliate their lineage, and they do not mention
their name but with insult. Sometimes, they call them savages and sometimes regard them
as hard-hearted and cruel and finally consider them insane animals. What a disaster!” Just like today’s historians, Asian intellectuals
were quick to recognize that the reason Europeans were able to dominate and humiliate them was
Europe’s superior industrial technology and organization, one early response was to say,
“well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, or at least, try to follow their models of military
organization and education.” We see this in attempts at reform, like the Tanzimat in the
Ottoman Empire, Al-Afghani initially echoed these calls to study more science and philosophy,
but his comparison of philosophers with prophets was too radical for the Ottomans and he ended
up being expelled from Istanbul. Chinese intellectuals responded similarly
to the humiliation of the Opium Wars, with calls for self-strengthening, a phrase coined
by its biggest supporter, Feng Guifen. Given China’s almost 2,000 year history of an education
system based on Confucian values and classical texts, which, to be fair, had worked pretty
well for them for most of that time, adopting Western models of education and organization
was gonna be a tough sell, as Yan Fu, a Chinese writer and translator put it, “China governs the realm through filial piety,
while Westerners govern the realm with impartiality. China values the sovereign, while Westerners
esteem the people. China prizes the one way, while Westerners prefer diversity. In learning,
Chinese praise breadth of wisdom, while Westerners rely on human strength.” One Chinese reformer, Kang Youwei, took up
the challenge of blending Western and Chinese ideas of governance by attempting to update
Confucianism for the modern world and arguing that political reform and mass mobilization
were central concerns for Confucius himself. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So all of that gets
to a big question, imperialism was a disaster for a lot of people, but there were things
about what the West was doing to control much of the world that were obviously working.
So the question for people outside the West became: What, if anything, do we take from this and try
to borrow and integrate into our own communities? Well, in addition to education and military
reforms, many Asian intellectuals felt that Europe’s strength was rooted in its political
organization, into nation-states. That sounds a lot like today’s historians and also economists.
Everyone’s crazy about nation-states. Except the Mongols. And, you know what, I stand with the Mongols
on that. I think empire is underrated. I would make an excellent emperor, for instance. You
know what they’d call me, Stan? Genghis John. Anybody? Yeah? I hate myself. But anyway, some of these intellectuals became
proponents of nationalism, like, by 1879, Al-Afghani was advocating that Muslims begin
to think of themselves as a nation, in the sense of a culturally unified people. Here
he is in words that recall the German nationalists of the time: “There is no happiness except
through nationality and no nationality except through language…a people without unity
and a people without literature are a people without language. A people without history
are a people without glory, and a people will lack history if authorities do not rise among
them to protect and revivify the memory of their historical heroes so that they may follow
and emulate…all this depends on a national education, which begins with the fatherland,
the environment of which is the fatherland, and the end of which is the fatherland.” Are you sure that wasn’t a German nationalist,
Stan, because that was a lot of fatherlands? Maybe it was translated by a German. And then there’s India. As the most thoroughly
colonized Asian territory, India’s feelings about nationalism were very complicated. Some
Indians wanted to create a European style state organized around Hinduism. But of course,
India had a large Muslim minority and also, Hinduism, with its caste divisions, wasn’t
great for creating political unity. Others, like Aurobindo Ghose were critical of adopting
too many European ideas, worrying that India, quote, “was in danger of losing its soul by
an insensate surrender to the aberrations of European materialism.” Aberrations of European materialism? I don’t
know what you’re talking about. Oh, that is delicious. Hold on, I gotta play Floppy Bird
for a second. But many Asians considering adopting European
models of nationalism look to one of its biggest success stories: Japan. For Europeans, Japan became kind of a confirmation
of a modernization program, industrialization, centralization, and to a lesser degree, liberal
constitutionalism, could work. And this was also true to some extent for Asian intellectuals,
including Liang Qichao and Rabindranath Tagore, both of whom visited Japan. But ultimately,
Japan didn’t provide a great model for other Asians attempting to reform their own states,
especially because Japan embarked on its own imperial expansion. It’s almost as if, in addition to industrialization
and centralization and et cetera, imperialism was just part of building a strong nation-state. So by the early 20th century, many Asian intellectuals
were looking beyond Western models. Some, like Liang Qichao and Al-Afghani, considered
supranational movements, like pan-Asianism and pan-Arabism. They envisioned these huge
political conglomerates that could transcend Europe’s dominance, but eventually, both they
and Tagore turned to their own traditions as a source of strength. And what they all
had in common was a loss of faith in liberal democracy as a source of strength, especially
after the Versailles Treaty in 1919. Like after flirting with Pan-Arabism and being
expelled from a different Ottoman city, this time Cairo, Al-Afghani became convinced that,
quote, “Modernization hadn’t secured the Ottomans
against infidels. On the contrary, it had made them more dependent.” He embraced the idea that the best defense
against the West was Islam. Mishra says of this, “As he saw it, attacking religion risked undermining
the moral basis of society altogether and weakened the bonds that held communities together,
precisely the weakening that had plunged Muslims everywhere into crisis.” Now, this doesn’t mean that he became what
we today think of as an “Islamist radical” or an “Anti-Modernist.” Instead, he believed
that the Qur’an contained its own calls for reform, and that Islam could be a catalyst
for change. Ultimately, Al-Afghani believed that the transformation of Islamic society
had to come from within. Like his favorite Qur’anic injunction was: “God does not change the condition of a people
until they change their own condition.” In China, Liang Qichao came up with a different
source of reform, the strong state. After the failure of the Boxer Rebellion in 1901,
he wrote his awesomely titled, “On The New Rules For Destroying Countries.” This was
a critique of European imperialism, but it was also a call for a strong, somewhat authoritarian
state that could stand up to the West. Nah, China would never do that. Oh, wait.
Wait a second. They did! Eventually he came to the conclusion that
the Chinese people must now accept authoritarian rule. They cannot enjoy freedom. Well, that’s
pretty extreme. Ohhh, it’s time for the Open Letter. But first,
let’s see what’s in the globe today. Oh, look, it’s some underappreciated authoritarian rulers. An Open Letter to Authoritarianism: Dear Authoritarianism: Listen, I am all for
democracy, but the tyranny of the majority is no joke. And there have been many times
when democratically elected governments were less pluralistic than authoritarian ones.
Not only that, if you can keep corruption out of it, there is an astonishing efficiency
to doing it your way. Like, who’s gonna make this decision. Oh, I know, the Queen! It’s
always the Queen, no need for exploratory committees or different houses of Congress,
the Queen can do it! Maybe I’m just a little frustrated with Congressional gridlock, authoritarianism,
but I kind of think you’re underrated. Best wishes, John Green p.s. Just wanna confirm that I am not advocating
for authoritarian rule in the United States. So Liang also visited the United States, which
made him more convinced that liberal democracies did not provide an answer, especially because
they discriminated so much against Asians. And then, World War I and the insane map-drawing
spree of the Treaty of Versailles just further confirmed all of it. I mean, despite the lofty
rhetoric of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points and the League of Nations and everything, the
result of the war looked suspiciously like the pre-war imperialism that many Asians believed
was a cause of the war in the first place. But perhaps no one was more skeptical of the
“if you can’t fight ’em, emulate ’em” strategy of dealing with imperialism than Indians.
Gandhi, for instance, went very far in his critique of the West’s modernism, saying that
it lacked spiritual freedom and social harmony, even rejecting many aspects of the industrial
revolution itself. I mean, this was a person who sewed his own clothes. And interestingly, one of the most vocal Indian
critics of the West was the one who was perhaps most positively received there. Tagore won
the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for a body of work that essentially said “you guys
are terrible at everything.” To quote Mishra, Tagore’s message to the West was that “their modern
civilization built upon the cult of money and power was inherently destructive and needed to be
tempered by the spiritual wisdom of the East.” Now, he didn’t reject industrialization completely,
and he acknowledged that, quote, “the age belongs to the West and humanity
must be grateful to you for your science,” but cautioned an audience in New York that,
quote, “you have exploited those who are helpless
and humiliated those who are unfortunate.” So, as we’ve talked about before, our perspective
on events really colors our version of the truth. Living as we do, in an age dominated
by more or less liberal nation-states with varying degrees of market freedom, it can
be tempting to consider their development as both inevitable and good. And I’m certainly not going to throw rocks
at both a political system and a nation-state that allows and enables me to put up videos
like this and provides a space for millions of you to agree and disagree. But when we look at responses to imperialism,
I mean, after we get beyond the obvious criticism that imperialism generally is bad, we start
to focus on the responses to it that confirm this deep down feeling we have. You know,
that it was bad to extract all of those resources, but ultimately, we spread tolerance and pluralism
and the nation-state and those all worked out. So I worry that we look at self-strengthening
in China or the Ottoman reforms as examples of where Asians were on the right track, and
then we see the failure of those reforms as confirmation that Asians were somehow just
unready or unfit for the benefits that the West had so generously offered. But if you look at the actual words and actions
of Asians who experienced imperialism first-hand, you get a very different picture. Asians thinkers
were critical of the West from the very earliest stages of new imperialism. Looking back at
the evolution of the intellectuals we’ve talked about today reminds us that Asians were not
simply victims of imperialism’s ideology. In fact, they’ve continued to influence ideas
about the West today, and not only outside the West. When we in the West lament our insensate
surrender to the aberrations of European materialism, we should recognize that that criticism didn’t
necessarily originate from within. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is made with the help of all
of these nice people here in the Chad & Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis, and exists
because of your support on Subbable.com. Subbable is a voluntary subscription service that allows
you to support Crash Course directly so we can keep it free for everyone forever, so
thank you to all of our Subbable subscribers, and thanks to you for watching. As we say in my hometown,
don’t forget to be awesome.

100 comments on “Asian Responses to Imperialism: Crash Course World History #213

  1. Some questions for those who rant about Tibet in this video: do you consider Catalunya a part of Spain? Quebec a part of Canada? Northern Ireland a part of Britain? Bavaria a part of Germany?

    We need to help all oppressed minorities gain their independence! Except for those of our allies', in which case, we don't give a f*k!

  2. A lot of times you can hear in the west saying we are giving technology to the east for free but wait, hey, it's all pre-paid for in the form of colonial loot. So, nothing comes for free.

  3. My country lost 2-3 millions of its population fighting imperialism and killed it at the gateway. then fought capitalism and now fights against the terrorism & democracy until they're both dead too

  4. Very interesting and fascinating way of talking about the topic. However the funny type does not work for you. Also skip the advertising for Ralph Lauren, Dr. Pepper and floppy birds but otherwise very good

  5. An open letter to John Green
    Your great and you teach me about history but your puns are not so great
    Sincerely the random guy
    (P.S you are the greatest historian ever)😃😄😅😆😉😂😁😀😀😋😎

  6. Most of commentaries are full of hatred, and me too! I am proud that I am Eastern person! Our cultures, values should, somehow, rise again and associate with values of the west, then, make our own value! But first thing:Let’s forgive them but never forget!

  7. A note from 2019: your feelings of enjoying authoritative efficiency is felt around the US in 2016 and we do elect an authoritative leader who has been mucked by scandal and conspiracy every week- literally

  8. Western Imperialism was like forcing someone to change their clothes and saying "You're father did this to your neighbors too! That's why I'm doing this to you! Isn't it fair? And this clothes suits you better! Make some smile dude!"

  9. “the central event of the last century for the majority of the world’s population was the intellectual and political awakening of Asia.” Pankaj Mishra. I think the biggest event of this century will be the economic and military rise of Asia. Wonder if we will see imperialism in a new form!?

  10. Misinterpreted by Westerners Japan want the Asia to get rid. For being colonies.

    Japan saying that Asia should belong to Aseans.

    This was misinterpreted again by Westerner which is the reason also why U.S lose against Vietnam before

  11. An Apple computer kills fascists (his sticker)? Lol it's the opposite. Do some research on who your buying from.

  12. You've heard of Genghis Khan
    but have you heard of Genghis John
    (WAIT)
    BUT HAVE YOU HEARD OF GREENGIS JOHN

  13. I wonder if any historian will ever use the comment section of these videos as data for the perception of a historical standpoint over the years?

  14. hes wearing the same shirt as #212. so is his past alter ego. how many of these do they film a day??

  15. "I worry that we look at self-strengthening in China or the Ottoman Reforms as examples where Asians were on the right track, and then we see the failure of those reforms as confirmation that Asians were somehow just unready or unfit for the benefits that the West had so generously offered."

    Great point. Now please apply that same thinking next time we're discussing countries that reject western-style democracy in favor of other models, such as, gasp communism!

    By which I mean, Crash Course tends to look at countries that don't embrace liberal democracy as uniquely oppressive, often adding in editorialized comments calling their leaders "crazy" or "evil". Yes, those leaders were imperfect. But it seems pretty unfair to say this is unique to countries that adopted communist ideals, especially when we look at how oppressive the governments that preceded those communist governments often were. Was Stalin much worse than the Tsar, who allowed his people to starve and encouraged pogroms against Jews? Was Castro much worse than Batista, who allowed literal slavery? I'm not saying we shouldn't look at these people with a critical eye, but you know, keep that same energy when you're talking about liberal democracy and capitalist countries!

  16. Genghis John? But “Khan” (emperor) is the key word, here. Plainly you would be “Greenghis Khan”!

  17. I just saw a science show Baghdad with information, are those information and cartoon belongs to special course.?

  18. anybody june 10 2019…… 4 years, things have changed a lot since 2015…great vid watching it now in 7th grade world history and it is really helping out.. make more of these videos

  19. So is nationalism good or bad? I’ve heard that it is overwhelmingly bad for the past half decade, but it seems to me that nationalism is actually good because it produces nation states and nation states are functionally better than the tomfoolery of the medieval era.

  20. "We spread tolerance and plurism"
    Yeah ofc by creating Israel on Palestinian land.
    Or by separating Arab nations and creating borders that never existed on Arabic land before. A division we live the impact of to this very day…
    Imperialism sucked for us

  21. I am an India so I am not watching imperialism from eastern perspective, I am watching Western perspective of "eastern perspective" of imperialism.

  22. Watching this back to back with the Rise of China video. Hide yo liberty. John Green is out there, and he’s coming for ya.

  23. Might I remind you that these people from the former empires whining about 'humiliation' were not themselves colonized and reacted more violently than the former colonial powers when they eventually gained power over the former colonial territories. Former imperial powers whinging about Western imperialism. Salty, much?

  24. 4:44 – 5:06
    Dang, I wish we practiced that in my country… my country lost almost all of the originality it had before the colonizalion period… and most schools don't even teach the about the pre colonial period. I'm the only one in my class who can read and write the og script used before the lantin alphabet was used. It's sad tbh.

  25. did learn some interesting things but how are you going to talk about responses to imperialism in the global south without even a passing mention of communism

  26. Considering the mental age of many, democracy feels a little like children getting a vote over their own upbringing (and even voting one of their own into power). And yet, it appears to be the best we've got.

  27. Imperialism stopped them killing themselves. Christian Protestant work ethic made europe strong and practical, these guys always try and avoid tye obvious conclusion.

  28. Also little clue ottoman empire, 1300-1700 india 1000-1600 and the mongols caused overall population decline same as secularism today- only Christianity grows the population, the economy and technology at the same time – eastern religions are just plain wrong

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