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Cold War’s Impact on the Southeast Asia Essay

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Updated: May 1st, 2020

The cold war and the US anti-communism had significant role on the development of world history between 1960s and 2000. While the role of both the cold war and the western-anticommunism were observed in almost every part of the world, especially in Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and to some extent Africa, it is clear that South-eastern Asia is one of the regions of the world where the two phenomenon left a significant mark on history.

In particular, it has been argued that the rise of democratization, millenarianism and authoritarianism in the region cannot be understood without a clear understanding of the role that both the Cold War and the US (or western) anticommunism had on the history of the region.

Although the Southeast Asia was at the peripheral of the US-USSR differences that defined the Cold War, it is worth noting that the area was the main battleground of the increasing tensions between the west and the USSR. Although the Cold War never produced any real war in Europe, its impacts on the Southeast Asian region went to the extreme because the real wars that took place in a number of nations in the region were largely influenced by the US-USSR tensions.

According to Lau (292), one of the best examples of the impact of the cold war on Southeast Asia is the rise of Militarism in a number of nations. Specifically, Vietnam provides one of the best examples of the nations that suffered direct impacts of the US-USSR tensions during the cold war (Hack and Wade 442). The conflict in Vietnam involved two long-lasting wars- the First Indochina war of 1946-1954 and the Vietnam War of 1954-1975. While the two conflicts involved local forces, the impact of the Cold War was evident.

According to a number of studies, the increasing interests and involvement of the western world and the USSR in the region inspired the rise of the Militarism in Vietnam during the War. Studies have shown that the Vietnam conflict resulted from the ideological conflicts between the socialist and capitalist blocks, with the USSR and the US playing the major roles. For instance, the defeat of the efforts to enforce radical reforms during the reign of King Tu Duc was a major setback in the process of democratization.

Japan and China were encouraging the king to make changes to the country’s political system to save it from western colonialism, especially because France was already showing interests of direct rule. However, the failure to enforce these changes led to the rise of Militarism. In the northern Vietnam, the Chinese and Russians contributed to the rise of militias opposing the influence of the European and American on the national politics. On the other hand, the America and its European allies funded the pro-western government and local militia, contributing significantly to the rise of the Militarism in the country.

Apart from Vietnam, the two Koreas experienced the impact of the Cold war and the increasing anti-communist efforts that the US and its western allies were making. For instance, while South Korean remained heavily influenced by the western world, North Korea remained a communist state under the influence of the Russians and the Chinese.

While the US and its western allies influenced the process of democratization in South Korea, Russia developed good relationships with North Korea and contributed to the rise of Authoritarianism and increase of the military power under the reign of Kim Jung. Scholars have argued that the failure of the two Koreas to unite after the Second World War was a direct results of the opposing ideologies between the capitalists and communists, which defined the Cold War.

In Burma, Thailand and Indonesia, the role of the Britain, Australia, the US and Russia played a great part to the rise of armed conflicts that contributed to the rise of military power. Between 1958 and 1960, the split in the ruling AFPFL was an in-direct influence of the US and Russia in the national politics. It led to the rise of the military rule. In 1962, the USSR-funded section of the military, under Ne Win, staged a coup with an objective of setting up a socialist state under the military regime.

Similarly, conflict between the communists under the communist party of Indonesia and the pro-capitalist Sukarno’s Guided democracy resulted from the influence of the USSR and the US in the region (Hack and Wade 441). Surkano’s ideologies were under the influence of the US, while the PKI wanted to institutionalize communism under the influence of the Russians. The conflict led to the rise of the military power, which helped Surhato to retain presidency since 1965 (Hack and Wade 444).

In conclusion, it is evident that Southeast Asia played an important role as the battleground between the Western capitalist ideologies and the Russian communist and socialist ideologies. Since both sides wanted to influence the national politics in most Southeast Asian nations, the result was the rise of militarism, which has contributed significantly to the development of the region’s history (Hack and Wade 443).

Works Cited

Hack, Karl and Geoff Wade. “The origins of the Southeast Asian Cold War”. Journal of Southeastern Asian Studies, 40.3 (2009): 441-448. Print

Lau, Albert. Southeast Asia and the Cold War. Hoboken: Routledge, 2012. Print.

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