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Sea Colonial Policies Nationalism
MJC: To what extent were colonial policies the main reason for the lack of progress of pre-
WWII nationalism in SEA? (I try to brainstorm on colonial policies and see what I can come up
with first)
Intro:
Definitions:
-Lack of progress: tangible vs intangible progress/ultimate aim of independence
-colonial policies: direct/indirect rule, benign/brutal colonial masters which affects their policy
stance
-nationalism: a political and social movement aimed at creating a nation state based on collective
identity
Reasons for lack of progress: Colonial suppression, benign policies, disunity, inability to
politicize the masses, elite-mass divide, western education
Thesis: The repressive elements of colonial rule remain the critical factor for the lack of progress
of pre-WWII nationalism. By impeding the progression and politicization of nationalist
movements through hindering the attainment of mass support and common united front, pre-
WWII nationalism was doomed to fail. The success of nationalist movements hinges on the
willingness of colonial masters to concede to their accessions, but even so, weaknesses present in
these nationalist movements themselves, such as factionalism, elite mass divide also prevents the
formation of a solid base to challenge the colonial masters and undermines their own nationalist
influence. Thus, with colonial policies as the main impediment and the weaknesses of
nationalists as a ‘helping hand’, tangible progress was doomed.
1.The type of rule by the colonial masters, be it direct or indirect, both hinder the attainment of a
common front, thus impeding tangible progress of nationalist movements. Direct rule tended to
spur more radical political movements, but were unable to achieve progress as they were
crushed, whereas indirect rule managed to keep nationalist sentiments low and faced less
aggressive nationalist forces. Both cases demonstrate how nationalists were still unsuccessful in
achieving tangible progress.
Vietnam: Direct rule by French spurred many uprisings and nationalist groups like VNQDD and
ICP but none of them were successful in terms of tangible progress.
Malaya: Indirect rule by British, but even though Sultanates were able to retain their power, the
institutions created for political participation were merely a façade and they were puppet
governors. This was compounded by the different aims of nationalist groups like KMS and the
masses, and even the divide and rule policy that prevented the formation of common front by
exacerbating the ethnic rifts already present in the divided population.

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2. Yet, colonial policies may also sometimes, help in the progress of nationalism albeit a very
minor one. The change in policy to give concessions to the nationalists resulted in a sense of
confidence-boost in the nationalists, as they were able to extract a minor victory from the
colonial master.
Burma: In the Shoe controversy, the British were willing to concede to the demands of the
Burmese. This minor victory granted the Burmese and nationalists even greater confidence to
address their socio-cultural problems and set in place an example of a successful movement for
other nationalists to model upon.
However, it still very much depended on what type of colonial masters they were, brutal or
benign that leads to their policy stance. Even so, benign colonial masters were also able to
prevent tangible progress from being achieved.
3. The unwillingness and violent stance by colonial masters determined radical policies against
the nationalists. It denied nationalist movements any chances of progress as they were inherently
weaker in terms of military power to leverage on. Overt nationalists were thus quelled
thoroughly and nationalist sentiments were curbed.
Vietnam: VNQDD was infiltrated by secret police and 225members out of 256members were
killed. This was a devastating blow to the nationalist front and set an example of the
consequences for future nationalists who wanted to rise up.
Indonesia: The PKI was ruthlessly suppressed, and PNI was also broken up. Their charismatic
leader, Sukarno was sent into exile. This denied the nationalists a capable leadership or any form
of avenues to rise up against the Dutch.
4. Benign colonial masters, though were less aggressive and more conceding, were also able to
keep nationalist sentiments low and prevent the formation of a united front. Nationalists were not
able to attain progress due to rising tensions between themselves.
Malaya: British divide and rule policy worsened the ethnic rifts already present and exacerbated
the distaste between the races. This fragmented the huge immigrant population and prevented the
formation of nationalist groups to demand for concessions.
Philippines: The grant of a set timetable for independence in Tydings Macduffice Act in 1934
and predominantly Filipino Congress ensured loyalty from nationalists were a given and there
was little scope for opposition. Since Filipinos had genuine political power, nationalist
sentiments were kept low and there was no existent desire to seek for nationalism.
5. Western education provided by the colonial masters also served to keep the divide between the
elite and masses present, and sometimes, directing the nationalist movements towards their own
leaders instead of the colonial powers, preventing progress.

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Sea Colonial Policies Nationalism MJC: To what extent were colonial policies the main reason for the lack of progress of pre-WWII nationalism in SEA? (I try to brainstorm on colonial policies and see what I can come up with first) Intro: Definitions: -Lack of progress: tangible vs intangible progress/ultimate aim of independence -colonial policies: direct/indirect rule, benign/brutal colonial masters which affects their policy stance -nationalism: a political and social movement aimed at creating a nation state based on collective identity Reasons for lack of progress: Colonial suppression, benign policies, disunity, inability to politicize the masses, elite-mass divide, western education Thesis: The repressive elements of colonial rule remain the critical factor for the lack of progress of pre-WWII nationalism. By impeding the progression and politicization of nationalist movements through hindering the attainment of mass support and common united front, pre-WWII nationalism was doomed to fail. The success of nationalist movements hinges on the willingness of colonial masters to concede to their accessions, but even so, weaknesses present in these nationalist movements t ...
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Very useful material for studying!

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