Greater Asianism vs. Pan-Asianim

By Joe Hhung

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, father of the Chinese republic, made his Greater Asianism speech at the Kobe Girls’ High School in Kobe on Nov. 28, 1924. His Asianism, like Japan’s Pan-Asianism, advocated the unity of Asian peoples in an uphill struggle against the Western powers to become fully independent by ending their colonial domination.

Both Asianisms insisted on the rule of right or kingly way (���D: wangdao/odo) but differed in approach. Dr. Sun’s approach is Confucian. His Greater Asianism (�j�Ȭw�D�q�^has to be enforced by the kingly way, which is based on benevolence, justice and morality, totally different from what the Western powers did by resorting to force of arms to extend their rule of might (�Q�D: badao/hado). China practiced the kingly way for more than a millennium. It could have set up colonies in the whole of Asia, except Japan, which, however, had to accept the status of vassal state during the Ashikaga shogunate in the 14th century in order just to benefit from trade with the Middle Kingdom to prevent bankruptcy. China did not try to extend the rule of might. Had it done so, Admiral Zheng He could have made a couple of Chinese colonies in South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. Instead, China practiced the rule of right, remaining the most benevolent suzerain requiring token tribute from independent vassals. As a matter of fact, Japan’s Pan-Asianism predates Dr. Sun’s Greater Asianism. It was advocated right after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. After China was opened to the West by the Opium War, Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan to end its Seclusion during the long Tokugawa shogunate in 1853. A series of unequal treaties were signed to reduce Japan to a near colony of the Western powers like China. Meiji Japan started a cult of force to arm the country enough to abolish all unequal treaties and fought and won two wars, one with China and the other with Czarist Russia, to join the ranks of world powers. The Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 was a call for unity among the oppressed Asian peoples from the American-ruled Philippines to Dutch Indonesia and to India, which was part of the British Empire where the sun never set, to terminate the Western colonization. It was the first war the Asians or the colored peoples won against the Europeans or the whites. The independence movements thus touched off were regarded as rebellions by Lothrop Stoddard in his best book ��The Rising Tide of Color against White World-Supremacy.�� It was against this background that Dr. Sun spoke of Greater Asianism in Kobe. He argued that the Chinese and the Japanese are the two greatest peoples of Asia. He urged them to work together to unite the peoples of Asia to shake off the yoke of Western colonialism to be fully independent. His appeal was ignored, however. Japanese society had been strongly inclined to ultranationalism. Aggressive expansionism into Asia became clearly apparent. Its supporters were the Black Ocean Society and the Black Dragon Society, which argued for Japanese imperialism and expansionism. Dr. Sun had only one supporter, Toten Miyazaki.