Postcolonialism in Southeast Asia

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Postcolonialism in Southeast Asia Free Essay

According to Foster (2010), Southeast Asia was one of the largely colonized regions in the globe, with major colonizers being Japanese, Europeans and Americans. Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Great Britain, France, U.S., and Japan were seven colonial authorities in Southeast Asia. For many years, Southeast Asian people had engaged in global commercial connections with traders from China, India and the Middle East. Moreover, Asian colonizers brought religious beliefs, culture, traditions as well as legal practices to the area (Foster, 2010). At that time, the relationship was based on cultural and economic terms. Southeast Asia responded to colonialism both in the nationalism and collaboration forms. This paper discusses positive and negative consequences of colonization and its effects on Southeast Asia.


Southeast Asia was profoundly affected by colonialism, the consequences of which were positive and negative. Changes were a result of social, political and economic impacts. According to Ooi (2004), political developments included the establishment of a centralized, contemporary form of government similar to the European style. There was political stability and security in the region, creating a good environment for economic development. The law and order system was also changed, as well as a new Southeast Asia map with clear boundaries. The new centralized form of government replaced the one in kingdoms, being personalized in nature. The new method was rational, organized and hierarchical. It also entailed interchangeable leaders, whose duties included tax collection, law enforcement and executing government policies (Ooi, 2004).

Colonialization also led to political stability and security in Southeast Asia. The precolonial region had several phases of political instability due to rivalry between kingdoms and native warlords, as well as slave raiders, outlaws, pirates and petty rulers. However, colonialism formed settings for political security in Southeast Asia. It determined clear boundaries different from the Mandala theory in precolonial times (Christie, 2012). By the nineteenth century, the colonial powers had established and mapped out geographical borders that sharply divided the region into discrete political and administrative parts (Christie, 2012). As a result, each area had its own road networks, railroads, postal systems, as well telegraph wires.

According to Joseph and Matthew (2014), economic changes in the area included establishment of large-scale export factories, communication revolution, stable economy, standardized monetary system, and the domination of the domestic economy by Chinese and European organizations. Precolonial Southeast Asia was characterized by trade based on a compliment and patronage system based on selling local or regional produce or the one from China. Unlike, the post-colonial era, there were no large-scale export businesses or global trade with European companies. Thus, colonialism resulted in market development for colonially manufactured goods, exploitation of raw materials and the establishment of plantation sectors to foster trade within the territory.

The communication revolution involved the eradication of hindrances to transportation and economic progress. For instance, in 1869, the Suez Canal was constructed as a short route to Asia. Steamships were introduced, and submarine cables and telegraph enabled the passing of instant information (Owen, 2014). Precolonial Southeast Asia conducted business by trading goods and cargo among its parts. Under the colonial power, the money economy was introduced based on a standardized and new currency, as well as trade within the colonial territory. For instance, the Straits Dollar replaced the silver dollar in Malaya, promoting free trade in the region (Joseph & Matthew, 2014). In addition, no specific group dominated the economy, and trade was seasonal in nature relying on monsoon winds. For instance, French companies in Vietnam received lands and licenses to conduct business (Joseph & Matthew, 2014).

Social changes included ethnic and social tensions, the rise of the middle class, and an increase in living standards. Colonialism resulted in ethnic and public issues in two different ways. First, it created a cosmopolitan and culturally mixed population, intensifying racial and social pressures. Various labor-intensive sectors and cities had migrant labor force performing manual labor. Most of the Southeast Asians refused to do these jobs due to poor working conditions and low pay (Owen, 2014). It resulted in a highly-mixed population within the colonies. Racial and social pressures also emerged due to the colonial attitude of considering the western race as superior to the traditional culture. The reason was that colonialists had come as military men, missionaries, plantation managers, government officials and others. Therefore, they enjoyed political privileges, more economic influence, access to capital, and modern technology. However, in Vietnam, there were little ethnic issues, and most social tensions were due to religious and political disagreements (Christie, 2012). For instance, there was a strict migration policy, which barred the Chinese people from occupying Indo-China. In Malaya, there were more racial issues, where Indian and Chinese immigrants went to this region in huge numbers due to a negligent British immigration policy (Christie, 2012).

The colonial governments introduced a new educational system resulting in the emergence of the middle class. In the post-colonial era, there were more government training schools and government jobs for the Southeast Asians. The locals received local and western education. For instance, in Vietnam and Malaya, it entailed the training of interpreters, state officials and other professionals to work in the government administration (Owen, 2014).

Finally, living standards and health improved due to colonialism in Southeast Asia. The traditional region had cities that were crowded, unhealthy, unclean and crime-filled. However, colonial ones became places of administration improving the living standards. For instance, there was clean drinking water and reduced cases of epidemic diseases, such as cholera, the introduction of vaccination, such amenities as hospitals, and better waste management.

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