Empire and Imperialism
We still lack a historical perspective from which to make a judgment on these contemporary forms of American imperialism. On the other hand, there is some general understanding on the nature of empire and imperialism as they were practiced in the recent past. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the European transoceanic empires that voyaged to Asia, first the Portuguese and the Dutch and then the British, appear to have contributed to the expansion of international trade and the flow of capital, while the Asian ones remained land-bound. From the late eighteenth century on, control over the market took over as the dominant goal, and the empires of modern Europe, led by the British, rode roughshod over all the Asian powers in demanding territory, capital, and material resources, and in unfair trade practices so that Western imperialism became a tool for political subjugation and economic exploitation, designed to maximize the surplus value produced by those under its control. Colonial rule, as in India and parts of urban China, also led to cultural dependency.
However, not all imperialistic imports were bad. Western science and technology, education, modern industry, and political and social organization and theories promoted reforms and modernization in Asia. They also brought in investment and modern management. Indeed, among many Western liberal economists from Adam Smith onward, there is a different—though not contradictory—assessment that European imperialists' demands for preferential treatment distorted the free market forces so that in the long run, their use of imperialism represented a coercive integration of the world economy that would not benefit their own economy, while their investments in Asia as well as their expenses in defending their Asian empires became added burdens that in the end produced negative returns.
See also Anticolonialism: Southeast Asia; Colonialism: Southeast Asia; Occidentalism; Orientalism; Westernization: Southeast Asia.
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Wellington K. K. Chang
- Empire and Imperialism - Asia - Bibliography
- Empire and Imperialism - Asia - Varieties Of Imperialism In The Twentieth Century
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