(P15AB) Cold War Perspectives on Southeast Asia: Outsiders looking in
Part 1Session 5
Thu 09:00-10:30 K10 | 1.25
Part 2Session 6
Thu 11:00-12:30 K10 | 1.25
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Indonesia in the Cold War: Different Generations, Different Forms of Nationalism
Frank Dhont National Cheng Kung University
When in 1945 Indonesia declared its independence it took until 1949 before formal recognition by the Netherlands closed the colonial chapter of Indonesian history. The new country experienced intense political tensions and the leadership of Indonesia under Sukarno had to compromise in its attempts to govern such a diverse nation in the first decades of its existence. Initially Indonesian nationalism had been guided by an older generation of nationalists influenced by various international political movements during the years of colonialism and embodied in President Sukarno. After World War II Indonesia found itself becoming a significant power with its own agency during an era of Cold War opposition gripping the world during the latter half of the 20th century. In 1967 the rise to power of Suharto ushered in a new era for Indonesia with a new generation of more pro-Western national leaders coming to power. The paper uses the political writings of the Indonesian intellectuals during their formative youth years to indicate the various foreign influences shaping the trajectory of Indonesian nationalism in the 20th century. It argues that in the 20th century despite various external influences a consistent general national development can be discerned.
Poland and the Crisis in Indonesia, 1965-1967
Jaroslaw Suchoples University of Jyväskylä
The crisis in Indonesia 1965-1967 – an abortive coup d’état and subsequent persecution of members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) – still attracts attention of researchers all over the world. In 2013, Bernd Schaefer and Baskara T. Warday published a book titled 1965: Indonesia and The World / Indonesia dan dunia. Nevertheless, in their view, the world equals the West and thus, there is nothing about how, for example, European socialist countries reacted to Indonesian events from 1965-1967 – the slaughter of many hundred thousand local communists and their sympathizers. Therefore, my attention attracted the attitude of authorities of communist Poland, the second biggest country in the communist bloc, taken towards the Indonesian crisis. I also studied materials published by Polish press concerning events, which took part in Indonesia.
The archival and press materials show that the attitude of the Polish communists towards the annihilation of the PKI was ambiguous. The sympathy of Polish comrades towards PKI was limited, which mirrored the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the Chinese People’s Republic for the leadership of the international communist movement. At the same time, the image of the Indonesian crisis created by the Polish press for the public was different. Readers of Polish newspapers and weekly journals could know that the abortive coup d’état and the subsequent slaughter of Indonesian communists were orchestrated by the CIA. Existing these two images of the Indonesian crisis 1965-1967 – official but secret and presented by press to the public – makes the question of Polish reactions towards it a fascinating research topic, one that deserves a broader presentation.
The Viet Cong’s myth: remodelling of an epic narrative in the 1970s Italian Left.
Alessandro Salvador University of Nottingham
The myth of the Vietnamese liberation war, the epic battle of a “popular army of farmers and workers” against the largest world military power had a significant influence in counter-cultures and “rebellious” youth in the West. This was also the case in Italy, where the long wave of 1968 was nourished by the myth of anti-imperial fights in the far-away Southeast Asia.
Italy was also terrain of serious and violent political and ideological clashes. The presence of a strong communist party, a moderate but ambivalent socialist party and a decade of radical political violence characterised Italy during the “détente”. In this climate of violent ideological and political struggles, role models and myths were reshaped by powerful and often contradictory narratives.
When the spotlights on the liberation struggle against the “American imperialists” faded, the narratives on the independent and decolonised Vietnam were reshaped to express the nuances emerging from the previous “black or white” scenario, but also to adapt to the changing domestic political discourse.
How did Italian in the 1970s “discovered” Vietnam and its surrounding region? How was this discovery affected by the ideological affiliation? How did mediated narratives transformed the long-lasting perceptions of the region?
This paper will consider the narratives on independent Vietnam, from the fall of Saigon to the invasion of Cambodia. It will consider reports appeared in Communist and Socialist oriented newspapers and periodicals and provide a sense of the divide emerging among the different directions of the Italian Left.
An Ephemeral Equipoise in the Pearl of the East: Volatility and Contingency on the Periphery of Empire in 1955 Saigon
Chris Hulshof University of Wisconsin-Madison
As the tranquil streets of Saigon gradually warmed under April’s mid-morning sun, France’s “Pearl of the East” suddenly and violently erupted into chaos as Prime Minister Ngô ?ình Di?m ordered an all-out assault on the government’s opposition in the district of Ch? L?n. Despite being historically depicted as a wholly Vietnamese affair, the “Battle of Saigon” was preceded by months of complex maneuvering, betrayals, and intrigue between Saigon gangsters, French and American military-intelligence officers, Vietnamese religious sects, foreign diplomats, and local government agents. At the heart of this presentation lays a relationship which has thus far eluded published secondary accounts. Beginning in 1954, French Commissioner-General Paul Ely befriended J. Lawton Collins, the U.S. Special Ambassador and President Eisenhower’s personal emissary to Saigon. Ely slowly and meticulously built rapport with Collins, forming a faux alliance with which he gradually manipulated the influential American. This complex web of intrigue combusted on the morning of April 27, 1955 when Washington aligned its official foreign policy with Paris by shifting its support from Di?m to the former Vietnamese emperor B?o ??i. Within six hours of this policy change being cabled to Saigon, it was revoked after members of the U.S. intelligence community in Vietnam tipped off Di?m and effectively vetoed the foreign policy decision of the highest level of the U.S. Executive by initiating a joint U.S.-Vietnamese plan, several months in the making, to eliminate French and local resistance to the Di?m regime.
This paper, tentatively titled An Ephemeral Equipoise in the Pearl of the East: Volatility and Contingency on the Periphery of Empire in 1955 Saigon, examines the volatility of a dying French empire grasping to maintain some semblance of regional influence colliding with the emergence of U.S. hegemony – a process traditionally narrated as a peaceful “passing of the imperial baton.” Contrarily, the highly contested nature of these events pitted both allies and countrymen against each other, providing contested ground for local Vietnamese actors to ameliorate their own unique nationalist and personal agendas. I believe that this paper can make a fitting contribution for your planned panel for the 11th EuroSEAS Conference.
Racial Politics and the Cold War: Anti-Chinese Actions in West Java, Indonesia, 1959-1966
Matthew Woolgar University of Oxford
The Cold War has sometimes been conceptualised as an ideological struggle between capitalism and communism, combined with a diplomatic struggle between the superpowers. However, on the ground in Southeast Asia the situation often appeared far messier, as ideological and diplomatic tensions became entangled with social struggles and contested identities. This paper addresses this process of entanglement by examining recurrent crises faced by the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia during the late 1950s and the 1960s. Combining press reports, oral histories and archival documents, the paper focuses on events in one province to show how ethnic divisions and ideological cleavages intersected amid growing Cold War tensions. The paper shows how the actions of a shifting anti-Chinese and anti-communist coalition on the ground in West Java played a crucial role in the harassment of the ethnic Chinese population in the region, and in doing so, contributed to the disruption of an emerging alliance between Indonesia and the PRC. Through this analysis the paper demonstrates that the Cold War in Southeast Asia was shaped not just from above but also from below.
Sleeping with the Americans: American Hegemony in the Philippines from 1945-1992
Carla Noelle Reece Freie Universität Berlin/Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
It is without a doubt that the Global South was, and still remains, a pivotal space
where the United States and the Soviet Union supported proxy wars during the Cold War. It was also during this moment that American hegemony was, and continues to be, influential in these
spaces. Starting from 1945, the United States once held their largest overseas naval and air base in the Philippines. The geopolitical positioning of these two military bases had various significance during the Cold War. American hegemony in the archipelago signaled convenient
access for active conflicts in the Eastern and Southeast Asia region, such as Vietnam, Korea, and the Philippines.
I will examine the interconnections of the two largest overseas U.S. military bases, Clark Air Base and U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay, as a network for opportunities and exchanges of political, economic, and social attitudes between U.S. military personnel and Filipino domestic and
contract workers, sex workers in the entertainment industry, and local political figures. Today, sex work continues to thrive in these areas even though the U.S. military had officially been discharged from these bases in 1992. Filipino sex workers, in particular, paid a price for entering this profession. While they answered to the demand of the entertainment industry that
would elevate them with opportunities, they became social outcasts from their own society. The memories of the Cold War in Angeles city and Subic Bay constructs a unique perspective and relationship among Filipino society, which generates pro-American, supporting colonial
mentality, and anti-imperial sentiments simultaneously.
By delving deeper into this complex relationship of American hegemony and Filipino experiences, it is precisely a dynamic that relies on another to further a narrative of imperial savior complex by political, social, and economic pportunities. In other words, an intimate relationship would be exactly what aided the United States, and created opportunities in the
Philippines, to further the American Cold War agenda during the 20th century
After World War II a new alignment took place in the world as the era of colonial rule came to an end. In the subsequent Cold War Era various conflicts emerged as Southeast Asian nations developed different policies to handle the new era. This era would become the beginning of the political multi-polar world we know today. The panel will use a holistic approach to see how Southeast Asia became a focal point in various regions in the world by political and social groups where new centers of power were emerging and old centers were waning. The panel will particularly pay attention to China, Europe and India as well as touch upon other areas all with their own perspectives on Southeast Asia.