Nation-Building: East Asia’s Unfinished Business | 東亞未完之國族構建

South Korea can perhaps be viewed as the epitome of Benedict Anderson’s imagined community. In the past, she broke away from the yoke of Chinese imperialism and Communism. At present, she endeavours to leave behind the shameful history of Sadaejuui, yet finding herself not too different from another Hong Kong in the eyes of Peking. Without undue hesitation, she alienates herself from her American protector to cater to Peking’s anti-Japanese stance, only to be treated by Peking as a vassal state. Unlike those foreign “barbarians” insubordinate to Peking’s imperial influence, any vassal state that betrays Peking can expect stern retribution from the imperial master.


This is hardly South Korea’s fault, but the aftermath of unfinished nation-building in East Asia. Were the Holy Roman Empire (say, with a stretch of imagination, under either Hitler or Stalin) to re-unify Europe, the Danes’ or Finns’ relationship with Berlin or Moscow would scarcely be any different from that of the Koreans with Peking. Europe was fortunate in that England vigorously championed a free or divided European continent. Japan could have played a similar role in East Asia, yet she miscalculated and foundered.


In the long run, until Taiwan, Hong Kong and even East Asia have successfully finished nation-building, they cannot expect to settle their own issues. If Manchuria fails to build herself a South Korea, South Korea can expect, sooner or later, to become another Manchuria. If Hong Kong fails (like Shanghai) to transform herself into another Singapore, she will become — if she is not already fast becoming — another Shanghai. Lincoln once remarked in the House Divided Speech: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe the government cannot endure, half slave and half free.” Similar logic applies in East Asia, particularly to a semi-imperial and semi-multinational system.


Translated by Y (with helpful suggestions from Scott Cui) | 譯員:Y (致謝懷瑾)