In the early sixteenth century European explorers set sail to the East of the known world. As it was a part of the globe that had not only great potential but also possessed an abundant source of materials, spices, minerals, etc. However this action also introduced, by design or incidental, European civilization. Today these regions make up what is known modern day Korea, China, Japan and Vietnam.
There is clear historical evidence that Chinese culture had a significant influence in the region. Evidence is apparent through existing common factors, such as Buddhism, even though religious practices and beliefs vary greatly from region to region. Other commonalities observed in Sinic World are: administrative systems, languages, region, etc. The Chinese language appears to be the foundation upon which related countries based their own languages on.
The term “Sinic World” is defined as idiom that was devised by Samuel Huntington in defense of his theory about The Clash of Civilization. This began in earnest around the beginning of the sixteenth century, about the time when Europeans started traveling to Eastern Asia. Over time, theories of the Sinic World, has fostered widespread controversy.
This period was popularized by Samuel Huntington in his books, The Clash of Civilization, Ethnicity addressing religion, language, etc. In Huntington’s postulate, all of these form part of what is know to us as the “civilized world.” With this foundation as the corner stone of his belief, Huntington divided the world into specific regions, one of which being the Sinic Civilization, otherwise known as the Sinic World.
Huntington assumes the position that, “the constant spread of “modern first world” beliefs, values and political systems are naïve and that it antagonizes other civilizations.” (wikipedia, 2006)(Huntington, 1996,)
He believes that the East Asian Sinic countries are starting to assert themselves culturally, due to their ever-increasing economy. Hence the Chinese goal to uphold and maintain itself as an influential power in the region, with the hope that other surrounding countries would join them in agreement rather than opposing China. Therefore it is believed that the rise of China poses a great threat to the European and the modernized first world.
Another theorist, Edward Friedman believes that since World War Two, Japan has been run by a pro-business party and has not been transferred to an honorable opponent. “Democracy as defined to us in the European and other modernized democratic countries are such that defines Japan as a non-democratic country, however it is governed by a conservative consensus.” (FRIEDMAN, 1994, 19)
The 17th century was considered a period of immense change in Eastern Asia which also resulted in the exchange of products, people and European ideas. Most of the references we have to this era come from seafarers, employees of the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie – in English meaning Dutch East Indian Company), merchants, explorers and adventurers. Unfortunately they did not only spread ideas and their people, but the Europeans also brought a variety of weapons into the regions making it easier for kings, sultans, etc, to have military power in the region. This then encouraged various rulers to follow the example of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598)’s invasions of Korea (1592)
The Dutch, Spanish, British and Portuguese were some of the key role-players in Eastern Asia. They formed treaties with Sultans and various cultural leaders, however most times with hidden agendas. For example, the Portuguese and Spanish (1500) kept it a secret that they had rough maps on how to reach the east until the Dutch and the English figured it out almost a century later. It was at the same time (1600) when the Dutch started sending missionaries to East Asia to spread the gospel and their European believes.
“The Dutch became a very prominent figure in the east during the 1600’s and started constructing forts, negotiated treaties, sent out well-armed fleets of ship to wage war on Asian countries, in an attempt to colonizes them. “(Gimonca, 2006)
It is clear that East Asia’s historical and socio-political connections with Europe provided a gateway for European influence to have a huge impact on Asian society. European imperialism slowly disappeared over time as former colonies regained independence towards the second half of the twentieth century.
Confucianism in the region stems back to those early years but is today still deeply rooted in traditional Chinese religion, thought, and culture. Its main emphasis is on the teachings of foundational thinkers such as Confucius, Hsun-tzu and Mencius.
It is apparent through research that one of the strengths of Eastern Asia was prominence of their traditions, cultures and religions dated back to even before the 1500’s. Deeply rooted in the culture and religious system, these models have endured.
I believe that it was the mindset of the time for Europeans, however I disagree with the position that they believed that their way of life i.e. Religion, languages, political influence and so forth were superior to those of East Asia. So much so that they tried their utmost to colonize, capitalize and reform institution that had established by the original inhabitants of the land from the beginning of time.
We seem to have forgotten that modernization has been the root to many of social and political problems over the centuries. Now with this in mind I would definitely agree that historical analysis is essential, so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past so as to ensure that we work together as nations and equals towards a brighter tomorrow.
If we look at the current state of the world, it can be said that the past does come back to haunt even the great nations of the world, for example terrorism, poverty, illiteracy etc. So it is with this in mind that by Samuel Huntington’s expressions,” (Clash of Civilizations) gained more attention after the surge of terrorism that has mercilessly swept our world.”(Huntington, 1996)
Certain East Asian Countries feel so strong about “Sinic” that they feel the need to show their power through nuclear weapons, while other East Asian countries assert their power and independence through communism.
After looking at the facts it can be said that yes, Europe assisted in the progression of East Asia through things such as civil infrastructure. However it has left a scare so big and so deep that it has inevitably divided the world once again.
The only way to remedy the divide is through ongoing diplomatic negotiations and not having Europeans and other first world powers undermine foreign cultures merely because they are different. It would be in the best interest of both Europeans and Asians to develop economic links. Social awareness of each others cultures is imperative for people to understand different cultural mindsets.
Ultimately East Asia and Europe acknowledgement of past transgressions and seek reconciliation. This approach greatly depends upon future generations either forgoing the past or reliving it.
Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World
EDWARD FRIEDMAN , 1994, The Politics of Democratization: Generalizing
the East Asian Experience , Westview Press,