TheEffects of European Colonization in Southeast Asia
Inthe 18th and 19th century, many regions in the world fell under therule and control of the powerful nations that had already establishedthemselves. The powerful states sought to intensify their economicwell-being by taking advantage of the unexploited resources in theunderdeveloped areas. They used all the means necessary in thedifferent regions including the use of force. Since they couldmaintain a large army they took control of vast areas and out themunder their administration. The colonization of underdeveloped areascame with both advantage and demerits that became clear after theseareas gained independence either through agreements or throughrevolts. Some of the merits are still observable, and most countriescan attribute their takeoff power to the foundation laid by theircolonizers.
Onesuch area that was under foreign rule was South East Asia. Most ofthe jurisdiction this area did not have centralized political ruleand they operated in a traditional system of regional rule. It was,therefore, a way for a strong army to defeat their futile effortssince they could not gang against a common intruder. The rule of theEuropean in the countries of South Asia started at different timesand did not at the same time. 1Somecountries controlled others for a long time depending on theintensity of their power and the willingness of the local people tofree themselves from the bondage of colonization. The effects ofEuropean colonization in South East Asia had more advantage thatdisadvantages. Most of the positive effects brought by Europeancountries n the jurisdictions where they instituted control are stillobservable even today. The rule brought about various merits on thesocial, political and economic life.
First,the European colonization of the south-east Asia brought about theautonomy of the different countries.2Most of the countries did not have definite boundaries, and theycould not present the extent of their rule. They only relied on thelimit to which their subjects could extend in terms of internal tradeof farming. Therefore, there were some occasional clashes on thefight for grounds and the definite boundaries that existed were outof agreements between communities.3The lack of a centralized government in many countries hampered theinstitution of a demarcated rule and each community forged itsboundaries.
Whenthe Europeans scrambled for colonies in the region, there was adanger of overlapping that could create conflict between the variouscolonial masters. To ease the process of governance, the colonizerscreated boundaries that made the virtual local boundaries obsolete.The revolt of the different local communities led to the departure ofthe colonizers, and the local maintained the boundaries set by themasters.
Thesefacilitated an independent and autonomy rule since a government coulddefine the extent of its jurisdiction and pit the land under itsprotection. The past instances of conflicts due to lack of a legallydefined boundaries reduced greatly. Up to date, most of theboundaries remain intact ad each government that comes protects theinitially demarcated areas as set by the European colonizer.4A good example is an Indonesian boundary that was initiated by theFrench to avoid overlapping with other colonies. The Netherlands alsohelped to set independent boundaries in Vietnam before the localsdrove them out in a fierce war. These boundaries exist today withvery minimal changes. 5
Secondly,colonization led to the growth of democracy in the region. Before theEuropean invasion, the empires operated in alienation with the restof the world had nothing to do with the growing trend of human rightsor political democracy. The European colonization disintegrated mostof the local practices that were not citizen-oriented. Most of theempires had oppressive rules where the tribal kings instituted adictatorial form of leadership. However, due to lack of exposure, thepeople of South East Asia were at ease with the form of governance.The European countries had a lot of exposure to the internationallyaccepted practices though most of them were not in writing.
Foreigninvasion ignited a significant level of exposure to the internationalpractices. The struggle that the locals endured in their efforts togain independence was the first steps towards democratic rule. Therevolt in Vietnam as the people forced the Dutch out of the countryin a fierce war made them consider themselves able to free themselvesfrom any colonizers. The war in Indochina against the French gavebirth to self-rule and the power of the people of the currentIndonesia. 6Withthe departure of the colonizers, the leaders who instituted a form oflocal governance had to every careful not to instigate anotherrevolt. If people could drive away a strong master, the localleadership would not be difficult to withdraw. The governments had tooperate in agreement with the values that the local people consideredas rightful for them. The observance of human rights also became amajor topic since people could not bow down to the same yoke undertheir governments.
Anotherway in which the European colonization helped to improve the state ofthe Southeast Asia is the development of trade. A major reason thatspurred the interest of the European countries in Asia is to exploitthe resources available in the region and take them to the markets.Through this, they would spur economic growth since the capital wouldfind its way back into the home economy.7The British Indian company and the Honorable British Company weemajor players during the colonization era. Due to lack of penetrationand exposure, most of the countries in the region traded locally andthey could not access the goods they did not produce. However, withthe European invasion, the products found their way into theinternational markets. The hornbill beaks and honey from Vietnam andCambodia became trademark products in the international markets.8
Mostof these trade proceedings ensued even after the end of colonization.For example, France had an interest in the Indonesian markets. Aftergaining independence, Indonesia did not terminate the tradeagreement, and it exists even today. The Indonesian citizens stillenjoy the products from France and their merchants export the localproducts to France. Vietnam and Netherlands also have tradeagreements for importation and exportation that dates back to the eraof colonization. The result is increased revenue and growth of thelocal economy. Today, the international arena considers some of thecountries in South East Asia as some of the fastest growing as aresult of trade exposure.
Inthe 17th and 18th century, the countries in Southeast Asia were stillunderdeveloped in terms of infrastructural development. The primarycause of this was that there was no economic factor that couldinstigate a fast growth of communication and transport network. Withcolonization, the foreign countries could not further their mandatewithout changing the conventional methods of transport andcommunication. The existing facilities and processes could noteconomically support the movement of goods from the remote areas tothe docks. Also, the docks could not allow big ships to come near theshore for loading and offloading. Most of the ports found in most ofthese countries were out of the efforts of the colonial masters. Forexample, trade could not be stable on the spice island with shallowports that could allow cargo ships to dock. The Portuguese used theirresources to construct the ports that exist to date.
Colonizationalso brought civilization that contributed the accelerated growth ofthe countries. Before the invasion of the Europeans, the communitieslived in subdivided groups that mostly held each other in enmity. Therivalry was due to scrambling for the few exploited resources, andthere was no central rule to create stability. A major uncivilizedpractice was the occasional clashes in Indonesia, Cambodia andVietnam. 9Thegroup sought dominion over others and put them under their control ina form of internal colonization. However, the colonial ruleestablishes a stable form of governance that restricted thesepractices. Furthermore, the locals now had a common aggressor, andthey could join forces and overlook the previous duels. The sociallife changed from being driven by internal efforts of competition,and it looked at achieving an international reflection.
Theprocess o decolonization left the people with a new approach both thesocial and economic life. Most of the countries embraced a centralform of government with complete laws to govern the peopleimmediately after forcing the colonizers from their countries. Theyalso opened their local trade agreements and merchants could getproducts all over the countries. In doing so, they were forging apath for economic growth in their colonies. The people learned theskills under the talented personnel brought in by the colonialists.10
Somecountries like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia, had good farminggrounds although the locals were mostly producing for subsistenceconsumption. However, the French and the Dutch brought the idea ofplantations and employed huge numbers of people, and this increasedthe production significantly.11After their departure, these plantations fell into the hands ofpowerful locals, and the production continued. The revenues earned bythe employees improved the per capita earnings, and the governmentearned revenues from the exportation. Today, Vietnam and Indonesiahas big rice plantations that fed the local population, and it isalso popular in the international markets.
However,there were shortcomings brought about by colonialism in South EastAsia. Their presence opened the boundaries to foreigners who camethrough the trade routes in search of fortunes. Also, theestablishment of large-scale production techniques required a lot oflaborers, and this brought together warring groups in search ofemployment.
Thetime that the Europeans stayed in the region was enough for thegroups to establish themselves and increase in number. After they hadleft, the cultural mix brought about rivalries with the native peopleopposing the presence of newcomers in their territory. Indonesia is aprime example of where clashes ensued due to the presence ofnon-locals in various plantations. There was also mass migrations andincreased association between people with different cultures.12Most of the communities lost the touch of their culture, and theypracticed a mixed version with components borrowed from the presentcommunities.
Thecolonial rule also brought a certain social stratification that wasnot in the community before the invasion. Due to the lack ofdeveloped trade and economic activities, people had a fairly similarstandard of life although there were some who were well up than theothers. The presence of colonialists created a class of biglandowners and laborers. The landowners enjoyed huge incomes at theexpense of the laborers who earned very little income. In theplantations, the powerful individuals took control of the plantationsand people did not get equal shares. Many people became squatters andworkers, and they formed the lowest class in the social structure. Itwas the major genesis of inequality in the society. In Vietnam,Burma, Cambodia and Indonesia, the gap between the rich and the poorcontinued to widen.
Onthe same note, colonialism aroused the greed for power and control inindividuals in some countries, and they sought to take forcefulcontrol after the departure of the Europeans. In Vietnam, thereemerged a war instigated by the powerful individuals between theSouth and the North.13The pressure they got from the Dutch continued through the localleaders and the war resulted in many casualties. It was no until theintervention of the United States that the citizens experiencedpeace.
Inconclusion, the European colonization of South East Asia had manybenefits to the individual countries compared with the few demeritsthat it brought. The European countries had interests in improvingtheir economy by earning revenues by exploiting the variousresources. In doing so, they developed the right environment for thecolonized countries to take off. Te development of infrastructure andpolitical stability were primary benefits whose positive effectsensued even after the departure of the Europeans. The current tradeagreements between European members and their former colonies stillhelp to spur economic growth in the south-east Asia. The variouschallenges brought about by the presence of Europeans do not havesustained effects since most of the countries now have stablegovernments that settle internal disputes by the application of theirautonomous laws.
BernaIoana. “The Discourse of New Imperialism in Southeast Asia.”(2013) ContemporaryReadings in Law and Social Justice5,2013, p.70.
Thebook confirms that there was a great change in the way the residentsof South East Asia. The authors quote the ethnic clashes inIndonesia. Colonization helped to control these by institutingauthority.
BockstetteValerie., and Louis Putterman, “States and markets: The advantageof an early start.” (2002) Journalof Economic Growth 7347-369.
Theauthors term the colonization of East Asia as the beginning of freemarkets and exposure of the region to the international world. Thegoods that attracted the colonizers could not have entered theEuropean market before the inhabitation.
CliveChristie and Jenkins Christie, Ideologyand Revolution in Southeast Asia 1900-75,New York , Routledge, 2012.
Theauthor looks at the resulting form of life whereby people settled inplantations having come from different areas. The result was culturalclashes that are still present even today. The author concludesoutlining that the plantation program brought social challenges ofinequality between the owners and the laborers.
FreyMarc and Pruessen Ronald. TheTransformation of Southeast Asia,New York, Routledge, 2015.
Thebook focuses on the economic benefits that accrued with the coming ofEuropeans in Southeast Asia. The farmers gradually embraced cash cropfarming due to the increased markets. The development of rail androad transport facilitated transportation. However, there was a massmigration and culture change. According to the author, this is stilla major cause of clashes in the region.
ReillyBejamin., “Southeast Asia: In the shadow of China.” (2013)Journalof democracy24156-164.
Reillylooks at the impact of European colonization from the democraticpoint of view. According to the author, the European countrieschanged the political system in South East Asia.
RiggJonathan. SoutheastAsia (Routledge Revivals): A Region in Transition,New York, Routledge, 2013.
Heapproaches the subject from a trade development point andinfrastructural development brought about by the Europeans.
SchmitzAdams. RegionalGeography of the World: Globalization, People, and Places,New York, Springer, 2011.
Thebook has been a primary source of information on the effect bilateralagreements. Countries that colonized eh region maintained tradeagreements with the colonies, and this has been instrumental up todate.
Vandenbosch Amry and Butwell Richard. Thechanging face of Southeast Asia.Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2015.
Thebook suffices the article with the importance of the demarcatedboundaries that the countries retained after independence. Theycreated autonomy and independence of the individual states.
1 Reilly Bejamin., “Southeast Asia: In the shadow of China.” Journal of democracy , vol, 24, 2013, p.158.
2 Benjamin, Journal of democracy. p.160.
3 Rigg Jonathan. Southeast Asia (Routledge Revivals): A Region in Transition, New York, Routledge, 2013.p. 27
4 Benjamin, Journal of democracy. p.162.
5 Schmitz Adams. Regional Geography of the World: Globalization, People, and Places, New York, Springer, 2011, p. 35.
6 Adams, p. 48.
7 Jonathan, p. 29
8 Vandenbosch Amry and Butwell Richard. The changing face of Southeast Asia. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2015, p.19.
9 Bockstette Valerie., and Louis Putterman, “States and markets: The advantage of an early start.” (2002) Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 7 p. 349.
10 Berna Ioana. “The Discourse of New Imperialism in Southeast Asia.” (2013) Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 570.
11 Ioana, Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, p.70.
12 Frey Marc and Pruessen Ronald. The Transformation of Southeast Asia, New York, Routledge, 2015, p.45.
13 Clive Christie and Jenkins Christie, Ideology and Revolution in Southeast Asia 1900-75, New York , Routledge, 2012, p.38.