Satellite photograph of Asia in orthographic projection.

Pan-Asianism (also known as Asianism or Greater Asianism) is an ideology aimed at creating a political and economic unity among Asian peoples. Various theories and movements of Pan-Asianism have been proposed, particularly from East, South and Southeast Asia. The motive for the movement was in opposition to the values of Western imperialism and colonialism, and that Asian values were superior to European values.[1]

Japanese Pan-Asianism

Greater East Asia Conference in November 1943, the participants were (L–R): Ba Maw, representative of Burma, Zhang Jinghui, representative of Manchukuo, Wang Jingwei, representative of China, Hideki Tōjō, representative of Japan, Wan Waithayakon, representative of Thailand, José P. Laurel, representative of Philippines, Subhas Chandra Bose, representative of India

Originally, Japanese Pan-Asianism believed that Asians shared a common heritage and must therefore collaborate in defeating their Western colonial masters. However, Japanese Asianism mostly focused on East Asian territories, with occasional references to South East Asia and West Asia.[2]

Their ideologues were Tokichi Tarui (1850–1922) who argued for equal Japan-Korea unionization for cooperative defence against the European powers,[3] and Kentaro Oi (1843–1922) who attempted to push social reforms in Korea and establish a constitutional government in Japan.[citation needed] Pan-Asian thought in Japan was further popularized following the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). This sparked interest from Indian poets Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo and Chinese politician Sun Yat-sen.[citation needed]

Japanese Pan-Asian writer Shūmei Ōkawa

The growing official interest in broader Asian concerns was shown in the establishment of facilities for Indian Studies. In 1899, Tokyo Imperial University set up a chair in Sanskrit and Kawi, with a further chair in comparative religion being set up in 1903. In this environment, a number of Indian students came to Japan in the early twentieth century, founding the Oriental Youngmen's Association in 1900. Their anti-British political activity caused consternation to the Indian Government, following a report in the London Spectator.

Okakura Kakuzō, a scholar and art critic, also praised the superiority of Asian values upon Japanese victory of the Russo-Japanese War:[4]

ASIA is one. The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal, which is the common thought-inheritance of every Asiatic race, enabling them to produce all the great religions of the world, and distinguishing them from those maritime peoples of the Mediterranean and the Baltic, who love to dwell on the Particular, and to search out the means, not the end, of life.[5]

In this, Kakuzō was utilising the Japanese concept of sangoku, which existed in Japanese culture before the concept of Asia became popularised. Sangoku literally means the "three countries": Honshu (the largest island of Japan), Kara (China) and Tenjiku (India).[6]

However, Japanese Pan-Asianism evolved into a more nationalist ideology that prioritized Japan's interests. This was evident by the growth of secret societies such as Black Ocean Society and the Black Dragon Society, which committed criminal activities to ensure the success of Japanese expansionism. Exceptionally, Ryōhei Uchida (1874–1937), who was a member of the Black Dragon Society, was a Japan-Korea unionist and supported Filipino and Chinese revolutions. In addition, Asian territories were seen as reservoirs of economic resources [7][8] and outlets for the Emperor's "glory" to be displayed. These were evident in government policies such as the Hakko ichiu and Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere agendas.[9] Even Kakuzō was critical of Japan's expansionism after the Russo-Japanese War, viewing it as no different than Western expansionism. He expected other Asians to call them "embodiments of the White Disaster".[10][11]

Historian Torsten Weber compares these contradictions to the Monroe Doctrine, which opposed European imperialism to foster the unimpeded growth of American imperialism.[2]

Chinese Pan-Asianism

From a Chinese perspective, Japanese Pan-Asianism was interpreted as a competing ideology to Sinocentrism as well as rationalization of Japanese imperialism (cf. Twenty-One Demands).[2] Sun Yat-sen, despite his consistent praise of Japan as a cultural partner,[12] questioned whether they would follow the path of exploitation like Western powers in the future in his final years.[13] Sun was a proponent of Pan-Asianism. He said that Asia was the "cradle of the world's oldest civilisation" and that "even the ancient civilisations of the West, of Greece and Rome, had their origins on Asiatic soil." He thought that it was only in recent times that Asians "gradually degenerated and become weak."[14] For Sun, "Pan-Asianism is based on the principle of the Rule of Right, and justifies the avenging of wrongs done to others." He advocated overthrowing the Western "Rule of Might" and "seeking a civilisation of peace and equality and the emancipation of all races."[15] Nonetheless, Chinese Pan-Asianism emerged and was equally as imperialist as its Japanese counterpart. Its success was limited by China's political instability and weak international status.[2]

Since the 2000s, Chinese scholars have a more nuanced view of Pan-Asianism, especially those of the Japanese variety. Historian Wang Ping proposed an evaluation system based on chronology: co-operative Classical Asianism (until 1898), expansive Greater Asianism (until 1928), and the invasive Japanese ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’ (until 1945).[2]

Chinese Pan-Asian thinker Wang Hui

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek stated that China has been following pan-Asianism for over a century. He regarded Chinese thinker Wang Hui as the main promoter of a communist pan-Asianism. Wang Hui advocated that if social democracy is grounded in Asian civilizational traditions, it renders it possible to avoid the Western type of multi-party democracy and enact a social order with much stronger people's participation.[16]

Turkish Pan-Asianism

Pan-Asianism in Turkey has not yet been fully explored,[17] it is not known how many people hold this ideology and how widespread it is. However, Turks who supported Japan in the Second World War and have the Pan-Asianism ideology use a redesigned Turkish flag based on Japan's flag in the Second World War.[18][19]

Pan-Asianism and Asian values

The idea of "Asian values" is somewhat of a resurgence of Pan-Asianism.[citation needed] One foremost enthusiast of the idea was the former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. In India, Ram Manohar Lohia dreamed of a united socialist Asia.[20] A number of other Asian political leaders from Sun Yat-sen in the 1910s and 20s to Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s similarly argue that the political models and ideologies of Europe lack values and concepts found in Asian societies and philosophies. European values such as individual rights and freedoms would not be suited for Asian societies in this extreme formulation of Pan-Asianism.[citation needed]

The founding of the Asian Games, now the second-largest sporting event behind the Olympic Games,[21] was partially inspired by India's vision for Asian solidarity and the emergence of the post-colonial world order.[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ Szpilman, Christopher W. A.; Saaler, Sven (25 April 2011). "Pan-Asianism as an Ideal of Asian Identity and Solidarity, 1850–Present". The Asia-Pacific Journal. 9 (17).
  2. ^ a b c d e Weber, Torsten (2020). "Pan-Asianism". The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism. pp. 1–11. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-91206-6_259-1. ISBN 978-3-319-91206-6. S2CID 240929911 – via Springer Link.
  3. ^ Tarui, Tokichi (1893) Daito Gappo-ron[page needed]
  4. ^ Harper, Tim (2021-01-12). Underground Asia: Global Revolutionaries and the Assault on Empire. Harvard University Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-674-72461-7.
  5. ^ Okakura, Tenshin (1904) Ideal of the East
  6. ^ Bialock, David (2007). Eccentric Spaces, Hidden Histories: Narrative, Ritual, and Royal Authority from The Chronicles of Japan to The Tale of the Heike. Stanford University Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-8047-6764-4.
  7. ^ Brian Dollery; Zane Spindler; Craig Parsons (2003). "Nanshin: Budget- Maximising Behavior, The Imperial Japanese Navy And The Origins Of The Pacific War" (PDF). Working Paper Series in Economics. University of New England School of Economics: 4 & 12. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  8. ^ Flank, Lenny (25 Nov 2014). "Khalkhin Gol: The Forgotten War Between Japan and the USSR". Daily Kos. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  9. ^ Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan p 11 ISBN 0-06-019314-X
  10. ^ Okakura, Kakuzō (1904). The Awakening of Japan. New York: The Century Co. p. 107.
  11. ^ Okakura, Kakuzo (2008). The Book of Tea. Applewood Books. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-4290-1279-9.
  12. ^ Ihara, Kichinosuke (July 1983). "My Thirty-three Years' Dream by Miyazaki Toten (Book Review)". Japan Quarterly. 30 (3): 316. ProQuest 1304281243.
  13. ^ 1924 speech on Greater Asianism
  14. ^ Pan-Asianism A Documentary History, 1920–Present. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2011. p. 78.
  15. ^ Pan-Asianism A Documentary History, 1920–Present. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2011. p. 85.
  16. ^ Slavoj Žižek (2023-05-15). "[Column] The trouble with Wang Hui's pan-Asianism". The Hankyoreh.
  17. ^ "pan-Asianism | Insight Turkey". Archived from the original on 18 April 2022. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  18. ^ Telli̇el, Yunus Doğan (1 June 2011). "Cemil Aydın, The Politics of Anti- Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-İslamic and Pan-Asian Thought". Osmanlı Araştırmaları. 37 (37): 249–253.
  19. ^ "Ötüken Kitap | Panislamizmden Büyük Asyacılığa A. Merthan Dündar". (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 18 April 2022. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  20. ^ Imlay, Talbot Charles (21 June 2021). "Defining Asian Socialism: The Asian Socialist Conference, Asian Socialists, and the Limits of a Global Socialist Movement in 1953". International Review of Social History. 66 (3): 415–441. doi:10.1017/S0020859021000250. ISSN 0020-8590. S2CID 237902320.
  21. ^ "What is Asian Games? Definition of Asian Games, Asian Games Meaning". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  22. ^ Mehta, Nalin (2014-09-18). "The story of how an Asiad remade a city". The Economic Times. ISSN 0013-0389. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  23. ^ "How India gave Asia its Games". The Times of India. 2010-11-12. ISSN 0971-8257. Retrieved 2023-09-04.


Further reading