Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire ambitiously attempts to unite Asia intellectually, and such an enterprise is bound to face insurmountable odds.
Mishra might argue that it’s merely about how the de-colonisation of Asian countries was preceded, in the 19th century, with the stirrings of intellectual de-colonisation. Specifically, he says that the Islamic Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, the Chinese Liang Qichao and the Indian Rabindranath Tagore were first to intellectually reject the West; that this happened even before the 1905 defeat by Japan of Russia, a historical watershed demonstrating that the white man was not invulnerable; and that their ideas, rooted in “going back to one’s roots” influenced one another and subsequent Asian thinkers till de-colonisation became inevitable after World War II.
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On October 1, China will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding as a modern nation-state. It is a momentous anniversary since it marks the completion of a full 60-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, and symbolises a metaphorical rebirth of an ancient civilisation. To mark this milestone moment, the Chinese government will unveil a dazzling series of events to showcase the country’s evolution and ascendance, much as it did at last year’s Beijing Olympics.
The anniversary coincidentally comes at a time of Great Change in the world economic order. That coming economic powershift is underlined by the global financial meltdown of 2008 and the enfeebled nature of Western economies, coupled with China’s rapid economic growth in the 30 years since it opened up to the point where, in Goldman Sachs’ bullish estimation, it will be the world’s largest economy by 2027!
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