1. Asian Countries: Independence
  2. India
  3. Burma
  4. Indonesia
  5. Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia
  6. Chinese Revolution
  7. The Korean War
  8. Vietnam Partition
  9. Vietnam War
  10. Cambodia: Khmer Rouge

Asian Countries: Independence

The rise and growth of nationalism in Asia and Africa has been briefly mentioned in Chapter 12. The period after the Second World War saw the emergence of most countries of Asia and Africa as independent nations. One country after another in these continents became independent. They won their independence through long and hard struggles against colonial powers. To some countries independence came only after long and bitter armed, struggle, to others without much bloodshed but not without a long period of strife. Generally, the colonial powers were not willing to give up their hold on the colonies and left only when they found that it was not possible to maintain their rule any more, During the Second World War, many imperialist countries had been ousted from their colonies, but after the war they tried to reestablish their rule. For some time they succeeded in doing so but were ultimately forced to withdraw.

The achievement of independence was the result primarily of the struggles of the peoples of the colonies. However, the changes in the international climate which followed the Second World War helped the peoples struggling for independence Imperialism as a whole had been weakened as a result of the war. The economies of many imperialist countries had suffered. Forces within the imperialist countries which were friendly with the peoples struggling for independence also had grown powerful. Freedom and democracy were the major aims for which the Allies had fought against the fascist countries and these aims had been made the basis for arousing peoples all over the world against fascism. The fulfilment of these aims could no longer be confined only to Europe, as had been done after the First World War. In many colonies which fascist countries had occupied by ousting the older colonial powers, the freedom movements had played an important role in the struggle against fascist occupation. For example, Japan had to face the resistance of the freedom movements in the countries of East and SouthEast Asia which she had occupied. It was not easy to restore the rule of the former colonial powers over these countries.

Another major international factor which facilitated the end of imperialism was the emergence of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries as a major force. These countries were inimical to imperialism and often gave aid and support to the freedom movements in the colonies. Similarly, the movements of socialism which had grown powerful the world over, including in the colonial countries, also supported the movements of freedom in the colonies.

The entire international context in which the freedom movements were launched had changed after the Second World War. At the international forums, particularly at the United Nations, the cause of the independence of colonies began to gain popularity. The international opinion was clearly against the continuation of imperialism. Imperialist countries resorted to various means to maintain their rule. They tried to create divisions in the freedom movements. They resorted to the use of terror. In some countries they tried to install governments which were nominally free but were in fact their puppets. However, most of the freedom movements were able to defeat these methods of disruption.

An important role in the achievement of independence by the countries of Asia and Africa was played by the unity which freedom movements in various countries achieved. The freedom movement in one country supported the freedom movements in other countries. The role of countries which had achieved their independence was very crucial in this regard. These countries supported the cause of those peoples who were still under colonial rule at the United Nations and other international forums. They also gave active help to the freedom movements. India played a crucial role in promoting the cause of freedom in Asia and Africa. Besides the movements in the colonies for independence, there were also movements in Asian and African countries to oust outdated political systems, to modernize the social and economic systems and to assume control over the resources of one’s country which had remained under foreign control even after freedom. These movements expressed the resolve of the peoples of Asia and Africa to become fully independent as well as to launch programmes of rapid social and economic development. Within two decades of the end of the Second World War, the political map of Asia and Africa had been completely changed.


Within a few years after the Second World War, a large number of Asian countries became independentOne of the first to win her independence was India. India had, however, been partitioned and along with India, another independent state, Pakistan, also came into being. (Pakistan broke up in 1971 when her eastern part —now Bangladesh—became independent). The independence of India was of great importance in the history of freedom movements in Asia and Africa. The policies pursued by the government of independent India under the leadership her first Prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, helped in strengthening the freedom movements in other countries and in hastening the achievement of independence by them.


Burma, renamed Myanmar recently, achieved her independence from Britain a few months after India became independent. In 1944, the Antifascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) had been formed in Burma. Its aim was to resist the Japanese invasion of Burma and to win independence for Burma. After the war, the British tried to restore their rule over Burma. This led to the intensification of the movement for freedom. In the course of the struggle, many leaders of the Burmese freedom movement were assassinated. However, Britain was forced to agree to the demand for freedom and Burma became independent on 4 January 1948.


The beginning of the nationalist movement in Indonesia has been referred to in the previous chapter. After the defeat of Japan, Sukarno, one of the pioneers of the freedom movement in Indonesia, proclaimed the independence of Indonesia. However, soon after the British troops landed there in order to help the Dutch to restore their rule. The government of independent Indonesia which had been formed by Sukarno resisted the attempt to reestablish colonial rule. There were demands in many countries of the world to put an end to the war which had been started in Indonesia to restore the Dutch rule. In Asian countries, the reaction was particularly intense. The leaders of the Indian freedom movement demanded that Indian soldiers, who had been sent to Indonesia as a part of the British army should be withdrawn. After India became free, she convened a conference of Asian nations in support of Indonesia’s independence. The conference met in New Delhi in January 1949 and called for the complete independence of Indonesia. The resistance of the Indonesian people and the mounting pressure of world opinion and Asian countries compelled Holland to set the leaders of Indonesian people free. On 2 November 1949, Holland recognized the independence of Indonesia.

Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia

SRI LANKA Within a few months of, India’s independence, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) also became free in February 1948.
THAILAND Thailand had been occupied by Japan and after the defeat of Japan became independent.
PHILIPPINES During the war, Japan had driven out the American forces from the Philippines. In 1946, the government of the United States agreed to the independence of the Philippines.
MALAYASIA In Malaya British rule had been reestablished after the war. In 1957, Malaya (now Malaysia) became an independent nation.

Chinese Revolution

You have read earlier about the unity between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China which had been built under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen for the complete independence and unification of China. This unity had been broken after the death of Sun Yat-Sen and a civil war started in China between the Kuomintang under the leadership of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communist Party of China, whose most important leader was Mao Zedong. After the Japanese invasion of China, the two parties and their armies cooperated for some time to resist the Japanese aggression. However, the conflicts between the two never ceased. The Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-Shek was a party which mainly represented the interests of capitalists and landlords. The Communist Party, on the other hand, was a party of workers and peasants. In the areas under Communist Party’s control, the estates of landlords had been expropriated and the land distributed among the peasants. Because of the policies pursued by the Communist Party, it gradually had won over millions of Chinese people to its side. The Communist Party had also organized a huge army called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). After the defeat of Japan and the driving out of the Japanese forces from China, the civil war again broke out. The government of the United Stated gave massive aid to Chiang KaiShek, but by 1949 his armies were completely routed. With the remnants of his troops, Chiang KaiShek went to Taiwan (Formosa), an island which had been occupied by Japan after she had defeated China in 1895. See the map:


On 1st October 1949, the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed and the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong Came to power.

The victory of the Communist revolution in China was a world shaking event. The most populous country in the world had come under communist rule. Besides the socialist countries of Europe, there were now two mighty powers in the world —the Soviet Union and China —Which were ruled by communist parties. Imperialism was further weakened in Asia as a result of the Chinese revolution.

China vs USA

The establishment of the People’s Republic of China was a defeat for the United-States. She refused to recognize the government of China for over two decades. According to the United States, the legal government of China was that of Chiang KaiShek in Taiwan (Formosa). Because of the US attitude, the most populous country in the world was denied even membership of the United Nations for over two decades.

China vs India

For many years, friendly relations existed between India and China. Together, the two countries played a very important role in the freedom movements of the peoples of Asia and Africa and in bringing about the unity of the Asian and African nations. However, towards the end of the 1950s, the foreign policy of the Chinese government began to change. In 1962, China committed aggression against India which dealt a severe blow not only to the friendship between India and China but also to the unity of Asian African nations. China’s relations with the Soviet Union also began to deteriorate. She supported Pakistan against India over various issues. After 1970, her relations with the United States began to improve. She was admitted to the United Nations and is now one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

China after Mao

There were many turmoils in the political and economic life of China after the establishment of communist rule there. After the death of Mao Zedong in 1975, many changes have taken place in the economic policies of the country. These are aimed at modernizing the economy. For this, foreign companies and foreign capital have been invited and are playing an important role. Many practices which were at one time considered basic to the concept of socialism have been given up. There have also been changes in China’s foreign policy. There has been an improvement in China’s relations with India. In the political life of China, however, there has been little change and it continues to be under the exclusive control of the Communist Party. The demand for democracy voiced by students and others some years ago was suppressed.

The Korean War

Korea, as you have read before, had come under Japanese rule in 1910. After Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, she was divided into two zones, the northern zone under Soviet occupation and the southern zone under American occupation, to bring about the surrender of Japanese troops. The aim was to make Korea an independent state. However, as in the case of Germany in Europe, two different governments in Korea were formed in 1948. See the Map

North Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) under the leadership of Korean Communists
South The Republic of Korea (South Korea) by a group of parties under the leadership of Syngman Rhee.

Rhee was an anticommunist and wanted an alliance with Chiang KaiShek to prevent the spread of communism. Both the states organized their armies and there were frequent clashes between them. In 1948, the Soviet troops withdrew from Korea followed by the American troops who withdrew in 1949. Both the governments of Korea favoured unification of the country but there was no meeting ground between them.

In June 1950 war broke out between North and South Korea. The Chinese revolution had already taken place and the United States feared further expansion of communism in this area. The United States sent troops to support South Korea in the war. Troops from some other countries aligned with the United States also fought in Korea. These troops fought as the troops of the United Nations because the Security Council of the United Nations had passed a resolution condemning North Korea and had asked members of the United Nations to aid South Korea. After the entry of the American forces in the war, the Chinese forces also entered the war and the situation took a very serious turn. There was a real danger of another world war breaking out, as by this time the Soviet Union also had acquired atomic bombs. However, though the war in Korea raged for three years, it did not turn into a world war. The armistice was signed in 1953 Korea remained divided into two separate states. India played a very important role in bringing the war in Korea to an end. Even though the war was confined to Korea, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, including over 142,000 Americans.

The Korean war added to the danger of another world war. It also worsened the tensions in the world and led to the intensification of the Cold War.

Vietnam Partition

One of the most heroic battles for freedom was fought by the people of Vietnam. This country along with Laos and Cambodia comprised IndoChina which had come under French colonial rule. After the French government surrendered to Germany, many parts of IndoChina were occupied by Japan. The movement for the freedom of IndoChina from French rule had started many years earlier. The greatest leader of the people of Vietnam was Ho ChiMinh. He had been engaged in organizing the communist and the nationalist movements in Vietnam since soon after the end of the First World War. The Vietnamese people under Ho ChiMinh’ s leadership resisted the Japanese occupation and organized a people’s army called the Viet Minh. By the time the Second World War ended, the Viet Mirth controlled a large part of Vietnam. In August 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed with Ho ChiMinh as President. However, the British troops as well as the troops of Chiang KaiShek arrived in Vietnam in the pretext of completing the surrender of Japanese troops there. In October 1945, the French troops also arrived with the aim of restoring French rule. In 1946, the French army started fighting against the Viet Minh. They also set up a government with Bao Dal, who had headed the puppet government under Japan earlier, as the ruler. The war between the Viet Minh and France continued for eight years. In 1954, the French forces suffered a severe blow at the hands of the done to Vietnam as a result of the heavy Viet Minh at the fortress of Dien-Bien-Phu. The French defeat at Dien-Bien-Phu has become famous because a people’s army without any sophisticated defeated the army of a powerful imperialist country. The debacle at Dien-Bien-Phu compelled the French government to start negotiations with the government of Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In July 1954 an international conference was held at Geneva. It was agreed to partition Vietnam temporarily into North Vietnam South Vietnam and to hold elections all over Vietnam within two years to unify the country under a single government.

Cambodia and Laos, the other two countries of Indo-China were made independent.See the Map:

map- Vietnam war

Vietnam War

With the partition of Vietnam, another phase in the freedom movement in Vietnam began. The government that was established in South Vietnam, with the support of the United States, refused to abide by the decisions of the Geneva conference with regard to the holding of elections and the unification of Vietnam. It came to be increasingly regarded as being under the control of the United States which was opposed to the unification of Vietnam under the leader ship of the communist party. In the early 1960s, uprisings broke out in South Vietnam against the government there. This was followed by the massive military intervention of the United States in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of American troops were sent there with some of the most advanced weaponry to suppress the popular uprising. The war continued for a number of years. The South Vietnamese people led by the National Liberation Front carried on guerilla warfare. They had the support of North Vietnam. The American troops carried the war into North Vietnam. Incalculable damage was done to Vietnam as a result of the heavy bombings by American forces. The American troops also used weapons of bacteriological warfare. Vast areas of Vietnam were devastated and hundreds of thousands of people killed, The American forces also suffered heavy casualties.

The United States was almost completely isolated in the world over the war in Vietnam. Besides the opposition to this war by scores of governments, there was a worldwide movement of protest against the U.S. government and of solidarity with the people of Vietnam. The only movement of this kind had emerged in the 1930s in support of the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War and against Germany and Italy who were actively helping the fascists in Spain. The opposition to the war grew in the United States itself on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of Americans refused to be drafted in the U.S. army and many American soldiers deserted. No other single issue had united millions of people all over the world as the war in Vietnam. However, the U.S government continued the war even though it was clear that she could not win it.

Early in 1975, the war took a decisive turn. The armies of North Vietnam and of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam swept across the country routing the American supported troops of the government of South Vietnam. In January 1973, the American troops had begun to withdraw from Vietnam. During the war in Vietnam, 58,000 of them had lost their lives. By 30 April 1975, all the American troops had withdrawn and the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was liberated. North and South Vietnam were formally united as one country in 1976. The city of Saigon was renamed Ho Chi-Minh City after the great leader of the Vietnamese people who had died a few years earlier in 1969.

The emergence of Vietnam as a united and independent nation is an historic event in the history of the world. A small country had succeeded in winning her independence and unification in the face of the armed opposition of the greatest power in the world. The help given to Vietnam by the socialist countries, the political support extended to her by a large number of Asian and African countries, and the solidarity expressed by the peoples in all parts of the world had helped in bringing victory to the people of Vietnam.

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge

The war in Vietnam had also spread to Cambodia In 1970, the government of Prince Narodom Sihanouk was overthrown and a puppet government was installed there. The troops of the USA and South Vietnam had carried the war to Cambodia on the ground that the Vietnamese were receiving their supplies from bases in Cambodia. By the time the United States withdrew from the war in 1975, a party which called itself Khmer Rouge had taken control of Cambodia under the leadership of Pol Pot. The government of Pol Pot established a regime of terror in Cambodia and started following a policy of genocide against its own people. The estimates of people murdered by the Khmer Rouge vary from one to three million.


Genocide by Khmer-Rouge Troops

In 1979, Pol Pot’s government was overthrown with the help of Vietnamese troops. However, the war in Cambodia continued as the Khmer Rouge still had some areas under its control inside the country. It also operated from across the border with Thailand. In the meantime, three groups, including the Khmer Rouge and the group led by Narodom Sihanouk, came together in opposition to the government in Cambodia which was supported by Vietnam.

Peace was restored in Cambodia recently. The United Nations brought the various warring factions together and an agreement was signed under the auspices of the United Nations. The Vietnamese troops were withdrawn from Cambodia. In 1993, elections were held and a coalition government was formed. The Khmer Rouge, however, remained outside the government and its troops continued their armed attacks in some parts of the country.

In the next (and last) part of Chapter 13, we’ll see the Independence of Africa.
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