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Nationalism and communism in North-East Asia: History, application and perspectives

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  1. Introduction
  2. Divergence of the political history in North-East Asia from the trend of the Western world
    1. Asian communisms and Marxism-Leninism and nationalism
    2. Issues about the coherence of the systems
  3. Nationalism within the North Korean system
    1. Historical and geographical background of North Korean nationalism
    2. Nationalism as a source of political legitimacy: confusion between the Nation, the History and the Party
    3. Nationalism as an official ideology: The ideas of Juche
  4. The revival of Nationalism in contemporaneous China
    1. Old and new nationalism in modern China: From the May Fourth Movement to the celebration of Confucius
    2. The New Left movement as a response to the rise of individualism in a threatening new environment
    3. Emergence of a real 'Confucian-Nationalism?' or simple ideological disguise?
  5. Conclusions: A brighter future?
  6. Bibliography

From many perspectives, North-East Asia seems to be the area of paradoxes. The astonishing economic development of the region in the second part of the twentieth century, despite a troubled geopolitical context, is a great example of the peculiar ability of these countries to invent their own way and specific model, apart from Occidental preconceptions. Really few experts predicted the incredible economic growth of communist States, such as China or Vietnam, during this period. On the contrary, many expected these systems not to survive the fall of the Soviet Union, economically as well as politically. Paradoxically enough, post-communist North-East Asian States seem to have strengthen their legitimacy and are now ready to face the challenge of globalization as major actors of this new trend. By many aspects, even the North Korean regime belongs to this category, since it succeeded in perpetuating its peculiar Stalinist-dynastic political system. Even if experts have kept on announcing its collapse since more than twenty years, Pyongyang's regime can be considered as a ?success?, based on the only criteria of length and stability. This situation clearly highlights the specificity of North-East Asia : apart from the case of Cuba, there is no other place in the world where communism is still alive. However, some may argue that China is no more a real communist State after Deng's reforming period. Even if the economic Chinese system does not seem to be driven by Marxist-Leninist principles anymore, the practice of political power and the framework of the Chinese society remain deeply influenced by the communist motto. As a result, although this particular topic would need to be discussed in depth, we chose not to focus this essay on this controversial point and will therefore consider China as a ?post-communist? State throughout our presentation.

[...] Nationalism as a source of political legitimacy: confusion between the Nation, the History and the Party North-Korean nationalism is by far one of the most elaborated attempts to achieve the ideal and essence of nationalism in the whole world. Indeed, the DPRK not only promotes the superiority of the Korean nation (which is close to simple racism and xenophobia in many ways), but also sought to mix the People and the Party as the incarnation of the Nation. Based on this objective, North Korea developed through its propaganda a peculiar rhetoric based on family ties within the population. [...]


[...] Concerning North-Korea, nationalism does not come as a substitute to the orthodox Communist thought, since this State did not soften its communism since its creation, but it contributes to strengthen the ties between the people and the Party, especially in the terrible crisis context the regime fights since the collapse of the Soviet Union. To summarize, Communism needs ideology to survive, and nationalism promotes loyalty, fidelity and mass spirit. Based on these two assertions, the tendency of Communist States to degenerate into nationalistic powers becomes quite clear. [...]


[...] Finally, in a more dynamic approach, this essay will help drawing some conclusions about the nature and the future of nationalism in North-East Asia. China and North Korea are two systems completely different. Starting from the same Marxist-Leninist principles, they slowly evolved and have only few things in common now. However, it is worth noting that both developed nationalistic policies in the last decades. Of course, these policies did not share the same form, content or intensity, but they do exist. [...]

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