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Ethnicity and nationalism in the Asian Pacific Essay

The Asia pacific region is an area so named for the simple reason that it encompasses countries in South East Asia, East Asia and Australasia especially those that are close to the Pacific Ocean. This then includes such large countries and economies like China, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. There are also smaller countries the likes of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati and Laos. Consequently, the Asia pacific region is very culturally rich and diverse. The region is again varied in terms of the politics, social organization and the economies of the different countries.

For instance, the largest communist country, China can be found in the region. There is also Brunei, one of the few countries in the world that are still ruled by monarchs. Still, it is hard for the average person to imagine Asia Pacific as a region due to its sheer size. Nonetheless, the Asia Pacific region that is one that is very culturally rich and diverse region. (Lin) The period after World War II and the cold war are especially important. Colonialism is also an important factor to consider if one is to truly understand ethnicity and nationalism in the Asian Pacific region.

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It should then be noted that it is after World War II, after 1945 that the region of Asia Pacific began to take shape. The different countries in the region all changed politically, economically and even culturally. (Kaup) According to Kaup, however, it is the interplay of the culture, geography, economics, and politics of the countries that have greatly helped to shape the Asia Pacific region as a whole. For instance, the countries in the region are openly diverse in terms of their culture and politics.

This is clearly evident from the geography of the countries. There are countries made of forests, some are deserts, others Islands while others yet are mountainous. They are inhabited by people who speak very different local languages and who are members of different ethnic groups. The geography of the Asia pacific countries has important ramifications. It helps to explain why the countries are different economically. It would be correct to state that some countries such as Brunei or Fiji seem to be more blessed as compared to other countries such as Laos.

For the countries with mountainous or desert terrain and not well supplied with minerals that can be mined, it would be hard for the them to develop in the same rate as those that have been blessed with good terrain such that they can practice agriculture. The terrain also helps to explain why there is a lot of transnational migration between the countries. Many people in the region move away from their home countries in the search of better prospects in other countries. It would then be correct to argue that with movement comes settlement and even intermarriage.

The cross cultural interaction is what leads to a shared ethnicity. (Kaup) The period after 1945 is said to be of extreme importance to understanding the Asia Pacific region. This was a period when the region began to rebuild itself after a long standing war. From 1937 to 1945, the Sino Japanese war was fought which had resulted in the deaths of some 10 million people in China alone. More over, the war has also resulted in the destruction of infrastructure and the economies of the region had been badly cleaned out. The war had far reaching consequences.

It was not only the Chinese who were affected. As a result of the war, many Japanese soldiers were released from military service and there fore had to return home where they only lived as paupers without any form of employment. Throughout the region, thousands upon thousands of people were left un employed and homeless. The region took time to fully recover. It was therefore a surprise to most people that the region would then produce some very powerful economies today. Countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore are today known as the Asian Economic tigers.

(Kaup) Consequently, their rise has been referred to as an Asian sensation (miracle). This is primarily because in a very short time the countries had managed to pick themselves up from the after math of the war, build themselves up and double their economies. It is not common that this happens especially to countries that hitherto had their economies massively destroyed. After 1945, many of the inhabitants of the Asia Pacific region were unemployed and homeless, with the growth and development of their economies, they were able to secure jobs and consequently improve their living standards.

(Kaup) Ethnicity. Ethnicity is term used in the representation of a group who not only share history but also culture, identity and most important of all geography. Ethnicity occurs even despite the fact that the people may not even speak the same language. (“Ethnicity” 2009) Different ethnic groups live in the different Asia Pacific countries speaking numerous specific local languages, practicing diverse religions and cultures. Mccallum posits that it would be impossible to understand the concept of ethnicity without first understanding the history of the region.

There are two main factors that have shaped the ethnicity of the Asia Pacific region. These are tourism and migration. There are people moving from one country to the other in search of work/employment or for tourism. This has greatly transformed the Asia Pacific region. It is possible that well skilled workers may move and help to transform the economy of another country. Concurrently, it is also possible for refugees to move and increase the social problems of another.

According to Castles , countries in the Asia Pacific that have successful economies the likes of Malaysia and Thailand, have a majority of their labor force coming from countries whose economies are not doing too well for instance, China or the Philippines. While there is migration from the Asia Pacific region to other countries in the world such as the United States, there is also widespread migration within the region. There are migrants constantly, moving from East Asia and the South Eastern countries and into such countries as New Zealand and Australia.

According to Castles, the reason there are movements into these particular countries lies in the fact that back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, prejudiced restrictions on migrations were scrapped. However, such countries as Australia and New Zealand are more in demand of high skilled workers. For this reason, they offer incentives to lure these types of workers. For instance, they are paid better wages than they are in their home countries. This is as opposed to other countries in the region, for instance Malaysia, which are more open to unskilled labor.

(Castles) The new workers serve to add ethnic diversity in their new homes and places of work. Another reason why there are migrations within the Asia Pacific region is education. It is common for Asian students to travel to such countries as Australia for educational purposes. According to Castles, between the years 1994 and 1995, Australia had about 104, 000 students primarily from Asian countries. The majority of these students came from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Indonesia. The reason there are so many Asian students in Australian colleges and universities is the fact that the education system therein is more advanced.

The consequence of such migration is that the students may opt to remain in Australia rather than return to their home countries. This has served to spread cultural and ethnic diversity in the Asia Pacific region. (Castles) Different counties in the Asia Pacific region have different ways of dealing with the migration issue. While some are open to cultural and ethnic diversity, others are not. For instance, Japan which regards itself as a monocultural, ethnically homogenous country, the migration and permanent settlement of foreigners in the country is highly frowned upon.

Consequently, Japanese political leaders have over the years rejected the adoption of foreign labor policies. Their argument is that foreigners are likely to threaten their homogeneity. Because of the tight labor laws, there are very few immigrants in Japan. (Castles) However, the situation is different in Malaysia where there are many immigrants as a result of massive labor recruitments and illegal migrations. (Castles) This has important ramification. It is then possible that because immigrants are not openly welcome in Japan they may not be able to access jobs or social services as they would have had they immigrated say, to Malaysia.

Ethnicity is said to have important effects on the performance of a state. Since it is state that makes up a region, it would then be important to say that ethnicity affects the performance of a region. There is a difference between an ethnically diverse region or country and that which is homogenous. According to Reilly, the fact that a region is ethnically diverse is not all good news. In their study of Africa, which is by all standards culturally and ethnically diverse, it was noted that ethnic diversity and economic growth were negatively related.

This can be related to the Asia Pacific region, because of ethnic diversity countries and even regions are unable to effectively develop economically or even make politically sound management policies. With ethnic diversity comes ethnic fragmentation. Reilly goes on to argue that ethnic diversity in states is what gives rise to such negative outcomes as poor economic growth or even inequality. Ethnic diversity is good because it would be bland if we were all alike. However, the problem results when ethnicity results in corruption.

It would be correct to argue that people from one ethnic group would rather be around each other. It is not uncommon that people of one ethnic group would favor their own kind especially where opportunities exist to advance oneself, for instance in employment. (Reilly) Consequently, ethnicity is said to be double edged sword. On the one hand it makes economic development hard as it leads to discord as a result of fragmentation. On the other hand ethnic diversity can be said to be beneficial to a country in that it may be able to promote the durability of a government in power.

However, this is only true in so far as leaders are able to use nationalism to bring the people together so that they may work for the common good of the country. Concomitantly, it is also possible that it would be hard to over throw a regime that was already in power. As long as a person feels that the government leader who hails from their ethnic group is infallible it is hard to win their support for purposes of uprooting the government. Thus, it would be more possible to maintain a government in place in a country such as Papua New Guinea as opposed to Fiji.

Fiji is primarily polarized into two distinct ethnic groups, the Fijians and the Indo-Fijians. There is discord between the Fijians and the Indo-Fijians as each group wants to be at the helm of the country. (Castles) Tourism is another factor that has helped to shape ethnicity in the Asia Pacific. Tourism is considered as one of the largest service industries in the world. It employs thousands upon thousands of people who work in various attractions and facilities; from hotels to cultural centers. People travel from far off places just to experience the culture of another, in what is referred to as the tourist gaze.

(Picard 1) For this reason, the culture of a country has the potential to be translated into massive economic gains. In order to maximize on the benefits reaped from tourism, stake holders in the tourism sector are constantly developing new products with an aim to attracting more tourists. Little wonder therefore that there is a tourism product referred to as ethnic/cultural tourism. In this case a tourist pays just to experience some other different culture other than what he is used to. As part of the experience, the tourist may even get to live with the indigenous people in their homes.

Because this particular market segment has the potential to rake in a lot of money, governments and other actors in the tourism industry are aggressively marketing ethnic/cultural tourism to local and international tourists alike. (Picard 2) The Asia Pacific region comprises of countries that have very diverse and unique cultures/ethnicity. For this reason it is also one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the world. Apart from the culture, the region also offers beautiful sceneries in the form of landscapes.

(Picard 2) Indonesia is one country in the Asia Pacific where tourists may experience the ethnic tourism. (Volkman) The Toraja culture is a major tourist attraction in the country. Tourists travel from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the indigenous culture. They marvel at the Indonesian Toraja architecture and such attractions as the performance of ritual ceremonies. Tourism is therefore important as it helps to safeguard the ethnicity of Indonesians. Ethnic tourism will take place in Indonesia only as long as the Toraja culture exists.

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