Pan-Asianism and the Legacy of the Chinese Revolution

The book cover of Pan-Asianism and the Legacy of the Chinese Revolution. Illustrated with a cartoon of people holding up flags of different Asian countries.
Murthy, V. Pan-Asianism and the Legacy of the Chinese Revolution. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2023.

IRH Fellow:

Viren Murthy, (Resident Fellow 2021-2022)


Recent proposals to revive the ancient Silk Road for the contemporary era and ongoing Western interest in China’s growth and development have led to increased attention to the concept of pan-Asianism. Most of that discussion, however, lacks any historical grounding in the thought of influential twentieth-century pan-Asianists. In this book, Viren Murthy offers an intellectual history of the writings of theorists, intellectuals, and activists—spanning leftist, conservative, and right-wing thinkers—who proposed new ways of thinking about Asia in their own historical and political contexts. Tracing pan-Asianist discourse across the twentieth century, Murthy reveals a stronger tradition of resistance and alternative visions than the contemporary discourse on pan-Asianism would suggest. At the heart of pan-Asianist thinking, Murthy shows, were the notions of a unity of Asian nations, of weak nations becoming powerful, and of the Third World confronting the “advanced world” on equal terms—an idea that grew to include non-Asian countries into the global community of Asian nations. But pan-Asianists also had larger aims, imagining a future beyond both imperialism and capitalism. The fact that the resurgence of pan-Asianist discourse has emerged alongside the dominance of capitalism, Murthy argues, signals a profound misunderstanding of its roots, history, and potential.