Cold War Asia: History, Knowledge, and Perception

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Cold War Asia: History, Knowledge, and Perception
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Yan Li, Oakland University, United States (organizer, presenter, chair)
Sherzod Muminov, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom (presenter)
Mei-Hsiang Wang, National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan (presenter)
Shih-jung Tzeng, National Chengchi University, Taiwan (presenter)


To understand the Cold War in Asia is to interrogate the geopolitical divides that reduced Asia to a battleground for the proxy wars between the US and the USSR. This panel aims to explore the agency of East and Southeast Asian countries in shaping the global dynamics of the Cold War from the perspectives of historical imagination, knowledge production, and public perception. Muminov analyzes the precarious position of Japanese communists in the early aftermath of WWII by looking at how they negotiated between the reality of Allied Occupation and the dream of a “workers’ paradise” at a convoluted moment of ideological reorientation. Examining the fluidity of Cold War politics from the angle of cultural mediation, Wang investigates how information services centers, non-profit organizations and publishing houses created a transnational network producing anti-communist knowledge between the US, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1950s and 60s. Tzeng offers an inner and civilian perspective by analyzing private diaries in Taiwan, to reveal public perception of the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crisis, and the Vietnam War, and how these war events impacted everyday life in Taiwan at the time. Delving into Communist China’s effort to censor foreign works from “capitalist” and “revisionist” countries during the Cold War, Li examines how the practice of internal publication and circulation backfired on the original intention of thought control and ideological discipline. Altogether, these papers suggest that Cold War Asia was shaped by global exchange and circulation rather than by divide and polarization.