The Asian American Century: A Brief Historiography of Imperialism, Neoliberalism, and the Creation of Modern Asian America in the 20th Century – Part 5

Part 5 of 5 (12 min read time)

Written by Albert Joon-Ho Hur

[Edited by J]


“After the Duke had taken Romagna and had found it governed by powerless lords who had been more anxious to plunder their subjects than to govern them and had given them reason for disunity rather than unity… he decided that if he wanted to make it peaceful and obedient to the ruler’s law, it would be necessary to give it good government.  Therefore, he put Messer Remirro de Orco, a cruel and able man, in command there and gave him complete authority.  This man, in little time, made the province peaceful and united, and doing this he made for himself a great reputation.

Afterwards, the Duke decided that such great authority was no longer required, for he was afraid that it might become odious; and he set up in the middle of the province a civil court with a very distinguished president, wherein each city had its own counsellor.

And because he realized that the rigorous measures of the past had generated a certain amount of hatred, he wanted to show, in order to purge men’s minds and win them to his side completely, that if any form of cruelty had arisen, it did not originate from him but from the harsh nature of his minister.

Having found the occasion to do this, one morning at Cesena, he had Messer Remirro placed on the piazza in two pieces with a block of wood and a bloody sword beside him.  The ferocity of such a spectacle left those people satisfied and amazed at the same time.”

— Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

In 1986, the year I was born, the imperialist U.S. was growing tired of General Augusto Pinochet, whom they had installed into power in 1973.  Towards the end of the 1970s, the white supremacist imperialist rhetoric had begun to focus on “promoting democracy”, a modern-day reformulation of that age-old imperialist White Man’s Burden, in concurrence with the modern-day parlance of Anglo-Saxon supremacist civilizing missions: “human rights”.  Three years after Reagan established the National Endowment for Democracy, we were back down in Chile, this time helping to foment opposition to Pinochet’s rule by funding pro-democracy groups through NED.¹¹⁶

According to historians, the removal of the military dictator they had installed, as well as the democratic transition in Chile, was of interest to the white supremacist imperialist U.S. only insofar as the outcome benefited the furtherance of American Empire.  This is evidenced by the fact that NED channeled money into organizations which were pro-U.S. (all rightist, anti-communist) over organizations which would have been more effective at promoting the transition. This fundamentally altered the power and influence structures within the local pro-democracy opposition movement that led to the eventual plebiscite in 1988, where Pinochet was barely elected out of office.  The U.S. conducted similar “democracy promotion” operations in Nicaragua throughout the 80s.

The fact that the military dictator respected the results is attributed to pressure from the neoliberal industrialists, aka “Big Business”, and the Anglo-American Order, aka the “international community”, illustrating the power of the corrosive web of influence that white supremacist imperialist politics, industry, and military held over developing nations.  Democracy is more stable and better for business after all, and individual politicians are easier to sway and corrupt (“build influence with”) than swaggering despots, who may often strain at the leash. Case in point: the South Korean military dictator Park Chung Hee¹¹⁷, who was backed by the U.S. and subjected the South Korean people to repressive rule for decades¹¹⁸.  In his later years, he would develop a contentious relationship with his white supremacist imperialist handlers over his policy of pursuing independent nuclearization for the South after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 1971.  Park Chung Hee was assassinated in 1979.

In 1987, one year after I was born, pro-democracy protests also erupted in South Korea.  A nationwide movement known as the June Democratic Uprising¹¹⁹ generated a series of mass protests from June 10 to June 29, 1987.  The demonstrations forced the ruling government, led by President Chun Doo Hwan¹²⁰ — the South Korean general who had taken power in an unelected coup after the assassination of Park Chung Hee in 1979 — to hold elections.  South Korea became a liberal democracy open to foreign investment, trade, and influence after decades of brutal military regimes largely backed by the U.S.  The June Democratic Uprising was an outgrowth of the Gwangju Democratic Uprising¹²¹ that lasted for 10 days in May of 1980.  The local eruption of mass civil unrest was sparked by a military crackdown, of which the U.S. was informed, on pro-democracy student protesters.  America silently stood by and watched¹²².  The crackdown became a bloodbath when local South Korean civilians took up arms in response, just as they did during the LA riots in 1992.  Suppression intensified, and an estimated 600 Korean lives were lost at Gwangju.

In 1989, similar “pro-democracy” student protests flared in Tiananmen Square¹²³.  Deng Xiaoping¹²⁴, the leader of the People’s Republic of China who had succeeded Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao after his death in 1976, led a similar military crackdown in response.  Government troops fired on the protestors on Deng’s orders, leading to a massacre. The CIA quickly launched Operation Yellowbird¹²⁵, which helped Chinese dissidents who had participated in the protests to escape arrest by facilitating their departure via Hong Kong.  The rapid response prompted the CCP to accuse the imperialist U.S. and CIA of having staged and backed the protests. Time will tell whether there’s any truth to the accusation.  

The “international” response to the Tiananmen Square Incident was telling.  As they had done in Chile one year earlier, the Anglo-American Order brought its full influence network to bear.  The results and unintended consequences were far-reaching. China’s acceptance into the World Trade Organization was delayed, and China did not become a member until twelve years later in December of 2001.  Foreign aid from the West greatly diminished, and loans to China were suspended by the World Bank. Western colonizers and imperialists slapped arms embargoes and economic sanctions on China after a decade of courtship with industry and trade that Deng had initiated.

It was Deng who most famously coined the phrase “socialism with Chinese characteristics” to mark this departure from state control of the economy and anti-Western foreign trade policy of his predecessor Mao.  But under his reign, it could be more accurately called “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”. The dream of the Western imperialists had finally come true: China had opened up her markets. The resulting corruption, graft, and economic disparity were predictable¹²⁶.  Were it not for the pro-democracy student uprising in Tiananmen, Deng’s response of military suppression, and the ensuing international backlash from the imperialist U.S. and former colonizer nations, China might well have fallen entirely into the neo-colonized orbit of the Anglo-American Order and become fully “Westernized”.

Instead, after Tiananmen, China temporarily became an isolated pariah state.  By the time China re-entered relationships with the Western market in the 90s — while still pursuing economic reforms — the CCP had moved further away from communism as the official governing ideology and towards a much more nationalist tenor, particularly in its posture towards white imperialist nations.  The country had been forced to turn to its neighbors in Asia for aid and cultivate trade relationships, planting the seeds for the eventual establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on December 2015¹²⁷, a potential global rival to the loan sharks and “structural adjustment” bureaus at the World Bank and IMF.  

Economic reforms and greater privatization were most likely inevitable for the PRC, but as shown by the historical developments above, the path it took was not set in stone.  The failures of the Great Leap Forward¹²⁸ under Mao illustrated the deficiencies of a totally centralized governing apparatus when it comes to economic modernization over a large-scale country, though one must be careful to remember that it was also a wartime economy.  From 1958 to 1961, in the early years of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, tens of millions died in famines due to flooding and weather conditions, slow and ineffective government responses, and the need to maintain high grain export quotas — at the expense of starving the Chinese people to death — to allies in Africa and Cuba to help feed the worldwide anti-imperialist, anti-colonial campaign against the U.S.  Meanwhile, the totalitarian control infrastructure of the Party and the sheer size of China’s population meant the slightest government mishaps or policy bungles, of which there were many, led to an unfathomable number of lives lost, including those in cover-ups. 25% of the entire population of Ireland died during the Great Irish Famine¹²⁹, but that was only 1 million people.  Many more lives, though a far smaller percentage, were lost in the Great Chinese Famine: close to 40 million.

Mao contained the famines to the countryside by restricting travel and prioritizing feeding the cities.  He condemned the peasant masses to death by starvation after he destroyed their moral economies and local traditions (while also ending practices such as foot-binding and child marriage) when he collectivized their farms and abolished privatization.  This was done so that the cities could industrialize and develop, and he could continue to export grain to allies as the war against white supremacist aggression waged on. The brutal calculus of a wartime general is clearly revealed to us in a secret meeting in Shanghai in 1959, where he was recorded as stating: “When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death.  It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.” He and the local Party cadres and officials enforced the grain quotas through terror.

Deng, who Mao had previously purged, officially came to power in 1978, and began pursuing trade and foreign investment from the Anglo-American Order.  The Chinese people soon began to develop a taste for “discos and Nikes”¹³⁰, as recounted by Tiananmen student organizer Wu’er Kaixi.  As China’s markets were privatized and slowly opened up for trade with white capitalists and industrialists, new waves of Chinese immigrants came to the U.S., many with pro-Western views as a result of China’s nascent economic liberalization under Deng.  Chinese students sent abroad by Deng learned about the wonders of neoliberalism — “free market fundamentalism” — in American universities, while Chinese engineers, researchers, and scholars immigrated into the country on specialized visas, all carrying assimilationist views.

They were joined by waves of Cold War refugees from the Indochina War in the 70s, as well as rightist collaborators with the U.S. that had been defeated and were fleeing persecution.  This population swell caused a strong shift in politics, from the leftist slant of the Asian American Movement of the late 60s and 70s to the full-fledged assimilationist, neoliberal, and rightist politics of the Asian American community of the 80s and 90s onward, particularly as earlier Movement veterans sold out or were co-opted.  In the early 1980s, the Asian American population was only 3 million. By 1999, we had reached almost 11 million¹³¹ thanks to these successive waves of immigrants, who fundamentally altered social and political relationships between our community and other American demographics.  

This overall rightist orientation, a consequence of the kinds of immigrants that were allowed to come to the U.S. as a result of Cold War imperialism and neoliberalism, was cemented by Asian Americans voting for Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992¹³².  This position wouldn’t truly erode until the election of President Obama in 2008, and again during his re-election in 2012, when 75% of Asian Americans voted for the first Black President.  Regardless, both neo-rightist imperialists and white supremacist racists in the Democratic and Republican Parties saw Asian Americans as useful political tools. To the former, we were missionaries, evangelists, and agitators for “democracy”, “free markets”, and the supremacy of the Anglo-American Order in Asian countries not fully under either the imperialist sway of the U.S. or the neo-colonization of the IMF.  To the latter, these new pro-U.S. immigrants were a convenient wedge against other racial minorities that could be used to break apart the solidarity of people of color here in America. To both sides, we were the Model Minority.¹³³

The last large-scale galvanization of the Asian American community after the 60s and 70s was in 1982 after the murder of Vincent Chin¹³⁴, a Chinese American man who was mistaken for Japanese by irate white Detroit auto workers. They beat him to death following an altercation in a strip club he had attended for his bachelor party, in an atmosphere of racist “economic anxiety” that was stirred up by white supremacist politicians for votes¹³⁵ in America during a time of intense auto competition.  Both killers walked free.

“What kind of law is this?  What kind of justice?” recounts Lily Chin, Vincent’s mother.  “This happened because my son is Chinese. If two Chinese killed a white person, they must go to jail, maybe for their whole lives… something is wrong with this country.”¹³⁶  Something was indeed wrong, but to the newcomers that had come flooding in, byproducts of U.S. imperialist meddling in foreign countries and criminal wars of aggression, America was the Land of Opportunity, and the strategy was to put your head down, shut up, and sell out harder.  

In 1989, the Eastern European bloc fell, and the Cold War — the War of American Imperialist Aggression — was officially over.  America had become the world’s only global superpower, the shining pinnacle of white supremacist imperialism and neoliberal ideology.  Three years later, in 1992, the white supremacist neo-rightist imperialists would trot out Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyuma to declare the “End of History”¹³⁷, with the Anglo-American Order signaling the “endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution” and “the final form of human government”.


It was against this global backdrop that the Asian financial crisis of 1997 occurred.  The Anglo-Saxon White Man had consolidated all his power. The Soviet Union was broken and China was in a state of détente but was a willing participant in the global architecture he had expanded, built, and rigged throughout the entire 20th century.  “Structural adjustments” by his loan sharks had delivered the entire global sphere back into his private hands after a temporary era of freedom brought about by the rebellions and national independence movements that broke out mid-century. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Latin America and Africa had fallen like Chile in 1973, and Asia was now ripe for the plucking by the Masters of the Universe.

The showdown was three years before the dawn of the new millennium.  Western capitalists like Hungarian-American financier George Soros and his merry band of Wall Street thieves joined forces with the IMF against the countries of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia and South Korea.  The setting was in Bangkok, Thailand — one of only ten countries, including Korea, China, and Japan, that had never fallen under the dominion of official European colonization. They were now the targets of Anglo-American neo-colonization.

In the late 1980s and 90s during the lead-up to the crisis, Thailand and surrounding regional economies such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and South Korea experienced an influx of Western foreign investment and speculation and extremely high growth rates.  This led the IMF and World Bank to declare these regional economies as part of the “Asian economic miracle”, an ominous echo of the “Miracle of Chile”.

The Asian Financial Crisis started out as a localized currency and financial crisis in Thailand, and it was precipitated by Western financial capital.  It soon spread to other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. By the fall of 1997, it became a full-on regional economic catastrophe.  Tremors had spread to South Korea, Hong Kong, and China, and by the end of 1998, Japan fell into recession.  Back at home, the U.S. financial system was left speculating over the bankruptcy of the infamous Long-Term Capital Management, which eventually folded.¹³⁸

Into this breach stepped the IMF, which promptly executed its neoliberal protocol of destabilizing the entire region with its policy proposals.  The result: the entirely predictable spread of misery and frustration throughout all of Asia. From the Fund’s handling of the crisis emerged expressions¹³⁹ like “IMF riots”, “IMF survival crimes”, and rampant “IMF suicides” in South Korea, which had a strong underlying economy that was ruined in order to save Citibank and Chase Manhattan from any serious losses.  South Korean unemployment shot up from 2.5% in 1997 to 12.5% in 1998, amidst widespread suicide¹⁴⁰, divorces, and depression (talk about “Asian mental illness”!).  Over 10,000 Yellow people committed suicide in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea as a result of the crisis.  It also had the side effect of toppling General Suharto in Indonesia, who the CIA had helped back against Sukarno all the way back in 1967.  

In Indonesia, the rioting began when the IMF forced sharp price increases on the price of fuel.  This was the last straw for many poor and working people already hit hard by falling real incomes and spiraling unemployment.  Recall that fuel price increases under conditions of high unemployment are what led to the stagflation of the 70s in the USA, which in turn led to the rise of the neoliberal prescription of “shock treatment”.  High-interest rates, spending cuts, layoffs and corporate restructurings — the typical “austerity” policy program — turned the country into an apocalyptic wasteland teeming with unrest and revolt. A confidential internal IMF memo that was leaked to the New York Times revealed the Fund had known its particular recipe of policies made things worse in Indonesia.  Tragicomically, in 2016, the IMF itself finally came clean and admitted the past 30 years of neoliberalism (aka neo-colonization) following the “Miracle of Chile” had been “oversold”¹⁴¹, and that the policy did not lead to greater growth for countries, but instead actually led to skyrocketing economic inequality and popular unrest.  In a meek admission on its website in 2018, the Fund squeaked out that its handling of the Asian global financial crisis had “not been flawless”.

The crisis was precipitated by the gambling habits of one Jewish American George Soros, the Democratic Party puppeteer and Hungarian-born speculator.  After the Thai baht was unpegged from the U.S. dollar in August 1997, Soros and his crook buddies began making runs at the central bank. According to sources who had knowledge of Soros’ positioning at the time, the Wall Street wolf bet just under $1 billion against the baht and continued to bet against it using futures, as the bank executed a frantic host of maneuvers to try and resist the devaluation of its currency.  Like the Bank of England¹⁴² that Soros previously robbed, it finally broke down under the combined pressure of the shorts, leading to the collapse of the baht and all the regional currencies in Southeast Asia, causing widespread devastation and impoverishment.

The size of the bet led to instant rumors that Soros had helped engineer the Asian crisis through the use of his political connections.  The Malaysian Prime Minister lambasted Soros, calling him and his cronies “unscrupulous profiteers” involved in an “unnecessary, unproductive and immoral” trade¹⁴³.  Foreign ministers from the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries condemned Soros for destabilizing the region.

Of course, Soros answered the Malaysian PM with the typical condescending air of a white supremacist capitalist patrician¹⁴⁴ who feels at his back an entire century’s worth of overt U.S. military imperialism that killed and erased millions of Asians from the face of the planet, covert intelligence activities that resulted in Third World fascism and bloodbaths, and secretive organizations cobbled together to promote anti-government activities in independent foreign countries under the guise of advancing “democracy”, “free markets”, and a “free press”.

The White Man, his hands stained red with the blood of the Yellow Man, scoffed at the accusations about his bad behavior, alleging that the Yellow Man “couldn’t get away with it [the accusations towards the White Man] if he and his ideas were subject to the discipline of independent media.”¹⁴⁵

(Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)
(Part 4)




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