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A Reminder of Colonialism
In Asia only Thailand did not experience colonialism. Japan was a colonizer (Map from Digg, Internet Aug. 15,2013)
Reminder of colonialism and harbinger of neocolonialism
"Is there any dry, habitable land left on the planet that has yet to be claimed by a nation?"
This question is posted by wjambert.
There might be or there might not be such dry and habitable land. However, my concerns are the power to attain the claim and morality of claim.
We read history of the British who claimed and controlled lands in Africa, Australia, Canada, India, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and the 13 colonies in North America that eventually became USA in 1783. Britain occupied Egypt in 1882 to keep the Suez canal open.
We read history of how the Dutch claimed and controlled South Africa to get its diamonds.
Also history of Spain colonizing the Philippines (1527-1896); Portugal colonizing East Timor; Portugal controlling Macao; Britain controlling Hong Kong; Britain owning the Falklands near Argentina.
Spain and Portugal cut up South America between themselves Spain controlled Mexico and established California as stop over to and from the Philippines and Mexico. The Dutch ruled Indonesia.
France controlled Vietnam, Indo-china, Cambodia, part of Canada (Quebec, Montreal) and Louisiana, eventually purchased by USA. Russia controlled Alaska later on purchased by USA. USA purchased California.
Then USA grabbed a large part of Mexico (that now comprises one-third of the contiguous territory of USA) and annexed the Philippines in its empire (1900-1946). Russia had taken control of Manchuria; Japan had controlled Shandong, also a province of China. Japan occupied Korea. If it came in earlier, USA could have had a foothold on China. Eight European countries had gone ahead by means of the Unequal Treaties. USA attempted to make a dummy of Chiang Kai-shek, former president of Nationalist China, and supported him with guns, warplanes and military personnel, 153,000 in all, in the Chinese civil war against the forces of Mao Tse-tung.
In Asia, only Siam, now Thailand, remained uncolonized. Japan was a colonizer.
Germany had overseas colonies that were taken away after its defeat in WWI (1919).
All these had been attained with the use of power. All these had been hailed in history books mostly written by the colonizers or land grabbers.
The vestiges of colonization still linger in international law that says that for a siege to be legal it should be sustained.
For example, Britain has sustained its control of Falklands in a war against Argentina. So the Falklands belongs to Britain.
If Argentina had defeated Britain in that war over the Falklands, then Falklands belongs to Argentina.
Since the patriots of East Timor could no longer be controlled by Portugal, East Timor gained its independence about 5 years ago.
Puerto Rico appears to be a different case because it seems to be applying for statehood in the USA.
A nation can quarrel with a more powerful nation like what Vietnam did; first revolting against France then waging war against USA as part of the Cold War. Afghanistan fought off Russia.
Power is demonstrated by two dogs that fight over a bone. The stronger dog will have the bone.
Morality of claim
What are some concepts of ownership of land?
A piece of land is owned by the natives of that land. That could be one concept.
A piece of land is owned by those who control the use of the land, That could be another.
A piece of land is owned by those who civilize the natives of that land. That could be another concept.
A piece of land is owned by those who are recognized by others as owners of that land. That could be still another concept.
A piece of land gifted by god to a people belongs to the same people. That is yet another concept.
A piece of land is owned by purchase.
The operational sub-concepts of ownership of land are possession and control.
For example, before the British came, China had possession and control of Hong Kong.
Concepts of ownership developed in a long time that graduated into the concept of nationalism.
For example, Rhineland was shuttled between France and Germany.
It was Joan of Arc who first invoked nationalism as a rallying point in driving out British soldiers from their encampment in France.
What is the moral justification for having possession and control over a nation? We speak of a nation as a territory with people living in it. It is used interchangeably with country.
For example, what was the moral justification for the USA to annex the Philippines in 1900?
The justification given by Pres. William McKinley was "benevolent assimilation." That is, to civilize the peoples of the Philippines.
Mark Twain agreed with this justification. However, if the justification were to make the Philippines a jumping board to the vast market of China he disagreed.
However, Mark Twain was misinformed. The Filipinos did not need to be civilized by the Americans because they had been civilized themselves. They had just gained independence from Spain by means of an armed revolution. They convened their first constitutional convention and came up with a constitution that created a democratic republic.
There was no justification for Spain to sell the Philippines to USA because the Filipinos had already liberated their country. There was no justification for USA to buy the Philippines from Spain because the Filipinos had already gained their independence through a revolution against Spain.
The anti-imperialist group in America to which Mark Twain belonged disagreed to no avail because the powerful businessmen prevailed.
What is the moral justification of Britain in making Australia an overseas jail for British convicts?
The British ship captain who landed the first batch of convicts is now hailed as a hero. But to the natives of Australia he is a villain.
Does Argentina have a moral claim over the Falklands? That is assuming that the British had no claim over it? Is the proximity of the Falklands to Argentina a moral justification? The prevailing one is that if a piece of land lies within 200 nautical miles from a nearby country, the nearest country has a claim over it. That is according to international law. But that is not a moral justification.
In contemporary history what is the moral justification of one nation to lay claim over a piece of land already peopled but whose people do not have a functional government, even a name as a nation?
There is no moral justification.
For centuries the colonizer exploited their colonies for gold, silver, diamonds, spices, tobacco, sugar, tin, copper, palm oil, rubber, tributes, timber for ships. Later on the French, British, Dutch and USA moved in to the Middle East to extract oil as if they owned it.
There was a time Europe experienced inflation due to gold from the Philippines. The ships of the Spanish armada was made of timber from the Philippines. This armada met its demise against the more modern ships of Admiral Horatio Nelson of England in 1700s.
At the turn of the twentieth century the natives awakened to their enslavement and exploitation. They staged revolts and revolutions. They gained independence. Simon Bolivar, apprenticed by Napoleon Bonaparte, liberated several countries in South America.
Canada, New Zealand and Australia have remained under the control of Britain through a new structure called commonwealth.
However, independence has been tainted with another method of control devised by former colonizers. That device is called neocolonialism.
Neocolonialism is at the root of poverty in many former colonies today. World Bank and IMF are harbingers of neocolonialism. Foreign investments are a vehicle of neocolonialism.
China with the leadership of Mao solved colonialism by civil war, driving away the local collaborators of imperialists (USA) and the imperialists themselves (1949), and went through a revolution. .
India followed a non-violent path but still suffered casualties gunned down cold blood by British soldiers.
Very recently Britain left Hong Kong and Portugal left Macao. During the turnover ceremonies for Hong Kong Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Britain, remarked that Hong Kong is fortunate because Britain is leaving peacefully (Margaret Thatcher's Revolution). The reason is that China has grown powerful; not out of moral considerations. Now China ranks second as economic power in the world.
However, not all former colonies, or part colonies like China got the power to drive away colonizers. Not all of them have the guts to get rid of collabotors like what China or Vietnam did. USA has a strong presence in South Korea because of collaborators started out by Syngman Rhee.
And neocolonizers are not that benevolent either, like USA that supported Pol Pot, the former ruler of Cambodia who caused the murder of more than two million of his peoples. USA granted independence to the Philippines in 1946 because it found collaborators among the landed class. USA supported the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.