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A Brief History of International Relations

The World Made Easy

Kathleen Brush

The world does not need to be complex and confusing. It can be made simpler so that the business, political, social, and economic implications of global news briefs beaming across televisions and electronic devices can be easily grasped. Key to this is knowing that a five-hundred-year competition for global supremacy between the Chinese, European, Islamic, and Russian empires only ended in 1945. When it did, the world had 57 independent nations. After all empires were dissolved in 1991, there were 193, and each nation carried histories of empires in the form of conquest, religions followed, languages practiced, diversified populations, repressive rule, and histories of discrimination. A Brief History of International Relations: The World Made Easy explores this history of global conflict to contextualize and simplify the often perplexing relations between nations and empires.

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Chapter 23. Eastern Asia


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The Chinese Empire completely dominated this region until the mid-19th century. But every empire/group had a presence. Islamic empires influenced the region through multiple channels: Arab- and Indian-Muslim traders introduced Islam along the Silk Road; Muslims were encouraged to immigrate by the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368); and Muslim-majority Xinjiang (formerly Chinese Turkestan) was annexed in the 18th-century.

Excluding the influence of Islamic empires and Portugal’s rental of Macau between 1557 to 1887,1 the presence of other empires came during the Century of Humiliation (1842–1949). There were humiliations aplenty. The Chinese lost Hong Kong to the British Empire. The European, Russian, and Japanese empires and the United States operated self-ruling treaty ports. The Russian Empire permanently annexed Outer Manchuria, including the maritime port of Vladivostok, and attempted to conquer Xinjiang.

The Japanese Empire (1868–1945) existed only briefly, but it had an outsized impact in this region. In 1895 the Japanese colonized Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula. In 1910 Japan colonized the Chinese Empire’s long-time tribute Korea. During WWII the Japanese occupied most of Mainland China. Their brutality as occupiers has been compared to the Nazis, complete with concentration camps and vivisections. During this occupation estimates for ← 227 | 228 → the combined soldier and civilian fatalities are between 15 and 20 million. Internal refugees are estimated at 90 million.i

A fresh start or two was on deck for all Eastern...

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