Blood, Tears, Poverty, Famine and Socio-economic Problems: Western Imperialism's Negative Effect on Southeast Asia

Essay by laoextasyHigh School, 12th gradeA+, May 2004

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Colonialism and imperialism has played a significant role in shaping the modern world as we see it today. Encarta's dictionary defines colonialism as "a policy in which a country rules other nations and develops trade for its own benefit". It also defines imperialism as "the extension of power or authority over others in the interests of domination" (2004). Very few countries today have been left untouched by these two major history-shaping forces. The most renowned colonialists and imperialists make up what we call 'The West', which refers to the societies of Europe and their genealogical, colonial, and philosophical descendants. Spain, France, Britain, Canada, and the United States of America are some examples of Western societies. These countries have spread their influence and hegemony over other nations for centuries; shaping today's North America, Central-America, South America, Africa, Oceana, and Asia (Western Society, 2004). Indochina is a region that today we would consider as Southeast Asia, comprised of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam (Indochina, 2001).

Its most recent and most important contact with the West came from France and America. The West had a negative impact on Indochina because its influence damaged Southeast Asia's system of government, destroyed and diluted the indigenous culture, caused many people to lose their lives and liberty, and set the course for future economic depressions and poverty.

The earliest French settlers to inhabit Indochina quickly evolved into power-hungry imperialists. Since the French colonized Indochina and formed the French Indochina Union in 1884, the entire Indochinese political structure went into shambles (Hammer, 1966). The puppet governments installed after French colonization were repressive, totalitarian, and corrupt. Age old traditional and cultural monarchies were replaced by despots under French influence. These governments rarely tended to the people's needs. In little time, each country lost its own unique identity; Laos, Cambodia, and...