The Need for Reparations

To this day, the evil of colonialism has not sunken in. The exhibition on Thomas Stamford Raffles in the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore on the occasion of the bicentennial of the 1819 founding of the British colony has provided an opportunity for reflection. I was inspired by posts and remarks from Faris Joraimi [...]

It’s not ‘just’ a social construct: pessimistic about change

‘Social construct’ is a favourite bogeyman of the anti-PC brigade. These daring, freethinking spirits see dangerous relativism lurking behind this widely-accepted social science concept. The problem is that they generally do not understand what a social construct is. They are not alone: even many people dabbling on the more extreme side of 'social justice' seem [...]

The dangerous long-term weakness of authoritarian leadership

A strong leader can put the house in order. Authoritarian figures with a vision have some successes on their names, notably in East Asia. But their cheerleaders often underestimate how much their achievements were possible because of broad support. As Paul Krugman pointed out in his 1994 Foreign Affaris article debunking uncritical celebration of the [...]

Indies Literature: Thoughts on ‘This Earth of Mankind’ by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

The Dutch lack of awareness of its colonial past has almost become a cliché. Anticolonial activists clamouring for compensiation and pundits nostalgic for a past where the Netherlands once dared to dream of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council both lament the uneducated state of the public. Their oft repeated complaint has actually [...]

The laziness of Critical Theory

Critical approaches have done great work in social sciences, adding greatly to our collective insight. However, some scholars have taken the useful viewpoint it brings and turned it into a simplistic replacement of all other social science. For these critical theorists, mere deconstruction has replaced all other scholarship. The notion that all knowledge is premised [...]

Before Europe Can Come Back, Does It Need A ‘Kniefall’?

For large numbers of peoples in the world, the decline of Europe meant their liberation. On his recent state visit in China, President Macron confidently stated 'France is back. Europe is back.' It is good for the European Union to stake out its own place in the world and develop an independent foreign policy. However, [...]

Avoiding Yellow Peril amid PRC infiltration

With legislation introduced in Australia's parliament which Prime Minister Turnbull has explicitly said is meant to counter Chinese interference, the efforts of Beijing to shape the world have been brought to the fore like they haven't in quite some time. Across the Western world, governments and companies are realising that behind Chinese acquisitions and investment [...]

Never Forget Chinese Nationalism’s Ethnocentrism

Saying that Chinese increasingly assertive nationalism has a rather ethnocentric streak is nothing new, at least not for those who follow China. However, only when you actually read the source material in Chinese, is the starkness of the PRC’s racialism really driven home. This is something analysts, and other people paid to have opinions on [...]

On studying in China

Later this afternoon I leave for the People's Republic to start my first of two semesters at Peking University, close to Beijing's beautiful Summer Palace in the northwest. While I like to kid that I look forward most of all to the food, I will also enjoy the opportunity to study and learn about China. But [...]

Carving up the Girdle of Emerald: colonialism’s violent cleavages

The evil of colonialism is not expressed in a sum of its benefits and downsides. These debates over British railways in India and economic development miss the point of colonialism entirely. Colonialism is violence. It is not just that it entails violence as an inevitable product of its system, colonialism itself is an act of epistemic [...]