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Asian Nationalism, Patriotism, and Traditionalism

The conflicts between “modernizers” and “traditionalists” shaped the development of Asian societies in the 19th century. It is possible to generalize it as the conflict between Eastern and Western development directions that proposed utterly different views on the future. Traditionalists regarded innovations that came from the West as a danger to the Asian way of life and a menace to preserving the national spirit. Modernizers, in their turn, considered innovations from the West as an integral part of the country’s and society’s development. Increasing contacts between cultures, the rise of colonialism, and trade globalization contributed to the aggravation of the conflict between those who wanted to preserve the old way of life and those who welcomed the new one.

The 19th century was a time of dramatic changes for the traditionalist Asian cultures that were not influenced by Western civilization before. The industrialization of the West and its military superiority expansion supported the colonial dreams of European empires. As a result, Asia was vulnerable because Asian states could not oppose the European fleet and fight the expansion (Linklater, 2021). Therefore, the colonial rule of the Western countries in Asia and their military conquest were among the negative things that the West brought them.

Traditionalists in Asian countries understood that the colonists ruled the natural resources and the land. The local officials did not have autonomy and could not respond to the colonial rulers because the countries were not independent in practice. Asian countries lost their independence due to the colonial expansion and military superiority of the West in the 19th century (Linklater, 2021). There is no need to say that traditionalists regarded this situation as a destructive process for the countries they loved. At that time, traditionalism was synonymous with patriotism in Asian countries because Western innovations annihilated their autonomy or at least limited it.

At the same time, Asian people connected Western influence with the modernization of Asian economies and the industrialization of these countries. Modernization is supposed to create new markets, contribute to the development of local industries, and enhance the economic activity of Asian countries in general (Linklater, 2021). It had a positive impact on the level of life of Asians, which was the critical argument that modernizers used to support their ideological perspective.

Modernizers also valued the new educational system that the West proposed to them (Linklater, 2021). From one point of view, educating the local population was an effective way to assimilate people into the new reality and improve the colonizer’s status. From another point of view, there was a severe problem of illiteracy among poor and working-class people in Asian states, and modernization proposed the solution to this problem.

It is possible to conclude that most people in 19th-century Asia made parallels between Asian nationalism, patriotism, and traditionalism. These people associated modernization with the West’s colonial rule and military expansion. At the same time, the proponents of modernization saw economic and educational perspectives in their cooperation with Western civilization. The conflict between modernizers and traditionalists reflected the existing biases between the purely Asian-independent way of a country’s development and the affiliation with Western countries. These groups viewed the future of their states differently, which divided Asian society into two opposite parts that were politically active. It led to debates between these parties and made the community more radicalized.


Linklater, A. (2021). The idea of civilization and the making of the global order. Bristol University Press.

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"Asian Nationalism, Patriotism, and Traditionalism." StudyKraken, 19 Mar. 2023,

1. StudyKraken. "Asian Nationalism, Patriotism, and Traditionalism." March 19, 2023.


StudyKraken. "Asian Nationalism, Patriotism, and Traditionalism." March 19, 2023.


StudyKraken. 2023. "Asian Nationalism, Patriotism, and Traditionalism." March 19, 2023.


StudyKraken. (2023) 'Asian Nationalism, Patriotism, and Traditionalism'. 19 March.

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