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Student Activism in Asia

Student Activism in Asia: Between Protest and Powerlessness

MEREDITH L. WEISS
EDWARD ASPINALL
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv18p
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    Student Activism in Asia
    Book Description:

    Since World War II, students in East and Southeast Asia have led protest movements that toppled authoritarian regimes in countries such as Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand. Elsewhere in the region, student protests have shaken regimes until they were brutally suppressed-most famously in China's Tiananmen Square and in Burma. But despite their significance, these movements have received only a fraction of the notice that has been given to American and European student protests of the 1960s and 1970s. The first book in decades to redress this neglect, Student Activism in Asia tells the story of student protest movements across Asia. Taking an interdisciplinary, comparative approach, the contributors examine ten countries, focusing on those where student protests have been particularly fierce and consequential: China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. They explore similarities and differences among student movements in these countries, paying special attention to the influence of four factors: higher education systems, students' collective identities, students' relationships with ruling regimes, and transnational flows of activist ideas and inspirations. The authors include leading specialists on student activism in each of the countries investigated. Together, these experts provide a rich picture of an important tradition of political protest that has ebbed and flowed but has left indelible marks on Asia's sociopolitical landscape. Contributors: Patricio N. Abinales, U of Hawaii, Manoa; Prajak Kongkirati, Thammasat U, Thailand; Win Min, Vahu Development Institute; Stephan Ortmann, City U of Hong Kong; Mi Park, Dalhousie U, Canada; Patricia G. Steinhoff, U of Hawaii, Manoa; Mark R. Thompson, City U of Hong Kong; Teresa Wright, California State U, Long Beach.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8261-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Meredith L. Weiss and Edward Aspinall
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION Understanding Student Activism in Asia
    (pp. 1-32)
    MEREDITH L. WEISS, EDWARD ASPINALL and MARK R. THOMPSON

    The frequency with which students have been at the forefront of opposition movements in Northeast and Southeast Asia has captivated global audiences again and again, from the image of Chinese students fighting for freedom in Tiananmen Square in 1989, to that of their Indonesian peers celebrating their role in toppling the Soeharto dictatorship a decade later. Examples abound: South Korean students’ fighting running street battles against military dictatorship in the 1980s, the Burmese student-led protests so brutally repressed in 1988, and more. These dramatic events echo headlines of an earlier era, from the great student demonstrations in China and South...

  6. 1 CHINA: REGIME SHAKERS AND REGIME SUPPORTERS
    (pp. 33-56)
    TERESA WRIGHT

    Over the past century, China’s students have experienced more dramatic changes than students in virtually any other country in the world. During this time period, China has moved from a tumultuous “Republican” government (1911–49), to radical Maoist rule (1949–76), to pragmatic yet somewhat divided Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership (1976–89), to pragmatic and united CCP governance (1990–present). Along with these changes in polity, China’s educational system has been continuously transformed—moving from a traditional Confucian/feudal elitist model, to a Western elitist system, to a Maoist egalitarian model emphasizing manual labor and ideological purity, to a pragmatic...

  7. 2 JAPAN: STUDENT ACTIVISM IN AN EMERGING DEMOCRACY
    (pp. 57-78)
    PATRICIA G. STEINHOFF

    While today we understand Japan as a postindustrial consolidated democracy, in the late 1940s Japan was an emerging democracy, shaking off the legacy of more than a decade of authoritarian and military rule and rebuilding a country devastated by a war it had brought upon itself. Within the group of Asian nations represented in this volume, Japan stands as the former invader and colonial overlord. However, after the end of the war, Japan itself lived under seven years of an American-dominated Allied Occupation (1945–52) that fundamentally reshaped its institutions and set it on a new course. Repositioning the development...

  8. 3 HONG KONG: PROBLEMS OF IDENTITY AND INDEPENDENCE
    (pp. 79-100)
    STEPHAN ORTMANN

    On June 4, 2009, tens of thousands, perhaps up to 150,000 people, attended a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong in remembrance of the violent crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square twenty years earlier. The Hong Kong student movement, which also had participated in solidarity protests in 1989, was a leading organizer of the memorial. In addition to the vigil, eleven student activists conducted a sixty-four-hour hunger strike. Two months earlier, in April 2009, students of the Hong Kong University Student Union had voted 92.6 percent in favor of a motion demanding that Beijing vindicate the 1989 protest movement...

  9. 4 TAIWAN: RESISTING CONTROL OF CAMPUS AND POLITY
    (pp. 101-124)
    TERESA WRIGHT

    Relative to other Asian countries, the character and influence of student activism in Taiwan is somewhat unusual. First, student activism in Taiwan never has had a significant leftist or developmentalist phase. Further, although students in Taiwan, as in China and Indonesia, at times have identified themselves as a “pure” and “moral” force with a special, protected role as remonstrators of the polity, in Taiwan students have not been at the forefront of the democracy movement. Although student protests have been influential, in general, when students have engaged in collective contention, they have done so in response to regime-initiated political liberalization,...

  10. 5 SOUTH KOREA: PASSION, PATRIOTISM, AND STUDENT RADICALISM
    (pp. 125-152)
    MI PARK

    Benedict Anderson notes in Imagined Communities that the idea of nation can be “the domain of disinterested love and solidarity” (1983, 131), and for this reason, nations can ask for sacrifice. Student dissenters in South Korea have frequently challenged authorities in the name of national interests and made major personal sacrifices for the sake of their struggle. Their endeavor has often succeeded to the extent that their “political love” for the nation has assumed a certain “moral grandeur” (Anderson 1983, 132) in the eyes of the general populace. As this chapter will show, passionate patriotism has characterized student activism in...

  11. 6 INDONESIA: MORAL FORCE POLITICS AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST AUTHORITARIANISM
    (pp. 153-180)
    EDWARD ASPINALL

    In February 2004, T. Rizal Nurdin, the governor of the province of North Sumatra, opened a meeting of Student Executive Bodies (Badan Eksekutif Mahasiswa) from eighty campuses around the country. He gave a warm greeting to the students, noting that “history has proven that the position of university students, together with youths, always determines the future of the nation, starting with 1908 [sic] (the youth pledge, or sumpah pemuda), 1945 (proclamation of independence), 1966 (correcting the government), up to 1998, when the students were noted as pioneers of Reformasi. . . . In each era of national awakening, the youths...

  12. 7 BURMA: A HISTORIC FORCE, FORCEFULLY MET
    (pp. 181-204)
    WIN MIN

    Unlike other Asian countries, Burma was under extremely repressive military-dominated governments from 1962 until 2011. However, organized opposition movements have repeatedly emerged. In most of these, Burmese university students have been in the vanguard, as one of the main social groups fighting for political, economic, and social change. Yet their role has been increasingly restricted as successive military-led governments have adapted their policies in response. While students led the country’s largest political movement in 1988, toppling the military-backed one-party state, a subsequent military coup brought a new regime to power that crushed the demonstrations and killed thousands (Smith 1999, 16)....

  13. 8 MALAYSIA: MORE TRANSFORMED THAN TRANSFORMATIONAL
    (pp. 205-228)
    MEREDITH L. WEISS

    The mention of student activism in Malaysia usually meets with one of three responses. The first is dismissal: the assertion, jocular or sad, that Malaysians just are not the protesting sort. The second is earnest, even wistful, invocation of the glory days of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when their strident outspokenness placed Malaysian students squarely within a world of student revolt. The final response, largely contained to graduates from the mid-1980s on, insists that local students are not so much averse to engagement as deterred from most forms of activism by coercive legislation. Each of these responses is...

  14. 9 THAILAND: THE CULTURAL POLITICS OF STUDENT RESISTANCE
    (pp. 229-258)
    PRAJAK KONGKIRATI

    Students played a crucial role in Thailand’s national politics in the 1950s and became a formidable force between the late 1960s and 1970s. A democracy movement led by students culminated on October 14, 1973, when it toppled the long-standing military regime. This was one of the first student-led movements in Asia to truly overthrow a dictatorial regime. The students involved were influenced by other student movements around the world during the turbulent 1960s, and they likewise inspired others elsewhere.¹ Nevertheless, with the October 6, 1976, coup, students were brutally repressed by right-wing movements and the Thai state, and the October...

  15. 10 THE PHILIPPINES: STUDENTS, ACTIVISTS, AND COMMUNISTS IN MOVEMENT POLITICS
    (pp. 259-280)
    PATRICIO N. ABINALES

    Comparatively speaking, Philippine student activism exhibits features comparable to that of Thailand. Like their Thai counterparts, Filipino activists have seen the struggles for student rights and welfare or campus democratization as battles not simply for the benefit of the student masses. They have also regarded these struggles as components of a quest for radical democracy or as part of a project to propel one to national office. This outlook has strong historical foundations: student leaders from all shades of the political spectrum regard themselves as legatees of antistate movements whose roots go back to the 1860s, when young Filipinos demanded...

  16. CONCLUSION Trends and Patterns in Student Activism in Asia
    (pp. 281-296)
    EDWARD ASPINALL and MEREDITH L. WEISS

    The overarching story of student protest that emerges out of the ten accounts in this book is one of impermanence and inconstancy. Students in Asia have led dramatic moments of revolutionary upsurge, shaking regimes and sometimes bringing them down. But these peaks have punctuated long periods of low-level activism. Students emerge from time to time as a leading force in their nation’s politics, and even on the global stage, but more frequently they lapse into political passivity and marginality, or direct their gaze no further than the campus gates. And the peaks and troughs of activism in the countries studied...

  17. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 297-298)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 299-318)