Reading “In the Ruins of Empire”

I’m glad that I find this book and it is one of the best history books I’ve ever read. I only wish it is longer, including more of the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War and the Vietnam War, which of course is too much to wish for. I, like most people, only know about these three wars, but not knowing much about the turmoils leading up to the wars. This book gives clear accounts and many details. Still I feel it is not enough and my curiosity has not been fully satisfied.

I’ve always wanted to know more about the post war East Asia–why things went the way they did and why turmoils followed by turmoils. Even to this day, a lot of what are happening now have their origins in the power vacuum of the post war era. This book gives more clear and more detailed description than other books I’ve read about like “The China Mission”, “The American Caesar”, “The Force So Swift”, and another book, which I forget the name, about the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

I’ve heard about stories of orphans and bandits in Manchuria after the Japanese occupation, but I’ve never connected those stories, which were portrayed in movies and plays more for their theatrical heroism than anything else, with real life miseries. The whole Manchuria was pillaged by the triumphant Russian army and people were robbed and raped. It is so hard to read. And this is just a beginning. Events happened in Malaysia, Vietnam, South Korea, and Indonesia were every bit as bloody and chaotic. It’s such a wonderful book that I only wish it to be longer than it is, extending even further into the post war era.

Growing up, I knew two families of Chinese Indonesians whose parents lived through WWII as youngsters in Indonesia. They didn’t like to talk about their life in Indonesia but from the occasional allusion and reference to the era, I could guess how much they suffered. I would love to know more about the post war Indonesia and Malaysia, how they got their independence, how Singapore got separated from Malaysia, how the rebel groups in Malaysia were organized etc. There are so much to learn that I ended up ordering the book “Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia”, which hasn’t arrived yet. There’s no kindle copy of it. Too bad.

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