Nationalistic sentiments spurred by populist rhetoric have been on the rise globally. Asia is no exception to this trend. Some Asian leaders communicate visions that can instill a feeling of pride, creating a rarely felt sense of belonging among people. Yet the current streak of Asian nationalism can also become a setback for democracy and human rights.
The latest issue of Perspectives Asia aims to draw a fine line between different forms of nationalism. The articles from various Asian countries focus on strategies and political styles adopted by populist leaders and explain how nationalistic and religious ideas are distorted by politics. Some contributions reveal past colonial structures that still exist in governments. Others make the argument that a shared sense of nationalism can also be fruitful to the development of a country such as Afghanistan, or in Malaysia, where the last elections in May 2018 made people believe in a radical change that could benefit the country. Eventually, the issue also shows that people are not merely being instrumentalized by a small political elite, but that the belief of who belongs to a nation is a complicated nexus of historic developments that are still deeply rooted in people’s minds and modern global trends.