Yunnan, Pivot of Southeast Asia

An artist's impression of the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864).

ACROSS the great colonial zone of Southeast Asia stretches one of the ragged edges of American and British thinking about the course of the war which we are fighting and about the aims which we hope to achieve by victory. Little is available in print about the multifarious problems that lie in wait for us in the vast territory between British Calcutta on the west and French Indo-China on the east, and such as there is either lacks official authority or clear thinking. It can be conservatively summed up, however, by saying that though there is not enough to prove a fixed pattern of planning there is enough to indicate a cast of thought.

Now a prevailing cast of thought usually expresses itself in habitual assumptions and a habitual approach to problems. People who are affected by such habits are often unaware of them, and are capable of thinking that they have decided on an original solution of a novel problem when they have in fact done no more than give a new name to something that either is not new at all or only partly new. Indeed, the phase in which, in the thinking habits of a society, the new and the old are intermingled, making it difficult to decide on new definitions, is probably a more critical aspect of the phenomenon of change than the phase in which old and new become sharply and suddenly divided.

We may go still further and say that from the study of the whole sweep of history a general law may be deduced, affirming that in human affairs genuinely sudden and "revolutionary" changes are abnormal. The normal process of change is one in which the new begins to draw apart from the old rather gradually. As they draw apart, a kind of web comes to be stretched between them, concealing the gap that is in fact opening between the old and the new. As this web is gradually drawn thinner and more taut

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