AFTER centuries of inertia, Asia today is wide awake and on the move. From Cairo to Manila, vast populations only recently emerged from colonialism are struggling to take shape as modern nations. Some Westerners find this new situation both bewildering and unpleasant. Some diplomats, indeed, confronted for the first time with the task of assessing the impact of their policies on Asia, find themselves yearning for the "good old days" when the European's word was law. But there are other Westerners--and I believe them to be a substantial majority in America--who look to this new Asia with hope and expectancy. They see developing there a democratic opportunity for hundreds of millions of their fellow human beings who have long been denied the right to choose their own governments and the means to achieve a better life.
The challenge to us is to reaffirm what is best in our long liberal tradition. By pursuing sympathetic, intelligent and patient policies the West will find it possible to work with most of the Asian nations on the basis of mutual respect and understanding in the building of a more stable world. By shirking the task of understanding Asia, and by refusing to recognize the realities of 1952, the West will surely alienate a vast continent and may eventually bring about its own downfall.
Even if we show the best of intentions we shall encounter many pitfalls. For years to come, fundamental differences in the cultural backgrounds of Asians and Americans and in their ways of life will make it difficult for each side to understand the other. Some Western visitors to India, for instance, still see only the Rudyard Kipling-Katherine Mayo land of tiger-hunting maharajas, sacred cows and cobras, against an endless backdrop of tradition-bound, poverty-stricken humanity. But for the visitor who looks below the surface there is a new and immensely exciting India--a five-year-old democracy of 360,000,000 people, working earnestly and with considerable success to solve their country's staggering problems. The outcome of this great
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