The purpose of this JAS roundtable is to reflect on the Cold War in Asia. Even to frame the issue in such terms is to confront the “formidable semantic contradiction that is inherent in the idea” of the Cold War (Kwon 2010, 7). For the very notion of the Cold War—as a “long peace” in which bipolar tensions did not lead to hot war—sits uneasily with the reality that in Asia bipolar tensions were imbricated in horrific conflicts that left millions of human casualties. On the other hand, to use the term “Cold War” simply as a label for a historical period, or “epoch” in Alfred McCoy's terms, is to invite imprecision. Moreover, even as a label for a historical period, the term still effaces the experience of much of the world, since the end date of the period is defined by the experience of Europe and the superpowers.

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