The rise of economic nationalism during the Great Depression led scholars to pronounce the 1930s to be the end of globalisation that had started in the 19th century. However, if we look at the social movements of the interwar period, we will see unprecedented transnational circulation of ideas and people. Their aspirations transcended nation and were truly global. While the concerns of national survival were real in many contexts, yet, national discourses often became the vehicles for larger concerns. What do these tell us about the workings and trajectory of globalisation and about the meaning of nationalism in the interwar time?
In the context of global consciousness and increasingly globalized political and religious activism of the interwar world, communist, Protestant Christian, and Buddhist movements mediated conflicting visions of modernity but had structural similarities. Ideological affiliations were increasingly detached from national politics and acquired transnational character. All three movements espoused universalist ideology, strove to create a new man, had a transnational organization, and created local organisations. Intellectual leaders of these movements competed for the allegiance of and mobilized the “masses” into international kinship of various registers. In the process, the ideas and organisations were adapted to local conditions, i.e. indigenized.
How did various global ideologies of internationalism worked in various local social organizations and settings and national discourses in East Asia and among East Asian communities overseas? How did the intersection of the broader Euro-American intellectual context, particular global ideologies, and local social experience and identity produce specific internationalist modalities amongst intellectuals in China, Sinophone sphere globally and outside of the Sinosphere?
The study of this form of globalisation in the interwar period invites us to reconsider our general model of globalisation by suggesting very different forms, periods, or instances of globalizing forces with significantly different variables and institutional forms at play.