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The Arc of Containment: Britain, the United States, and Anticommunism in Southeast Asia

Major studies of American foreign relations treat US failures in Vietnam as the end of both a short-lived American empire and western imperialism in Southeast Asia. Ngoei argues that Vietnam was an exception to the region’s overall pro-US trajectory after 1945, that British neo-colonialism and Southeast Asian anticommunism melded with pre-existing local antipathy toward China and the Chinese diaspora to usher the region from formal colonialism to US hegemony. By the 1970s, Southeast Asia’s anti-communist nationalists had established, with US support, a geostrategic arc of states that contained Vietnam and China.

Date & Time

Monday
Mar. 11, 2019
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET

Location

6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Overview

Major studies of American foreign relations treat US failures in Vietnam as the end of both a short-lived American empire and western imperialism in Southeast Asia. Ngoei argues that Vietnam was an exception to the region’s overall pro-US trajectory after 1945, that British neo-colonialism and Southeast Asian anticommunism melded with pre-existing local antipathy toward China and the Chinese diaspora to usher the region from formal colonialism to US hegemony. By the 1970s, Southeast Asia’s anti-communist nationalists had established, with US support, a geostrategic arc of states that contained Vietnam and China. 

Wen-Qing Ngoei is assistant professor of history at Nanyang Technological University. He completed his PhD at Northwestern University and did postdoctoral stints at Northwestern and Yale University. Ngoei’s book, Arc of Containment: Britain, the United States, and Anticommunism in Southeast Asia (Cornell UP, May 2019), argues that British decolonization intertwined with Southeast Asian anticommunism to shape US policy in the wider region. He has published in Diplomatic History (2017) and his prize-winning essay on the domino theory appears in the Journal of American-East Asian Relations (2014).

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest and the George Washington University History Department for their support.


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History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program strives to make public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, to facilitate scholarship based on those records, and to use these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

Asia Program

The Asia Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

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